With the new year just around the corner, this seems as good a time as any to get started.
Declutter your message. Are you sending a clear, consistent message with all of your marketing? You should. People will remember you more readily if you keep your message consistent and clean. "You're in good hands." "A diamond is forever." "The breakfast of champions." "Is it live, or is it Memorex?" I could go on, but you get the point. A consistent, unified message helps to make your marketing more memorable and effective.
Declutter your design. Ever visited a website, seen a billboard, watched a commercial, or read a print piece that left you overwhelmed? Perhaps maybe even your own? One of Steve Jobs' proudest legacies at Apple was simplicity (and elegance) of design. It carried through (and still does) not only in the products Apple makes but also in its packaging, its website, its print ads, its stores, and all of the various other marketing the company does. Simple, clean, elegant design provides visual clarity and eliminates the unnecessary clutter, confusion, and noise.
Declutter your approach. Are you a dabbler? A jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none? That may serve you well in life, but it's no way to handle your marketing. That's not to say you shouldn't market in multiple media (you should), but you need to start with a plan that spells out the reasons and goals for each medium you enter. Once that's established, you can then work your plan, knowing that each marketing effort you start is part of a grander vision with clear expectations and tangible goals.
Schizophrenic, hit-and-miss marketing efforts, taken just for the sake of "doing something" or following the latest trend, will drain your budget and leave you with just as schizophrenic results. On the other hand, clear, consistent, clutter-free marketing will (over time) produce more consistent and satisfying results. And isn't that the goal of marketing?
So, what are some other ways you can think of to declutter your marketing? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
- Hold a sale. We've all seen ads with the idea of "the boss is away, so we're having a sale" or something to that effect. Have fun with it, and make it memorable.
- Send postcards. Bring the names and addresses of your top customers with you, and send them postcards from on the road. Or send postcards back to the office, and have your employees post them in a common area where everyone (customers included) can see them.
- Blog about it. Along those same lines, post regular updates to the company (and/or your personal) blog, with lots of photos and details about the things you're doing on your trip.
- Encourage involvement. Ask your customers to send you updates when they go on vacation, then post them to a display at work or as guest posts on your blog.
- Have some fun. Bring along an item related to your company, such as a shopping bag or mug with your logo on it, or a fun object like a garden gnome or stuffed animal wearing a company shirt. Then take pictures of the object sitting in front of popular tourist attractions.
- Make a promotion/game out of it by encouraging your customers to do the same thing on their trips or by having people guess where these photos of your "mascot" were taken. If you have your customers take their own photos, supply them with the "mascot" to take with them on their trip, and offer an incentive for participating (such as $x off their next purchase for each photo they provide).
A young entrepreneur moved from Philadelphia to Chicago in 1891 with $32 in his pocket and the idea of selling his family's scouring soap to customers. As an incentive, the 29-year-old offered free baking powder with each soap purchase.
Before long, the baking powder became so popular that he began selling it instead. He then came up with a new incentive: two free packages of chewing gum with each can of baking powder sold.
As you might have guessed, the gum proved more popular than the baking powder, so he decided to change his product line once again. And that is how William Wrigley, Jr., started one of the most iconic brands of chewing gum on the market today.
In business (as in life), things don't always go exactly as we plan. Markets change, technologies evolve, and what worked yesterday won't always work today, tomorrow, or down the road.
Knowing when -- and how -- to adapt can mean the difference between success and failure for any enterprise. In Wrigley's case, that meant understanding his customers' evolving needs -- and adapting his product line to meet those new demands.
What will it mean for you and your company in 2012? Only time will tell, so be prepared to recognize new trends, embrace new attitudes, and adapt your plans accordingly.
- Plan ahead. Outline your thoughts before you start drafting your letter. Decide what you want to say and how you want to say it.
- Start strong. If you're not sure how to open your letter, consider a quote, anecdote, story, or other attention-getting device. But keep it short. Remember, you want to get the reader's attention... not get it and then lose it right away.
- Don't bury the lead. Avoid the temptation to "build excitement" for two or three paragraphs before revealing your reason for writing. Come out and state it right away in the opening paragraph or two. If you're offering a discount or requesting a meeting, say so up front. Your reader is busy. Respect their time.
- Use short, active sentences. Your letter will flow better and be easier to read. By the same token, keep the tone conversational and avoid exaggerations, embellishments, and flowery prose.
- Consider headlines and bulleted lists. Busy readers are far more likely to skim your letter than to read it word for word. Headlines and bulleted lists will help draw attention to the points you want to emphasize.
- Add a P.S. A reader's eyes are naturally drawn to the P.S. line when they read a letter, so use a P.S. to restate your offer or emphasize a key point you made elsewhere in your letter. Consider making it a handwritten P.S. (depending on your penmanship) for even greater effect.
- Proof it carefully. Don't rely on your software's spell-checker to catch every mistake. Ideally, you'll want to print the letter out and proof it on paper, rather than just proofing it on screen. If time permits, allow a day between the time you write the letter and proofread it, so you see your words with fresher eyes and a more objective point of view.
1. Believe in what you're selling.
It's always easier to convince someone else to buy your product or service if you truly believe doing so is in the best interest of the customer. When you believe in the products you sell, your passion and enthusiasm shine through. So make sure your products and services are worthy of your talent and time. If they aren't, decide why not. Then improve them until they are.
2. Anticipate objections.
What potential worries might prospects have when they first see your products? The specifics will vary of course based on the kinds of products you sell. For some, there might be pricing concerns or worries over setup costs and the learning curve. For others, security, safety, or support might be more apropos. Whatever the case, think of as many objections as you can ahead of time, then look for creative ways to address those issues as part of your presentation. Prospects will feel more confident investing in your products or services once they see how much thought and effort you put into overcoming the "real world" challenges facing them.
3. Listen... and hear.
We've all heard the adage that we have two ears and one mouth so we listen twice as much as we speak. In sales, listening is essential -- as is truly hearing what a prospect is saying and determining what they really mean by what they say. So how can you improve your listening? Start by asking questions and restating the concerns a prospect shares with you, so you're sure you understand them properly. All of this will go a long way in helping you connect, build trust, and reach a mutually beneficial sale.
4. Remain positive.
This is potentially the hardest step to follow. No one likes to hear criticism leveled against the products and services they've worked so hard to develop, build, and sell. But objections are natural, and they aren't personal. Remember that the customer is just trying to make sure they get the best value for their hard-earned money. So try not to get defensive when someone raises an objection. Instead, try to get to the bottom of what's causing the concern, so you can address it properly and help the prospect feel more comfortable about the sale. Stay as professional and upbeat as you can. Don't sugarcoat legitimate concerns, but don't get shaken, either. Remember that objections are a part of every sale.
I will not just live my life.
I will not just spend my life.
I will invest my life.
As you probably know, Helen Keller was an incredible woman who, despite being born both blind and deaf, became an accomplished author, speaker, and activist. She invested her life helping others, and the world was better for it. In her lifetime, she inspired many with her words and actions alike, even earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
I like the idea of life as an investment. Unfortunately, in our busy and hectic world, it can be easy sometimes to forget that time is our most precious commodity and that we must do more than spend it. We must invest it in the people we care about, the causes that inspire us, and the businesses we're working to grow.
So how are you investing your life? And how do you plan to invest it in the year ahead?
Michelangelo once wrote, "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." Make sure you're aiming high and investing your life wisely.
- Designate one person in your company to be in charge of your company portfolio.
- Consider inserting documents or photos into plastic sleeves or pockets in a three-ring binder. Not only are the pages protected, but they can also be reorganized.
- Use labeled tab dividers to organize by date and/or topic.
- Include original documents and marketing materials whenever possible, and do not write on the documents themselves. Instead, insert a piece of paper to highlight the date or write other notes.
- Keep separate binders for news articles, advertisements, promotional materials, certifications, awards, etc.
- Create a marketing binder that highlights all of your print materials, from simple, one page product flyers to product catalogs. This is also a great way to keep track of previous promotions, past products, and messaging.
- Create a reminder in your calendar to update your portfolio regularly (monthly or quarterly) so information doesn't fall by the wayside.
- Encourage customers to purchase from you rather than your competition by designating specific products or services for your charity. For example, "5 percent of proceeds from all XYZ pet products purchased benefits local animal shelters."
- Add a feature section to your website, highlighting your charity. Include a link to the charity's website, as well as information about any upcoming charity events.
- Create a giving campaign for your charity, and encourage customers to join in. This will help build stronger relationships with your customers and nurture a sense of pride in helping toward a common goal. For example, you might try something like this: "We will donate $1 for every canned food donation we receive during our Annual Food Drive for the Hungry."
- Send a press release to local media to publicize your donations to charities.
- Promote your charitable involvement in your newsletters, flyers, brochures, advertisements, etc.
- Promote your charity at your business. Make brochures about the charity available, include charity flyers with purchases, hold internal fundraising contests, etc.
- Advertise your products and services in your charity's preferred communication vehicles, such as newsletters.
- Offer exclusive discounts to people involved with your charity.
- Donate items to your charity that they can use for raffles or other fundraising events. The presence of your donation is an advertisement in itself.
- Instead of sending customers Christmas cards or gifts, let them know you are making a contribution to your charity instead.