By Nancy Drexler
At the risk of sounding like a whiner, I get blamed for everything. To be more precise, I get blamed for nothing. If no one calls, it is my fault. If our ISOs aren't producing, it is my fault. If you haven't heard about Se¤orPay, it is definitely my fault. And if our sales numbers aren't up, that's on me, too.
Most companies don't understand how or why marketing works. But if they are paying for it, they expect results: The direct mail campaign should produce leads; the new Web site should generate e-mail interest; the tradeshow booth should pay for itself. And when the phone doesn't ring, they think marketing must be doing something wrong.
This is the reality: No single marketing effort works in a vacuum. Results come from marketing strategies that take place consistently over a period of time and represent a company dedicated to delivering on its promises. But, these strategies will only work if you avoid these obvious marketing blunders.
You are not alone in the marketplace. You have competition, and your prospects have backgrounds and ideas. Don't fall so blindly in love with your product, service or company that you fail to see it from your prospects' points of view.
Thinking that your product does everything, your target market is anyone who has money to spend and there is no competition will make your marketing scheme difficult to relate to and impossible to believe.
Don't start any marketing activity until you devise a plan. Amass extensive knowledge about your competitors and their key marketing messages. Know their strengths and weaknesses. Compare their prices, and determine the images they generate. Make a list of your products and services, and decide how yours are different or better than theirs.
Define your target markets. You can't afford to market to everyone, so identify which products and features would be most appealing to specific groups. After that, choose the campaign that will deliver these narrow markets most effectively and efficiently. Also, create a calendar to track events and costs. As you see what works and what doesn't, alter accordingly.
One of the most important rules in marketing is never let anyone tell you brand doesn't matter. Your brand is your image. It needs to be clear, consistent, known and recognized by not only your clients, but also your employees. This allows staff to communicate your company's position and strengths to anyone who may be interested.
Create and use a positioning look and language that clearly defines who you are, what you offer and what makes you different from the competition. This will help you deliver your brand easily and memorably.
Make sure your brand can be communicated in every announcement, launch, sales piece or communications tool you use. And make sure you use it whenever possible. Initially, your brand should play a starring role in all your marketing. Announce it, explain it, support it and feature it. Gradually, brand can grow into a supporting role.
Don't ever offer anything you can't deliver regularly and consistently. It is wise to release a product or service after it has been tested internally and your service department can handle all questions and issues. Don't promise a level of service if you are not 100 percent sure you can sustain it.
Make sure you have products, staff and skill in place to back up your claims and exceed customer expectations. If not, your offer could be interpreted as grandiose or vague, and no one will believe it; you'll fail to deliver and be branded a liar.
Include staff from key operations and service departments in all your planning. Before you announce a new product, program or service, it is imperative that your operational staff is on the same page as you. Give staff members the opportunity to become familiar with your promises and determine whether they are realistic.
Your staff should know how long it takes to get a product delivered and what questions they must be prepared to answer. Sometimes this vetting process will give you a heads-up about potential logjams, enabling you to avoid them by addressing the solution in your marketing copy.
When you do launch your marketing campaign, a prepared operations department will be ready to handle increased call volume, and will be informed and armed. This will ensure that your prospects won't be greeted with, "Huh? I don't know anything about that."
Remember, every staff person who comes in contact with customers should feel like part of a team working toward the same goal. An uninformed team member will not reflect well on you, your marketing claims or the company.
The most helpful, reliable and important marketing information will likely come from your sales force. Your plans won't succeed without their buy-in. Salespeople know your audience better than anyone.
They recognize the characteristics of good potential clients and what makes a promising sales lead. They also know the most effective selling points and what products and services open doors.
Developing marketing programs or materials without the support of your salespeople will fail, either because they will be off the mark or because they will never get used by your sales team.
Establish rapport with every member of your company's sales team, and touch base with them as often as possible. Schedule regular meetings with the entire team to:
For real firsthand knowledge, accompany a sales rep on a few calls. The information exchange between sales and marketing is critical to success.
Utilize sales staff members, and you'll have a much better chance of doing your job well. Fail to use them, and sales correlated with your marketing campaign will falter.
As the adage goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Technology has given us many channels to distribute a message to a specific market. Using only one marketing vehicle to promote your business will limit your audience, your impact and your sales.
Use a full "marketing mix." Studies have found that using a variety of media to reinforce your message is far more effective than relying on just one. Think about it. A recurring ad in The Green Sheet will have more impact if you also provide the same information in any of the following forms:
Different marketing vehicles reach many people at various times and in multiple contexts. Using a well thought out mix of these tools will reinforce your message and broaden your customer reach.
People make mistakes. But, marketing mishaps can be costly. Steer clear of blame, and stay on track toward company kudos by avoiding common errors. It will save time and money for all involved.
Nancy Drexler is the Vice President, Marketing for SignaPay Ltd., an ISO headquartered in Dallas. Reach her at email@example.com.
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