Most people think marketing is the same as advertising. Not true. Advertising is a tactic designed to bring in customers. Marketing is about knowing the client and what they want from the business.
Share of wallet is easier and more profitable than market share.
Marketing affects every part of the business, from the way your people answer the phone, your relations with customers and suppliers, down to the typesetting on your invoices.
Marketing is about talking to past, present and future clients. Advertising is about selling, marketing is conversation. Good marketing is the kind of interaction that people choose to notice.
Without resources to employ professional marketers, resellers need to use several rules so they can do good marketing themselves with minimum fuss.
The first is to know what your customers want. People want that extra emotional bonus when they buy something they really want. The best way to get to know your customers is through surveys.
Most resellers do not survey their customers. Maybe they should start. Regular surveys provide valuable information.
Questions for the survey should cover such issues as how customers see the value of product, whether the pricing is right, where the advertising should be placed, whether the advertising is cost effective and how customers perceive the strengths and weaknesses of the businesses.
With surveys, it's more effective to have yes or no questions as they are easier to tabulate. The respondent's name and address should be optional. Anonymous answers tend to provide the most uncomfortably upfront but helpful criticism.
The second is to focus on priority customers. Your best customers are worth far more than average customers. Always look for opportunities to promote in a targeted way to this group.
Related to this is to know your strengths as a business and where your key market is. Too many businesses waste their time trying to be all things to all people. It pays to be a specialist, not a jack of all trades. That means focusing on your key market, whether it's universities, government, financial services companies, medium sized companies or the big end of town.
It's important to think local. It pays to partner with local sporting clubs, schools and community groups. They will help support the way you market into their community. This should be subtle, however. Nothing is more off putting and alienating to customers than a company over-promoting its product.
There is a rule that good marketers measure. A good marketing plan measures customer response and the impact of various events. It is also important to ask every new prospect: "where did you hear about us?" That will tell you how effective your marketing is.
The marketing plan rests on three things: goals and objectives, strategic initiatives and tactics. Keep the goals and initiatives down to about three or four.
It is important to involve everyone in the business in the plan, from finance to HR, to provide insights into potential marketing opportunities and pick up things you might not have noticed. Sales people will know customers asking for discounts, your accountant and book keeper will know about cash flow. Of course, if you are a one man operation, you will have to do it yourself. At least the meetings will be short.
There are several ways to move customers to action with your marketing message. The first is to create urgent wording. That does not mean cluttering sentences with exclamation marks but relying on wording instead: "don't delay", "call today" or "hurry in".
Using time sensitive offers works. A short-term promotion - "for a limited time only" and "while supplies last" - increases the urgency. Finally, it pays to make it easy for your customers to act. Don't just include the address for the web site, take consumers directly to the page. If you want them to visit your bricks and mortar office, put a map in to make it easier for them to find.
Web 2.0 has brought more focus on marketing. Traditional ways of targeting customers through television commercials, trade show booths and junk mail are now less cost effective because the market is saturated. Anticipated, relevant and personal information through blogs, consumer fan clubs, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and permission-based RSS information are gaining momentum and delivering results.
With social networking sites, try sparking a debate on a hot topic and give your customers a platform to engage. Update with photos, videos and original content. Create some incentive for people to go to the site by putting on contests, holding sales or even giving away free products. On social networking sites, word of mouth is powerful.
Finally, a word about ethics. You can't fool all the people all the time and if you try, people will talk about it. That's the worst kind of marketing you can get.
Issue: 315 | May 2013
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