Archive for the ‘Marketing Communications’ 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

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

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

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

Effective Communication Cuts Through Noise

In Effective Communication, Marketing Communications, Marketing Message on June 29, 2011 at 10:04 am

Several years ago, I was volunteering in my son’s kindergarten class. The room was filled with the noisy energy of more than 20 five-year-olds. When the teacher wanted the children’s attention, she spoke quietly yet firmly, so quietly in fact, that the parent volunteers in the back of the room could barely hear her. The teacher never raised her voice yet in less than a minute, the room was quiet and she began reading a book to the children. Parents marveled, joking that they had to yell to be heard at home. The teacher responded, “I speak softly so the children have to listen.”

In this age of sensory and information overload, how can you “speak softly” to compel your prospects and customers to listen to you? Here are three key concepts to guide your marketing communications efforts.

  1. Deliver an important message. Every time you communicate with prospects and customers, deliver a message that is important to them. Focus on what they need, not what you need. Talk about benefits not features to ensure that all of your marketing messages are customer-centered.
  2. Deliver a succinct message. It’s human nature to tune out someone who drones on and on without making a point. Don’t fall into this trap and lose the attention of your audience. Have a succinct marketing message that clearly explains the customer pain points your product or service addresses, your solution and what makes your solution better than that offered by your competition. Your marketing message is the verbal representation of your brand. Use it consistently and often, just as you do your company logo.
  3. Deliver your message with confidence. You don’t need to barrage your customers and prospects with messages to get through to them. This sends the signal that you really don’t know what makes your product or service important so you are hoping that volume will make up for that information gap. Make the effort to determine who your audience is, the best way to reach them and what they need to hear to purchase your product or service.

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

How to Find Not-So-Obvious Writing Errors

In Effective Communication, Marketing Communications, Writing on June 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm

American journalist, author and grammarian William Safire once said, “If you re-read your work, you can find on re-reading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by re-reading and editing.” Mr. Safire’s tongue-in-cheek comment makes the need for editing obvious. The problem for many writers, however, is finding the not-so-obvious errors. Here are some common writing issues and tips to help you overcome them.

Problem: You proofread your work but still overlook errors.

Solution: It is difficult to proofread your own work and find all of your spelling and grammatical errors. It’s even harder to catch lapses in the logical flow of ideas because you understand what you are trying to say. Before you edit your work, put it aside if only for a few minutes. It is easier to catch mistakes with a fresh eye. For important documents, ask a colleague to read your work.

Problem: You don’t remember the rules of grammar that you learned years ago so you don’t always know when you are writing something grammatically incorrect.

Solution: Many writers cannot cite rules of grammar but intuitively know if something is grammatically incorrect. How? They are avid readers. You can increase your grammar skills by reading well-written newspapers such as The New York Times or The Washington Post. Get in the habit of reading books. When in doubt about punctuation or word usage, consult a style book or dictionary.

Problem: You use the “spell check” function when writing but spelling errors still creep into your work.

Solution: Spell check is a helpful tool but should be only one of the ways you check your writing for errors. The spell check function can overlook subtle mistakes. For example, if you use the wrong word but spell that word correctly, the spell check feature may not bring that word to your attention.

Problem: You have difficulty spelling words correctly.

Solution: Improving your spelling skills does not have to be a tedious process. Playing Scrabble and doing crossword puzzles can help. Reading is another solution. Get in the habit of using a dictionary.

Problem: Even after proofreading an email, you inevitably find a spelling or grammatical error after you push the “send” button.

Solution: If an email is an important piece of correspondence, proofread it on paper rather than on your computer. If that one extra step saves a string of emails explaining what you meant to say in the first place, it is time well spent.