marcommlv

Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

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

Advertisements

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.

Just Keep Going

In Writing on August 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I just returned from a wonderful family vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains. If you have never been to this national park, it is well worth the visit whether you explore the park from the comfort of your car or on foot. Each time we hiked, we found natural treasures along the way from cooling waterfalls to wildflowers, towering trees to wildlife.

Unfortunately, however, I am not an avid hiker. I hike only occasionally, generally while on vacation, so while I was more than willing to begin, my stamina is probably not what it should have been for some of the hikes we chose. Needless to say, after a while, my pace slowed down and hiking became more of an endurance sport than a fun activity. I could feel myself gritting my teeth, willing myself forward because I refused to stop before I got to the end of the trail. But at times, I must admit, the thrill was gone.

One day we decided to hike to Ramsay Cascades, the highest waterfall in the park. It’s an eight-mile round-trip hike and the trail climbs about 2,400 feet. The end of the trail is a rock scramble. By the time I reached that part of the trail, I really just wanted to  stop. The thought of scrambling over rocks to reach our destination was a bit more than my urban mind and body could tolerate. As I was scouting out a resting place, a couple passed by on their way back from the falls. They assured me that while the rest of the trail was more challenging, it was doable and well worth the trip. Sure enough, in a few moments, I reached Ramsey Cascade. The view was breath-taking. More than that, I felt a real sense of accomplishment even though I had found muscles that I never knew existed.

So, what does hiking have to do with writing? There are probably many lessons I could draw from my hiking experience, but here’s what really sticks in my mind — just keep going. When writing gets tough, keep at it. Don’t let distractions side track you. The hike to the end is well worth the pain, whether you are writing a book, a poem or a business report.

Marketing Your Business: How to Make a Big Impression Without Breaking Your Budget

In Marketing Communications on July 26, 2011 at 10:39 am

When I was in college, my father faithfully wrote to me just about every day. His letters weren’t long and they usually didn’t hold any earth shattering news. But I looked forward to them nonetheless. They were a connection to home, about 400 miles away, and a reminder that some one was thinking about me.

When was the last time you received a handwritten note? Perhaps it was a card on your birthday or a holiday greeting. Whenever or whatever it was, chances are that it was the first piece of mail you opened and that you gave the handwritten piece of correspondence much more attention than the monthly bills or the direct mail piece addressed to “Resident” or “Our Friends at …”

When you want to make a positive impression, remember your reaction to that personal touch and write a note to your customer, prospect or colleague. A handwritten note is a simple yet powerful marketing tool. It doesn’t need to be  long or on fancy paper, although I do favor using note cards imprinted with your company logo. It should, however, be heartfelt and handwritten. Use this simple method of making a good impression after meeting with a prospect for the first time, when a vendor goes out of his or her way to help you, when you complete a project for a client, or when a colleague celebrates a birthday or receives special recognition.

When people ask me about low-cost but effective marketing techniques, writing a note is always on the top of my list. Try it. You will appreciate the results.

What low-cost, effective marketing techniques do you use to promote your business? Please share your thoughts — and thanks for reading!

Copyright 2011.  Joan B. Marcus

How It All Began

The Fine Art of Mulling It Over

In Effective Communication, Writing on July 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Mulling it over When I was in grade school eons ago, teachers were quick to admonish us when they caught us daydreaming — staring out the window, seemingly thinking about nothing in particular and certainly not working on the task at hand. They told us that we were wasting time, time that we would never recapture. But were we really?  Interestingly, after working as a professional writer for more than three decades, I find that daydreaming or unstructured thinking is an essential ingredient of good writing. When daydreaming is coupled with “mulling it over,”or structured, deep thought, it’s an unbeatable combination for writing better and more quickly.

I’m not sure why this works or how it works, but I do know that I do some of my best writing when I am away from my laptop, doing something that has nothing to do with writing. This makes sense because writing is not about filling paper or your computer screen with words. Writing is a thought process. Before you can find the right words to write, you need to understand why you are writing and who your audience is. You need to brainstorm ideas, research what you don’t know and organize your thoughts. Then it’s time to start writing.

How does this work? Well, here’s how this particular blog entry was written. A few days ago, while I was taking my morning walk, I had the idea to write a post about “mulling.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “mulling” as thinking something over “deeply and at length.” It’s an essential part of writing but one that people often try to skip to save time. When I got home, I jotted the idea down and stuck it in a file with other ideas for blog posts.

Yesterday afternoon, I started scoping out the main ideas of the post, which gave me last night and this morning to think about it. While watering the garden this morning, I started mulling over the article and jotted down key ideas when I got to my office. I focused on the key point I wanted to make (thinking is critical to writing) and how I could best engage readers in the topic (starting with a story). I finally decided to use this post as an example so my idea would be more concrete. I quickly drafted and then edited the post several times.

The next time you are stuck when you are trying to write, give yourself some time to think. This isn’t a luxury and it isn’t a waste of time. It’s a critical part of the writing process. Bottom line —  think before you write and let your mind, not your fingers, do the writing for you.

When do you do your best thinking about your writing? Share your thoughts — and thanks for reading.

Copyright 2011.  Joan B. Marcus

How It All Began

Writer’s Block: What To Do When the Words Won’t Flow

In Writing on July 21, 2011 at 11:45 am

A few months ago, I started writing an article for my newsletter. I knew what I wanted to write about, I understood my audience, I had completed the research and I had organized my ideas. But the words just wouldn’t flow. I had one false start after another and grew more and more frustrated as time slipped away. I knew that the article was going no where and that I really needed to do something different to unjam my thoughts, but I was too stubborn to give up. And so I continued writing and hitting the delete button, wasting way too much time. This was writer’s block at its finest. Finally, in total frustration, I went to find something to eat, anything to get away from my laptop. Within 10 minutes, the opening paragraph had formed in my head.  When I returned to my office, I was able to complete a draft of the article in about 20 minutes.

Everyone can fall prey to writer’s block at some point or another. Generally, writer’s block happens when a person tries to start writing before he or she is ready. Writing is a thought process consisting of six steps. It’s not until the fifth step that you should actually start writing. If you try to skip a step to save time, you often find yourself stuck.

If you have completed the first four steps in the writing process — understand your assignment, brainstorm, research and organize your thoughts —  and you are still stuck, try these tactics to deal with writer’s block.

  • Take a break. Get away from your writing, even if it is only for a few minutes. A quick break from the keyboard can go a long way.
  • Develop a summary sentence. Forget about all the details and cut to the chase. Answer the question, “What am I trying to say?” If you can’t summarize what you want to say, spend more time organizing your thoughts before you start writing.
  • Play with the words. If you have had a few false starts, type a list of key words then start stringing them together. Don’t worry if your sentences make sense. Just play with the words. Before long, you will have a good opening sentence if you are ready to write.
  •  Give yourself a deadline. Some of my best writing is done when I am facing a deadline, either real or self imposed. Not only will this help you break through writer’s block, it also will teach you to write more quickly.
  • Start in the middle. If you find that you can’t write the first paragraph, try writing a different section first. Successfully writing one section or paragraph will often help you get unstuck.

What do you do when your writing gets stuck? Share your thoughts…

Copyright 2011.  Joan B. Marcus

How It All Began

Website Content: Spelling Errors Costly

In Marketing Communications, Writing on July 19, 2011 at 11:45 am

Okay, I admit it. I am probably (okay, I am definitely!) more sensitive to spelling and grammatical errors than the average person. It is one of the drawbacks of being a writer by profession. I go to the movies and catch the typo in the copyright infringement notice. I glance at a billboard and notice the missing or misplaced apostrophe. I log on to a website and decide not to buy anything because I see a string of misspelled words. What???

It’s true. When I visit a website that has blatant spelling or grammatical errors, I rarely make a purchase on that site. In the back of my mind, I am wondering if it is a legitimate site or if my credit card will be taken over by a shopaholic racking up a string of charges to my account. But up until now, I couldn’t prove that spelling and grammatical errors made a monetary difference to a company’s bottom line even though sloppy content obviously does nothing for a company’s image.

Sean Coughlan, a BBC News education correspondent, however, changed all that. He recently reported that online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe analyzed website sales in England and found that “poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses.” Duncombe believes that “…misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility.”

Do you have difficulty catching spelling errors on your website or in other work?  Here are some of my favorite proofreading strategies:

  1. Proofread a paper copy. Yes, I know. It’s better for the environment not to print what’s on your computer screen. When it comes to proofreading, however, it’s worth the cost. I edit on my laptop and when I think everything is okay, I print out a copy for a final look. It’s amazing how many times I find a spelling or grammatical error.
  2. Use a dictionary. A dictionary is a wonderful thing. I use both online and paper formats.
  3. Read from the end. Start at the end of your writing and proofread reading backwards. This forces you to focus on individual words.
  4. Take a break. It is difficult to proofread something you just finished writing. Take a break from it, even if for a few minutes. You may be surprised at what you find when you read it again.
  5. Ask someone else to proofread for you. A fresh set of eyes is always helpful in catching typos and spelling errors. This is especially important if your work is being printed professionally.
  6. Use spell check as a final check. The spell check feature is a wonderful tool as long as you proofread as well. The spell check function finds misspelled words, not necessarily words that are used incorrectly.

Copyright 2011. Joan B. Marcus

How It All Began

Website Content Drives Web Traffic

In Marketing, Marketing Communications on July 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Developing searchable and compelling website content is a critical marketing tactic that will increase your website traffic, whether you own a business or run a nonprofit organization. While good design and navigation are important to the success of your website, content is key. Website content serves two main functions — it helps people find your site and it makes your website interesting. To achieve this, your website content should be searchable and compelling.

Make web content searchable with keywords

  1. Choose customer-friendly keywords. The key to successful marketing is to make it customer centered. When it comes to keywords, use phrases your customers are likely to use when searching for your products or services. While there are many tools that you can use to research the effectiveness of keywords, start by listening to your customers. What words do they use to describe your products or services?
  2. Focus on keyword phrases. When you use a search engine such as Google or Bing to find information online, you use keywords that describe what you want to find. You may search using a single keyword such as “florist.” Most people, however, use a phrase, such as “fresh floral arrangements in Lehigh Valley, PA.” This narrows the search and makes the results more relevant. When you focus on keyword phrases, you develop a niche and make it easier for people to find your website in searches.
  3. Use keywords strategically. Each page of your website content should represent a different focus on your business or organization. For instance, if you are a florist, one page might be about fresh arrangements, another might focus on silk flowers and yet another might focus on your garden shop. Determine two focused keyword phrases for each page. Use the primary keyword in your title and the second keyword if possible. Use both keywords in your page description. When you write your website content, use both keywords in your opening paragraph of content at least once and preferably more often. Weave the keywords into your website content as much as possible but not so frequently that the copy sounds stilted.

Develop compelling website content your customers want to read

  1. Understand your customers. Any time you market your business or organization, your starting point should be your customers or target audience. Learn as much as you can about your customers, especially their pain points or needs. Provide relevant, useful content that your website visitors will want to read and share.
  2. Include a strong message. Include your marketing message or mission statement on every page of your website. Each page should add depth to that message. Your website content must be compelling to entice visitors to learn more about your business or organization, take a desired action such as purchasing a product or service or making a donation, and return to your site again and again.
  3. Write well. Website content must be well written. Otherwise, visitors will click off your site without a second glance. Focus on your message, mechanics and style. Your ideas should flow logically so visitors quickly understand your point. Content must be grammatically correct and free of all spelling errors. Finally, develop a writing style that reflects your business or organization.

How It All Began

Embrace Common Sense Marketing in Tough Economy

In Marketing, Marketing Communications on July 12, 2011 at 7:38 am

In today’s tough economy, you need to make every marketing dollar work harder and smarter than ever before. By focusing on marketing basics, you can keep your business thriving and growing. Challenging? Yes. Possible? Absolutely. Here are five common sense marketing techniques that will help you use your marketing dollars wisely.

  1. Know your customers. Regardless of the state of the economy, your customers should be the starting point for all of your marketing strategies. Winning a new customer costs two to four times as much as keeping a customer so it is a smart investment to do everything you can to keep your customers happy. Learn as much as you can about your current customers. Analyze their buying habits to find ways to increase sales to them. Make their experience with your company so outstanding that they provide word-of-mouth marketing to others. This type of marketing is priceless.
  2. Cultivate prospects. While current customers are critical to your success, you need to continually cultivate prospects if you want to keep growing your business. Focus on untapped prospect groups who would make profitable customers. Develop a plan to reach them. Position your products and services to be as attractive as possible to turn these prospects into customers.
  3. Focus your message on your customer. Marketing is all about the customer — or at least it should be. Unfortunately, too many businesses spend time and money focusing on themselves and never talk about what the customer wants to hear. Experts estimate that the average customer is hit with 3,500 to 5,000 messages daily. If your message has any chance of breaking through that barrage, it must be customer oriented. Your message should acknowledge your customers’ pain points, develop your solution and explain what makes your solution better than that of your competition.
  4. Sharpen your marketing tools. Now is a key time to look at how well your marketing tools are working. Does your website offer information your customers want? Do you give them reasons to return to your site? Is your newsletter focused on your customers and their needs? Are you using marketing methods that actually reach your target audience?
  5. Use low-cost marketing techniques to enhance your budget. There are many low-cost marketing techniques that yield big results if you are willing to use them consistently. When you network, follow up immediately with new contacts. Use social network sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to stay in touch. Send an email or set up a meeting to build relationships. If you don’t follow up, networking is worthless. Send a hand-written thank you note when you meet with a prospect. Keep your database updated so you can stay in touch with customers and prospects. Speak to community organizations and professional associations. Volunteer on nonprofit boards.

How It All Began