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Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

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

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

Eight Key Strategies That Boost Your Marketing Results

In Branding, Marketing Communications on July 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Like many things in life,  simple things can make the difference between success and failure. When it Boost marketing successcomes to marketing your small business, that is especially true. Here are eight key strategies that can boost your marketing results.

  1. Be consistent. Every business should have a strong, succinct marketing message that clearly indicates the customer need your product or service addresses, the solution you offer and what makes your solution better than that offered by your competition. Use this message consistently in all of your marketing tools as well as when you are networking. If you want your customers and prospects to understand what your company offers, be consistent.
  2. Be succinct. Keep your message short and to the point.
  3. Be persistent. Marketing is not a once and done event. It is a cultivation process through which you build relationships with prospects and clients by staying in touch, addressing needs and anticipating future ones. Plan to contact prospects and clients on a regular basis, in person, through social media and by email marketing.
  4. Listen. If you want to know what customers and prospects want, listen to them. Give them the opportunity to speak, whether it’s during your sales presentation or through a customer survey. Customer comments provide great insight when you are developing your marketing strategy.
  5. Personalize your approach. Everyone likes to feel important and in marketing, the personal approach is your opportunity to create that feeling. Know your customers and prospects so you can target messages specifically to their needs. On an individual level, send handwritten notes for birthdays or special achievements. Email articles that might be of interest. These are all important ways of staying in touch.
  6. Get organized. If you want to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way, get organized. Use — don’t lose — that stack of business cards you’ve collected. Every individual represents a potential new customer. Capture contact information in a database and keep it up to date. Create a system that works for you so you can follow up on prospects and customers who want to be contacted at a later date.
  7. Diversify. While this may sound more like financial advice, it’s important to effective marketing as well. There are many different ways to share your message with prospects and clients. The more channels you use, the more opportunities you have to reach your target audience. The key to diversification is to know your audience and how they like to receive information.
  8. Believe in what you do. If you want to sell a product or service, you must believe in it and in your ability to deliver value to your client. Help your client understand this value.

How It All Began

Does Writing Matter?

In Branding, Marketing Communications, Writing on June 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Does your ability to write well make a difference in your career? In this age of tweets and texts, does grammar matter?  Or, is writing a dying art?

As a writer by profession, I strongly believe that writing is important to your professional brand. In fact, your ability to write well can make or break your personal brand. Why? Writing is more than just putting words on paper. Writing is a thought process. (See earlier post for more on the writing process.) If you are a sloppy writer, it’s a good indication that you do not pay attention to details and that you aren’t a clear thinker. Not great for a professional brand.

Have you ever received an email that left you wondering, “What does this mean?” “What does the sender want me to do?” Generally, there are two options. You either guess at the meaning and perhaps act on the wrong assumption or you send an email asking for clarification. Your email can lead to a string of emails further clarifying the first message. Either approach leads to wasted time.

When I receive an email that is difficult to read and filled with typos and grammatical errors, I read between the lines and take away these messages: You aren’t important enough for me to take the time to write this clearly. This topic isn’t important to me. I don’t have the ability to think this through. I am careless. I don’t care. Those aren’t messages most people want to send, especially in a professional situation.

So, how does good writing fit in with social media? What about the 140-character tweet or cryptic text message? Many people do treat social media casually and fail to realize the importance to their professional brand. If you are using social media in a business situation, however, you are being judged by your words. In fact, people may only know you based on your posts, comments and profiles. Bottom line, if an idea is worth sharing, take the time to write your thoughts well.

What is your pet peeve when it comes to writing? Feel free to post a comment. Thanks!

How It All Began

Strong Marketing Message or Trap?

In Branding, Marketing Communications, Marketing Message on June 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Is your business trapped by your marketing message? Is it so general that it forces you to be everything to everyone? Does it dictate your pricing strategy? Does it condemn your business to being no better than your competition? If so, it’s time to develop a strong marketing message that can drive your brand and grow your business.

Your marketing message is your “logo in words.” It should be a succinct, memorable statement that addresses your customer pain points, suggests a solution and explains why your solution is better than that of your competition.  It should be the heart of all of your marketing efforts and integrated into all of your marketing tools. Your marketing message is a critical component of your brand because it helps customers and prospects understand what you can do for them and why they should care about your company.

Here are five common traps to avoid as you craft your message:

  1. We are like everyone else. Many companies define themselves by what they do — the product they make or the service they offer — without attempting to make their message customer-centered. This type of message is often a label, such as, “I’m a home builder,” or “I’m a plumber” or “I sell shoes.” This type of message does nothing to distinguish your company from your competitors or to help prospects or customers understand how you can address their needs.
  2. We have the lowest price. Unless your business strategy really is to be known as the company with the lowest price, this approach is counter-productive. While initially you may get business by promising the lowest price, customers will continue to expect this. You will not be able to grow your business based on the value your bring to your customers.
  3. We do everything. This is probably the easiest trap to fall into because businesses often fear they will lose customers if they fail to promise to do everything. It sounds reasonable that the more you promise to do, the more customers you will have. However, if you are trying to differentiate your business and grow it profitably, it is better to have a niche or specialty. This does not preclude your company from providing additional services and it does build your reputation as an expert in a particular area.
  4. We offer the highest quality. Most companies claim that they offer a quality product or service. Customers expect this. Making this claim, however, does not help prospects understand why they should do business with your company or what makes your company different from your competition.
  5. We offer the best service. This is similar to promising the highest quality product or service. Instead of making a blanket statement, explain your unique approach to customer service.

Make Marketing Message Your Logo in Words

In Branding, Marketing Communications, Marketing Message on June 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Every company needs a marketing message. This strong, succinct statement of approximately 25 words or less captures the customer need you address, your solution and what makes your solution different. It must be memorable and appropriate to share face-to-face and in your marketing tools. Your marketing message is important because it is a summation of what your company represents. It builds your brand. It is your “logo in words.” Your marketing message should be an integral part of your marketing efforts and known and used by everyone involved with your business.

Here are a dozen ways to incorporate your message into your marketing:

  1. Networking. When you meet a prospect, use your marketing message to introduce your company. If your message sounds awkward in speech, restructure it so you can state it with ease.
  2. Website. Your marketing message should be incorporated into every page of your website, even the contact page. Don’t fall into the trap of including your message only on the home page. A visitor may never get to your home page and therefore will leave your site without a clear understanding of your company.
  3. Newsletter. While your newsletter should not be a sales pitch, it is appropriate to include your marketing message to reinforce your company brand.
  4. Social media. If you want social media to be an effective marketing tool, incorporate your marketing message into your profile.
  5. Voice mail. Record a voice mail message that includes your marketing message. When you leave a message for a prospect, incorporate your marketing message as well.
  6. Business card. Include your marketing message on your business card. This is a great way to build your brand.
  7. Email signature. When your marketing message is included, it elevates your email signature from contact information to marketing.
  8. Speaker introduction. By integrating your marketing message into your speaker biography, you provide your audience with a memorable introduction to your company.
  9. Presentations. Use your marketing message during presentations to prospects, clients and other groups to help people understand how your company addresses their needs.
  10. Client meetings. Have clients ever told you that they were unaware that your company offered a particular service or product? Help them understand the depth and breadth of your company through a strong, memorable marketing message.
  11. Prospect letters. When you include your marketing message in a prospect letter, you answer the pressing questions, “What’s in it for me?”
  12. Print pieces. Think of your marketing message as your “logo in words” and include it in all print pieces along with your logo.

Your Marketing Message — Use It or Lose It

In Branding, Effective Communication, Marketing Communications, Marketing Message on May 31, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Blank boardYour marketing message is the verbal representation of your brand. As such, it should drive all of your marketing and be integrated into every marketing tool. How well are you doing this?

Here’s a quick way to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing message. Ask each of your employees how he or she introduces your company to a prospect. Is your sales force on the same page as your customer service staff? Does your clerical staff or the person answering the phone describe your company the same way you do? If you receive several different answers or blank stares, it’s time to take a closer look at your marketing message. Here are five tips to help you craft a memorable message:

  1. Tells your prospects and clients what they need to hear. An effective marketing message is a succinct statement — usually 25 words of less — that addresses your customers’ pain points, provides a solution and explains why your solution is the best one available.
  2. Focus on one key point. Most companies provide a variety of services or products. You don’t need to include all of this information in your message, and you shouldn’t! Instead, focus on the one product or service that best addresses your customers’ pain points. What do you do better for you clients than any other company?
  3. Develop a simple yet memorable message. This isn’t the time to try to impress customers and prospects by using jargon and technical language. Few people will understand or remember such a message. Instead, make your point simply and succinctly. Eliminate every unnecessary word and make every word count.
  4. Think about it. Developing a powerful marketing message takes time. You need to consider your core strengths and weaknesses, the current or future needs or pain points of your customers and how you can best meet those needs based on your strengths. Once you know the answers to these questions, craft a succinct statement that captures the essence of your answers.
  5. Make your message part of your company. Your marketing message should be an integral part of all your marketing efforts. You and our entire staff should be comfortable using your marketing message in casual conversation, while networking and in formal presentations. In short, use it or lose it!