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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Marketing with a Vision
Getting extraordinary results from common marketing tools
By Marc Gordon

On the surface, being able to attract more clients and sell more products than your competitors could be viewed as just offering a wider selection of products at better prices. However when you examine the marketing programs of successful businesses, it becomes apparent price is not always the biggest factor.

So what exactly is marketing? Most people tend to think of Yellow Page ads, mailings, and outdoor signage. But as of right now, I want you to think of marketing as this: Marketing is the simple act of communicating, directly or indirectly, with your current or potential market in a way that builds on and reinforces your, or your company's, distinct qualities.

Adopting this philosophy will present you with a whole new set of opportunities. Imagine that every point of contact you or someone from your office has with anybody is a marketing opportunity.

No longer are you just working within the mindset of advertising. Now marketing becomes a state of mind - an awareness that you will develop. There is no separation between current clients and potential clients. Anyone with a set of eyes is a client and should be treated as such.

So where do you start?
I always tell my clients to begin with their staff. Staff are the most powerful and influential communication tool you will ever have. Listen to how they communicate with both clients and each other. Is your receptionist friendly, helpful and attentive? Do your staff members argue with each other in front of clients? Are staff members selective in how they communicate with specific people? Selective communication means they might be polite to clients, but impolite to the suppliers. It's important that all your staff understand the impact they have on how your business is presented. For many people, your staff will be their first point of contact. What kind of impression do you want them to make?

The other key area to start with is you. That's right! How you present yourself is vital to the growth of your business or practice. After all, beyond the products you sell, and the services you provide, it all comes down to you. This brings us back to the way you and your staff communicate externally. Be helpful, courteous, professional, and return calls promptly. Become the number one source in your field by being 100% dedicated to your clients.

By establishing a unique selling proposition (USP), you can turn your communication skills into an effective marketing tool. A USP is your distinct quality that distinguishes you from everyone else. It makes you special in the eyes of your clients and gives them reason to seek you out.

Creating a USP is a key starting point in building a marketing program. Even if you don't plan on developing a full blown campaign, every piece of marketing material you create should reinforce your USP. Quality, price, service, and convenience are just a few traits you can build on. The best way to start is to just take a pen and paper and start writing. In a couple of sentences write what makes you special. Keep it objective. Avoid writing statements like "we have the best service". Instead, write down what makes it the best.

An example might be "ABC Company offers free lifetime service for all its clients. Repairs are done in-store right away, no waiting."
When developing a USP, make sure it's something that you and all your staff can follow through on. Not being able to deliver on a promise will only hurt your reputation in the long term.
Now that you have a unique selling proposition that you can believe in and act upon, its time to develop a marketing plan that reinforces this message. As mentioned earlier, a marketing plan is about more than just advertising and selling. It's about communicating. And effective communicating is an important part of relationship building which is essential to long term success. Remember, companies don't sell buy and sell, people buy and sell.

How you choose to market yourself and your company will be influenced by not only your USP, but also your local market, budget and goals.

The number of marketing programs you can create are only limited by your imagination.
But to get you started, I have assembled some tried and true techniques that you can adapt to your own situation.

Event marketing: Actively become part of a public or industry event that will produce a lot of exposure for you. An example for an eye glass store might be to have a booth at a book fair. What a great place to demonstrate the value of reading glasses. You could even team up with some other vendors to do some cross promotions, offering special discounts on each other's products. Even if you aren't set up to make any actual sales at the show, you could be exposing your business to potentially thousands of people over just a few days.

Database marketing: with the advent of email, data base marketing can be extremely effective and cost you virtually nothing. All that's required is the email address of your clients along with some personal information such as gender and age. There are lots of customer management software packages like ACT! that can keep track of all this information. Then you can send out personalized emails to those specific clients that you want to target. Think about a tire store being able to send out a promotion for high performance tires only to those clients with sports cars.

Educational Marketing: Showcase new products and services in an intimate setting right in your own store or practice. A clothing store invites current clients (plus a guest) to a wine and cheese party showcasing the newest styles of the season. Be sure to give out some kind of small, industry relevant gift for every attendee (with your name on it, of course). Perhaps also have a draw for a free product or gift card.

Referral Marketing: Turn your clients into sales people. Keep track of how people found out about you and be sure to send out thank you cards to those that referred. Including a gift card for a local coffee shop goes a long way. The goal here is to let people know that you appreciate them thinking of you.

Mass Marketing: When done right, you can get a lot of positive results. Simply put, mass marketing is anything that reaches everybody. This can be television, radio, flyers in the mail, or an ad in a magazine. Which form of media will work best for you depends on your budget and what market you are going after. An jeweler located in a high income area of the city may not want to advertise outside of this area. Advertising in a lifestyle magazine commonly read by the local demographic may produce the best results.

I encourage all my clients to create a "call to action" within their advertising. There has to be something to make people act on your message. A free product, special pricing, anything that makes people want to get to your store as quickly as possible. Two things to remember: first, make it a limited time offer. Second, the promotion has to be something beyond a regular sale. Offering 50% off your most popular product for just a 3 hour time frame could get people excited. But for this type of campaign to be successful, it needs to by publicized extensively prior to the event. Don't let your biggest sale of the year be the biggest secret of the year.

Always remember, marketing is a form of communication first and foremost. Effectively creating a message that communicates your values and ideals, then reinforcing that message with action will always bring you the greatest level of success.

About the Author:
Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and marketing consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. His firm, Fourword Marketing, specializes in helping businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing campaigns. Marc can be reached at (416) 238-7811 or visit www.marcgordon.ca


 
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