"Marketing" is how you communicate your brand to your customers.
Advertising is just one component of marketing. Marketing can be how you greet each customer as they walk in the door, or the free sticker you give each customer as they leave. Advertising is just one way you communicate with your customers. It is the combination of all the interaction your customers have with you that make up your marketing. That interaction determines how customers feel about your brand. It determines whether they will come back, and whether they would recommend you to a friend.
What message are you giving your customers? What message are your competitors giving them? Why should they do business with you? These questions can be addressed in your advertising, but should be clear in all your marketing communications.
These factors do not operate in a vacuum. Outside influences require constant reassessment of your marketing plan.
Have a Marketing Plan
Can you change with the market?
- Interest rates change
- Your competitor starts a price war
- Big Box stores enter your sector
- Major events like 9/11 shift buying patterns
- Your industry gets bad press
How can marketing help you through these changes?
- Use advertising to counter negative market forces
- Tell your customers what you want them to hear
- Find new customers
- Generate a positive buzz about your product
- Motivate your existing customers to refer you to their friends
Advertising can be used to counter negative market forces, bad press or a poor economy. When used effectively it can accomplish immediate sales goals and build long term brand equity, strengthening the bottom line of your business.
Your "Leads Funnel"
Ask yourself what percent of your sales come from:
- repeat customers?
- referrals or word of mouth?
- convenience of your location or "lucky timing"?
- people who were influenced by your advertising via:
o direct mail?
o yard signs?
o your website?
It's not easy to pinpoint where new customers come from. Your advertising may have been one of the things that influenced your sales, but for the most part all of these work in combination to bring in new customers. It's even harder to determine exactly how effective each form of advertising really is. That's why consistency in your marketing is crucial. Many factors will often work together to produce a new customer.
- I want x new phone calls a day.
- I want people to think I'm a good company to work for.
- I want people to remember me when they need a ___.
- I want to increase my referrals.
- I want to up-sell more profitable services to existing customers.
- I want be remembered as the "boutique" firm.
Avoid the having to say, "I tried that, but it didn't work." A bad experience with an ad campaign may be more the fault of the message than the medium. Here are some tips.
- Stand out from the clutter. From the time you wake up til the moment you go to sleep, you are bombarded by thousands of advertising impressions. Which ones will you remember next week?
- Make it matter to the consumer.
- Know who your customers are. Know where they live and work, what they do for fun, what their biggest worries are, and what they value most in life.
- Get their attention.
- Present a value to them.
- Make them want to act.
- Very clearly, tell them what to do (call me, visit my website, come to my store)
The Importance of Branding
Effective branding leaves the customer with a favorable image of your company and its product. It should establish a distinct identity between your brand and its competitors. All of your messages should convey this to the consumer (conversations, advertisements, brochures, websites, etc.)
Branding can be very valuable to you if you operate in a saturated, competitive marketplace like selling cars, furniture, food or home services. If your brand is the preferred brand, price will not be as big of a concern.
Build a relationship with your customer. Effective branding leads to loyalty, referrals, and profits. A good experience brings people back. When it comes to building your brand, customer satisfaction is just as important as advertising. The better the customer experience, the less you have to rely on advertising to keep the leads funnel full. It will cost you on average 6 times more to bring in a new customer as to keep an existing one. Customers who perceive your brand as superior to your competitors won't be as motivated by price. They will actually try to justify doing business with you, even if your price is not the lowest.