Marketing Secret Widely Known but Rarely Practiced
© Copyright 2003 Optimal Marketing Communications
A successful small business marketer
is a cross between an eternal optimist and a hard-nosed realist. If you don't
cultivate optimism, your efforts will be sporadic, half-hearted, and uncreative.
On the other hand, if you look at the world only through "rose-colored glasses",
you may develop a false sense of confidence and plunge blindly into an expensive
media blitz, bypassing the necessary planning and evaluation. While optimism
is an essential state of mind for pursuing any goal, it needs to be tempered
with a dose of realism.
Sometimes a company's worst enemy can be self-defeating attitudes. You know
it's time to regroup and re-examine attitudes and your creative process when
you hear yourself or one of your associates saying, "I didn't think that
ad would work, anyway!" Does that sound familiar? If you ever have serious
reservations about an ad, a marketing campaign, or a sales presentation,
then it's time to step back, re-evaluate it, and get some outside feedback
before launching it.
Second Opinions Don't Just Apply to Your Health
Run the concept, the graphics, or the sales message by some associates, a
couple friends, or even family members who are willing to offer some constructive
criticism. Ask them what their immediate reaction is and why the sales message
is or is not persuasive. Do they think it would compel them to take action
if they were prospective customers, or does it just blend in with the hundreds
of other marketing messages they're exposed to day after day? Finding a way
to stand out and be noticed is often the first hurdle in a successful advertising
or marketing campaign.
A more formal approach would be to assemble a focus group, usually members
of the public who are paid a fee to view your commercial, evaluate your product,
or critique your marketing material. The most effective way to conduct a
focus group is generally to hire an experienced advertising agency or marketing
research company to do it for you. They should know how to guide discussions
in a productive direction and ask questions that elicit unbiased, honest,
and useful responses.
If you've invested a lot of your time and thought into creating an ad, a
sales presentation, or even the packaging for a product, your closeness to
the campaign can make it difficult to put yourself into the customers' shoes.
By getting too caught up in the creative process, the pressures of sales
quotas, or your own ego, it's easy to lose your objectivity. That's when
outside feedback can be really helpful and necessary.
Get In Touch With Your Inner Customer
The easiest and most natural way to start thinking like a customer is to
get in the habit of paying attention to and analyzing your own experiences
as a customer. Whether you're in a restaurant, a dry cleaners, or a repair
shop, make a mental note of the things that rub you the wrong way or that
make you want to continue doing business there. The same holds true of your
reaction to print ads, commercials, billboards, yellow pages ads, or sales
pitches. What is it about some of the marketing messages you hear or see
that motivate you to pick up the phone, get in your car, write a check, pull
out your credit card, or choose one business over another? Give some thought
to why you keep going back to the same coffee shop, chiropractor, mechanic,
bank, or hair stylist. If you can figure out why they've earned your loyalty,
that might shed some light on how you can improve your own company's ability
to attract, acquire, and retain customers.
But before you can build on your strengths, you need to identify exactly
what they are. You and just about everyone in your organization needs to
know what your unique, distinctive customer advantages are and why customers
are better off doing business with your company rather than your competitors.
Stop and write down all the strong selling points that can be used in
presentations, brochures, ads, business cards, sales letters, and web pages.
Then figure out what changes, improvements, and enhancements need to be made
to your service quality, your marketing strategy, and that list of advantages
to make it more compelling.
Shift Your Focus to Improve Your Profitability
Now here comes the hard part! I'm no psychologist, but it seems like the
biggest obstacle that business owners face in giving effective sales
presentations and creating response-producing ads and letters is their own
ego. Make one change in your attitude and you're almost sure to increase
your sales closing ratio and your advertising response rate. The secret,
which you and just about everyone else in business has heard of but may not
have acted on, is to focus your marketing message on "benefits" rather than
"features". In other words, customers are more strongly persuaded by knowing
how a product is going to benefit them, rather than what it's made of. That
doesn't mean you should leave out the descriptive features of your product
or service; but, in most cases, the main thrust of your presentation or ad
should be the benefits your customer will enjoy. More specifically, focus
on your ability to solve their problem, make their lives easier, or help
them feel happier, have more fun, be more confident, enjoy better health,
or increase their family's safety. They may also be in the market for a product
or service that makes them more financially secure, personally admired or
loved, more attractive, prosperous, prestigious, comfortable, or pain free.
People have dozens of fundamental needs and emotional triggers, and are motivated
by everything from fear and greed to love and vanity. If possible, find out
exactly what your prospects' "hot buttons" are, and then tailor your
presentation, ad, or web page to those needs. If you can reach them at an
emotional level or otherwise convince them that you can satisfy their needs
or solve their problem better than the competition, then the probability
of gaining their business and winning them over as a loyal client will increase
tremendously. Do that consistently, and you'll have a winning formula for
small business marketing success.
About the Author:
Joel Sussman, president of Optimal Marketing Communications, has created
a web site, called
Survival Kit.com".The site features a variety of hand-picked articles,
small business marketing tools, and downloadable manuals. A free subscription
to his marketing newsletter is available by sending a blank email to