Writing a Marketing Strategy: Four Easy Steps
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Writing a Marketing Strategy: Four Easy Steps

Talk to the “Ivory Tower experts” about marketing, and they will tell you that marketing management basically consists of a series of complex, interrelated analytical processes and strategies

By Mike Raymond

Perhaps. But, you have a sign business to run. Do you have the time to figure out the “marketing management model”? To learn what it means, how it works, and its uses for the sign industry?

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  • An efficient way to think about marketing your shop is to imagine you are writing a sales letter.

    Developing a Strategy: Promise, Picture, Prove, and Push

    A “sales” letter seeks to gain the potential customers’ attention, convince them that your product is worthwhile, and confidently asks them to take action. The best way to get the potential customers’ attention is to stress the benefits to them. This benefit idea must come from what you have to sell.

    Before you launch into writing a letter, you need to do some thinking. While you know a great deal about the specifications of the signs you make and sell, the physical description of your product is not effective selling. Rather the details of signage, think of marketing a psychological description of your signs and services. Interpret the physical features of your sign business in terms of reader benefits.

    The “nuts-and-bolts” of fabrication, installation, and maintenance mean very little to most customers. Tell them about what the sign will do for the customers, why it is easy, how long it will provide such service, and its worth to the customers.

    Use the details of the sign business “nuts-and-bolts” as supporting evidence to back up the promises to potential customers. These promises usually include increased efficiency, increased profits, and whatever customers tell you they want to accomplish with signage.

    An analysis of the kind of signage you are selling will help you develop your possible sales points. What kind of signs are you selling? What is their primary purpose? Who are your potential customers? What helps these customers decide to buy such signs?

    Answers to these questions should provide a central selling point (CSP) for marketing your signs. The CSP is the predominant theme of your “sales” letter/marketing plan. It usually is the answer to the question: What main feature of my signs is most likely to induce potential customers to buy?

    Try not to rush to judgment when answering the CSP question. Money, cost, and profit seem the immediate answer. But the first may not be the best. Potential customers are driven by many things. Some are rational; others are emotional. They may think it is about money, but sometimes it is about trust or saving time or ease of service.

    So, when selecting your CSP, try to know something about your potential customers. Be sure to consider such factors as their gender, vocation, location, age, income, community status, and experience with the visual communications industry. A CSP adapted to the market is more likely to be success. (The CSP of this feature article is primarily “success” and secondarily “ease.”) After this planning, you are ready to write your sales letter/market your sign business. The typical “sales” letter has four parts: Promise, Picture, Prove, and Push. Like writing a letter, the goal of a marketing strategy is present a cohesive, persuasive presentation of your shop’s CSP (Central Selling Point).

    Promise: Getting Attentive Interest

    If you believe in your signs and your shop’s service, starting a “sales” letter/marketing strategy is easy. You make the promise. You tell the potential customers’ how your shop can benefit them.

    Avoid the bizarre and the irrelevant. Who isn’t tired of that? Make the promise appropriate, in good taste, in line with your CSP, and clearly a customer benefit. What would gimmicks and gadgets as a marketing strategy suggest about your shop?

    Stick to a customer benefit that will come from your shop. Have the customer benefit lead to the satisfaction of a customer need by your shop’s signs or services.

    Do not command, preach, beg, threaten, or exhort. Do not challenge or scream. Avoid empty language (“amazing,” “finest,” “wonderful”) and exclamation points (!!!!). Don’t start by mentioning your signs or your company name.

    Stick to the business of customer benefit and then the product. Be as positive, specific, and credible as possible. Say or imply: “As help in handling such and such, the XYZ sign… or ABC service will….” The opening goal is to get potential customers’ interest quickly and to cause them to want more information.

    Picture: Establishing Belief and Trust

    Having made the promise, a “sales” letter/marketing strategy should quickly supply evidence that the promise can be fulfilled.

    Show how your signs or services do meet their needs. Give specific information that deals directly with the promise made and the benefit offered in your opening.

    An effective way to offer proof is to explain and describe your signs and service in use. This might include word pictures of how it works, performance records, testimonials of previous customers, and/or sales statistics.

    Be positive. Focus on what it can do and has done. Talk about the signs or the services in terms of how it can help the customers. Talk about their business, not yours. Adapt and personalize the “sales” as much as possible to the customers.

    Be truthful. Have the goods to back up your claims. Avoid the extravagant claims or wild language. The personality of your “sales” letter/marketing is a reflection on the personality of your shop: both have an enormous effect on the success of both. Too many hucksters have come down the pike for many customers to be impressed by the loud and the obnoxious. Customers need reasons to trust.

    Prove: Overcoming Resistance

    Another way to build trust is to anticipate questions, deal with unfavorable information, and handling price. Being forthcoming in your “sales” letter and marketing goes a long way to establishing an effective business relationship with potential customers.

    Show that you know their business (as well as yours) and that you understand the difficulties they may have. You also make it easier for them to do business with you by bringing up what may be some obstacles. By anticipating the “problems,” you show that you were aware of their needs and probably have done all you can do to solve them.

    The main way for dealing with potential trouble spots is to focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do. Establish the favorable information. For example, tell them the range of sizes for your banners. Or, how long it takes to install correctly an electric outdoor sign.

    However, try not to dodge a problem because there is no solution or because its solution might involve disappointing news. But there are ways to handle unfavorable information. Give an explanation before you say “no” or before you deliver the bad news. Another strategy is to subordinate the bad news to some good news.

    For example, when customers ask for free preliminary design sketches for a sign before they can decide, you can explain: “To ensure the quality and the originality that your sign design will get, extensive time is required. A deposit of….”

    Handling price often proves troublesome in a “sales” letter/marketing strategy. That usually is left to face-to-face sales. When you believe price should be covered, use one of several methods for lessening its effect.

    Introduce price after most of the sales points and customer benefits have been established. Associating the price with the benefits to be gained by customers is most effective. The ideal reaction would be “all that for so little?” This is best accomplished near the end of the deal.

    Break down the price in terms of units (so much per Point-of-Purchase sign rather than the entire order) or in terms of time over the estimated life of the sign (such as so much per week, month, or year). Suggest the amount of payments—such as so much a month—rather than the lump sum for outright purchase.

    A powerful way to handle price for signs is to compare their cost with the cost of other forms of advertising, branding, and marketing. For example, big on-site banners can easily be compared favorable with the cost and relative effectiveness of mass media advertising and mass mailings.

    Push: Asking Confidently for Specific Action

    After getting their attention, establishing belief, and overcoming potential resistance, securing action should be a natural for the “sales” letter/marketing strategy. The final phase of your general sales strategy is to identify what you want your potential customers to do. “Buy my signs, moron!” may sound good, but may not be an effective closing strategy for your “sales” letter/marketing strategy.

    Can a “sales” letter/marketing strategy be expected to close the deal?

    Try to have realistic expectations. Few “sales” letters/marketing strategies do the whole job. Depending on the type of signage, the purchasing conditions, and the customers’ circumstances, your visions of marketing success should be appropriately scaled. Aim for what is reasonable success. “Reasonable success” may range from a show of interest to a request for more information, from their visit to your shop to your visit to their site.

    As you know, there is a wide range in cost, materials, and scope between, say, beverage banners and electric outdoor signs. Even then that may depend on how many, how big, and how artistic they want the banners to be. Decide on what appropriate action is and identify it as specifically as possible. Know what you want them to do, so you can ask for it and be prepared to handle it when it happens.

    You want to accomplish four things quickly and effectively as your closes your letter/marketing. They include (1) making clear the specific action you want the potential customers to take, (2) show them how to take that action, (3) make that action sound easy, and (4) name a brief re-sale customer benefit to motivate immediate action.

    Usually in the sign industry the action desired is for potential customers to seek more information about your signs and services. Make the action specific. Rather than “Let us hear from you soon,” try something like “To learn how to increase your point of purchase sales, call Mike at 555-1234.”

    As suggested above, you have a range of specific actions to call for in the closing. When choosing one, do just that—choose just one. Choices provide a dilemma that can result in the potential customers doing nothing. If you know your market, you have an advantage in deciding whether to ask for them to call, fax, e-mail, or drop in. Pick the one that is easiest and fastest.

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    Whatever you do, promise rather than threaten in your call for action. “Don’t miss out” is a fundamental error. The idea of the sign industry being transient can undercut all efforts for building belief and trust. Your signs last: your shop will be there a long time. To imply the potential customers might miss out is not a good idea.

    Be confident. Stick with your CSP. Go with customer benefit. Present your call for a specific action with a reminder of what good thing will happen.

    Yes, this is just common sense. In the sign industry, we have little time for the Ivory Tower’s “marketing management model.” Think of marketing your shop as writing a “sales” letter that (1) gets the customers’ attention, (2) establishes trust, (3) overcomes obstacles, and (4) calls for action.

    Marketing is just like writing a sales letter.

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