While online marketing is the most dominant strategy at present, (we deal with online marketing in this article) there are many other ways of defining your brand and reaching customers.
How you wish to appear and how you choose to communicate will depend on your company values and your product. Marketing is a balancing game between having a fixed and recognisable product which you find a customer for, and being flexible so that you can shape your offer to suit the customers who you meet.
There is a wealth of advice out there and which you follow will depend upon what you want to do. Clearly a mobile phone company will not use the same techniques or messages as a pet-store. Equally, leveraging a recognised brand is a very different process to establishing a new brand.
It may be that you have several ‘personalities’ to suit different product ranges, or that being a reliable, fixed brand is an important part of what your company offers.
The most important thing, before you put yourself in front of potential customers, is to have a clear idea of your product and how you wish to promote it. Will you be traditional and reliable or contemporary and elegant? Do you want to appeal to the older adult or the trendy teen? Is your product a luxury or an essential?
Very often, once you have understood your own product clearly, the target audience, the message and often the style will all flow naturally from this.
For more general ideas, here is a summary taken from Marketing Made Simple.
Getting to know your customers is the most important stage of marketing process. The more accurate your information and knowledge, the more effective you will be at selling. Use all the information at your disposal to understand customer’s behavior, demographics, and requirements. This information should steer your major business decisions and allow you to write a marketing plan.
Knowing your customer is vital, but there may also be business opportunities which emerge as a result of changing global circumstances. For example, in recession budget brands such as camp sites or cheap food stores tend to flourish as people dial down their annual spending. Emerging technologies may make new products possible, and new legislation may shift consumers behaviors – a good example is the reduction in road tax for low polluting cars. Make sure you regularly ‘scan’ the external environment for opportunities (and threats).
Once you have a marketing plan in place, you need to make sure your product or service is tailored to your customers – from the packaging to the way it is promoted. Entrepreneurs often fall into the trap of making the product they want to sell, rather than designing and presenting things in the way the customer wants.
The process of conducting your business is almost as important as the product itself – make sure delivery is quick, returns are dealt with courteously, your staff greet customers with a smile and a cup of coffee. Surprise and delight your customers by going above and beyond the call of duty for them. Word of mouth is a powerful selling tool and this is exactly the way to generate it.
Placing a few ads just isn’t enough to get noticed any more. Consumers are bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages every day of their lives and take less and less notice. You need to do something pretty special to stand out, so make sure your messages are clear and appeal to exactly the people you are trying to sell to. Use both emotional and rational arguments to demonstrate what you are selling and why they need it.
Your staff are your most precious asset – look after them and give them the training they need to do their jobs well. From your receptionist to your salesmen, make sure they are motivated, have the tools they need and understand their role in the business plan. If everyone works together, your business will look after itself.
Good presentation is a huge influencing tool, it generates trust, motivates your staff and makes customers comfortable with their decision. If your front of house is messy, what does that say about your warehouse or filing systems? Even if things are chaotic behind the scenes, never lower the standards of your customer facing areas
Don’t just set a price based on production costs plus a margin. Pricing is a powerful tool to achieve your goals – decide what you are trying to achieve and what message you’re giving out by setting your price at a certain level. High prices mean you’re likely to sell less, but can give the impression of a premium product. Low prices can allow you to break into or dominate a particular market, although this may mean low profitability in the short term. Ensure pricing is part of a greater strategy, and include this in your marketing plan.
Every complaint is an opportunity to turn around a dissatisfied customer – respond quickly and positively. Remember your brand is easily damaged, and the last thing you want is for people to be actively spreading bad stories about your business. A complaint that is dealt with well can often result in a loyal customer, they will have refreshed trust in your brand and the confidence to buy again knowing that if things do go wrong they will be sorted out quickly.
Develop your strategy in the form of a written marketing plan, as this will ensure all members of your business understand the company direction. The plan is a comprehensive and well researched document which covers all essential aspects of taking your products to the customer, including the points listed above. When developing the plan, ask yourself the following questions.
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