Archive for January, 2009

Attract and Retain Customers with Partner Marketing

Partner marketing is really another way of saying, proactively teaming up or partnering with other small businesses to increase sales.

Partner marketing, whilst not a new concept, is generally conducted by many small businesses by accident.  They use it as short term promotional offer versus it being proactively planned and implemented.

Whilst there are affiliate programs and referral programs that can assist with building partnerships, they often seem a little passive in their approach. Partner marketing is more assertive, like cross selling your own products or services only with other small businesses products or services.

For partner marketing to work you need:

  • All partners knowing their customers and their needs very well and having a focus on strengthening their key customer relationships
  • Be willing to share ideas
  • A plan in place so everyone knows what is expected
  • To take it slowly if you have not tried this before
  • The partners to have a similar customer profile
  • To be very familiar with the other partner’s products or service
  • Have tracking measures in place
  • To decide and agree on any commissions and promotional costs if applicable
  • To be proactive with your partners
  • To have trust in each of your partners

 Tips on how to start:

  • Look at your own database and see if there are any obvious opportunities with other businesses
  • Go through your network details and contact other businesses that could be a fit
  • If you are a retailer in a local area contact other retailers
  • If you have an online business, contact others that you know and trust who service the same type of customers
  • Put together a list of reasons why you believe your businesses could work effectively together and schedule a meeting, phone call etc.

If you partner with other businesses on a constant basis please share your tips and advice.

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January 29, 2009 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

Selecting your Marketing Strategies in 2 Steps

Marketing Strategy

There are so many marketing tactics to choose from today that it can difficult to know which ones are going to give you the best return on your money and time.

One way to make the marketing tactic choice easier is to select your marketing strategies first.

Your marketing strategy is your overall game plan and describes what your business intends to do to accomplish your financial, sales and marketing objectives.

The first step is to look at your marketing objectives, then select one or a combination of the following as your overall strategic direction:

  • Retention – how can you protect your most profitable customer and keep them loyal?
  • Expansion – how can you maximise your existing customer relationships through up sell (buying more of the same product or service) and cross-sell (buying other products or services in your range)?
  • Attraction – how can you attract new profitable customers and get them to return?

The next step is to choose your key areas of focus, which include:

 Communication
Communication is usually always chosen as this relates to your positioning and how you will communicate your brand or business message to your customers. For example, your retention strategy may be to focus on personalised communication with your key customers.

Product or Service Offering
This relates to the actual product or service that you sell. For retention you may offer enhanced customer service, for attraction you may offer an extended range and for expansion you want to focus on offering additional service offerings.

 Service Delivery
This relates to the way your product or service is offered to customers. A strategy may be to introduce a new customer service policy to retain your most valuable customers.

Pricing
This is anything to do with the pricing of your product or service. For example, your strategy might be to offer value added pricing to attract new customers.

Distribution
This has to do with the distribution of your product or service or the locations you sell in. For example, your strategy may be to expand your store locations 

Selecting  marketing strategies is often overlooked; however it is one of the most important steps as it provides the link between marketing objectives and marketing tactics.

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January 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Are you a Great Customer?

Usually/Sometimes/Always

I asked this question of a few friends who own a small business and the answers they gave were “usually” or “sometimes” under certain circumstances. For example if they were under pressure from their own customers to complete a project, they sometimes became  a more impatient or demanding customer themselves.

After further discussion we agreed that each of us sometimes forget to be a great customer of other small businesses.

When we are a great customer of another small business, we will often find they:

  • Go the extra mile to help when we most need the assistance
  • Proactively provide referrals to our business
  • Provide recommendations for our business
  • Are open to joint venture opportunities
  • Are more proactive in solving our business problems
  • Return our emails, phone calls, etc quickly

Simple steps we can take to be a better customer include:

  •  Pay our invoices on time
  • Be organised so that we do not demand work to be completed in unrealistic time frames
  • Think through briefs rather than quickly give a verbal brief 
  • Be collaborative
  • Admit our mistakes if we are wrong
  • Be proactive if a problem arises
  • Provide positive or constructive feedback
  • Be realistic in our expectations for the work to be done for the given budget
  • Provide a budget for projects
  • Be forgiving if  mistakes occasionally occur
  • Proactively provide referrals or testimonials
  • Respond promptly to their their emails, phone calls or sms messages

 So it now over to you to tell us what steps you take to ensure you are a great customer of other small businesses?

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January 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

How to Set Marketing Objectives Easily

parachuting

Remember the last time you achieved something that was important to you? You probably felt great, maybe relieved, happy or some other positive emotion.

You would also remember that one of the first steps after imaging or dreaming of achieving the end result was actually setting a goal or in marketing speak setting an objective. By setting objectives, the end result can be visualised more clearly.

The marketing objectives in your marketing plan should be linked to your financial and sales objectives and revolve around your current and prospective customers. In simple terms you want customers to be aware of your business (products/services), buy your products/services and keep on buying them from you and not from your competitors.

The key words usually associated with setting marketing objectives are words like:

  • Gain – you want to obtain
  • Increase – you want more
  • Maintain – you want more of the same

A key to setting marketing objectives, especially if you have not done so before is to keep it simple and make sure you can measure the result. Here are some steps that you can follow to set your marketing objectives:

  1. Open up a worksheet, or even use sheets of paper.
  2. Write down what are the results you want to achieve, such as:
  3. Gain more customers
  4. Keep the same number of customers
  5. Get more potential customers to be aware of your business/brand
  6. Increase the number of times customers buy your product or service
  7. Get more people to try your product or service
  8. Increase the amount customers spend with you each time
  9. Then you need to cut the list down to those that are the most important. To make it simple, 3 or 4 at the most should be selected.
  10. Look and see that the marketing objectives are compatible with each other so you can stay on the same path
  11. Now put numbers or percentages against your marketing objectives so that they can be measured
  12. If you want put these objectives up on a wall to help you stay focused and also a picture of a reward or celebration eg. a holiday so the objectives can have more emotional meaning to you

Let’s look at an example:

This business currently has 10 customers who bought their services on average 5 times last year. The 10 customers were a mix of 8 current customers who have been with them for 3 years and they attracted 2 new customers last year. They have retained their customers since they have been in business.

This year they have decided that to grow their business, they want to keep their current customers, but they would also like to gain more customers. They also want to maintain the rate the customers use their services but they also want their customers to buy more of their services at the same time.

The marketing objectives the business decided on were:

  • Gain 4 new customers by December 30 2009
  • Maintain the purchase frequency current customers at 5 times a year for the 2009 financial year
  • Increase the average transaction value (purchase more of their services each time) by 5% ($500) by December 30 2009 

Marketing objectives are important because by setting them it keeps you focused, gives concrete targets to strive for and it makes choosing where you will spend your time and money easier.

How do you develop your marketing obectives?

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January 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

How Not to Gain Customer Feedback

 poor-customer-feedback2

Gaining feedback from your customers is one of the easiest ways in small business marketing to ensure you are meeting their needs. It also helps you strengthen and deepen your customer relationships.

However the way you go about gaining the feedback is one of the most important elements. Recently I had to call a company about a problem I had and they were very helpful. A week later I received a phone call and when I answered, I was listening to a recorded voice saying this call was to gain your feedback on the service you recently received. Press 1 if the issue was about billing, Press 2 if the issue was technical, Press 3….I hung up after that.

Whilst technology is great and can help a business grow, the wrong use of it can harm the customer relationship. Even though I had a good customer experience when the problem was being resolved, I certainly did not want to press numbers on my phone to record my feedback. The company also missed an opportunity to gain more quality information.

Marketing Tips to Gain Customer Feedback:

  • If you sell a product ask for permission to contact them to gain feedback and opinions of their experience with the product. If you sell online just add a box for them to tick when you are getting their information.
  • Once you have delivered a service again ask for permission to contact them at a later date.
  • If you can find out how they would like to provide the feedback eg. speaking with you in person, via the phone etc
  • If you want to use technology there are now widgets that you can put on your website to help you gain feedback.
  • Have a section called Feedback in your customer section of your website, so your customers can feel free to write their thoughts
  • Send your customers an email which links to an online survey to give them the option to provide the feedback anonymously if they wish.

Once you have gained and acted on the feedback, it is a good idea to let the customers know as this shows you are listening and more importantly responding to what is important to them.

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January 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Small Business Marketing Sponsorship Tips

Small businesses often get approached for sponsorship, whether it is for the local sporting team, craft show or another business’s seminar. Although money is tighter this year, no doubt many of you will still be approached and in certain cases utilising sponsorship can be an effective marketing tactic.

Before you decide to be a sponsor consider the following:

Relevance for Your Customers
Choose sponsorships that are relevant to your brand or business and appeal to your current and potential customers. Try not to choose sponsorships that only interest you or a particular employee. It is no use sponsoring the local football team if the players or spectators are not your target market.

What Are You Getting for Your Sponsorship?
Make sure you discuss with the organisation or event organiser how you can maximise your sponsorship dollars and get in writing what exposure your business will receive.

Some questions to ask are:

  • Where will my logo, brand or business name appear?
  • How and how often will my logo, brand or business name appear?
  • Is it an exclusive sponsorship or is it shared with other businesses? Who are the businesses that will be sharing the sponsorship and are they compatible with my business?
  • What additional benefits will I receive for my sponsorship?
  • To ensure the quality of your logo is maintained, insist on approving any material where your logo or information on your brand or business will appear.
  • What marketing activities are being done to promote the event and the sponsors?
  • Will I have access to the customer database?

Check past Sponsorship Results
If there have been past sponsors, ask why they are no longer sponsoring the event or activity and if possible speak to the past sponsor. Although information may be confidential, see if you can access the results that have occurred from past sponsorship deals.

Cost Versus Benefit
Analyse the cost of your sponsorship versus the estimated results you want to achieve. Compare your sponsorship costs to other marketing tactic costs to determine if your money could be better spent on an alternative marketing tactic. For example, if you sponsor a luncheon how many leads do you hope to generate from the sponsorship? Would you generate more leads from a direct mail or email campaign to the same customer base?

Setting a Budget
Set a budget for how much you want to commit to sponsorship. Plan in advance what event, organisations etc you wish to sponsor for the year and stick to your plan.  

Tracking Results
Tracking of sponsorship tactics is often difficult due to the wide audience they have the potential to reach.

 Some ways to track your sponsorship results include:

  • Measuring the media exposure from the sponsorship eg. mention of the event and your sponsorship in the local newspaper, on the radio station etc
  • New customers that have come from your sponsorship involvement eg. asking customers where they heard about you or undertaking market research which analyses customer recall of where they saw your brand or business name

Sponsorship can be a great marketing tactic; however it is always wise to work out what it will do for your small business before you commit to spending your valuable marketing dollars.

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January 15, 2009 at 5:30 pm 2 comments

Increase Sales with Smarter Marketing

sales-increase

Money is tighter, customers are being chooser as to what products or services they will buy and competition amongst business for customers will increase this year.

Dawn Rivers Baker pointed out in a recent post on Small Business Trends there will be more micro businesses launching this year. This means that more competitors will likely enter your market and try and win your customers from you and compete for new customers.

Although businesses this year will be looking at cutting costs, the only way to have a viable business is to increase sales and this does not mean cutting prices as this will reduce your margin and profit. As marketing touches everything we do in business, smarter marketing can lead to increased sales.

Ways to be smarter with your marketing includes:

Know Where your Sales Come From
It could be a good time to quickly see if there is a pattern to your past sales, such as the type of business if you sell to other businesses, or a particular city or state that generates more sales. If you sell online then it is well worth reading Mack Collier’s post on The Viral Garden as the lessons can be applied to online product and service traffic and sales. Knowing this information makes it a lot easier to focus your marketing efforts and maximise your return.

Focus on your Key Customers
This is stating the obvious and it should always be done but that is not always the case with small business marketing. Ensure that you deliver on all promises, even the simple ones like returning a phone call, replying to an email or question. It is also a good idea to see if their problems or need have changed or are changing so that you can be sure to continue to meet their needs better than your competitors.

Keep your Eyes and Ears Open
Keep in touch with business partners, suppliers, friends, business acquaintances etc as marketing opportunities can sneak up on you. Don’t forget to include them if it is appropriate with your marketing activities.

Learn from Others
With all the information out on the web it is very easy to learn what others doing to increase sales and being smarter with their marketing. Just one point to note is do not just copy or implement what someone else is doing without asking yourself whether it is right for your business and your current and potential customers.

Track, Test, Track
Smarter marketing involves tracking and testing all marketing tactics so that you can improve the results including sales the next time you implement the tactic. One thing to note here is that if you really know your customers and what will motivate them to buy and buy again from you then the testing part is usually easier and can be just a case of finetuning.

Do you have any smarter marketing tips to share?

Posted by Susan Oakes

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January 14, 2009 at 5:00 pm 2 comments

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