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Posts Tagged ‘business’

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

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

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

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!