Smart Marketing Enhances Credibility and Creates Customers
by Tom Juergens
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Now that customers are no longer knocking down doors to buy, the need to create them can be painfully apparent. This is true for all sellers, be they new to their market or established, be they shaky or sound. But the difference between "sales" and "marketing" isn't always so apparent. Sales is anticlimactic, the simple mechanics of what happens after a customer has decided to buy. Marketing, which includes the process of creating customers, is a longer, more creative process.
Today's business climate is kinder to those who understand and act on the fact that there are numerous ways to communicate positive attributes, according to John Graham, a Quincy-based marketing consultant. To use all methods intelligently is to invest in a guarantee of future business. Subtle and powerful persuasions are inherent in marketing communications like newsletters, press releases and trade articles. Such communications vehicles draw their power from their usefulness. They build credibility with clients, prospects and the press.
To run a "sales and marketing" department and prioritize activities in that order -- first sales, then marketing -- is to work backwards, Graham says. And the key marketing question that must be answered before launching any marketing campaign is: Why should prospects call my firm and not the competition? There should be several answers to that question. All are grist for the marketing mill. Put simply, marketing communications transform that grist into as many credibility-building messages as possible.
Such messages use differentiation to create customers. Creating differentiation requires the dissemination of aspects of a business' unique knowledge, experience and expertise. Dissemination via newsletters and the media -- a smart marketer's weapons of choice -- prove any given business' unique and positive attributes, as opposed to merely stating them. They create customers by identifying and establishing a business as the vendor of choice based on quality.
Becoming the vendor of choice based on quality helps prospects avoid the trap of choosing a vendor solely on the basis of price. There is great temptation these days to compete on the basis of price, but getting a reputation as "the cheapest" is not a desirable image. Earning a reputation as an "expert" is much preferred, Graham points out.
A well-written newsletter builds name recognition and, more importantly, impresses clients and prospects by offering them information they can use, either immediately or in the future. A seminar is also a good marketing tool; if you or someone from your firm can offer instruction in some subject of common interest to prospects, the exposure is more than worth the time spent.
Good media relations are most potent. Despite regular criticism, independent news media enjoy greater credibility than any other form of communication. Getting news releases to the media regularly, even though press release publication is not always guaranteed, lays the groundwork for good relations by establishing a line of communication. Naturally, when releases are used in or as articles, the investment in them is doubled because the articles can then be reprinted in their new form and distributed with unbeatable credibility to selected prospect lists. Providing the media with ready-to-go, bylined articles works similarly.
All positive media relations (which can be nurtured even during times of bad press) increase the chances that you or a representative of your business will be sought out as an attributed source by the media. Naturally, those articles also can be used as credibility-building inserts in future marketing efforts.
Answering the key marketing question and disseminating the messages inherent in that answer with the greatest possible credibility is smart, cost-effective marketing. But a business must also know exactly who should be receiving those messages. Those who take the time to list their ideal clients and then concentrate on cultivating those clients with ongoing marketing efforts create more than customers. They create a real competitive edge.
Tom Juergens is an STC member and president of First Watch Communications, a corporate communications firm in Charlestown, Mass.