First let’s debunk some common myths.
Myth #1: Marketing is the same as advertising: Advertising is the paid, public, non-personal communication of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor. Marketing however, is the systematic planning, implementation and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring buyers and sellers together for a mutually beneficial exchange. Advertising is just one of the many tools a marketer can use to grow his/her business.
Myth #2: Marketing and sales are the same: Marketing is the approach in which a company uses to reach and persuade prospective buyers. In contrast, sales is the process utilized to close the sale once it’s in the door. These two disciplines should definitely work hand in hand, but one should not be substituted for another.
Let’s face it. Marketing can seem overwhelming for many new entrepreneurs. The truth of the matter is, marketing is an essential mastery for businesses that want to increase profitability [sales]. While many companies wish there was a little blue marketing pill – it doesn’t exist. Yet, there are a multitude of effective steps that every business can take to sure up their marketing efforts. Here are just a few:
Learn Your Customers. Market Research is often a costly expense for larger companies. As you grow your business make an active effort to ask for feedback on your products/services. A simple email survey with great incentives will spark response and help you focus your efforts and your budget. For example, a few questions to ask regularly include: a) Are there complimentary services/products that you wish we offered? b) How can we improve our current offering? Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you know what customers want. Engage them and you will increase loyalty and save money down the road.
Start an Email Newsletter. Communication is really important these days. Staying in touch with past customers/clients is a great way to educate and add value. Keep the selling to a minimum – and use email as a PR tool to educate your customers on topics that are relevant to your business. Email is still the preferred method of communication for consumers – so, stay relevant. Also, don’t forget to say thank you by offering special incentives to those who opt to stay connected to your company via email.
Develop a Loyalty Program. Eighty percent of your business comes from twenty percent of your customers. Show some appreciation and nurture the relationships of your top 20% customers. This seems simple but truthfully most companies don’t start off doing this. Reap tremendous dividends by giving your best customers/clients a reason to keep returning. Learn what makes your customers tick and reward them with complimentary incentives, birthday gifts, thank you letters, gift cards, first choice at the newest products or sales, etc.
Promote Other Businesses. Working with other businesses enables you to share costs – and maximize your marketing budget. Most importantly a company can build strategic alliances with other businesses that offer complimentary services/products. And the end result is added value for both of your customer bases. For example, a local spa can offer a restaurant gift card from a local restaurant and the restaurant can hold a spa giveaway. The more creative and targeted the promotion – the better.
Develop a Database. Use direct marketing to increase sales from those buyers that have previously done business with you. 64% of retailers conduct up to three e-mail campaigns per month, according to WebSurveyor. Create opportunities to market new products/services, special offers and cross-sell complimentary offerings. Monitor the effectiveness of your efforts through coupon codes and order forms. It is more cost effective to sell to current and previous customers than to acquire new ones.
Above all, don’t be afraid to test various efforts and measure your return on investment for each part of your marketing program. If your business is indeed better than the competition – make sure people know about it. Make your marketing dollars work harder by developing a proven arsenal of tactics and continually test new ideas. In short, put your marketing where your mouth is.