Marketing For Dummies
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The main goal of marketing is to boost sales and profits. Harness the energy of good marketing by focusing more tightly on the right prospects and by taking a creative approach to your marketing communications and strategies. Combine creativity, cost controls, learning from other people’s marketing errors, and a strategic marketing approach to target the best customers.

Marketing to produce more sales

Successful marketing produces profitable sales. Here are some ideas for those moments when you decide you really need to concentrate on how to boost sales to a higher level:

  • Sell to super customers. Someone who writes a blog about your industry, gets quoted in an industry magazine, or presents at an industry conference is a super customer (that is, someone who influences many other buyers). Win them over, and the rest of the market tends to follow.

  • Make a limited-time, free-trial offer. This tried-and-true formula moves product better than anything else, because people love a chance to try something before they have to commit. (The smartest thing any car dealer can do to make a sale is say, “Would you like a test drive?”) Get your product in potential customers’ hands and grow your market each time someone decides to keep it. But set time limits to help control redemption rates because online offers sometimes get picked up and promoted by bloggers, bumping up redemption above your budgeted level.

  • Hire more salespeople on commission. Old-fashioned face-to-face selling is still effective in business-to-business and wholesale industries (which make up the majority of businesses). Sign up sales representatives who are willing to work for a commission. Double the number of sales calls, and you’re bound to score more business.

  • Create a parallel distribution channel. For example, if you don’t already sell on the web, start your own web store or set up shop as a store and auctioneer on eBay. (eBay is great for businesses with any fairly straightforward consumer product because there’s so much customer traffic to tap into. Amazon is also a good place to market, with greater customer reach than any other.)

  • Bundle your product with one or several complementary products and offer a special package deal. The right bundle may boost sales dramatically, especially if you make it a limited-time offer. For example, combine an art pad, a box of drawing pens, a short booklet on drawing favorite Anime characters, and a watercolor set, and you have a great holiday gift idea. Alone, none of those products would likely jump off the shelf.

  • Send monthly postcards or e-mails with discount codes, special offers, or announcements. A postcard is an inexpensive form of direct mail. If you have a good customer list, use it at least once a month. The more you reach out to your customer base, the more it’ll buy what you’re selling.

Cut your marketing budget without losing customers

Sometimes you’re forced to slash your marketing budget, whether you want to or not. But advertising less doesn’t have to mean pulling in fewer customers. Following are some ideas for cutting your marketing expenses with minimal damage to your customer base:

  • Eliminate advertising in media that don’t produce as well. One-half to two-thirds of the places where you advertise are probably relatively low producers. Analyze where your sales come from and then shift your budget to a handful of top-performing media buys.

  • Follow the media bargains. If network TV ads are expensive but local cable ads are cheap, go for the cheap option, which can still get you in front of customers while saving you some bucks. Look for relatively new magazines and ask for a special introductory price on full-page ads. You can always find bargains if you make a point of searching for them. (There are a growing number of marketing brokers and agencies that seek deals on the web, too.)

  • Bid on narrowly defined key terms on Google’s search engine. Pay-per-click ads are economical if you choose key terms carefully to avoid the most popular ones and favor narrow, highly specific terms (which usually cost less while also getting you to the top of a search result for consumers who know exactly what they want). Monitor your search engine advertising daily, and you can keep costs surprisingly low.

  • Reduce or eliminate expensive full-color catalogs and brochures. Use your website as a substitute for costly printed reference materials. If you really need a 20-page, full-color brochure to communicate detailed product information, make it a virtual brochure that can be read page by page on your website or on a portable device reader.

  • Explore viral marketing on the web. Start an expert blog to inform customers with how-to tips. Hold a contest for the funniest video featuring your product, and post the winning videos on YouTube. Send e-mail press releases to a hundred top bloggers every month. Ask employees and friends to help you build a popular page for your brand on Facebook.

  • Vow to never lose a good customer. Whenever you have a customer who’s upset or at risk, find out why and win him or her back. Finding new customers costs more than keeping the old ones, so customer retention keeps costs low.

  • Figure out how you lose the most prospects and then concentrate your marketing to convert more of your prospects into customers. For instance, you may be losing prospects by not following through well enough on initial inquiries. If so, shorten the response time and consider adding another salesperson. When you have a prospect in hand, closing the sale is cheaper than losing the prospect and having to go out and find another.

5 ways to boost results with creativity

Marketing can do amazing things for a business if the process is creative and innovative. Here are some simple techniques to add creative energy to all your marketing efforts:

  • Brainstorming: Think of 100 new ideas for marketing your business and then use the best ten, or even just the best one. Just do something new and exciting every now and then to keep things fresh!

  • Analogies: Think of products that your product is similar to and tell the customer (or potential customer) why. This famous creativity exercise adds insight and interest to your marketing communications. For instance, instead of saying, “Our cleaning services are 100% reliable,” you could say, “Having us clean your office is like moving into a brand-new building every week!”

  • Pass-along: Write a simple sales or marketing idea on a piece of paper or in an e-mail and then pass that idea along to someone else with the instruction that they should add to it or list another idea. Keep circulating the paper or e-mail until your coworkers or friends have helped you generate a long list of ideas and options to choose from.

  • Question assumptions: Make a list of stupid questions and take the time to ask people what they think. “Why do you have to have branches to be in the banking business?” is a good example of a “stupid” question that may lead to a breakthrough marketing concept. And in fact, there’s such a thing as direct banking, in which the bank avoids retail branches and their high costs. Could you, if you work in a conventional bank, start a direct-banking division and double your bank’s size without the need for bricks and mortar?

  • Rewriting: Good ol’ editing and rewriting can lead you to better marketing communications. In fact, rewriting opens more creative doors than any other technique. Take a copy of a brochure, and make yourself come up with five new headlines or titles that you can use for the cover. You’ll probably come up with at least one headline that’s much more striking and interesting than the existing one.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Jeanette McMurtry, MBA, is a global authority, columnist, and keynote speaker on consumer behavior and psychology-based marketing strategies. Her clients have included consumer and B2B enterprises ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 100 brands. A marketing thought leader, she has contributed to Forbes, CNBC, Data & Marketing Association, DM News, and Target Marketing magazine.

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