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Engage Customers with Key Marketing Strategies

In Branding, Effective Communication, Marketing, Marketing Communications, Marketing Message on September 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Three years ago, when I wrote the article, Common Sense Marketing in a Tough Economy, I had no idea that the information would be so pertinent in 2011. That article is one of the most popular since I launched Words That Work. Today, as in 2008, business owners need to make every marketing dollar count. What marketing strategies work best? While there is no single solution, here are three key marketing strategies that work in a challenging economy — and whenever you want to grow your business.

Strategy 1: Go back to basics. When it feels as if the walls are closing in on you and clients are evaporating, you may be tempted to toss aside your marketing plan and try something new. While there is nothing wrong with new approaches, this is not the time to forsake the basics. Start with a clear marketing message. This succinct statement should immediately engage customers and prospects and help them understand what your company can do for them and why they should do business with you rather than with your competition. Consider it your “logo in words.” Include it in print pieces and proposals. Share your marketing message when networking and then expand on it when you follow up with a new contact after an event or meeting. Instead of using a standard recording, make your marketing message part of your voice mail message.

Strategy 2: Cater to your customers. Your customers are golden and the reason for your business success. Treat them that way. Begin by establishing a process that allows you to stay in touch with customers on a regular basis. If you don’t have an up-to-date database of client contacts, develop one. Plan to “touch” your clients about once a month.

An email newsletter filled with useful information is a great way to stay in touch with clients. Consider profiling customers in your newsletter. This is a win-win situation. Potential customers get a firsthand look at how you have helped an actual business and your customers benefit from added exposure. Handwritten birthday cards, holiday greetings and notes of congratulations and thanks are thoughtful gestures and make you stand out. (When was the last time you received a handwritten note?) Take advantage of social media to tout your clients. Mention their accomplishments in your posts. Respond to their posts. We all know the power of referrals. Whenever possible, refer your clients to potential customers.

Strategy 3: Cultivate your prospects. Prospects are tomorrow’s customers. Treat them as you would a client. Develop a process to stay in touch with them. When you attend a networking event, capture contact information in a database and connect with prospects through social media. Plan to touch prospects at least once a month. When a prospect asks you to call “in three months,” have a system that allows you to follow through on that commitment.

When you meet someone for the first time, ask if you may add him or her to your newsletter database. Prospects will appreciate that you have asked their permission and they also are more likely to read your newsletter rather than hit the “delete” button. Use your marketing message in all of your prospecting tools, including written proposals. Don’t assume that people remember details about your company just because you have shared them in a meeting. Have you worked with a client who faced a similar challenge as your prospect? Share customer profiles so prospects can see your work in action.

©2011 Joan B. Marcus Communications LLC

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Build Business Brand Proactively

In Branding, Marketing, Marketing Communications on August 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Every business has a brand. Some businesses build their brand proactively and create a strong, positive brand. Others ignore  brand development and end up with a negative brand that dooms the business.Your brand is too important to your business success to ignore it. Instead, build it proactively.

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customers regarding your products and services and the overall sales experience you provide. Your actions define your brand while your marketing materials support it. Adopt these strategies to grow a strong, consistent brand that will serve your company well.

  • Build your brand on action. Some companies fail to see the connection between their actions and their brand. They believe that if they develop a slick marketing campaign promising quality products and services and excellent customer care, this will become their brand even if they fail to deliver on their promise. Wrong! This is like building a home with sturdy walls and a flimsy foundation. The structure just won’t stand. You must deliver what you promise.
  • Reflect your brand in your marketing materials. On the flip side, some business owners believe that as long as they sell quality products and services and treat their customers well, the quality of their marketing materials doesn’t matter. Wrong again. You need to let customers know what makes you different from your competition. Otherwise, your competitor with a strong marketing program but only average products and services will far outsell you.
  • Develop a message that speaks to your audience. I once attended a networking event during which everyone had the opportunity to give a 30-second commercial about his or her company. There were several banks represented. One by one, each bank representative offered the lowest home mortgage rate and nothing more. I was left with the impression that every bank was the same. What’s the solution? Develop a strong marketing message that quickly defines the customer pain points your products and services address, your solution to these pain points or needs and what makes your solution better than that offered by your competition. Otherwise, you will compete solely on price.
  • Build your brand by design. Many businesses start out with a logo, business cards and letterhead and then develop the rest of their marketing tools in a reactive mode — when some event forces them to do so. The end result often is a different message and design for each marketing tool. If you want to build a strong brand, incorporate your message and unique image into every marketing tool.
  • Stay the course. Customers and prospects need to hear your message consistently at least six or seven times before it begins to make an impact. If you did your homework and carefully developed your marketing message, design and strategy, stay the course. Give your marketing strategy time to succeed.
  • Change if you must. While consistency is important, even the most carefully made plan sometimes needs to be tweaked. Evaluate your results on a regular basis and adjust your marketing as needed for even stronger brand growth.

Copyright 2011. Joan B. Marcus

Your Audience Rules — or Should

In Writing on August 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I’m not much of a sports fan. I’ve learned the simple rules of soccer thanks to the many years I’ve watched my son play. I get the gist of baseball, basketball, football and golf. But if you move beyond the basics, I’m pretty much lost. When I watch a football game, the most I usually get out of it is the score, unless there is someone there to explain the game at a basic level — a very basic level.

A true football fan, on the other hand, can watch the same game and understand the strategy, the play-by-play and the statistics. He or she can recount plays and explain how they fit into the overall game. He has a deep understanding of what is going on without explanation.

When you write, readers may vary as well. Some will have in-depth knowledge of your subject matter while others may know very little about the topic. Your job as a writer is to communicate clearly with all of your readers without dumbing down the information or overwhelming your readers with too many details. Here’s how:

  • Understand your audience. Before you begin to write, understand who your audience is, their depth of understanding of the subject matter you are writing about, their interest and their purpose in reading what you have written. If your audience is familiar with your topic, you can count on shared knowledge to “fill in the blanks.” If the topic is unfamiliar to your readers, you need to provide more detail. If your audience varies in its understanding, you should provide enough information so every reader can understand the key points you are communicating.
  • Make it easy for your readers to get what they need. Why is someone reading what you have written? What level of detail do they need? If your readers need quick facts, for example, use a bullet format. Make use of subheads and bold and italic type to make key points stand out. If you need to provide more detail for some readers, use a traditional journalistic style, summarizing the important points in the first paragraph with supporting details in later paragraphs.
  • Write clearly and succinctly. Writing is a thought process. To write clearly and succinctly, you must have a firm grasp of the key points you want to make before you start writing. After you draft an article, edit it carefully for content, grammar and style. When it comes to writing, less is more. If one word conveys what you want to say, don’t use two. Eliminate jargon.

Bottom line — write for your audience for optimum communication.