There is no single right way to run a business or market a product. The orientation that you choose for your company may depend on where your strengths lie and what you think will make your business most successful. Alternatively, you may be running your business with a particular orientation that you haven't consciously articulated or identified. Shedding some light on this choice can make your efforts more intentional and increase your odds of success.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
The most common types of business orientation are product orientation, production orientation, sales orientation and marketing orientation.
Businesses With a Product Orientation
A business with a product orientation directs its energy toward creating and marketing the highest-quality offerings. Such a company makes the assumption that the sales and marketing parts of the process will take care of themselves if the product is of high enough quality. A business with a product orientation will devote considerable resources toward research and development because these efforts further its goal of focusing on the product itself rather than on a business strategy such as sales or production.
A product orientation works well for a business that really does have something special to offer, especially when it has a track record of attracting a passionate clientele who respond more to the product itself than to sophisticated marketing campaigns. However, this approach can be disadvantageous for a business whose product isn't particularly unique or for a product whose virtues aren't immediately apparent without a marketing campaign.
Businesses With a Production Orientation
While product orientation focuses on quality, production orientation stresses process or business model. A company with a production orientation may seek its competitive edge in its ability to manufacture its offerings more efficiently and cost effectively than its competition. This approach relies on economies of scale to lower costs and increase profitability, and it was especially prominent during the early days of the Industrial Revolution, when businesses were first learning to mass produce and distribute products inexpensively.
A production orientation offers the advantage of being reasonably straightforward as long as demand for your products remains consistent and strong. You simply make what you make, and customers reward your business for keeping prices low and making its offerings easily available.
This type of orientation is disadvantageous to a business with a specialty product whose production requires attention to detail. The emphasis on efficiency may interfere with the company's ability to produce something that meets its customers' high standards.
Businesses With a Sales Orientation
A business with a sales orientation puts its energy into its relationships with its customers. This may include keeping close track of accounts to develop a thorough understanding of what drives particular customers to buy or synching production schedules with customer needs to maximize opportunities and build customer loyalty.
A selling orientation can be especially valuable to a business that operates in a crowded field where customers have plenty of choices. In this situation, the extra effort that the business devotes toward sales and relationships can tip a customer's purchasing decision.
Businesses With a Marketing Orientation
While a sales orientation is often focused on pleasing existing customers, a marketing orientation may direct company focus toward promoting products in ways that attract new customers. A marketing orientation relies on a marketing message that educates or convinces potential customers to make a purchasing decision.
A marketing orientation doesn't just step in and begin attracting customers once product development is complete. It also brings marketing efforts to the product development process itself, researching demographics and demand and working toward designing a product that customers will want.
Businesses have increasingly been shifting toward the marketing orientation, as consumers have grown increasingly discerning, and a greater number of channels such as online marketing and social media have become staple elements in customer outreach.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.