My guest columnist this week is Randye Spina of Affordable Marketing Solutions in Fairfield, Connecticut. The following is an excerpt from her presentation "Tips for Manifesting a Marketing Mindset" (taken with permission), which is available on the Affordable Marketing Solutions website:
"Prioritize Marketing. Of all the business functions you're responsible for, Marketing is the most important. Marketing is the only revenue-producing business function there is: everything else is about cutting costs. Be proactive and consistent: when you stop Marketing, sooner or later your phone stops ringing.
"Begin with your website. It is your 'home base' and the only place online where you own and can control your image, brand and content. From there any number of traditional and digital Marketing strategies are available. Which ones? The ones that work in your industry. Study up, and watch what your successful competitors are doing and find a way to STAND APART from them with benefits they can't offer.
"Don't think you have to discount your products or services. There was a dry cleaner in my old neighborhood that was open on Sundays. This was a tremendous competitive advantage for the owner who once told me that she was there on Sundays doing the books anyway, so she started opening the store and found it became very popular. I know it was with me!
"Work ON Your Business, Not Just IN It. At least 20% of your time should be spent on Marketing. Marketing is an investment, not an expense. Understand the rhythms of your industry and the needs of your customers so that you can plan for success. Is your customer list up to date? Is your email signature set up correctly? If you're doing social media, is it regularly scheduled? Are you thinking of new products or services you can offer? Is your website's copyright footer the current year? Is it clear that you're on top of your business?
"Use a Marketing Calendar. Once you understand your seasonal cycle, implement a Marketing calendar tool so you start thinking about Christmas/Hanukkah sales well before December. It's easy to create reminders in advance using Microsoft Office's calendar.
"Plan your Marketing three months ahead. If you're a tax accountant or landscaper, start promoting your services in January. Send emails early to existing/past customers, and launch a campaign to attract new customers.
"Be Your Own Customer. Change your perspective. Have you dialed your own business phone? Purchased from your own website? Sent yourself a package? Tested all the forms and links on your website? Signed up for your own email list? Googled your business? Googled your name?
"I recently had a call from a client who by accident found out his order form didn't work: his customer called to check up on their order which uncovered the problem. Upon digging further, it turned out that a link to his website contact form had broken as well. He had had dozens of inquiries from his website and didn't know.
"Always Gather Contact Info. Tether your customers to you from the very beginning. Use an email service provider and link it to your site to capture prospect information. Consider creating a "snail mail" list and sending special promotions, holiday and/or birthday cards to those you do business with: constant reminders create repeat customers.
"Keep a 'Sample File.' Don't throw out your junk mail without looking at it first Start a 'Sample' file folder and drop in postcards, menus and other mailings you like. Create a 'Sample' email folder in Microsoft Outlook and save email promotions you like. Why invent from scratch? As they say, 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.'
"Understand Basic SEO. Labeling your digital content with appropriate language amplifies your messaging to the audience that is looking for your business. People who search for 'lawyers' are not always the same people who search for 'attorneys.' Once you know the right keywords, use them across all your online Marketing channels. By consistently using the same words and phrases you increase your SEO rankings.
"Content is Everything. Write solid, well-edited pieces to publish online and trumpet your expertise so leads come to you. Repurposing your own content is fast and easy. Use everything you write on your social media, blog, newsletters and more.
"Business Cards. Stash them everywhere! I have some in the glove compartment of my car, every briefcase and purse. Don't forget the back of your card: this is a billboard opportunity to advertise a new product or service, or give a coupon to prospective new customers.
"Front Line Employees. Your staff who deal directly with customers have a bigger impact on brand perception that any amount of money you spend on Marketing. They can make or break a customer relationship, especially in retail. Rude service by unmotivated, sloppy or uncaring employees drives people away, so train the Hell out of anyone who represents your business to the public. If you see them as unimportant, your customers will look at them — and you — the same way."
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.