To judge a person’s ambition, many people will ask the question “Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?”. When it comes to marketing, the answer to this question realistically has to be the first one. By advertising locally you can spend a lot less money than going further and wider. You can also gain the full attention of a smaller number of people, rather than barely registering with thousands. Concrete attention is what you are looking for in a potential customer.
This is not a lack of ambition, it is playing the percentages. If you wish to one day be a big company, throwing all your money away upfront to try and stir the attention of a marketplace that has plenty of other contenders clamoring for it is not a sound strategy. Becoming number one in your locality gives you a chance to diversify into neighboring territories before eventually becoming a feature on a more national stage.
It is important to be conscious of what will work for you. Ambition is a fantastic thing, but you do not want to get confused between ambition and recklessness. Business needs to be done in full awareness of what you need to do to be successful. There’s plenty of time to reach for the stars, so you should look to build a decent ladder before you try. It’s not aiming low, it’s being aware of what is possible and making sure you grab it.
An eternal rule of marketing is “Celebrity sells”. There are various reasons for this. The presence of a celebrity in an advertising campaign is likely to raise awareness, so people will notice the product more. If people think that the celebrity actually uses the product, then that makes the public even more likely to want it. And if the public see that you have the pulling power to attract a celebrity, they will respect you more automatically. At least one of those statements is horribly depressing, but all of them are true.
In cold-eyed marketing terms, however, there is no disputing the fact that having the endorsement of a local celebrity (or a national celebrity if you can afford it or somehow convince them to be part of things) is a big seller. When it comes to attracting customers, star power is still one of the surest ways to get customers through the door. If you cannot attract a major sports star, or a TV legend, then think a bit more broadly. Who is the local boy or girl who made good? Failing that, who is the star player for the most popular sports team in the area?
The most important thing in attracting customers with the power of celebrity is to pick someone who can give the impression of actually wanting to be there. Many celebrity endorsements have fallen flat because the celebrity turned up late, more or less read from a card “I am a big fan of this service or product” and left about fifteen minutes before they were due to. If you have networking skills, this is where they come in useful.
Trade fairs have been part of local and regional business for some years now, and they are still an excellent way of getting more interest in your business. By attending trade fairs and being a visible presence it is possible to show that you are a relevant company with a lot to offer, and to make valuable contacts which may be beneficial to you later on. Getting a stand at any local trade fair is a good place to start your marketing push.
Trade fairs are fairly unvarnished in what they aim to do and how they go about it. The clue is right there in the name, the idea is to get people doing business. By being a visible presence you can persuade people to find out more about you, and convince them to spend some of their money with you. Walking around the room at a trade fair is one way to get more ideas on how you can connect with an audience, too.
It helps if you are prepared to let your charisma shine out. If you happen to think that you are low on charisma, ensure that a company employee who has more charisma is on the stand at all times. It’s unbearably corny – and even more unbearably true – that being smiled at makes people more likely to do business. This works, as long as the smile is more along the lines of “we’re a fun company and we’d like to work with you” than “I’m sitting here because I’m not sure I can pay the mortgage this month”.
The majority of offline marketing must by necessity be done in the local area to be efficient. In this respect, it is beneficial to make yourself as much of a local face as it is possible to be without everyone getting sick of you. Getting your picture in the paper on a regular basis is good. Getting your face in the paper with a headline above it saying “Local Blowhard Puts Nose In Other People’s Business Again” might not be so positive.
Being a community face is something that need not be hard to achieve. People will be more likely to think of your company when they need it if they see your name and face on a regular basis. Of course it is important that they associate your name, face and identity with positive things, but as long as you are not that pompous blowhard this need not be difficult to achieve.
Getting involved at a local level means doing things like raising awareness of public safety and health issues – if you are always writing to the local newspaper to complain about the scruffiness of local children, then you’re verging on blowhard territory.
Taking the role of a helpful, interested citizen will pay off in the long run. Without even thinking about it much, people will gravitate towards businesses that they can make a positive association with. Getting involved at a local level need not cost you anything at all – but if you are prepared to contribute to a local charity then that’s always good.
The term “mailing list” and indeed many variations on the word “mail” have become more or less synonymous in recent years with e-mail. This is an interesting development, because companies have been using mailing lists since long before the advent of the Internet. In this day and age there is no reason for that to change, when in actual fact there is still a benefit to sending things out in the actual mail – the one that requires no computer.
Building a contact list is something that every company should be looking to do. With the right contacts it is possible to reach a market and get information across to them in a considered way which lets them come to the decision you want them to make. How you go about getting those contacts is a matter for you, but many companies will do it by providing a comments slip with every product they sell. When the customer fills it in and sends it back, you have their details.
If you operate a mail order service, then you have the addresses of past customers. This makes it easy to send them information on more services and products that they might be interested in, and clue them in on special offers. You can do this by sending a flyer, or by writing a more personal letter which speaks directly to the customer as a person. In doing this, you retain an element of trust and straight-talking which can persuade a lot of people to do business with you.
One of the most depressing sights in all of marketing is that of a company trying to appear to be “just like you”. There has been a rise in recent years in the number of companies who make advertisements that try too hard to position the company as “the customer’s friend” and perhaps the most galling example of this is when companies resort to “txt spk” – the abbreviated form of language which is commonly used in text messages to fit into a character limit.
In advertising there are no character limits. You don’t need to misspell words to convince people that your product is something they might like to buy. You don’t need to pretend that you are “just the same” as the customer. And if you do that by dumbing down, you end up insulting their intelligence, which is worse. Clarity is more important than identifying with the customer. In the nicest possible way, you are not their friend. They have enough friends anyway. What they need is a DVD player that works, or a sandwich that sates their hunger and tastes great.
By speaking clearly and literately, you position yourself as a company the customer can respect and who they will be willing to buy from. There is no benefit to pretending that you are something you’re not. At the end of the day you are asking them to hand money over – would a friend do that? Surely they’d give them the items for free?
If you were to ask a hundred consumers what the most annoying thing about marketing was, then it is a safe bet that at least a quarter of them would use the word “lie” in some form. They hate being lied to, and they are less likely to take notice of marketing every time someone tells them a lie. This has led to a cynical market out there which is very difficult to nail down through conventional marketing. If you tell them that something is too good to be true, then they’ll believe that it is – and therefore must be a lie.
There is a lot of mileage in being honest to the customer. This doesn’t mean saying to them: “If I were you, I’d go elsewhere. I know another shop that sells this item at about half the price.”. What it means is that you concentrate on the facts and avoid making your product out to be the answer to all their problems when all they really want to hear is that it will make their life easier, more enjoyable or more convenient. It may even be that the product is better than you make it out to be, and when that is the case they are even more impressed.
Gaining a reputation for straight talking is worthwhile. People who are fed up of being lied to will really value the word of someone who is prepared to be less hyperbolic and more constructive in their marketing. Don’t undersell yourself, but be prepared to tone down the rhetoric. In the long run, people will spend more when they trust the salesman.
When you are marketing your company, the one thing you can be absolutely sure of is that you want the public to think of you as the only company they want to come to in your sector. This means putting yourself above the competition, and this in itself can be a tricky proposition. Obviously you have confidence in your company, but you are biased. How do you convince someone who has no vested interest in giving you money to go ahead and do just that, instead of going to another company?
The fact is that people have free will, and will choose between companies by judging them on their merits. This leads some companies to run hostile advertisements, actively attacking their competition in one way or another. It will usually be somewhat subtle, but it is usually completely graceless. The idea that you can convince people to choose your product by telling them that it is “better than that other company’s product” is pretty misguided. If you sell your company by referencing another, rather than talking about all the great things yours does, it’s a risky strategy.
Apart from anything else, you risk being drawn into a tit-for-tat war with another company, who will probably find things that they can attack about yours. This is a needless situation to be in, as it makes you look immature and amateurish when by focusing on your good points you could be selling yourself far more effectively.
One of the most popular forms of marketing on the Internet is known as “viral” marketing. If you are not already aware of this, it is a form of marketing which involves placing advertisements on the Internet and creating a buzz around them by targeting them in a way which makes it almost impossible to avoid noticing them. Whether it is in the form of an off-the-wall video clip, a free game or a character blog, it can be immensely effective.
Viral marketing is possible without the Internet, but is a touch more difficult to achieve without the instant connection that the web gives to users. It requires a little more trickery to make it work, but if you are prepared to put the time in it can be as effective as the Internet form. You need to start by arousing curiosity. People need to think “what is this about?”. It could begin with a letter to a local newspaper which makes some outlandish claim, getting people to respond and building into a local news story.
The idea is that you build up hype around the product without revealing what it is. People will be keen to join in the guessing game so that they can be the one to say “I was right!”. When you eventually reveal what the fuss was about (and it is a good idea to have something pretty special to show the customers at this point), you will have the attention of a large group of people, something that advertisers will pay huge money to get.
Many companies who are looking to make themselves more prominent in the public eye will go for a big-hitting strategy. Although it is expensive and maybe a risky strategy, they will buy TV time and record an advertisement to be shown on a local or regional station. Alternatively they may take out a full page ad in a newspaper or place short, repeated ads on the radio. By spending maybe more than they should, they hope to pull in customers.
The problem with this approach is that no matter how much you spend, you cannot guarantee success. It is very hard to predict the future with any sort of accuracy and, if you place advertising on national TV (on a certain station), you can never be sure that something will not happen between the placing of your advertisement and the time it is meant to run, causing everyone to watch the other side and losing you that marketing punch. It may be unlikely but you cannot guard against it, and it shows the perils of putting all your eggs in one basket.
If you want to bring in customers, history shows that you need to build attention from the ground up. As you get more attention, it gets easier to increase your pull. Doing this gradually rather than going for it all in one hit is the way to go. When you can afford to place TV advertising, go for it – but as a gamble it just doesn’t represent odds that are worth taking.