By Nancy Drexler
President, Acquired Marketing
Why isn't your phone ringing? Why aren't agents and merchants banging down your door? Your print advertising is stellar. You do direct mail focused on your enormous signing bonuses. Your website makes it clear your customer service is astounding. What is wrong?
When growth isn't robust, many companies take drastic action: they trade in their marketing director, change their name, build a new website.
They blame marketing. However, marketing doesn't work in a vacuum. Marketing works hand-in-hand with an entire business. Each client and employee reflects your brand and impacts your results. Many people are responsible for an initiative's success. So if your email isn't pinging with prospects, following are likely roots to the problem and ideas on how to remedy each one.
We all need cheerleaders. Believing your product does everything, your target market is anyone who has money to spend, and everyone will want you once they know the facts creates an energy and optimism that can be contagious. But it can also keep you far removed from reality. Marketing is about perception - not yours, not your CEO's, but your target customers'.
Fix it. Stop what you are doing and describe your business through the unbiased eyes of your customers. Build a brief overview describing each product and service you offer, including features and benefits.
Concentrate on differentiating features only. What are your customers' needs and desires, and how do you meet them? What do you offer that no one else offers? What do you do better? Research your competition and document their offers and pricing structures to help you further clarify your competitive advantages. Then identify one or two of your key assets, and play them up consistently in all your marketing. Consistency and repetition are necessary ingredients in brand building.
You can't be all things to all people. Marketing to everyone is expensive and usually dilutes your message to the point that no particular value stands out. Stick to targeted messages delivered to target markets, and you'll get far more bang for your buck.
Here's every marketer's pet peeve: you do your homework and spend hours creating top-quality marketing and sales materials that never get used by the sales team. Every salesperson's pet peeve: marketing creates materials that don't address the most compelling sales benefits or speak to the audience's needs.
The CEO's pet peeve: marketing launches a new direct mail program to generate leads, but sales doesn't follow up and no new customers are generated.
Fix it. Not having clear integration between sales and marketing results in lost revenue opportunities and wasted expenses. Now more than ever, sales is a process. It begins with a customer recognizing a need and thinking about a solution.
Then, according to a recent BIA/Kelsey study, 97 percent of consumers surf the Internet as a first step in the buying process. By not capitalizing on this to build awareness, many competitors miss out on viable business.
Interested customers must be nurtured through a sales channel, contacted every time there is a display of interest or when too much time goes by without interest. To succeed, sales and marketing teams must work together to plan an automatic program of marketing materials that are sent to prospects at certain "trigger points" throughout this process.
Teams work together to monitor and analyze feedback at each of these steps. Marketing accompanies sales on sales calls and includes sales in planning efforts. Unity in this regard makes all the difference between stellar and lackluster initiatives.
The most brilliant, compelling marketing campaign can generate a boatload of interest in your new product or service. But if you don't deliver it - on time, well-supported and just as promised - that success can backfire. It's about credibility. Once you've lost it, getting it back can be a long uphill climb.
Fix It. Before you roll out a new product or service, make sure all staff involved can handle the demands. Offering a new product requires that you have the product on hand, that your people are informed and available to set up and train customers, and that your billing for the product has been tested.
Similarly, don't promise any benefit the solution doesn't deliver in full or the credibility of all your promises will be undermined. In an industry where the basic product is the same, people make all the difference. If we are not honest and responsible, nothing we say rings true - and never will.
Digital marketing lets you reach a lot of people quickly at very low cost. But is it the best way to attract interest from business owners and convert them to your merchant services program?
With all the buzz about social media, many payment companies are turning their marketing over to recent college graduates with expansive Facebook pages and assumed social media know-how. However, many of these young people don't understand the value of tried and true marketing practices.
Fix it. To leverage the full potential of any marketing campaign, don't fixate on only one vehicle, like social media, which may generate some leads for your company at a fairly low cost but will ultimately limit your ability to maximize sales opportunities within a target market.
Your customers need to see and learn about your company through a variety of marketing vehicles before they will finally respond to your offer.
Aim to touch prospects from many angles. Mix approaches from direct mail, advertising, public relations, digital media and cold calling, making sure your messages work together in concert. Choose the activities that cater specifically to your target market, and then create a program schedule that ensures the right level of coverage across the multiple channels.
Then be patient and let them work. It takes time, but rest assured, the variety of vehicles, working in tandem, will build awareness and generate leads at an exponentially higher rate than any one vehicle alone can accomplish.
Even if you have carefully defined your brand message and positioning, you won't communicate it consistently without properly training all those who speak on your behalf.
Left to their own devices, many employees will have their own version of who you are and what you do. And this "customized" messaging can change depending on who is receiving the information. The result? A confused audience and a badly undermined brand.
Fix it. Companies must speak with one voice and one message. Brand awareness is built by consistently communicating your company's position and identity. Even a junior employee's miscommunication can undermine your image. You cannot change your brand based on the audience, the marketing vehicle or the person delivering the message.
Create positioning language that clearly defines who you are and what you offer, strongly differentiates you from competitors and can be delivered consistently by every employee. Train your staff to field questions and manage issues with these guidelines in mind. Audit your sales and marketing materials and fix inconsistencies.
Remember, all employees must work together as ambassadors of your brand. Understanding this before you spend money on marketing activities is imperative to your success.
Nancy Drexler has led marketing efforts for such companies as Cynergy Data LLC, SignaPay Ltd. and Merchant Cash + Capital LLC, and today is President of Acquired Marketing, a company that delivers strategic and creative services to businesses in the payments industry. Reach Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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