It’s Time to Take a Fresh Look at How You Market Your Company. Here’s How

When was the last time you took a look at how you are marketing your company and the products and services you sell?

Perhaps your philosophy is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But now and then it’s a good idea to pull back on the lens and take a look at your company to see if you’ve got the basics covered, which is exactly what I did.

Here are the 10 areas I decided to look at to see whether I was on track.

1. Focus

In the past, I’ve been a bit of a magpie, grabbing hold of anything that appeared shiny. Not to mix metaphors, but I kept seeing greener grass just over “there.” So I decided to focus on fewer but better products and started to focus my budget and my time on what was really working and bringing in both revenue and profit.

At the same time, I pared down the number of prospects I approached, which allowed me to spend more time on those that offered the greatest potential.

2. Status

Once I had identified the key products I wanted to promote, I worked at demonstrating my company’s superior expertise in those areas: we added more testimonials to our websites, but more importantly, we started a blog on one of the sites that discussed the market, the industry, and anything that was pertinent to what we sell, and of interest to the people who buy what we sell.

Focusing on fewer prospects had another, somewhat unexpected benefit: it allowed us to send them samples of our product. Whereas the response from a single letter, or e-mail, was negligible, especially without a follow-up call, sending an actual sample has paid dividends, with prospects actually calling us for more.

The reason? When you send something of value, they know you are serious, that you are invested, and by giving them the chance to feel the quality of your product, they can judge for themselves how good you really are at what you produce.

3. Understanding

It’s an old chestnut, but it’s still true: you have to understand what will motivate your prospect to buy.

Ask yourself: why do they need, or want, what I am selling? How do I demonstrate the benefits each particular prospect will get from purchasing my product or service?

4. Message

Focusing on fewer products led me to realize that I had two distinct, but allied, product ranges. This led me to question how I was going to ensure my message was on target for both.

I decided to create a new website, and transported one complete product range to it. This allowed me to create a unique look and feel, but more importantly create a focused message and brand. This strategy dramatically focused attention on each product range individually.

5. Reputation

We all tend to think our reputation is unsullied, but do you know if yours is OK? It doesn’t matter how good you are, or helpful, or efficient — it sometimes takes just one hard-to-please person to impugn your integrity. In today’s social media-crazy world, there is no shortage of places where people can review your business. Heard of Yelp?

Is someone saying something about your business? Perhaps you should find out.

6. Creativity

I wrote about this subject in a recent column, so I won’t belabour the point here, but suffice it to say the more creative you are in every aspect of your marketing, the more you are going to attract customers in a difficult market.

Think about it: how can you increase your creativity quotient?

7. Quality/Value

In my opinion, the Holy Grail of marketing today is to communicate quality while promoting value. Having less money in our pockets has not changed our desire for quality.

I dropped into Med Grill in Royal Oak on a Wednesday evening a few months ago to discover it absolutely packed and no sign of the HST/drunk-driving malaise being suffered by most of the hospitality industry. The reason was obvious as soon as we sat down: a four-course Tuscan menu for $19.99 — a great example of quality and value in perfect harmony.

8. Loyalty

The bedrock of a business are loyal customers and suppliers who’ve stood by you through good times and bad.

Consider how you can use the strong relationships you’ve built to promote your business. Perhaps you could ask for a testimonial from customers who appreciate you most, and use it on your website, or in a promotional campaign. Perhaps you could work with suppliers on cooperative advertising from which you would both benefit.

9. Partnering

Speaking of cooperative advertising and marketing — it’s about to make a comeback. If you’re looking for ways to get more bang for your buck, then joining forces with your suppliers, or others in your market, might offer an opportunity to invest in a promotional activity that has far more impact than if you were to go it alone.

10. Deals

Everybody’s looking for a deal. Earlier, I talked about offering quality along with great value, but now I want to focus on the value part of the equation.

Groupon is just one of many companies that negotiate large discounts with a wide range of businesses and then forward the deals to a massive database of eager bargain hunters. Similar companies include: Living Social, SwarmJam, Vancouver- and Victoria-based Wonton, Buy with Me, and my personal favourite, Snique Away. But is this wise marketing?

Well, it depends on the type of product or service you sell, and your expectations. If you promote something through these sites, you have to think of it as a loss leader. By the time the site has taken its share of your profit, there won’t be a lot left, but you will have been exposed to a great number of people who may not have heard of you before.

My advice is to dust off your calculator and crunch the numbers before offering to cut your margins drastically. However, if you can clear some inventory, make a small profit (or at least not lose money), and get much-needed exposure, then it may well be worth the gamble.

Taking a fresh look at how you market your company and your product line is always a good idea, even more so when times are challenging. The last thing you want to do is cut back on promotional activity — when did that ever help you sell more?

Written by Mike Wicks for Douglas Magazine.