Archive for February, 2009

Are Marketing Plans Really Necessary?

 

Business questionIf you want to be successful at marketing your small business then the answer is of course YES. There are numerous reasons why we tell ourselves we do not need a marketing plan but in fact they are just excuses that are stopping you from being more successful.

Apart from all the usual reasons why marketing planning is necessary at the end of the day it just makes it easier to build and strengthen relationships with your customers.

Here are some of the reasons why some small businesses do not develop a marketing plan.

I do not have the time to complete a plan
Often the time factor is due to not knowing where to start, however today there are numerous books, templates, articles and software available to help and guide you. Just remember you do not have to develop a marketing plan in 30 minutes as it is not a race and you always fine tune the marketing plan over time.

I don’t need a plan as I know what my customers want
Think of yourself as a customer and you will quickly realise that this statement cannot be absolutely true all the time, especially these days. The simple reason is that customers are constantly changing their attitudes and behaviour as circumstances change around them. Most markets are dynamic so you need to have a plan in place to retain your customers and attract the most profitable ones so you can keep ahead of your competitors.

I don’t have a lot to spend on marketing so I do not need a marketing plan
Whether you have $500 or $5,000 to spend you need to maximize the results from your marketing activity. Also if you are providing a service then your time is money and you want to make sure that you are not wasting a minute of it. A plan is necessary to ensure you are spending your time and money on the right marketing tools and tactics that will attract and retain the customers you want.

The year has already started so I will think about it next year
Whilst it is ideal to have developed your marketing plan before the start of your financial year, do not let this stop you from developing one for the remainder of the year.

Whilst developing a marketing plan is necessary, success will not be achieved unless action is taken to implement the plan and track the results.

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February 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

You Can’t Please Everyone with your Marketing

You have worked hard developing your logo or your small business marketing materials and you ask a few people what they think. Some say it looks great others do not like it and some will just say I think the red colour should be a little brighter. 

You come away disappointed as you thought it was a sure winner.

Reading the reactions to Hugh Jackman’s hosting of the Oscars reminded me of the need to focus on what you are attempting with to achieve with your marketing and whose reactions you should care about.

Some critics did not like his performance such as the Los Angeles Times  and let it be known. However, whilst these reviewers are influencers, the reactions and reviews the producers of the show were interested in were the TV viewers.

The preliminary results showed a 6% rise in American viewers, the polls conducted such as the one by Entertainment Weekly revealed that over 70% wanted Hugh to return and even in the Los Angeles Times of the 21 responses to the blog post, 16 disagreed with the writer.

So what are the lessens for small business marketing:

  • Don’t try and please everyone as you will never succeed
  • If someone criticises your marketing, work out if the criticism is constructive or even relevant
  • Listen to your key customers and community and involve them. Anita Campbell did this successfully when updating her websites; Small Business Trends and Selling to Small Businesses.
  • Look at the results achieved this is a good indicator whether the marketing activity worked
  • If the criticisms are valid take them on board to do an even better job next time

Most successful businesses and people have had their share of unfavourable reviews but the ones that count the most are your key customers with whom you are building a relationship.

What are your thoughts?

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February 24, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

How Not to Attract Customers

Have you ever received a phone call, email,  marketing materials etc  from a company that wanted to do business with you but had gone about it in the wrong way?

I received an email this morning from a PR company offering sponsorship opportunities for a national day promoting environmental products and educating the public about the subject.

I was surprised that this company had not done their homework before emailing me as we do not have products or services that would be suitable for their target market which is consumers. Our customers are small business owners.

As a potential client or business partner of this company they simply did not do anything that would attract our business and let themselves down especially as this email appeared to be one way of showing their expertise.

There are many articles on how to attract customers, so here are a few tips on how not to attract customers:

  • Be irrelevant and not at least try to understand a little about the potential customer before you contact them
  • Talk about yourself and not listen or ask relevant questions
  • Not have a relevant key point of difference to competitors
  • Make outrageous claims of being the only, best, cheapest and not have proof
  • Not follow up on a potential customer’s initial response or request
  • Not provide information or details on the simple benefits of your product or service to meet a customer’s needs
  • Make it difficult to start the relationship with your business
  • Make assumptions on what the potential customer should do
  • Make assumptions on what the customer actually wants
  • Don’t make offers which are irrelevant to a potential customer
  • Not start from the premise that a relationship takes time to develop

 Attracting our key potential customers can be tough and everyone makes mistakes from time to time. It is how we learn and move forward that counts.

 What tips do you have?

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February 18, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Employees – An Important Part of your Marketing Success

employees 

We sometimes forget that one of the most valuable sources of information on our market, competitors and customers is our employees and to an extent those other small businesses we use to outsource work.

If our employees are not trained to effectively meet the needs of our customers, a customer may not return to repurchase, despite all the marketing and sales efforts.

It is important to find out if our employees have the necessary skills, training, processes and tools to be able to satisfy our customers’ needs and wants and support our sales and marketing strategies.

Here is a short checklist that can be used to see if there are gaps in their knowledge and skills that may need to be addressed:

  • Do they have knowledge of the market you are competing in?
  • Do they have an understanding of your brand’s or business’s and product’s or service’s features and benefits?
  • Do they have an understanding of your brand’s or business’s and product’s or service’s key point of difference?
  • Do they have an understanding of your key customers’ needs?
  • Do they have knowledge of your sales objectives?
  • Are they up to date with your marketing activities?
  • Do they understand the need for high customer service?
  • Are they skilled in customer service?
  • Is there an opportunity for them to make customer referrals?

Of course certain skills will of course apply to particular positions so take this into account when conducting your review

How do you ensure your employees have the knowledge, skills and tools needed to help your business achieve marketing success and strong customer relationships?

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February 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Are your Customer Service Policies Friendly?

                                                                 friendly-customer-serviceOne of the cornerstones for small business marketing is customer service. This area is being given more attention these days and most of us know it is a simple way to attract and retain our customers.

I was reading an article yesterday on the Sydney Morning Herald Small Business Blog by Kristen Le Mesurier about returns policies and I noted the friendly customer service approach by Freedom that allowed customers to return anything in saleable condition within 7 days to receive their money back.

As Kristen noted some customers will want to return products. To me, Freedom simplified this process and made it easier for customers to shop at their stores without the worry of making the wrong purchase choice.

The article reminded me that by looking at our customer service policies and making it a little friendlier and easier for customers can make all the difference to the relationship.

An example of this is Pet Care 200 Warehouse. My cat had just turned 1 so Charlie needed to change to a different type of cat food. I tried one and normally he eats like a dog and woofs the food down pretty quickly. However he just was not taking to the new cat food.

I went to Pet Care explained the situation and after listening they suggested another type and to see how he went for 3 days. If he still was not eating like he used to I just had to bring back the rest of the bag of cat food and my receipt and they would give me my money back. There are not too many stores that will offer to take back a bag of food that has been opened and some of it consumed. Great customer service and so simple.

Do you have any tips or examples for making customer service policies friendly for your customers?

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February 13, 2009 at 5:00 pm 3 comments

The Importance of Understanding your Customers’ Buying Behaviour

customers-buying

Whether your customers are consumers or other businesses, understanding their buying behaviour is one of the important aspects needed for small business marketing success.

Customers will base their buying decisions on both rational and emotional reasons. Usually customers will look at a category on a rationale basis eg. buying breakfast cereal and then decide, especially for repeat customers on the brand eg Kellogg’s Corn Flakes on an emotional basis.

To get your customers to have an emotional attachment to your brand is one of the keys to keeping them loyal and them not being influenced by competitors’ offerings of lower prices or other incentives.

Gaining a better understanding of your customers’ buying behaviour is based on knowing the following:

Awareness
How aware are customers of your brand or business compared to your competitors?

Reasons for buying
The reasons include the rational which I call the head part eg. convenience and the important emotional reasons which is of course is to do with feelings eg. happiness.

How often do they buy?
Such as weekly, monthly etc and this information can aid you with the timing of your marketing tactics.

Current usage
This is helpful because sometimes the person buying the products or services may not be the person actually using the products or services. Think of parents buying for their family.

Reasons for usage
This is simply the main reasons why they use or consume your products or services and again the reasons will be based both on a rational and emotional basis.

What do they buy?
If you have a range of products and services it is a good idea to understanding which particular products or services they buy on a regular basis.

Where do they like to buy?
This refers to the distribution channels eg. via your website. Understanding this will assist you to decide where you need to focus your attention.

Where do they gather their buying information?
Today there are so many sources of information it is helpful to understand where they get the information to help with their buying decisions eg from friends or colleagues.

Are they an exclusive customer?
In some product or service categories the customer may have a set of three or four brands they choose from and this may give you more information about your competitors.

The more you understand about your customers’ buying behaviour the easier it is to strengthen your relationship with them and focus your marketing strategies and tactics to grow your business. 

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February 11, 2009 at 5:46 pm 8 comments

A Missed Opportunity to Retain a Customer

Yesterday I wanted to cancel two subscriptions, so I went onto the website and found that I had to call the companies and cancel over the phone. I fully expected to be asked why I was cancelling as I had been a long time subscriber.

Was I asked? The answer is no.

 This was a missed opportunity, especially for one of the companies.  As a subscriber, the newspaper was delivered daily to my home. I was happy with the service as it was always delivered early in the morning and the only reason I was cancelling was because I am reading more of the news online. When I was talking to the person cancelling the subscription he seemed to be in a rush to just find out my account number, cancel the subscription and get off the phone, so I did not even enquire about the weekend delivery which I was still interested in.

The marketing lessons I learnt from this includes:

  • If you have a customer who wants to stop doing business with you find out the reasons as you just might be able to overcome the problems or at least leave the door open to do business with you again in the future.
  • Keep in regular contact with your key customers to ensure you gain feedback on your products or services.
  • Use the feedback from customers to find ways to continually add value to the relationship.
  • Don’t take a regular customer for granted as key customers need your attention to strengthen the relationship.

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February 10, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

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