Many years ago I went to marketing school and on the first day the professor told a little story about the circus coming to town. It’s a great story!
If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying, “Circus is coming to Fairgrounds Sunday,” that’s Advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him through town, that’s a Promotion. If the elephant walks through the Mayor’s flower bed, that’s Publicity. If you can get the Mayor to laugh about it, that’s Public Relations. And, if you planned the whole thing, that’s Marketing!–Author Unknown
Times have changed but the principal remains the same. In a Web 2.0 world, you still need to advertise, promote, publicize, and do your PR but there are new tools AND new challenges out there!
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “you only get one chance at a first impression” but that warning should be doubly heeded in business. Let’s say you’re going to a MeetUp network meeting to promote your new business to a room full of fellow business people. You’re a little short on funds, so you decide to get your nephew (who knows a bit about computers) to create some business cards for you. He can use a template on Microsoft Publisher and print them on your inkjet printer.
You know you should have a website so you Google search to find a hosting company that’ll register and host your site for next to nothing and has tools to build the site in under an hour. Great! So that’s what you do and you’re on the web!
You have your details and email address on your business card:
So off you go to network, talk about your business and hand out your cards.
1. Your business card is obviously home made because the ink ran when a drop of coffee splashed on it.
2. You’ve gone for a free email account because it’s easy to setup and costs nothing but says nothing about your business but too much about you.
3. Your point and click website is bland and formulaic. It says little about what you really do but says an awful lot about what you don’t do!
Every business, whether small are large, has to portray its identity. If you hand out business cards that look like you designed and printed them yourself, what does that say to your potential customers? Is that how you’ll work for them?
The moral of that story is be professional at what you do best and get professionals to work on your behalf with the other stuff. Your amateur ‘first impression’ will linger long after you come to your senses and present yourself professionally.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation.
Don’t waste that first impression! When it’s gone, it’s gone!
Marketing is about creating a comfortable and reassuring environment for your potential customers. Once you achieve that, your products and services will sell themselves.
We don’t all have access to an elephant to parade through town but we can all create our own mix of marketing components. The following details how to get your show on the road!
- A comprehensive website that is tailored to your services and clearly addresses the needs of your potential customers. It should have a clear navigation system with easy access to what you do. Contacting you should be just one click away.
- A website video. No amount of text compares to actually seeing you. Many potential customers will prefer ‘check you out’ before actually meeting you face to face… so why not let them meet you through a video on your website? You can say a lot in 2 minutes about what you do and who you are. Once you have the video, link it to your social network profile, create a YouTube page, put it on Facebook… then link it all together.
- A consistent business identity is essential. Wherever your name appears, it should be consistent with other materials. You should have a recognizable logo which appears on all of your marketing materials; website, truck, store front or forehead sticker! (ok forget the sticker)
- High quality business stationery. Everything you pass out should be professional. It shows intent to your customers and it reflects on you.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software. You cannot hope to remember everyone you meet so when you get a business card, enter it into a system that will remember for you. Follow up is vital in the marketing process. A good CRM program allows you to keep track of all your customers, prospects, appointments, tasks, emails, and events. It will also synchronize directly with your iPhone or Android device.That gives you real time access to marketing ‘intelligence’.
- Get some marketing training. Marketing is about the mix of events. Remember the circus story and you’ll realize that marketing is not just an American term for advertising.
One final tip. Nothing beats word of mouth marketing. Impress someone and they’ll tell a couple of people. Appear unprofessional and provide a bad service – they’ll tell everyone they know!