When a small business owner thinks of marketing, they usually think of Yellow Pages or Newspaper ads. However, marketing is much more than just print advertising. Marketing influences the buying decisions of customers. In fact, marketing is everything a business says or does that causing the potential customer to make or not make a buying decision. Driving a nice, lettered company vehicle, answering the phone properly, lighted signs, and professional printed material would all influence the buying decision.
Think of marketing as consisting of three phases which all consumers pass through to get to purchasing. The three phases in correct order are Company, Credibility and Value. It is important to put your marketing funds into these areas to draw attention to your product or service.
Company information is the key to marketing as a customer needs to know you exist in the community. Lettered, lighted signs at the store location, yellow page listings, newspaper ads, sponsorships of sports teams or events, professional business cards, well-lettered trucks, information brochures or pocket folders are all examples. No one will do business with you if they do not know you exist. Direct mail to your local community should give information about your company and your products and services.
Every business should have a website with a home page that outlines the key information about the company. Where are you located? Pertinent information about your staff, coupons, directions and specials are all needed. What product or services do you provide? Be sure the website makes it easy for the visitor to find out who you are, what you do, why they should do business with you, and who to contact.
How does a potential customer know if you are honest and credible? That is the Credibility portion of your business. How long have you been in business? Do you have any references or testimonials? What is your education and training for the position you hold? Are you a member of a professional local or national organization? Who are some of your clients and what are your guarantees or warranties? Most companies we have worked with do not display or discuss their warranties, so consumers are hesitant about purchasing. Promote yourself as a professional company and be proud of your credentials.
Testimonials on your website and brochure give the customer a great feeling from other people that you have done an outstanding job. Lists of key jobs or locations where you have done work is good also. If you have done work for community facilities like the Chamber of Commerce, School District, or Community Center, this gives you more credibility with potential customers.
We always say if you draw the potential customer through phases one and two, phase three is easy. Have you ever bought a product you really didn’t need? Of course, we all have. The reason we bought are the first two phases—we knew about the company and they convinced us to buy from them and no one else. We only want the last phase, value, to complete the process. Does the product or service meet my needs; provide benefits at a fair price? Most consumers equate value with price. Statistics show that 10% of the population buy the lowest priced product or service available, 7% buy the most expensive item and the other 83% are somewhere in the middle. We want the best value for our dollar. Position your product somewhere in the middle of the price range and you will get more buyers. Convince the buyer that your product is worth the price because they are not just buying the product, but the package (hours, warranties, credibility, references, etc).
Never offer your customer just one choice in replacements or service. Try to offer them packages of options and let them choose. The replacement customer can be given choices of SEER ratings or warranties. The service customer can be given choices of repairs, replacements or service agreements.
Now that you know what to do, how should you market? Only about 20-30% of your available funds should be spent on passive marketing. Passive marketing turns on, but seldom turns off. When you letter a truck, run an ad in the yellow pages, hang a sign, the advertising becomes passive marketing. This is the most critical mistake that most companies make. They put too much of their monies in passive advertising and do not get the opportunity to turn it off.
Put more of your marketing dollars into active, customer responsive advertising. Direct mail, newspapers, direct solicitation and calling past customers will all generate a yes or no from the customer. Run an ad in the newspaper for your “20% off sale” that ends Friday and you will be able to measure the effect of the promotion. New products, new services, holidays, etc. generate new selling opportunities and customers need to be informed often (once each quarter) about potential sales.
There is an old saying that says “if you think you need marketing, you are too late”. This is a true statement because marketing takes time. Changing one’s opinion about companies, products or services takes time and effort. Ask yourself each day how you attracted business. Market each and every day whether you are busy or not.