Hopefully, my last “Shop Financials” column left you with the idea of maintaining “balanced” growth in your company. This column will focus on one of the 7 key areas I mentioned including marketing your company, products and services.
It’s important to start with the basics. The first question to ask yourself is: Are we successful at marketing our products and services? Have we developed a marketing budget or marketing plan to maintain and grow business? If you currently do not have any marketing in place now would be great time to start!
Think for a moment. Have you ever had a customer come into your business and tell you “Wow, until today I never knew you were here.” Did that statement jar you? If not, it should have shaken you to the core. We all need to create and maintain strong positive presence in our industry and in our local market for short and long-term viability.
Successful marketing of products and services on a regular basis can be the single most important factor in the longevity of any company. A common mistake made by business owners and managers is settling into a complacent pattern of business – the same customers, the same products, the same services.
Let’s start by asking yourself a few questions. Do I regularly track sales with current customers as well as new customers? Do I stay in contact with my customer base? Do I make it easy for them to do business with my company? Do I let my customers know my company has new products and services to offer, if any? Do I offer a variety of specials to retain my customers and can I measure results of those promotions? Do I give them a reason to come back by offering more and better service than my competitors?
We all desperately want to successfully market our products and services to impact prospective customers in our target markets. However, there is a misconception that it will cost thousands of dollars for a marketing group or consultant to produce ideas and campaigns that will in turn cost thousands more to implement. With a bit of creativity – as well as common sense and some elbow grease – we can use many simple and inexpensive marketing tactics and strategies to keep our company in the public eye.
Let’s just think about a few:
Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) is very powerful and should be used every time you are advertising or promoting your company. If you are aggressive with its use, you can effectively create your desired image with the general public and engrain your company name into their minds. By doing so, whenever they need a product or service in your line of business, they will think of your company first! Remember, this tool is not just for bigger companies. You can be a very small company and STILL gain huge benefit!
Address the following questions before utilizing the TOMA strategy:
What image do I want to project for my company?
Am I just another “me too” company or am I unique in some way with my product lines and services?
Do I have more highly trained and skilled staff members who provide better quality work and are we more experienced than our competitors?
Do we offer longer and more flexible hours of service for our customers to access our staff making it easier for them to do business with us?
Have I defined and categorized my potential customer groups and the desired target market demographically that I want to provide my products and services?
Once you define the desired image for your company, use the message to create TOMA using free public relations. First, select your media type based on maximum exposure. If you can capture multiple media, excellent!
By all means, try to tie your company to community related events that will generate appeal to readers, viewers, or listeners. I have found newspapers to be very effective simply because almost all local papers have “Business in Brief,” “New in Business” or “Featured Business” columns. Get to know editors and business writers in your local area and let them know you have an upcoming grand re-opening or anniversary or maybe you have hired a new cutting edge technology specialist for your company. Include radio and television in your news releases pertaining to local, statewide, regional or national awards. Consider performing public service work that will show that you are willing to give back to the community in appreciation of what the community gives you. Consider networking with civic groups, Chamber of Commerce, community boards, etc. Explore them all and leave no stones unturned.
Community Events and Public Works Exposure
Position your company favorably in the community by getting involved as a sponsor in public service. Participate in or sponsor events or functions that can range from little league baseball to meals on wheels for the homebound to free work for local charities. Donate products or services for raffles, drawings, or other community events that will put your company in good light with consumers.
By working these events with key personnel, it lends opportunity to “press the flesh” and develop new relationships that are guaranteed to generate new and/or more business.
Decide on what type of print advertising you want to do. For a mailing campaign, create a detailed list of your current customers and what services and/or products you provide them! To stimulate regular response, you will want to want to send informational materials to them regularly, possibly with a coupon or “special” on a product or service or information on new products and/or services you now offer.
Study and categorize your list and concentrate on all current or prospective clients that will benefit from what you are offering. Select software programs allow for categorization of customer groups and if your program does, by all means contact your provider and learn how to use those functions for marketing purposes.
Change Your Plan
Design and implementation of a new sales and marketing plan must be carefully thought through from the beginning.
What message do you want to send consumers about your company, products and services? What are your desired results? What is your execution strategy? What is the cost versus return ratio? The future success of any company can be driven by a well-planned and executed marketing plan.
For the best results, incorporate your own fresh ideas with ideas from your staff in the “trenches” that they may have for their specific department. Be sure to consider the proper media to complement the campaign you have planned.
The results should provide substantial revenue growth and long-term viability for your company. If your goal is revenue growth and expansion, I believe you need to design, develop and implement your marketing plan on that foundation.
Let’s recap some criteria to consider while planning:
Identify your target market and consumer along with your desired profit potential in the markets you choose.
If you have the proper business management software that allows for categorization of your customer database, do so by type of product and service to ensure maximum penetration.
Decide what type of penetration you desire: existing, new, different or all of the above:
Design a plan to include procedures for tracking, monitoring and evaluating market penetration by category or segment;
Provide unique sales strategies for your staff (both internal and outside sales);
Provide training programs for your staff to generate internal monitoring controls, evaluation processes and customer education if necessary;
Evaluate expected sales and then ratio numbers to your sales staff’s current commission package to evaluate if there is a need for additional or different wage incentive programs;
Determine the type of media and then budget advertising accordingly;
Develop a backup plan in case your immediate campaign fails early.
These simple ideas and strategies can be a cornerstone from which you can build or you can incorporate into your current marketing plan. For best results, follow the old adage: “Plan your work and work your plan!”
Kenny Nau is Director of Sales at PLUSS Corporation, Columbia Falls, MT. PLUSS offers Business Management Software and consulting services for the automotive and heavy duty industries. [email protected].