Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What an Andy Warhol Painting Taught Me About Marketing

I loved visiting The British Museum in London a few weeks ago. Other than the original Rosetta Stone, this painting caught my eye the most. It's Andy Warhol's painting called $9. (It stuck out among the 500+ year old artifacts in the museum). The obvious name is why it is so memorable to me.

Focusing on the obvious will make your business memorable. You'd think it would be easy to focus on the obvious because...it's so obvious. But it's easier said than done. You don't always need slicked out ΓΌber clever strategies.  Here are 3 ways to focus on the obvious:

  1. Let  your customers tell  you how to market to them.  Ask your customers how they found you, who referred you and why they called you. Invite them to tell you what they think of your product/business using social media campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Customers love to tell you what they think and if you listen - they'll tell you the best way to attract them.
  2. Let your customers market for you. My previous blog on this topic outlines how you can use your vendors and suppliers to market for you. Treat them like customers because they are good referral sources. Also, encourage your customers to blog, tweet and post on social media sites about your business. Respond to them online - both their good and bad comments.  Reward them for their posts by providing an offer or link to a coupon on your website.  Your customers are likely to post unique ways of using your product/service that others haven't discovered.
  3. Make it simple. Can you explain your product or service in a sentence or two? Simplifying a complex issue makes it easier for people to make a decision. There was a time 10 years ago when constructing a complex proposal would justify charging a higher price. But customers, even the savvy ones, have shorter attention spans now and won't weed through complex rhetoric.  Simplify the problem your product or service solves. And simplify the product/service you provide.
Strive for authenticity and simplicity and you will be focusing on the obvious.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Brown Shirt Marketing Lesson - Part 2

In my last blog post called The Brown Shirt Marketing Lesson I revealed a recent "run-in" I'd had at my dry cleaners. I thought it only appropriate to tell you how the situation was resolved.

When I arrived at the dry cleaners to pick up my brown shirt - it wasn't there! (This was after I had received a phone call 2 days prior telling me to come pick up my shirt by Friday or they were going to donate it to charity).   Apparently my dry cleaner transports clothing drop-offs to another location for cleaning and then transports them back to my location. My shirt was at this other store location.

Imagine how smug you feel when you find out someone who has admonished you for something is actually wrong. When I went back a day later to finally pick up my brown shirt, guess what?? No charge! I was told, "Ms. Jones, we are so sorry for your inconvenience. We didn't handle this properly and the person who called you to come get your shirt was rude. No charge for this." Way to go for handling this correctly!!!

I'm sure you know what happened here - a supervisor told an employee to get rid of the excess dry cleaning  and the employee picked up the phone and started calling people.  The supervisor probably mentioned that left over items would be donated to charity but didn't take think about coaching the employee on the best way to handle the phone calls with customers.

This brings up the most cliche of all business lessons: Never lose touch with your customers.   People who have money to pay you take priority over cleaning out inventory, filing paperwork, building a display, or any other pressing business matters (no pun intended!).

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Brown Shirt Marketing Lesson

My old dry cleaners called me to today. I think it was their version of a courtesy call. Here's how it went:

     "Ms. Jones, we have a brown shirt
      here and you need to pick it up by
      Friday or we are donating it to charity."

What I said with every ounce of sarcasm I could muster:

      "Wow, that is so GENEROUS of you
        to hold on to my shirt until Friday.
        Thank you SO much."

I'm not proud of being sarcastic but the call really made me mad.  It solidified my decision not to use this dry cleaners again.

I'll call the dry cleaners "B." After being a 15-year loyal "B" customer I recently decided to try another dry cleaners because "B" removed the standing 20% discount they had been giving me for the entire 15 years.  And less than 2 weeks later I receive this "courtesy call."

All they had to say is:

      "Ms. Jones, you still have a brown shirt here.  We think we missed giving it
       to you last time you were here. Do you think you can pick it up this week?" 

If the person had worded the call this way I would've been sincerely grateful for her call.  And I wouldn't be as irritated about the 48 hour notice to pick up my shirt.

However, I had been wondering where my brown shirt was...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to Boost Sales Fast

During the holiday season I get overcommitted, overtired and overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. It's the same feeling you have when your sales are down and you are trying get them up - fast!  You feel the urge to make cold calls, take customers to lunch, ask for more referrals, create email campaigns, order promotional products, print more brochures, start a new social media campaign, advertise in the newspaper... and you feel the need do these all at once!

What I've learned from helping people market their businesses for the last 8 years is that to recover from a sales slump or help to avoid one you must choose 1 or 2 marketing initiatives and do them really well, consistently, over a long period of time.  Marketing is a marathon not a sprint.  Spending your time exhausting every marketing channel will leave you tired and burned out after a few months. Timing and consistency are more important.

However, Christmas shopping for me tends to be a sprint! :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Honesty Can Cost You a Sale

I used to love Flu season...especially a really bad one!

When I worked for a medical diagnostic company one of the diagnostic tests I sold was for the Flu. Every September the company would have a big promotion for customers on Flu test kits where they could prepurchase tests prior to the Flu season hitting and receive a substantial discount.  This promotion was also a contest for the sales reps.  The reps who sold the most Flu test kits were highlighted every week and received a nice bonus at the end of the promotion.

One of my best accounts had a new lab manager and placed a huge order.  I knew it was too large of an order based on the prior Flu season. Even though the order would've made me a "shoe-in" winner of the sales contest I talked the lab manager out of his order. I convinced him to order fewer Flu tests because he could end up having unused product left over at the end of the Flu season.  This was a counterproductive move in the world for most salespeople (and even my boss). But, the lab manager appreciated my honesty and subsequently refused to talk to any of my competitors about their products.

Customers appreciate honesty. Being honest with your customers can cost you business - but only temporarily.  Dishonesty will cost you business - permanently.

Here's to a bad (or good, depending on how you look at it) Flu season!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

3 Ways to Know When You Are Being Used & What to Do About It

Quick note: This blog post may sound cynical - which I am not. :)

Customers use sales people. They use you to educate them about your product/service, they use you to help them get the best deal and they use you to help solve their problem. All are understandable reasons to be used. Proceed with caution if you are being used for reasons that aren't so justifiable such as:

  1. A prospect asks you to bid work/provide a proposal  but refuses to meet with you in person to allow you to present your proposal. You can be tipped off to this type of "using" because when you ask the prospect questions up front about his needs he is vague or short with his answers.  In this case, the prospect has already decided to work with your competitor.  You are being used to provide an additional bid to help your prospect negotiate a better deal with your competitor. Or, the company may have a requirement to get 3 bids before awarding a contract and they are only trying to satisfy that requirement.

    What to do:  Tell the prospect you need to hand deliver the proposal and meet with him.  Most salespeople hold out hope that we can persuade the prospect in favor of our proposal. If you know you are being used, it is acceptable to decline to bid. You might say, "Thank you for inviting us to provide a proposal but we feel that what we provide isn't a good fit for your needs."

  2. A prospect (who is not a customer) calls and asks you for tickets that your company gives out to customers for a professional sporting event, like a Dallas Cowboys football game.

    What to do: Invite the prospect to go with you as your guest (include spouses if appropriate). This will give you a chance to develop a relationship with the prospect.  Just giving the tickets away won't help you gain business in the future.

  3. A prospect requests a quote with a detailed proposal because he isn't sure what he needs. In this case you are being used for free consulting. The  prospect will take your proposal, mark out your price and give it to other companies to bid the same work.

    What to do: Give the prospect the benefit of the doubt. Sell your capability and benefits by providing a really good proposal - and, if possible, include requirements you offer that you know your competition isn't capable of providing.

When getting used in these ways, customers are taking advantage of you, wasting your time and don't have legitimate intentions. It happens to all salespeople. Use these experiences to help you determine the most effective way to spend your time to boost your own sales.  Work twice as hard to keep your existing customers satisfied as you do to attract new business.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

What Marketing Is Not

Marketing is the science behind growing your business. Many business owners think marketing is advertising and brochures.  If they designate money for newspaper or TV ads and design a nice brochure then marketing is complete - right? Well...not really.

I majored in Marketing in college and never took one advertising class. Then I worked in sales for over 15 years and never reported to anyone in the Marketing Department. And no on in the Marketing Department ever closed a deal.

Many business owners think you have to be creative to work in Marketing. Interestingly, the highest percentage of my Marketing college courses were based in statistical analysis with considerable quantitative measurements (i.e. lots of math!).

After 20+ years of working in what most people would call "Marketing" I can tell you what marketing is not:
  • Marketing is not sales calls.  The objective of a sales call is to convince a buyer to give you money for what you provide.  Marketing is what supports you on your call - brochures, name recognition and a decent product or service to sell.

  • Marketing is not free stuff with your logo on it. Promotional products provide name recognition, are fun to hand out and everyone is glad to take them  from you - this doesn't mean they like your product or that they will ever buy anything from you.

  • Marketing is not a project you finish. It's a long term, systematic, intentional effort.  Don't confuse true marketing with short-term campaigns that focus on certain product offerings.

  • Marketing is not just for creative types. Consistency is more important than creativity in marketing.

  • Marketing is not what you do when you aren't busy. I've heard business owners say that they never have time to do "marketing" and that they will start doing it when business slows down. This is precisely the wrong time because marketing is a long-term process. If marketing is done correctly and consistently, you can prevent the peaks and valleys in your business cycle.