Posts Tagged ‘perceived value’

The Solid Gold, No-fail Key to Marketing Success

Monday, August 20th, 2012

About 15 years ago, when I had just started as marketing director for a small New England college, I bumped into one of the faculty as we collected our mail. When I introduced myself, he balked. “So, you’re going to give us the Madison Avenue treatment,” he said, making no effort to hide his disdain.

We later became friends, but his remarks unnerved me. I was new to my job and had just been given the role of marketing head a short week after arriving to direct the college’s communications efforts. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and his comments made me feel like I was leading some tainted effort to snare potential students with sleazy sales pitches.

Marketing Must Be Authentic to Persuade
Of course, that’s a common misperception of marketing, with a basis in truth. Traditional advertising manipulates our emotions to get us to buy. But we’re long past the days when the Don Drapers of the world could push out one-way messaging without consumer push-back (unless, of course, the product was a total dud).

Marketing (which includes advertising), especially on today’s consumer-driven Internet frontier, has to be authentic to persuade. Messaging is no longer one-way. Consumers have many options to research products and services online; reviews, forums, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and more provide ample ways to confirm or deny marketing claims. Bad reviews spread with the speed of data transmission.

While the fear of someone sinking your business with a critique that goes viral may be enough motivation to be authentic, here’s a much better reason: Integrity is the key to effective marketing.

Be True to Yourself and Honest with Your Clients
Whether you’re creating content for your website, a blog post or a tweet, be true to yourself and you’ll never have to worry about making promises that you can’t fulfill even if you mean well, getting business under false pretenses, or overextending yourself and undercutting expectations.

I share this because marketing can seem such an overwhelming and unpleasant prospect, a necessary evil when you’re a small business owner who already has far too much to accomplish each day. It’s often the lowest priority on your to-do list, the tightest budget item. You know you have to do it to get business, but, like my former college colleague, you avoid it or hold your nose.

Discover Your Strengths to Reach Those You Help Most
So, consider this: Marketing is certainly challenging. It involves a lot of time and attention to detail and strategy and follow-through. But marketing is also one of the best ways I know to discover your strengths, the true value of your work and how you’re helping others. Developing a solid strategy forces you to think rigorously about your ideal client, the problems and mistakes she struggles with, and how you help her to find solutions. Telling your true story becomes a source of pride in all of your hard work and accomplishments, as well as a means to get the word out and find more great clients to help. Honest client feedback enables you to do even better.

While I was marketing director at that college, I made a solid commitment never to create any false advertising. Sometimes I had to rein in enthusiastic colleagues who wanted to oversell their programs. Sometimes I had to say no. I worked hard to find and tell honest stories, and the college attracted more qualified students.

The same will hold true for your business. Be authentic, serve with excellence, market with integrity, and your work with thrive.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Getting Unstuck: What to Do When You Have a Great Website but Nobody’s Buying

Monday, August 13th, 2012

You have a great website for your product or service, but for some reason, nobody’s buying. Potential clients find you online, and you can tell from your web analytics that they’re reading into your site. But not clicking on your call-to-action. What gives?

Before you change any aspect of your marketing message, and especially before you lower your pricing—the obvious target if you’re nervous about customers and cash flow—it’s well worth your time to find out the actual points of resistance.

Research to Discover Points of Resistance
If you’ve been able to capture emails through free downloads of quality content or  subscriptions to your blog or e-newsletter, you can create a survey through tools like Survey Monkey and query your potential client base. How do they make decisions about purchasing a product or service like yours? How much are they willing to spend? What are the key factors they require? What are the deal-breakers?

In addition, or as an alternative if you don’t have a qualified list, attend a networking meeting of people who fit the profile of your potential clients and see what you can learn in conversations (yes, in person!) about their decision process. Your best research prospects are people who show some interest, then back off. Without getting defensive or pressuring, try to draw them out about what may not be working for them.

A third research tactic is to use social media to network with practitioners in your field and find out what points of resistance they experience. LinkedIn, for example, has discussion groups for just about any professional field, and if you don’t find what you need, you can create a group. Fellow professionals, especially beyond your geographic region, are often more than willing to share their experiences and struggles with building a client base.

Anticipate and Address Purchaser Concerns in Your Web Copy
What you discover may surprise you. Price may not be the issue at all. Time can be a key factor, for example. If your product or service appears to demand more time than potential clients have to spare, they’ll search elsewhere. Complexity can be another stumbling block—if the mechanics of your work are too difficult to understand or the benefits too hard to decipher, you’ll lose customers, as well.

Once you’ve determined the true points of resistance, then it’s time to figure out the solution. If you have to rework your product or suffer from lousy customer service, you have a bigger project on your hands. But often it’s just a matter of anticipating and addressing customer purchasing concerns in your web copy. The trick is to answer the concern without raising it directly.

For example, if implementation time is an issue, feature the five easy steps to using your product or how your service saves time in other key aspects of your client’s life. If complexity is a concern, promote your 24/7 help line. And if price is the real stumbling block, but you know your pricing is accurate, then detail all of the true benefits that make your product or service worth the investment.

It all comes down to understanding your ideal client, the steps she goes through in making a purchasing decision and the deal-killers in her mind. As with all good writing, stage your content in a logical sequence that anticipates and answers your reader’s questions. You’ll establish your expertise, build trust in your understanding of your client’s needs and improve your chances of making that sale.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Searching for the Right Message? Ask Your Valued Customers

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I know a general contractor who, at the end of every job, no matter what’s involved, always checks each door in his client’s home to be sure that it opens and closes properly and that the lock works.

Not your average contractor. And you can be sure that his clients love his work and are happy to refer him to others.

That personal touch and commitment to treating each client’s house as if it were his own home is what sets him apart. It embodies his business ethic and workmanship, and is the cornerstone of his excellent reputation.

The Key to Persuasive, Honest Marketing
Knowing what your most valued customers prize about you and your business is the key to persuasive and honest marketing.

Often, our first instinct is to describe what we think are the most important selling points about our product or service—why we believe it’s valuable and worthwhile for our customers, because we’ve worked so hard to create something that we’re sure is useful.

But the strongest selling points may be qualities we haven’t recognized or that we take for granted—like commitment to quality, being reliable or providing that extra service without being asked.

Base Your Message on Customer Referrals
The best way to find out the perceived value of your product or service? Borrowing from a great recent Authority Rules webinar with John Janscht and Sonia Simone: Just ask your best customers, the ones who refer you to their friends.

You’re not fishing for compliments, here. You’re asking them for an honest assessment and the words they use when they describe you to others. Use that feedback as the basis for your marketing message—and keep up the good work!