Despite confusion about what marketing is, without it no business can succeed. The best definition of marketing is anything you do to get OR keep a customer. This means the most important forms of marketing are customer service and referrals. Thats why in my books on marketing I focus on how to build relationships with customers and potential customers. You can build relationships in person or online. Even your advertising and brochures can help build relationships. Having recently collected almost 2000 ways that real companies and individuals have marketed successfully, I've picked a few to mention here.
The best methods for you will differ depending on your personal style, your industry, and your budget. But these should give you some ideas. Despite the increasing impact of technology on marketing, most of the key things you can do are still aimed at standing out in your market and building relationships. If I had to pick the top ten approaches they would be these.
1. MAKE YOUR ADVANTAGES EASY TO UNDERSTAND.
For instance, Computer Resources International AS originally sold consulting, for which they used proprietary software. Only when they started selling the software first, and then customization and consulting as extras did their business take off. Buying software was easier to understand than the more intangible consulting. LifeUSA insurance, and many other businesses, focus on speed in every aspect of their business. They make fun of the slower industry standards and provide a simple advantage clients understand. Other ways to set yourself apart are through great service or association with worthy causes.
2. DONT TRY TO BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE.
Just as customers screen you, you should decide who you want to serve. Printing Resources originally took any printing business that walked in the door. When they realized which kinds of customers they worked with best, they were able to cut down their marketing costs and make more money. Some computer consulting firms only work with one customer per industry so they will have no conflicts of interest. You can bet they select customers carefully, and that customers are flattered by the partnership approach. Consider creating a checklist of who shouldnt hire you! It will help you focus, and may impress the right customers if you share it with them.
3. WORK FOR REFERRALS.
Word of mouth is the least expensive, most effective way to get new business. Barry Farber has new customers write on the back of their business cards why they bought. These become mini-testimonials. Bob Brassard calls at least one client a day just to keep in touch. This builds the relationship by showing he doesnt just care about them when he wants something, allows him to update files, and generates referrals. One upscale dentist put up a Web page. He got about six extra referrals a month because his clients thought it was cool that their dentist had a Web page.
4. USE ONLINE MARKETING.
You dont have to have a Web site like Eastern Mortgage Services to do business online. You can send personalized e-mail like Michael Swartz of DNA Software. You can pay only for the leads generated for you by advertising on many sites. You can research potential clients for better presentations. You can gather customer input inexpensively as Ritchey Design does. Or you can post free ads in discussion groups.
5. DONT SELL, HELP PEOPLE BUY.
When you truly put the clients interests above your own, you will become a consultant, a team member, and a partner for your client. When youve earned trusted advisor status, doing business is no problem. For instance, computer consultant, Amadaeus Consulting Group, helps its customers make more money by using computers to help their clients sell more. Of course, the extra business comes around as the client grows. A small accountants client felt they needed a Big 5 firm to handle their audit because they wanted to go public. Instead of resisting, the accountant helped the client select a Big 5 firm, thus maintaining and extending the relationship with the client. Conrad International added warehousing services near overseas clients so they could afford to buy in bulk for a lower price. When you put the customer first, you earn long-term loyalty that is more profitable than a larger quick sale.
6. PARTNER WITH OTHER COMPANIES REACHING YOUR MARKET.
This might be neighborhood merchants cooperating on a sidewalk sale, or Digital Equipment partnering with Infinite Technologies to better serve the Bank of New York. Or it could be you partnering with a charity to create a fund raising event that brings attention to both of you, like Service Merchandise and Goodwill did.
7. SHIFT THE RISK TO YOURSELF AND YOU WILL PROFIT.
A believable guarantee makes it safe for prospects to give you a try. Very few people will exploit a generous guarantee compared to the extra business it generates. YoyoDine is one of many companies that guarantee you results from their online advertising. Even Kaiser, the big HMO, found a money-back guarantee to be successful.
8. BE PERSONAL.
To build relationships you have to build a personal connection. A handwritten invitation pulled great for Frank Candy, president of the American Speakers Bureau and for restaurateur Murray Raphael. Internet consultant Dan Janal gives clients links from his page. One nursing home created a waiting list through great referrals by greeting visiting relatives by name and filling them in on their loved ones at the start of each visit.
9. CREATE FREE PUBLICITY.
Our old Construction Computer Applications Newsletter had a hard time finding reviewers for computer programs of interest to readers. Our reviewers not only got publicity from their reviews, but we gave them referrals. A large CPA firm specializes in citrus growers. Every year they do a survey of their clients costs of operations. The survey data helps their clients benchmark their operations, positions the CPAs as the experts, and gets the CPA firm publicized in trade articles. Inquiry Handling Services gets regular publicity from newsletters and articles, as well as a book they wrote for their industry. And Luxury Limo received major coverage about a special rate created to allow three regular women to share the commute in a limo at about the cost of carpooling.
10. INTEGRATE YOUR MARKETING.
This means that everything you do should convey the same message and represent what you stand for. Putnam Investments manages $150 billion in assets. All their literature, and even their office, conveys the same message. Viva Knight, a script consultant, rents mailing lists from the same magazine he advertises in. If he also wrote articles for the same magazine, it would add to the integrated approach. Whether you use high tech or shoeleather approaches to marketing, the best methods will be comfortable for you and prospects, build relationships, and support the setting up of a system that can be done regularly. And perhaps thats the main secret of successful marketing to get started and keep doing something on a regular basis.
These tips are from the book: 1001 Ways to Market Your Services: Even If You Hate to Sell, by Rick Crandall (RPCrandall@aol.com), published by Contemporary/NTC Books. Available at online bookstores. Copyrighted. Contact him for a free marketing newsletter.
C I Corporation