Making the Most of your Marketing
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Making the Most of your Marketing

Your business keeps you hopping from one priority to the next---every single day. You put out one fire only to find another one starting up while over your shoulder you catch a glimpse of yet another one rekindling. With all of the busy-ness of running your business, who has time to focus on marketing?

By Johnny Duncan

Hope is on the way. This article will clear up much confusion or misconceptions you may have had regarding marketing your company. We will outline some basic areas of marketing and give ready-to-use tips that will help you to market your company without taking you away from those all-important fires.

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  • Analyzing marketing opportunities and issues
    Marketing does not have to be complicated. When marketing your company, you are basically trying to do two things: reach new clients and remind existing clients. It is that simple.

    Let’s begin with how to retain existing clients. Keeping your customers is a lot like dating or building friendships. You first have to be a friend before you can have a friend. In other words, establish the foundation for the relationship first. Let’s say a customer comes to you and buys a product or service. You didn’t even have to sell them; they just walked in and ordered. What do you do next?

    The smart players will first offer some other products and services that go along with the one they just purchased. Fast food restaurants have this down to a science. “Would you like to add French fries and coke with that burger?” You can do the same: “We can also install this banner at your store for you” or “We can install the electric for this channel letter as well if you like” or “How about some vinyl accessories to go along with your order?” You get the picture.

    After the sale, be sure to contact the customer in a few days (because you did get their contact information before they left) and ask if they are satisfied with the product or service. At the same time, ask them if they are aware that you now offer: new colors, new service, installation, etc. You fill in the blank. Also, be sure to ask them questions that will help you learn what their needs are. Remember they are more interested in you being interested in them than in what you have to sell at this point. Learn their needs and then fill those needs.

    Your existing customers are cheaper to keep than trying to establish new relationships. Most people are not going to look just for the least expensive products/services. They will come back again for good customer service and will be yours for life for great customer service. Remember to treat them like you would your first girlfriend/boyfriend and show your best side. Be polite. Thank them for their business, their time, and for even considering you and your business.

    Mediums and methods
    There are so many options available for you to use to reach new clients. The decision for which to use is based on your available options, your advertising and marketing budget and the audience you are trying to reach. New customers, when treated properly will soon become long-term existing customers. Repeat business should be about 70% of your marketing efforts.

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    Some of the basics that still work in some areas are:

    • Newspaper ads
    • Phone book ads
    • Print and online trade publications
    • Direct mail/ telemarketing
    • Exhibiting at trade shows
    • Stuffer card-packs
    • Press releases
    • Fax broadcasts
    • Search engine placement
    • Television
    • Radio
    • Special event sponsorship
    • Sport teams sponsorship
    • Trade school sponsorships

    Printed advertisements
    Placing an ad in your local newspaper (or national) can bring in some business depending on the segment of the sign industry you are in. If you are creating real estate signs, campaign signs, decals and sublimation products, this type of advertising may work for you.

    Be sure to know the audience you are reaching before paying out big money to place the ads. Some ads in the newspaper and phone book can run up to $1,500 and more. Maybe only 5% is the audience you want to reach. Know who is reading your ad before placing it.

    Trade magazines work well if the audiences you are trying to reach are also sign professionals or people who are interested in your sign products/services. One of the main arguments against traditional trade magazines is that you are not sure how many readers see your ad. If your advertisement is on page 78 and the reader only wants to read the articles up to page 60, then your expensive ad is not getting the exposure you hoped for.

    Some of the online magazines work well because they offer a market where the readers are a “captured” targeted audience. They are the ones you want to see your ad and they do nearly every time they go to that site.

    Direct mail and press releases
    Direct mail campaigns is one of the most effective means of advertising today—if you mail to your target market. We’ve all been the recipient of unwanted mail, either spam or direct mail. In most cases, you were not even in the advertiser’s targeted market. I’ve received numerous mailings for female products that I have no interest in. I’ve also received advertisements for running and business related products that I wanted to receive. Obviously, those advertisers knew that I was in their target market.

    If you are considering purchasing a list to send your ads to, be sure that you qualify the list. Ask how the list was obtained and a description of the demographics of the recipients. You don’t want the ad campaign to backfire on you by sending unwanted mail or email that will only upset the person receiving it.

    Press releases offer a medium for advertising that is far-reaching and sometimes free. Every good marketing person knows the value of a well-written press release. Submitted to the write publication, press releases provide a way to tell about your company and what you have to offer without spending a fortune.

    A press release provides information for the reader about your company. The information includes hiring and promotions of personnel, relocation or opening of new offices, new product release and much more. Press releases are basically advertisements without the price. Most magazines will publish your press release for either free or for a small processing fee and some require that you already be a sponsor to submit press releases. Check out your local newspaper as well as trade magazines to find out where you can begin submitting press releases and make an effort to send out one at least once per quarter.

    Sponsorships
    Many schools, civic organizations, sports teams and charitable organizations all offer sponsorship opportunities and they are a great way to get good exposure for your company. Depending on what products and services your company offers will determine where and how long you want to sponsor an organization or event. The exposure provided is great especially if your company name and logo are on the shirts, billboards, vehicles and programs for the events.

    A quick and inexpensive way to become a sponsor locally is to contact an organization and let them know you are looking to sponsor their upcoming event. Barter out your product/services for free advertising. Most civic and charitable organizations would love to begin this type of relationship.

    Television and radio
    A very effective, but expensive form of marketing is the use of television and radio for exposure. Local coverage is obviously less expensive than national and some areas of the country are less expensive than others. A good way to get the kind of marketing you want without paying a lot for it is to contact your local public TV/radio station and again, request to barter your products/services for some airtime.

    Several signs traded for the marketing value of airtime on the radio or television is a great deal for you. I suggest creating a sign for the station before meeting with them to show them what you have to offer. A simple visual mock-up of what you can create will go much further in your negotiation than a verbal description.

    Marketing strategy
    Whether it is keeping existing customers or trying to attract new ones, you will need a marketing plan. To go about your marketing without a plan will only frustrate you and cause you to get distracted from the business “fires” you are accustomed to extinguishing.

    Know your market place as well as industry trends. One way to keep up with this is to read trade magazines, join sign associations and keep in touch with others in the industry. If you want to know where you would like your company to go and how you want to get it there, you will need to stay informed. This means reading daily and picking the minds of other sign professionals. Learn how others are marketing their companies’ and what works and what doesn’t.

    Armed with the information of how you would like to market your company, put it in writing. Along with your business plan, which should also already be in written form, review the two together and make sure that they are in sync. You want to align your marketing plan with your goals.

    Next, determine a marketing budget. Put in writing how much you want to spend on marketing per month. Stick to your plan and make sure you use the funds allotted each month. You may feel the need to cut back when business picks up, but remember there will be times when you wished you had continued marketing. The Coca-Cola Company spends millions on advertising. We all know the name and what the product is. Why do they continue to spend so much on advertising? That is the point. We know the name precisely because of their commitment to branding the Coca-Cola name.

    Set realistic marketing objectives. The Coca-Cola Company used to have their name painted on the sides of barns. Practically everywhere there was a barn, Coca-Cola had their name painted on the side of it. Can you imagine what would happen if they had continued with that strategy? The company changes marketing strategy almost daily. You want to do the same. Change your marketing to fit your needs and know, or at least anticipate what your results should be from your efforts.

    Your best marketing tool is your reputation
    Nothing sells better than a man or woman keeping their word. Be a businessperson of integrity and let that philosophy seep to the core foundation of your business. Make sure everyone who works for and with you understands and abides by the same criteria.

    Marketing is more than just advertising. It is also how your company is portrayed over the phone as well as in person and perceived by the customer. Every aspect of your business, every element is an extension of it. From the first impression to the delivery of the product/service, there is an opportunity to bring the customer back or run them away. Begin today under-promising and over-delivering. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no” and a large percentage of your marketing will take care of itself.

    Take a little time to accomplish these steps today and you will free up more time to take care of your other priorities without worrying about finding time to market.

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