Reaching Your Customers
“Let’s buy some great
advertising and put up a Web site. That will really tell customers about us.
That should do it, Right?” Another set of famous last words. Does anybody know
how much was spent on advertising by the Dot.bom’s from 1998 to 2000? Does
anybody remember them? Better yet, did the advertising work? We are more
committed to putting together marketing communications programs, focused on the
intended buyer of the product or service, that will lead buyers to someone who
is going to sell it to them. This is the world of marketing communications and
has everything to do with telling your potential customers that you have
something they need.
Choose the Right Message
Before you put anything into a brochure, Web site or press
release, you need to make sure you know what to say. The most important exercise
is to determine your customer messages. This should come from your analysis of
your potential buyers. The foundation of your messages is in the solution you
have to the buyer’s business problem. This is where all that market analysis
pays off. Your understanding of your market segment, the buyer, your
competitors, and other market players, will help you form the messages that
distinguish your solution from your competitor’s. Your messages have to be:
Whether you are in sales, marketing, development or support, you
should know what these messages are, and reflect them in all your work. The work
that goes into creating your marketing messages will serve you well in the long
run. Having a thoughtful set of messages will distinguish your company and keep
you focused on the right things to do to achieve business success in your
Have a Marketing Plan
Next, you have to determine where you are going to deliver your
messages. Well, it’s the buyer right? Yes, ultimately. But sometimes it’s not so
straight forward as that. If you are selling luxury boat accessories, your buyer
is probably the distributor channel; as well as the luxury boat owner. If your
service is children’s education, then you will be selling to teachers as well as
parents. For a commercial retail Web site you are selling to the retail buyer as
well as the retail suppliers. When you analyzed your market segment, you should
have discovered everyone that you have to influence in order to make a sale. Not
only do you have to reach your buyer, but you may also have to influence:
Media relations people
Make sure your messages resonate with each buyer and influencer.
Actually test the messages out on some of them in order to refine the messages.
Essentially, your marketing plan should be constructed to make
your buyer aware of your product or service and then take an action that gets
you in contact with the buyer so that you can start the sales process. In other
words, your marketing plan has to generate sales leads. People will tell you a
dozen other reasons why a marketing plan is important, but the only thing that
really matters is performing effective lead generation.
The marketing communications tool box is like the box full of
tools any good carpenter has to do carpentry. You also need to select the right
tools to get your messages to the right people and to generate customer leads.
In your tool box are:
Marketing brochures and other written material that describe
your products and portray your messages.
Web sites that are valuable vehicles to reach potential
customers with your messages and attract them to contact you for more
Mail campaigns that can be used to contact targeted customers
with a specific offer from your company.
Email campaigns are also effective ways to reach customers
online with your offer.
Seminars offered at a public place or online (Webinar) that
invite specific customers to hear a compelling speaker is an effective way
to reach interested customers.
Sales price reductions and discounts to attract new buyers.
Special purchase programs with awards or coupons to encourage
“Industry expert” speaking engagements where representatives
of your business speak about your segment of the industry and portray that
you are aware of customer issues and know ways to solve them.
Authoring opportunities where you write articles that make
potential customers aware of your product or service by showing that you are
very knowledgeable of business issues in your industry.
Press releases that feature your products and services and
highlight significant milestones of your business, like alliances, business
relationships and customer sales.
Advertising that makes potential buyers aware of your product
or service and compels them to contact you.
Only you can decide what the right marketing tools are for your
business. Just as the carpenter doesn’t use a hack saw to make mitre joints, the
business owner should not use advertising in a magazine that is not read by your
Selecting the right tools for your business is an important
decision and has to be thought out well. There is no single approach that fits
all businesses, but there are principles to follow:
All communications have to be targeted at the buyer and
provided in the form that the buyer is used to getting information about
products. Do they read trade magazines? Are they technical enough to search
the Web? Do they respond to ads? Do they go to consultant groups for advice?
Achieve consistency of your messages across all the ways that
you communicate them. You have to look like the same company no matter where
you go. Yes, you can change the emphasis for some of your messages based on
the type of buyer or influencer you are communicating with. However,
overall, you should be consistent.
Create a closed loop system for lead generation. Have a
process of making potential customers aware of your product or service, an
innovative reason for them to contact you, a measurement system for
qualifying them as potential customers, and a sales representative call on
them to start the sales process.
Measure results of your marketing programs. You should know
everything about your lead generation process and what yield you are getting
from your marketing campaigns. Track specific leads through the entire
generation and qualification process so that you can determine effectiveness
and tune your messages and programs accordingly.
Actively drive the marketing programs for results and know
why you are succeeding and where you have to improve. Take the actions
necessary to become increasingly effective.
“Reaching customers” is not exactly a science but it’s not black
magic either. There are fundamentally sound reasons for putting marketing
programs in place and good analysis will validate yours. You can manage
marketing to achieve lead generation results in the same manner you manage sales
to quotas. Having the right messages, delivered to the right people, with the
right follow-up will lead to sales success.
Reaching Customers Case Study
By: Rich Kramarik
When it comes to marketing, the “right”
approach, action and follow-up are seldom obvious to the business owner or CEO.
We were working with an architectural firm that
wanted to expand its operations by expanding into new markets. Our
conversations followed the normal route past messages, advertising, Web site,
etc. When we talked about Web, the CEO said that they had a Web site, but that
it had not been updated for over a year. Upon further investigation we found
that this company’s competitors all had up to date and highly professional Web
sites. Then the insult to the injury was that this architect/CEO was previously
a partner at one of the competitive firms and that firm’s Web site had used this
CEO’s work as examples of their own. So, not only was this CEO not marketing
his successes on his Web site, his competitor was. This example is intended to
show how the obvious is not always obvious. Business owners and CEO must work
with their marketing team to investigate options and plan the “right” approach,
actions and follow-up.
In another situation, we were working with a
start-up that had a solid bank account that was stocked by its investors. The
CEO wanted visibility to high end prospective customers. The marketing
executive negotiated a deal with a Busch Series, NASCAR racing team. The race
car and transporter were completely covered with this company’s logo. For the
advertising on the vehicles the company paid several hundred thousand dollars in
sponsor fees. The big return from the racing team for the CEO’s company was to
be introductions at the races to the other racing team sponsors. These were
large companies like Motorola, Verizon, Sony, Nextel, Pepsi and Carquest. In
this case the insult to the injury was that not a single introduction was made
by the racing team. That was several hundred thousand dollars of advertising
(the company logo on the racing vehicles) and no new leads. The big splash is
not good enough. It’s got to be the right splash at the right time, in the
right way and in the right place.
Then there is the U.S. operation of an Israeli
software company. They were moving into the Insurance Industry with a new
software package for processing property and casualty insurance. The marketing
executive found three industry magazines that their target clients read and then
chose one to advertise in. They had a quarter page ad each month for six
months. They experienced three leads each month from these ads and closed one
to two within three months of the first conversation with each new lead. They
partnered with two consulting companies that were in the business of installing
competitive software packages. This gave them access to clients of their
competitors. They attended three property and casualty insurance industry
conferences each year and generated about 135 new leads from each. Out of these
they were able to, on average, close 5 new clients from each event. Their
marketing brochure talked about costly issues being faced by property and
casualty insurance companies. It talked about innovative, state of the art
technology solutions to these industry issues and presented an attractive ROI to
clients. This marketing plan probably sounds incredible to you – because it
is. But, it is a real life example of what marketing planning can do for you.
It took this company over a year of work to get to the point that it could
realize these results.
The “right” marketing plan can make the “right”
approach, action and follow-up obvious to the business owner or CEO.
Brought to you by:
Bob De Contreras
RTBA | Cary | Greensboro | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | North Caroliina
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