For many small business owners, marketing and sales systems are the most important and the most challenging. The market place is highly competitive. Customers are naturally guarded. There is a myriad of marketing methods to consider. Testing can be time-consuming and expensive. Marketing is often a painstaking effort, and always a high priority.
However, a good marketing plan will create a magnetic field that continually pulls new leads and sales opportunities.
Marketing Best Practices
Here are nine principles I've learned over the years that can elevate your marketing and sales systems:
- Be Customer Driven. The best companies listen to the voice of their customers. They uncover the facts about their marketplace. They know who their ideal customers are, where they are, what they buy, and why they buy. They don't design a product and then find a market. Instead, they fit their products to the needs of their current customers and target market.
- Appeal to Emotions. Your customers are emotional beings. They are not going to buy anything that doesn't add something positive to their life or take away something negative. In some way, they want you to remove fear, stress, and pain; they want you to make their life better and happier. Focus on the emotional needs and wants of the prospect (benefits) and use logic (features) to support it.
- Target Your Market. You can't be all things to all people. Focus selling activities on the market segment that has the highest probability of purchasing your product or service. Fit your product exactly to what those people are hungry to buy. Position your message with laser precision so that you are clearly the best option they have. Your target market is the only market that matters to you. Seek to dominate it!
- Offer the Best Value. Develop a passion to be the best at what you do. Your business is your real product, and it has to become remarkable. Your inside reality (products, services, and processes) must match the outside perception of your business (brochures and sales claims). Deliver on your promise. Everyone wants the best deal, the best value, and to buy from the best company. Your unique and remarkable business package (quality, warranty, customer service, convenience, etc.), not just pricing, is what makes you the best
- Communicate a Powerful Message. Your marketing message--the "value proposition" and the "sensory package" (words, colors, logos, printed materials, etc.)—must explain how your remarkable offering will take away pain or improve their lives better than anyone else can. Communicate a clear and powerful message that shows why you are unbeatable. There is great power in specifics. Quantify, compare, or demonstrate your advantage or claims. Avoid the mindless fluff. Get real! Business philosopher Jim Rohn describes a three-step process to be a master communicator. "First, have something good to say. Second, say it well. And third, say it often."
- Find Cost-Effective Channels. Discover the most cost-effective marketing channels (print, broadcast, trade shows, etc.) to get your message in front of your target customer. The most effective marketing campaigns are multi-faceted, combining two or more strategies (e.g., print, the Internet, telemarketing, etc.). Don't look at marketing dollars as a disposable cost but rather as an investment in a customized and effective marketing system that will pay handsome dividends in the future. To avoid a ton of wasted money, consult experts (books or consultants), test ideas, and seek inspiration while in "The Zone."
- Sell with a Compelling Story. After your message generates interest (lead generation system), you must have a powerful way to convince the prospect that they would be crazy to buy from anyone else but you (lead conversion system). Your story must be the most compelling in your marketplace. It must also be true. And, of course, you need to tell the story often. "This I know and I know it well, the more doors you open, the more you sell."
- Systemize Your Marketing. Continue refining your systems with the above principles until they produce measurable and consistent results. Over time, you will know more about what works and what doesn't. Never stop marketing. With good business systems, you will know how to turn sales volume up or down as needed. You will be in control of your marketplace!
- Become an Obsessed Marketer. Muster the "will" to be a successful marketer. Allocate time, effort, and financial resources over a sustained period. Don't expect big results immediately. The momentum will build. Consistent advertising equates with familiarity. Customer familiarity equates with confidence. Confidence equates with sales. Your marketing launch will only hit the moon with a lot of thrust up front and a series of small course corrections along the way. Stick with it and be patient!
It's Up to You!
"Marketing is the act of inventing the product. The effort of designing it. The craft of producing it. The art of pricing it. The technique of selling it. How can a [great] company not be run by a marketer?" (Seth Godin, The Purple Cow).
Take a personal interest in your marketing until you have an effective system. Marketing, after all, is the heart and soul of the business you are trying to grow. Carefully study the principles above and find ways to improve your current marketing systems and processes. A tweak here and there can make all the difference!