Working with Intention Towards Marketing

We see marketing as necessary, we just don’t budget for it. And we don’t have a plan, no clue how to build one. We try stuff and hope it works. How much should we spend on marketing? How many things should we be trying? How do we figure out what to invest in for the future?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Marketing is complex and most owners lack a comprehensive approach. Taking wild guesses is a popular approach, but not the best way to proceed. Improve your chances of getting what you want by defining where it is you want to go. Test, test, test, then commit.

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Make your business unique

We need a differentiator; as an industry we’re being commoditized. We won’t be able to stay in business forever unless things change.

Thoughts of the day: Offering something unique boosts profitability and chances for survival in any small business. Avoid price wars. Turn away some buyers in order to create value. Don’t get complacent. Be nimble.

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Competing for Market-share

When you’re a small company, most high end clients want to use a larger company – at least that’s what I’ve found. Do you have any suggestions on how to get around that concern?

Thoughts of the Day: Check to see if you’re marketing to the right kinds of clients for your business. Build an identity that matches what your clients want to buy – and make sure your company can live up to that. Look for marketing tools that appeal to your target customers. Make sure you’re calling on, and reaching, the right people within your clients’ organizations.

There are many reasons why a company might want to buy from a large company. Those reasons might include a perception of financial depth, R&D ability, continuity as staff turns over, Board and other shared relationships, reciprocity purchasing (I’ll buy from you, you buy from me), ability to buy multiple products from one source. The list goes on, these are just a few of the reasons I’ve heard cited.

Reality is, most of these can be overcome by a small company. Build up reserves so that your company can afford to the kind of float a large corporate or government buyer might demand. Know how much R&D your company can afford to invest in. Consider aligning with larger organizations that can supplement R&D and provide other forms of intelligence without being a competitor. As a small business owner you have the ultimate in continuity. You are much more accessible that the CEO of a major competitor, the buck still stops on your desk, and you aren’t likely to take off or get fired since you’re the owner.

When it comes to Board and other relationships, think about whether you want to invest the time and energy on this one. If you decide it’s worth pursuing, lay out a plan to get there, identifying the players you need to know. For starters, social media platforms and annual reports can give you insight on who to know and how to get to them.

As for reciprocity, you’ll not be able to compete with most large volume buyers. Instead, pitch your company as a knowledgeable about it’s clients. Provide added value by helping customers solve problems. Make that added value worth more than any discount a client might get for bundling purchases with another vendor.

 

Find out what your large corporate buyers are trying to accomplish. What are they doing to move their companies forward? Find out what would be most valuable or useful, to help them reach their goals. Then work backwards. How can you put your company’s assets to bear to help your clients? Figure out what can be done to leverage your company’s knowledge, connections, ability to gather information, etc. on behalf of your clients. Make your company indispensable to your clients and no one will care what size your company is.

Don’t forget about nimble. No matter how powerful a major competitor may be, they are big, have more bureaucracy, and take longer to make and act on decisions. Use that to your advantage. Your company can commit faster, escalate things to the top, and get decisions made at a pace no large competitor can match.

When it comes to building organizational relationships, think about who you call upon. What’s their motivation for meeting with someone from your company? How do you get you message through to the people you want to meet with? Maybe you need to send out information packages ahead of meetings, to inform participants of what your company brings to the table that will help them.

Follow up professionally. Courteous notes and emails, spell checked, grammar checked, to the point, summarizing each encounter, can go a long way to enhancing the perception of your company’s ability to perform.

Spend money to get a presentation in top notch shape. You may invest a year or more getting just the right meeting. Don’t blow it by looking like you’re playing in the bush leagues. Learn how to use presentation tools on a laptop or tablet. Have handouts that are 4 color. Save on handout printing costs by putting 6 slides on a page.

Practice your presentation until you know it cold. Think through every possible answer. Have someone drill you in practice, until you can look cool under pressure.

Keep in mind that people still do business with people they know and like. Profile your clients and prospects. Are you talking to decision makers or decision influencers? Use your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to document all the people you want to connect with, and to keep track of progress.

Do prospects personally know anyone from your company? Get known throughout your clients’ organization and industries. Join industry associations and panels where you’ll gain access to otherwise hard to reach individuals.

Looking for a good book? Managing Customer Relationships: A Strategic Framework, by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers.

Want to print this article? Competing for Market-share

 

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., https://www.strategyleaders.com, a business consulting firm that specializes in helping small to mid-size, privately held businesses achieve doubled revenues and tripled profits in repetitive growth cycles. Interested in learning how Strategy Leaders can help your business? Call now for a free consultation and diagnostic process: 877-238-3535.

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Get the Word Out About Your Business

We have two problems that I think are related. I often hear people say, “I didn’t know you did that”. And I feel like we’re guessing about what our clients need from us. It would be nice to know what clients really think about us, so we can do a better job of telling people what we do.

Thoughts of the Day: Communication is a two way street, and can be conscious or unconscious. Clients are the easiest to talk to, since they already have a relationship with your company. Make sure the world knows what you do – that way people will be more likely to find you when they need your company’s product or service. Build a budget and assign activities to get the word out and make inquiries. You’re correct: the two do go hand-in-hand.

Think of your company as having a voice, just the way people do. Your company is talking all the time about what it does. Every time you deliver on a sale, every time an invoice goes out, every phone call, and every visit with vendors, prospects, or clients, creates an opportunity to tell the story about what you do. Likewise, every contact you make creates an opportunity to gather information about how your company is perceived in the larger world.

What makes your customers happy enough to get them to spend money and then rave about how satisfied they were with their purchase? You need to know the answer to that question. Know that, and you’ll know what to emphasize and de-emphasize when promoting your company’s goods or services. Switch from making assumptions to inquiring about what the world wants, and why.

Looking to gather intelligence? Start with information that’s already available. The government has a wealth of useful research. Go to Archives.gov, click on the search function. Check in with your local library’s research desk. You’ll be amazed at what resources are available.

Want to confirm what you think you already know about your target market’s desires? Ask people who already do business with you. Put together a few questions. Call both best and worst customers. Ask the same questions over and over. As you work to develop your company’s message, skew it to match what customers in the “best” category have to say.

Think you have a good message, but not enough people are hearing or responding? That’s a common problem. Quantity is important.

Marketing is about getting the message out to a broad audience, and keeping it out there until your next potential customer is ready to listen. Do everything you can to reach potential buyers long before they’re ready to buy. Getting the word out to a broad audience can be relatively inexpensive thanks to internet marketing tools.

You still need a budget for marketing. Set a budget and create goals to regularly engage with marketplace: clients, prospects, vendors. Resolve to put away 5 cents out of every dollar that comes in to support marketing efforts, or whatever amount works for you, but you have to be consistent. As the account balance builds up, research vendors and services that could be helpful. Ask business associates selling to similar types of customers for advice on who they’ve worked with. Look at your competitors; see if they have especially good marketing resources backing them up.

Test ways to get your message received by a broad target audience. Each year look to build a few campaign tools that work, and eliminate any trials that fall flat. Refine 1-2 ideas that have potential but haven’t yet become productive.

Work on both: refining your understanding of what buyers’ value about your company, and getting the message out to future buyers that you have what they need. Make marketing a priority and carve out time to work on it steadily. Think of marketing as the ever expanding tool that leads to your company’s future.

Looking for a good book? The Market Research Toolbox: A Concise Guide for Beginners, by Edward F. McQuarrie.

Want to print this article? Get the word out about your business

 

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., a business consulting firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurial firms grow. She can be reached by phone at 877-238-3535. Do you have a question for Andi?  Email her at AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com  or give us a call: 914-238-3500. Thank you for visiting Ask Andi. Business owners regularly turn to Ask Andi and Strategy Leaders for advice on how to grow profitable, successful companies.  They find what they need time after time. Ask Andi is also published weekly in the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals and Hudson Valley Business.  Written by Strategy Leaders President, Andi Gray, the Ask Andi column is a rich source of advice for owners of established, privately held businesses. 

 

 If you are a business owner and you have a question or would like to discuss some aspect of your business, call 1.877.238.3535 or send an email to AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com.
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Make Marketing Work for You

Other companies are better at marketing than we are; they’re better getting business from it. Help!

Thoughts of the Day: Build a plan and stick to it. Position your company as influential. Integrate marketing with sales. Monitor results. Look for small changes that can produce big results.

When writing out your plan for marketing, start with goals. Build of team of part timers within the company. Hire outside experts as you can afford them.

Think about what you want to accomplish both short and long term. Include a budget for both money and time. Make sure you have enough resources available so that your marketing team can be consistent.

Exercise discipline. Set a marketing schedule and stick to it. If new ideas crop up, take time to properly vet them. Don’t let the flavor of the week throw your marketing program off course.

Diversity is the key, not just what you say, but where you say it. Get the word out through lots of channels. Social media, seminars, webinars, ads in print and online, public relations, white papers, the list of how to tell the world about what you do is endless.

Know what points you want to get across. Why do your customers care so much about your company? What kind of history does your company have? What’s unique and special that other prospects need to be aware of?

Being influential is more important than being polished. Use marketing to build up devotees. Get the word out that your company matters. Be both professional and social: build a community. Be creative. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Be interesting.

Look for pools of customers and prospects, then focus marketing efforts on getting connected with both. Make your company the centerpiece of the connectivity if you can. Helping people connect to other valuable resources makes your company more valuable, too.

Identify niches where your company can shine, and use expertise, product mix, pricing and packaging, and connections to resources as ways to stand out. Mirror what you see and hear in specific niches to build relationships. Tell stories people in specific niches can relate to. Romance your prospects. Put your company on display and ask people to engage.

Make sure every lead counts by educating your sales people on the efforts that the company goes through to open new doors, and mine existing niches. Insure proper follow up by providing detailed information on where the lead came from, what similar companies have needed, and who to contact to get optimal play.

Ask sales people to contribute suggestions on where else to look for leads. Ask them to do research with existing customers and prospects. Make their lives easier by organizing activities like trade shows, lunch and learns, and networking events.

Check in regularly on all marketing efforts. Record details about where leads come from. Assign someone to keep up on how your social sites are being used.

Automate as much as possible, using social media doesn’t have to be time consuming. Look into sites that allow you to schedule Facebook posts and tweets. Learn how to use groups on LinkedIn, and find ones that would be interested in what your company is talking about.

Not all prospects are created equal. Go for growth and profit. Focus on targets that are most likely to consistently make high quality purchases. And look for forward thinking prospects who can be your customers of tomorrow.

Establish a system to add qualified prospects every week. Add 10 qualified prospects to the database every week, and in a year you’ll have 500 more. Give several people the task of making a few calls every week to gather basic qualifying data on a list of suspects.

Set up regular follow up once people do express interest. Don’t give up after one or two tries. Automate follow up with useful information that goes out regularly. Periodically call to see if now is a good time to talk. Recycle if not, and keep in front of prospects. Persistence builds impressions, builds awareness, builds familiarity, which leads to opening doors more easily.

Looking for a good book? Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition, by David Newman.

Want to print this article? Make Marketing Work for You

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