Whenever I talk to business owners about their marketing efforts in their business I face the same question – “what are we doing wrong?” They tell me “We’ve tried advertising, websites, brochures, sales letters – but nothing seems to give us the response we need – what should we try next?”
They may be using the right tactics but not executing them terribly well. And this often stems from the fact that we can all get far too close to our own businesses, making it difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of potential customers or clients. This is true whether you are selling a piece of software, accountancy services, or widgets. If you cannot put yourselves in the shoes of your customer how can you respond to your marketing in the way a customer would and give an objective evaluation of what you are saying in your advertising and promotional materials?
Here are 3 simple steps you can take to improve your marketing efforts:
Objectively review your marketing materials
Take a close look at your marketing materials – your product literature, company brochure, advertisements, sales approach letters and your website, and try and read them as a client or prospect would. That’s often quickly and with a reasonably critical, or cynical, eye.
Ask yourself: What are we trying to achieve? And have we managed to get our message across in a clear and simple way? Ask – who should be reading this material? What will interest them and make them want to read? Don’t forget that what interests you won’t necessarily interest your client or prospect. Remember WIIFM – ‘what’s in it for me’ – it’s how we all approach a piece of marketing material.
Rewrite and restructure materials
If you do decide your literature falls short, and decide to rewrite, then follow some basic principles:
Firstly, be very clear who you are writing for – a consumer or business person? Are you writing for someone who is a technical expert or a novice? Will they be impressed by detailed product specification and product features, or by what the product or service actually delivers – in terms of the benefits? You’ve guessed it – you should be writing about advantages and benefits NOT features.
Think also about their motivations for buying and what will influence their choices – and don’t automatically think that price will be the key motivating factor. Quality, reliability and functionality will all come into play for product purchases and things like responsiveness, credibility and business style are considerations when people are buying services.
Think through why they might read your literature and what they need to get out of it. Sometimes there’s a temptation to cover too much in an initial communication.
Understand at what stage in the sales process your prospect might read each individual piece and write it to meet that need. Resist the temptation to cover everything in the first communication.
Leave them in no doubt what you want them to do next – call in with their order, request a detailed quote, look at your website for more details? Whatever action you want them to take make sure you have made it crystal clear. I’ve lost count of the number of sales letters I get through that leave me wondering what I’m supposed to do now.
Consider your message
Have you created a consistent and easily recognisable company and/or product image? Is your logo correctly reproduced on stationary, literature, your website, adverts and your social media presence? This might seem irrelevant but it is all part of creating the right image of your company and helping prospects to recognise and become familiar with you and therefore be more receptive to any approach you make to them.
Consider whether your message is consistent. Is it easy for people to know what you do and how you do it? Understand issues about quality and service levels? In a highly competitive business environment it’s the company with the clear and consistent message that wins though. If you don’t have a clear brand message – how are clients and prospects going to distinguish you from all the other software companies, accountancy firms or widget manufacturers in the market?
The steps above should form part of your overall marketing planning process which will include clearly defining your target market and thinking through how best to reach them. Marketing isn’t easy – but it can be made so much more effective if you follow a formal structure and approach.