Jun 17, 2011

Marketing or Sales?

Sales and marketing are two different sides of the same coin.  In both cases it's about providing a quality product, service, or idea, delivering a clear message, and building relationships.

Sales jobs are difficult for one primary reason- people don’t want to be sold.  People want to spend or donate their money in ways that match their personal interests, desires, and values.  As a salesperson, you have to find that connection and convince your target to take action.  One-to-one relationships and face-to-face dealings are very important to people. Building relationships is important in both sales and marketing. 

Marketing is communication that opens the door and starts the connection, often supporting sales efforts. Marketing sets the stage for strong sales, providing information that can strengthen the organization’s reputation, demonstrate its values, and prove its effectiveness.  All aspects of marketing- media campaigns, collateral, events, social media, etc., build those relationships by increasing brand recognition, providing information, and continuing the conversation, allowing potential clients and donors to connect with your company on a personal level. 

A true client relationship must be built in order to attract potential clients or donors, to persuade them to exchange their hard-earned money for goods, services, or goodwill, and encourage them to refer to others.  When the marketing program is designed to reach people and interact with them on a personal level, building one-on-one relationships, the foundation for exponential growth is built.  Customer loyalty and word of mouth is the most inexpensive and effective marketing program.

In order to build these business relationships, customized marketing programs must be created.  The systems and tools a car dealership uses will be different from those that a food bank will use.  Avoid cardboard cut-out marketing plans and work with a marketing person or firm that is willing to create a program that will best serve you and your clientele.  It is important to consider your marketing objectives, whether it is to build brand recognition, increase retention, generate leads or increase sales.  Your sales staff will benefit from a solid marketing program, because it will provide evidence of the company’s reputation and capabilities. 

May 10, 2011

Navigate to...

If you’ve ever had to take a personality test, you may have heard of Myers-Briggs.  One of the dichotomies explored in this test is a person’s lifestyle preference.  If you are a “J” for judging, you like to have matters settled in relation to the outside world.  If you a “P” for perceiving, you tend to like to keep your options open. 

If you are a serious thinker and planner, and like to have matters settled, you may have no problem creating detailed business and marketing plans.  If you lean more toward keeping your options open, however, you may be more challenged when it comes to the business world. 

Anyone can put out a shingle and offer products or services.  Yard sale enthusiasts do it all the time.  However, if you want to have a business that is effective, efficient, and profitable, you have to have a plan.  You can’t get to where you want to go if you’re not sure where that is. 

All the technological tools in the world will not build your business if you don’t have a goal.  Even a GPS system asks you what your destination is!  If you don’t take the time to narrow your focus and plot a course, your efforts will not achieve the desired results.

Perhaps you already have a business plan and the marketing plan scares you.  There are so many options today- TV, radio, newspaper, internet, social media, billboards, mobile phones, magazines, corporate sponsorships… If you don’t plan how to target your products or services to the right people, you could spend thousands and not make a single sale. 

The good news is that you’re not alone.  People in your community and people you know are at varying levels of business experience and success.  Business coaches and marketing firms can help you clarify your goals and create a workable strategy to meet them. 

AMW Marketing is one of those companies that can help- offering customized solutions to meet your marketing needs. 

Apr 11, 2011

Discover the Stories

It may be a television commercial, a Facebook invitation, or a forwarded email. Through words, pictures, or a combination, they aim to inspire with a story of triumph over insurmountable odds, or doing the right thing against enormous pressure, or discovering a solution when none seemed available.

If you want to bring people on board for your cause, you need good stories. Especially when working with nonprofits, stories are the key to:

• Attract attention

• Create resonance

• Generate action

Where do you find stories? In the thick of your mission. Do you run a food pantry? Who is talking to the clients? What are their stories? Is this a humiliating experience? Is this the only way to keep food on the table in the current economy? Did a child say something pitiable, like, “Now we can have sandwiches”?

If you are serving people, those people have stories. No one wants to ask for help, and most are excited, relieved, grateful, and so on, when they are given something that solves a problem or crisis in their lives.

This is not to say that people should be blatantly used as marketing fodder. Stories are merely an effective communication tool to tell the world about what you do. Who is your target audience? It may seem difficult when the people you serve seem to be in a completely different world than your potential donors. But people are drawn to stories about other people they can resonate with. Moms feel for other moms, no matter what their native country or social class. People who struggled in school feel for students who may need extra attention. Military families will be empathetic with anyone who deals with multiple transitions.

Find the stories and share them. Share them at fundraising events and service club meetings. Capture them in brochures and multimedia presentations. Post them on your website and print them in your newsletter. Invite your potential donors and volunteers to be part of the next story.

Mar 16, 2011

Engage your Customers

CE, or customer engagement, may be a buzzword in marketing circles, but what is it and how can the small business owner use it?

Customer engagement involves a paradigm shift from one-way communication, such as radio or newspaper ads, to building a two-way relationship with customers and prospects. This long term focus may make statistics like conversion rates and return on investment obsolete, as the goal is to engage customers over a longer period of time. For brick and mortar establishments, customer engagement can take form in formal or informal surveys, suggestion boxes, and free samples. It also may involve different tools beyond traditional media, which may include blogs, website forums, email communication, and smart phone applications.

Old schoolers are often resistant to the idea of allowing customer feedback on the company website, especially if it might be negative. One of the bonuses of engaging the public is not only increased loyalty, but tips for improving products or services.

Today’s consumer is not the same as 50 years ago. He has developed an immunity to the constant barrage of ads in newspapers and magazines, and on the radio, TV, or internet. He is usually well-informed before making a purchasing decision. And, based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he is motivated by feeling safe, being part of a group, and increased self-esteem. He doesn’t want to feel like just a number or a sale. He wants to be a groupie for your product or service, if it’s deserving. He wants to contribute to its success.

The idea of customer engagement also makes the best use of the fact that customers are at different stages of the buying process- from simply being aware of the company or product to become a repeat customer. Again, he wants to be treated as an individual. Focused customer engagement processes, including outstanding customer service, communicates a desire to meet the customer where they are at, rather than blast them with generic “buy me” messages. A happy customer is a repeat customer, and someone who will refer your business to others. That’s what makes the business grow.

Feb 28, 2011

Everyone is in Marketing

One of the largely overlooked ways to market your business or nonprofit is to provide an optimum work environment. If employees enjoy coming to work, appear happy to be there, and speak glowingly about the workplace in the community, people will seek out that company. The logic is that a company that cares for its employees will likely care for customers and clients as well.

Granted, finances and circumstances may prevent providing lavish amenities like workout facilities or a day care center. However, smaller concessions to provide more flexible work schedules and opportunities to contribute on an individualized basis can be made with minimal cost.

In a recent survey of nonprofit employees, the best workplaces made them feel like the leaders of the organization cared about their well-being. They liked their co-workers. They felt like they could maintain a reasonable balance between work and personal life, and job expectations were made clear.

Creating an enjoyable workplace with a more community-like structure than a traditional corporate structure can be a challenge. If your workplace is already marred by dissatisfaction, mistrust, bitterness, and confusion, you may have a lot of work to do to make it a place where people enjoy coming to work. These nine factors can help rebuild a better work community:

1. Understanding. Most people put family first. An optimum workplace will allow flexible scheduling to allow for sick kids and school programs. Some companies allow people to job share or telecommute in order to get the work done and keep employees happy.

2. Celebration. Everyone loves a party. They don’t have to be elaborate set-ups reminiscent of The Office television series, but acknowledging birthdays and service anniversaries as well as reaching fundraising and other goals shows employees they are appreciated and builds community.

3. Communication. Any company with more than one employee is going to have occasional conflict. Clearly communicated expectations can prevent confusion and misunderstandings. The more lines of communication across and between levels of associates, the better community you will build.

4. Training. Even if expectations are clearly communicated, employees cannot do their jobs if they’ve not been appropriately trained. No person and cookie cutter job description are going to be a perfect match at the start. Give employees the freedom to ask for help.

5. Contribution. No one wants to feel like a nondescript cog in the machinery. Each person has unique talents that may or may not seem to fit into the workplace, but that can still be utilized to further the goals of the company. Some may have ideas for more efficient production, or may be able to design the artwork for marketing flyers.

6. Loyalty. When someone continues in the same job for years, or has a flawless attendance record, or is known to go the extra mile, they deserve recognition. They also deserve opportunities for education and training to grow into new positions as desired.

7. Courtesy. Everyone has heard horror stories about harassment, degradation, and worse in the workplace. Common courtesy in word and deed should be expected from all levels of associates, in all levels of communication.

8. Integrity. Nothing destroys morale worse than supervisors who do not follow through and do what they say they will. Be sure that promises are kept and fairness in hiring and promoting is the norm.

9. Generosity. People want to do something that makes a difference. Green work practices contribute to the environment. Community activities such as food drives and fundraising dinners show that your company cares for something besides the almighty dollar.

At the very least, you should be able to give your employees the same treatment you give your best customers.

Jan 25, 2011

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