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Marketing Your Business in Changing Times, Part II

In Part II of this three-part series, we will address more marketing techniques and strategies to be used in your business including a distinction between advertising and promotion during these challenging times.

By Johnny Duncan

Referrals- every businessperson loves referrals. The people who are directed to a specific vendor gain confidence from doing business with a company recommended by someone they know. The individuals who make such referrals provide a value-added service by steering their clients, or friends and relatives, in the right direction.

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  • Indeed, many professionals take pride in claiming that they don't do any marketing; they say they get all of their business through word-of-mouth referrals. They feel that if they just do good work, then their clients will give their name to other people. There is some truth in that statement, but that passive kind of approach will never grow a business to its full potential.

    One of the best ways to get referrals is to make referrals. The more referrals you can make for other businesses and professionals, the more likely they are to refer people to you.

    Make sure your potential referral sources are aware of the kind of referrals you would like to get, so they can send qualified people your way. Educating clients about what you do -- what products you sell, what services you offer -- is a never-ending process. An important part of the process is letting clients know what kind of referrals you need. That's especially true if your clients do not live and die by referrals the way you do.

    Be Direct
    For some professionals, simply asking their clients for referrals, works best. They wait for the right time -- basically, whenever a client is happy with their products or services -- and inquire whom they might know who fits their referral qualifications. If you take this approach, you'll increase your chances of receiving names if you ask, "Who do you know who...?" as opposed to "Do you know anyone who…?"

    The best way to reciprocate is by making a qualified referral in return. Perhaps you could pay back referral sources by introducing them to individuals who would be worthwhile for them to know. Or perhaps you could reward your referral sources movie or sporting event tickets that are hard to come by. Most people will understand that you're sincerely expressing your appreciation.

    Remember the aim of the advertising and promotional strategy is to create awareness of your product or service, and to arouse customers' needs and expectations to the point of consumption and the creation of loyalty.

    Advertising and Promotions Techniques
    Perhaps, the first step in developing an effective marketing strategy is to understand the difference between advertising and promotion. Most people think that the two are one in the same, but there is a distinction between the two. Both advertising and promotions use the different media formats--print, radio and television--as a way of conveying a message, but promotion encompasses much more. It is the method of advertising and can entail community involvement. This could mean sponsoring a Boy or Girl Scout troop, allowing non-profit organizations to use your facility, such as, letting the high school drama club use your parking lot for a car wash fund raiser, sending an underprivileged child to day camp or involvement in any type of positive community activity that will bring attention to your business.

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    Advertising plays an important role in successful business ventures. It entails identifying and selecting the media that provide the greatest amount of exposure for your business and developing effective, yet appropriate materials for each medium.

    It is more than running an ad in a local newspaper, on a radio or television station or just simply hanging a sign outside your business and waiting for the customers to purchase your product or service. It requires that you know your product or service -- that is, the selling points -- and that you develop literature that can arouse the customers' consciousness levels to the point that they are curious enough to investigate it, and then raises their need or desire levels to the point that they are willing to purchase it from you.

    Advertising keeps your product or service in the public's eye by creating a sense of awareness. Yet this awareness alone will not ensure the success of your business. Thus, advertising not only has to be effective, it also has to be a continuous process.

    Once you are satisfied with the advertising materials, select the media that will best market your business. Since advertising can be costly, try to use a medium that is cost effective, yet will effectively market your business. If this is not possible, then be prepared to spend what is necessary to promote your business effectively -- the outcome will be worth the investment.

    It may be a good idea to mix the different media formats that you use. For example, design a brochure that describes your product or service, emphasizing its selling special features. Place copies of the brochure in strategic locations in your business to use as customer handouts.

    You may also want to consider devising a customer survey. The survey should focus on whether customers like the product or service, the quality of the product/service, ways to improve it and the quality of service provided by employees. Place the survey with a self-addressed, stamped envelope near the checkout counter and ask customers to mail in or return the survey when they come back. Review their comments with your staff and implement those suggestions that are practical, cost efficient, and that can improve the overall quality of service your business provides.

    Other media formats to use are:

    1. Newspaper, radio or television ads.
    2. Business cards.
    3. Classified ads in the local newspaper.
    4. Direct mailing.
    5. Telemarketing
    6. Yellow Pages advertising.
    7. Sampling - mailing or distributing free samples of your product or a flyer about your service to the public.
    8. Advertising in community-based magazines or newspapers.
    9. Local or specialized websites.

    Whatever media format you use, be willing to invest the money needed to develop an effective ad campaign.

    Promotional Tools

    Your approach to promoting your business should encompass more than creating a sense of awareness about your business. Consider including a commitment to community involvement to give something back to the community and its residents.

    An excellent way to cultivate this type of involvement is to meet with community leaders to find out how you can help, and what events are approaching that might require your assistance. Keep in mind that community leaders can be an excellent networking tool, especially if they feel your involvement is genuine.

    Other inexpensive ways of promoting your business that does not encompass community involvement are:

    1. Employee tee shirts, hats, aprons or jackets with the name of your business and logo.
    2. Ball point pens with the name, telephone number and logo of your business.
    3. Balloons with the name, telephone number and logo of your business free samples.
    4. A door prize for the 100th or 1,000th customer to enter your business.

    Use your imagination when coming up with different promotions schemes. You’ll surprise even yourself at the various, inexpensive promotional opportunities you will come up with.

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