No. 4 | Positioning vs. Prospecting

Prospecting: old school and lame.

Old school and lame.

When it comes to doing your marketing and getting new or repeat customers, you can make things easier on yourself by changing your thinking and approach from “prospecting” (going out and looking for customers) to “positioning” (setting things up so that customers are seeking you out for your products and services).  Since you have an ongoing conversation with your audience, it isn’t hard to do this, but there are at least five things to keep in mind as you work on this:

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No. 3 | Pretty vs. Ugly

There’s a debate among some in the world of marketing as to how “pretty” a marketing piece or marketing campaign ought to be.  On one side, there’s the idea that you want your marketing to reflect your company and therefore it ought to be polished and professional.  There are others who would argue that the design of marketing materials should have less to do with how they look and more to do with how they perform.  I happen to agree with both sides of this argument, and I’ll tell you why.
You are your marketing.
You can’t be everywhere at once.  You can’t physically call on each and every one of your customers, potential customers, and referral sources in-person, individually every week (or every month, for that matter).  But you can send a marketing message that often (and more often, if you want to), in the form of an email, letter, postcard, or other media.
If you were to actually, physically visit a customer, I’m sure you’d dress and act so you’re perceived in a certain way — you would do your best to portray a sense of professionalism.  You want your marketing to have the same effect.  After all, your marketing messages will visit your audience much more frequently than you will.  It makes perfect sense that your marketing should be “dressed to impress.”
But if the message
isn’t delivered,
what good does it do?
The problem with sending marketing messages is that there’s the possibility that the message won’t be received.  It may get lost in the shuffle, thrown away, or deleted.  A super-sleek, impressive (Chris would say “sexy”) marketing piece will have zero effect on your customer if it’s resting at the bottom of the garbage can.
Research actually shows that ugly marketing pieces out-pull pretty ones.  In other words, people are more likely to receive, read and take action if you send them something ugly rather than something pretty.  What do I mean by ugly?  Think about it this way: a slick postcard that looks overly “corporate” has one goal and one goal only — to sell something.  Of course you want your marketing to sell, that’s the whole point of doing it.  But people generally have a visceral, negative reaction when someone tries to do a sales job on them.  That’s why we talk here in terms of an ongoing conversation — two-way communication that creates top-of-mind awareness and makes the sale easier, almost automatic.
Don’t follow the crowd and be a me-too,
copy-cat marketer.
Do a little research: sift through your mail over the next week or so, and see how many professional-looking postcards and sales letters you get from banks, credit card companies and realtors.  (You’re probably getting a lot less these days, but that’s another story for another day.)  Study those mail pieces thoroughly, and then do the opposite of what they do.  If every business is sending marketing that looks polished and professional, you don’t want to blend in.  Do the opposite and stand out!
Use fonts that look handwritten, or as if they were done with a typewriter.  Use colors that make your message jump out.  Don’t use clipart images just because everyone else is — you want your marketing to be effective rather than pretty.  Studies have shown that the color combination of black text on a yellow background gets the best response — make use of it!
What about this Newsmagazine?
It’s awfully pretty…
Well, thank you.  This Newsmagazine looks the way it does for a number of reasons.  For one, how many other commercial lenders send you a glossy, 16-page newsletter just about every month, and for free no less?  This publication is designed to sell our financing, but the selling is softened and concealed by the articles, pictures and personality we showcase on these pages.
If you’ve been a member on our mailing list for a little while, you’ve probably received some of our less-pretty pieces.  We’ve done lots of handwritten postcards and letters because they get read.  We send wacky things like cardboard tubes, pill bottles and bank bags because they stand out — they get noticed, and our marketing message gets delivered.
Remember, business doesn’t happen until a sale is made, and a sale generally isn’t made without some sort of marketing being done.  The key to marketing that really drives business is getting the message delivered, and you ought to do whatever it takes to make that happen.  A hybrid approach — a blend of ugly and pretty will serve you well.  Show your professionalism, but don’t let your marketing messages get lumped-in with all the other ordinary marketing — stand out and get noticed!

There’s a debate among some in the world of marketing as to how “pretty” a marketing piece or marketing campaign ought to be.  On one side, there’s the idea that you want your marketing to reflect your company and therefore it ought to be polished and professional.  There are others who would argue that the design of marketing materials should have less to do with how they look and more to do with how they perform.  I happen to agree with both sides of this argument, and I’ll tell you why… Continue reading

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Customer Service (or lack thereof)

The poor service I receive consistently is astounding to me.  If it was only a few places, I’d just go somewhere else — somewhere that actually shows that they value their customers.  But I can’t seem to get away from it.  It’s everywhere.  It’s become the norm.  Good service (which ought to be the standard) has become the exception to the rule.  

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Fearmonger Marketing?

You’ve probably heard a little about the verbal sparring going on between President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney.  One reporter has dubbed it the “Thrilla Near the Hilla” (a play on the famous Ali-Frazier bout).  Cheney’s not been the most well-recieved or well-liked Vice President in history, that’s for sure.  But there’s something to be learned from his approach to this showdown.  

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No. 2 | Tell Your Story

In the first intallment of this marketing series, I wrote about how important it is to create and maintain a conversation with your customers.  I even gave you a couple ways to do it — specifically, via Twitter and direct mail.  I suppose the next topic would WHAT to say to your audience — clients, potential clients, referral sources, other fans of you and your widgets. 

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Anniversaries

An easy way to maintain top-of-mind-awareness with your customersis to remember important dates — birthdays, for instance.  How many other widget makers are going to send them a birthday card?  (Probably none.)  It doesn’t take that much effort to do it, you just have to make a point to record their birthday and drop a card in the mail.

Another important date is an anniversary.  Sure, you can send them something on their wedding  anniversary, but that may be a little personal.  I’m talking about remembering when they bought their first widget, or signed up as a customer.  Again, it just takes a little record-keeping and making the effort to send something their way.   Continue reading

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The Elephant in the Room

I’ve heard from some folks who are concerned about their marketing messages having the desired impact during these rough economic times.  Should you tip-toe around the fact that jobs are being cut all over the country?  Should you ignore the economy in your marketing?  Maybe you should cut your losses and just stop marketing for the time being.

I say NO to all three of these (as well as any number of other similar responses).  When things are as bad as they are (or good, for that matter), you ought to come right out and address what’s going on.  Your audience is dealing with the same things your dealing with, and ignoring it makes you seem out of touch.   Continue reading

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