Your Customers Want to Know You

Sure, it may not be possible for your customers to know YOU personally, depending upon how large your company is and how vast the geography you sell to, but they want to know what makes your company tick. First and foremost, they want to know how YOU can help THEM. Then they want to know, in more detail, how that process works. Lastly, if you’ve convinced them on any level that you might be of service, they want to know how you’ve helped others.

Companies spend thousands or even millions of dollars crafting an image they want their customers to believe is who they are, but Social Media has raised our ‘consumer’s IQ’ and no amount of money can hide what your company’s about from a determined customer. What your Social Media efforts, website, blog and all that jazz is ABOUT is letting the customer get to know your company.

When a referral or interested party comes my way the first thing I do is ask: Are you on Facebook? You see, they will automatically check out my website and that’s a great cataloge of our work and explanation of what we do, but Facebook/Twitter is a way for our clients and prospects to have a continuing conversation with us about what we do and how it may impact their business. Anyone can build a good website; Social Media allows anyone to follow what we do and how we think on a daily basis; are we creative, consistent, inspirational, but most importantly, are we useful to them? They decide on their own time if we’re worth looking into.

Social Media has done what millions of people are unknowingly grateful for: it has killed hard selling.

So go ahead and start the conversation – invite anyone who is interested to join in. It’s an opportunity for your company to show its best self to the world.

Get the Important Stuff Done Now

All along the Eastern seaboard is a silence that only an insulating snow storm can bring. People are digging out and stepping far outside of their regular routines, many secretly loving that time is standing still. Quite a few already planned this as an additional play day and the snow is just an added bonus. Some meant to get some work done today, but with offices, roads, and transportation shut down – why not play?

Hey, I’m all for ‘playing;’ as this snow blankets the northeast I’m tucked away in a beach front hotel on Florida’s sunny Gulf Coast, and I plan on LOTS of playing with my daughter this week. But I’m also doing The Big Stuff this week – planning my 2011 Growth & Marketing strategy. What does that mean? That means I am asking myself 2 questions:

1. How is my business going to grow this year:
a) What type of business do I want more of? Less of?
b) Does my pricing structure need adjusting?
c) How can I better use my time to target the desired type of growth?
d) What key service do we want to add to our arsenal?
e) What’s dragging us down and how do we jettison it?
2. How will we get our message in front of the right people?
a) Of course, since we are a marketing company we think about this for our clients everyday; we need to regularly think about it for ourselves.

Of course it’s easy to look out the window at a beautiful blizzard or ocean view and think of all of the fun things I could be doing right now, but for me The Big Stuff = the meaningful stuff, and is the most fulfilling work I do all year. This week while the world is quiet I get a lot of Big Stuff done.

Are You The Derek Jeter or Arod of Marketing?

Like many Sales oriented people, I’m a sports junkie. Somewhere deep down in the core foundation of both Sales AND Sports are the following rules:

1. Winning matters, and no one is going to go easy on you and ‘let’ you win.
2. No one cares about who your parents were or what school you went to; selling/sports is about what you can do today – not about your resume.
3. Sometimes, with luck & perseverance, David does beat Goliath.
4. God given talent is essential, but without discipline and focus you go no where.
5. Consistency is more important than inconsistent but brilliant flashes of amazing talent.

And I know, Sales & Marketing are not the same, but they are inextricably linked and the same rules apply to both, just like they do Sports. ARod is by anyone’s standard far more talented than Derek Jeter, but hands down NO ONE would choose him first if their team were in the playoffs. Every time he’s reached the post season ARod has been infuriatingly inconsistent; Jeter, on the other hand, has been a steady rock, especially offensively.

Take that argument into the NFL and you have the never ending Brady/Manning debate: Brady’s numbers have never been as gaudy as some of Manning’s great years but who would you want in the pocket in a playoff game? Brady’s consistency has meant 3 rings and many more play off appearances than Manning has created himself.

What’s my point? Marketing plans work the same way: the consistent, focused, leaky faucet approach where a company constantly creates and publicizes its own news is far more effective than a brilliant single campaign that may create a lot of hype but dies as quickly as it starts.

For instance, I have seen companies create fantastic websites using an “all hands on deck” approach where the entire team contributes great content and helps define how clients will interact with the company online. A lot of money is spent and an entire PR campaign is launched to draw visitors to the new site. It has overwhelming impact on the business and the company rides the new internet wave of prospects calling in. As time goes by however, the website is left stagnate and the team refocuses on their own individual jobs; with no marketing department there is no one to man the ship, and eventually the site becomes stale and outdated, bringing few leads it is quietly ignored until it becomes just a silent online catalog of past greatness.

This sort of thing goes on continually in the business world, but you can substitute that website for marketing materials, Facebook pages, Twitter campaigns, blogs – the list is endless. Like ARod shines brightly in April, by September he is unreliable and not very useful. Your marketing campaign has to be like Jeter to be effective; constant, steady, with a clear vision of the playoffs and making slight adjustments to your game when the competition or market demands it. Someone must be minding it, overseeing that all of the tools you planned on using consistently are put to use. Overtime your company will learn that you make it to the title game far more often when consistency is a mainstay in your marketing strategy.

Be Smart About Your Marketing

Do you have a budget? Do you have a Marketing Calendar? When are your busiest times of the year and how are you marketing your company to maximize sales during the peak season? What do you do to make the Slow Season less slow? What are your marketing goals this year?

I know, lots of questions, but they’re all important, and you wouldn’t believe how many business owners I speak with who don’t know the answers, and never ask themselves the questions.

In order to develop an Outbound (Traditional) Marketing Strategy, you need the following information:
A basic Yellow Page Ad in small town America starts at $35/month (much more in Metropolitan US). The best day of the week to advertise in your local daily paper is probably Tuesday or Wednesday, but it may be different for your publication or target customer (It’s much more important to negotiate placement of the ad). The average price for a prime time TV spot is $450 and up. The average price for targeted Cable Advertising in Prime Time can be as low as $13 per spot. The average price for premium radio station spots range from $85 – $135 per spot (again, negotiating the placement is more important than the price).

You also need an Inbound Marketing Strategy: Is your website bringing in new paying customers? Do you show up in the organic rankings on Google’s first page? How much are google pay per click ads for your geographic target? How much will it cost for you or a top marketing employee to spend time on Facebook, Twitter, Merchant Circle, LinkedIn and Fast Pitch Networking, let alone PressWeb? What about Facebook Ads? Are they right for you?

Sure, it cam be a little overwhelming but there are people who can help. In my market in Northeastern PA you can hire a guy like Mo Devlin from Mojo Marketing for your Outbound Marketing who will not only answer the questions, negotiate the price/placement, but also develop a strategy for you. Or, if you’re a marketing savvy business person, you can figure it out yourself, but you must figure it out; you must have a Marketing Plan. No matter how upbeat and optimistic any of us are, it’s a tough market out there, and understanding what your marketing resources are and how you are going to use them is crucial if your company is to thrive in this economy.

Is a Logo Important?

Is the sky blue? Does the sun rise in the East? Does your company need a website? Of course! In no way am I talking down to you Reader. The reason I sometimes ask what appears to be an inane question is that sometimes I come across clients who ask me these things having already predetermined what they think the right answer is.

Blue Sky

Yes, the sky IS blue.

Yes, sometimes I think my head is going to explode. No, I never tell the customer their question is inane. What I do is try to persuade them that I am right.

Why a Logo is Incredibly Important:

1. The entire point of marketing is to build name recognition with your target audience – to ensure that people know you’re out there. You are fighting a zillion other businesses/brands trying to do the same thing. YOU had better stand out visually and in every other way possible with that target audience.
2. Image does matter. If you have no logo, and by that it could be a simple font for your company name, you look unpolished and frankly, unprofessional.

Hopefully you have a company culture or mission statement – even if it’s as simple as ‘quality service;’ every interaction with your company – personally, visually etc. should consistently make that statement to your customers. Not putting the money and effort into a logo says ‘I just don’t care that much.’

Small Business Cliches that are True

You can't get blood from a turnip.

A cliche, as we all know, is a saying which has been overused to the point of the ridiculous, but most cliches exist because they are founded on truth – especially in business. Here are the ones that I consider part of my successful business philosophy:

1) Fake it Til You Make It: This does NOT mean pretend you are something that you are not. It does mean you must carry an air of success and confidence when you are selling your services, which means dressing and acting like a successful business person. You shouldn’t lie about what you are capable of providing, you should be very careful to not appear arrogant, but you should never talk about the issues your company is having, your financial fears, lay offs etc. In my work I come across so many small business owners, especially start ups, who mistake their warm relationship with clients and colleagues for friendships and share too much information.
2) Everybody Loves a Winner Piggybacking on Cliche’#1, people have enough worries of their own to even think about buying a product or service from a company that might not be around for long. This is especially true if your sales are primarily B2B – if your customer’s success depends upon their suppliers and you’re one of them, they’d better believe you will make them look good in front of their customers.
3) Ask for the Sale We’ve all heard the 80/20 rule until we’re blue in the face, but NOTHING is more important to your business success than asking for the sale. It never ceases to amaze me how many of my clients are afraid to go for it and close the deal.
4) Thinking Outside of the Box If you’ve ever been part of a large sales force and attended a company conference, you’ve heard this speech hundreds, if not thousands of times. You can come up with a new way of saying it – be a “Game Changer,” a “Trust Agent,” but it does matter that you are not just accepting the way business is done and always looking for a new or better way to provide your customers with what they need.

ALL of these cliches became over used because they are true to the core; that means you can afford to ignore them.