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Strictly Business: How To Diagnose and Cure Poor Marketing
Posted Apr 2, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Once in a while, I get aches and pains that I can't (or won't) attribute to advancing age. Usually they're just symptoms of trying to accomplish too much in a 24-hour period. But sometimes, they're something more. It's the same with business. Sometimes it's "just slow."
 But often there's more to it. The health of any business—large or small—depends on its ability to attract new clients while retaining the present ones. If your sales figures look pretty ill, maybe you need to examine your marketing plan. A poor marketing plan typically causes businesses to respond in one or all of three ways. Crisis-driven, which means reacting impulsively when they lose a key client or when there's a change in the marketplace. Price-driven, which means cutting prices and profit margins to get or keep business. And competitor-driven, which is always watching what the competition is doing, then attempting to outdo or undercut them. If any of these sound familiar, read on.

Here are some symptoms—and some proven cures—for what might be ailing your marketing efforts.

Symptom #1: You take action only when you need to increase your sales. Companies of all sizes make the mistake of hoarding their advertising and marketing dollars until sales start to lag. One reason to market yourself consistently is to make sure your business is strong at all times. Think of marketing as a proactive program designed to maintain sales rather than a reactive program put in place to overcome occasional slumps.

Symptom #2: You shoot from the hip. Many videographers have no set marketing plan, but believe they can market their services with infrequent direct mailings or occasional ads in local publications. Marketing demands a carefully conceived and executed plan. Before you can anticipate results, you must know what you wish to accomplish and how you're going to do it.

Symptom #3: You duplicate what your competitors are doing. Do you put all your energy into knowing exactly what the "other guys" are doing—almost before they do it—and then coming out with similar promotional materials? This strategy misdirects your time and efforts away from your own products, services, and customers. There's value in "knowing your enemy," because then you can sell your prices and your benefits with absolute certainty. But the real issue—the cure—is in not emulating your competitors or beating them to the (same) punch. It's in learning how to communicate the value of your products and services to your customers and prospects.

Symptom #4: You expect big results from a small budget. If your priority is to minimize the initial cash investment while preparing your promotional materials, determining the quality of your mailing list or your online search engine optimization program, and finding out how you can meet the real needs of your customers, then you cannot realistically expect good results. You must have realistic expectations for the return on your initial investment, and be willing to put a good portion of your proceeds back into the budget. That's the way small businesses get big—slowly and carefully.

Symptom #5: You neglect market research. Even small businesses need to conduct research on their prospective customers, to find out how those prospects think, what their buying patterns are, and what their problems are. If you disregard research, even the most expensive websites, demo videos, and direct mail pieces won't be effective. A simple customer survey will help you understand exactly what types of services, benefits, and price structures your prospects want from you. Do this over the phone, via email, or even through a simple direct mail piece.

Symptom #6: You minimize the value of good design. Effective, attractive artwork and print production aren't cheap, but they will save you money in the long run because you'll gain more customers. Just remember not to let the creative tail wag the sales dog; don't let your designer sacrifice your sales message for a hip format or layout. The message you present in your copy is your real key to sales, no matter what the artist tries to tell (or sell) you.

Symptom #7: You produce an ad or promotion and then run it only once. Good advertising relies on cumulative effects. Usually an ad message must appear at least three times before you see any results. So don't get discouraged if you don't see much return on your ad the first or second time it runs. Track it, though—if you don't see meaningful results after three months, you're either in the wrong media or you're putting out the wrong kind of message.

Symptom #8: You refuse to work with the media. Consumer and business publications alike are interested in what you have to say, simply because you possess expertise in the hot video field. Telling your story through the various media available to you helps to create a level of editorial credibility that can't be gained any other way.

Symptom #9: You don't seek professional marketing advice. If your efforts don't produce results, ask the advice of a professional marketing consultant who can be objective and will tell you the truth. You may discover a lot of ways to stop wasting your marketing dollars.

If you've found that you're suffering from any of these marketing ills, then congratulations! Pinpointing the symptoms is the first step towards recovery. The second is an objective re-evaluation. The third is to start fixing these problems. You've taken the first step. Now enhance your business and your profits by taking the next two.

Steve Yankee has more than 35 years of video production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Michigan.

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