Availability is Everything

One of the best books I’ve read about marketing is called How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp.

Sharp distills the most important aspects of marketing and challenges some of the common perceptions clients and agency-folk have about what actually drives sales of a product.

The entire book is worth a read, but if there’s one key message that stood out for me, it’s this: ultimately, marketing is making something available to your audience.

When we look at Wikipedia, we see a verbose, multi-faceted definition of marketing that includes advertising, branding, customer segmentation and a litany of related concepts. But this definition is troublesome as a heuristic device. In other words, these kinds of definitions are so long and so all-encompassing that we often miss the forest for the trees.

So how can we simplify the definition?

Availability.

  • After all, what is advertising, PR, brand management and communications strategy if not some way of getting our customers to remember our product or service? When a need arises, aren’t we trying to ensure that our brand is readily available on the mental agenda? Indeed, people are less likely to buy a product they’ve never heard of.
  • And what about eCommerce, retail service or SEM? Isn’t distribution just giving people the opportunity to purchase wherever they happen to be? People will never buy a product they don’t have access to.
  • And customer research, analytics and  segmentation? Shouldn’t these serve the previous two points? If  you understand your customer, you’re better placed to reach them.

Marketing exists to facilitate the mental and physical availability of a product or service. It sits at the core of every customer journey and is the rational reason for marketing’s very existence.

Now, this is obvious, right?

This shouldn’t be a revelation to any marketer, but it should be held as a central idea behind all of our work. It must sit as a binary test: does this activity make our product more available to a customer? Yes or no?

Here we can see an important device for judging the quality of an advertisement or social post. Is this ad likely to stand out? Is this post likely to capture the attention of our audience? Is this media placement likely to reach our target audience? Is the message clear enough to be recalled quickly? And are we providing a way to actually complete the audience journey?

If we view marketing through an “availability lens”, we have made an important step in contextualizing even the most complex of marketing schemes. And it should help those who live primarily outside of the sphere of marketing what we’re talking about and why it’s valuable.

Lastly, it keeps us honest.

Because failure to advance availability is a failure in the fullest sense of the word.

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