Kicking it Up a Notch (expanded web version)

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How to inexpensively add new flavor to your marketing plan

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday afternoons is shopping at the local farmers market. That’s where I met Adam, a resident student and beekeeper. Last year I was at the market shopping for wildflower honey to make my secret “Sparkyacki” salmon glaze when I stopped by Adam’s booth. After explaining that his honey was produced from beehives on his family’s farm in Redlands, Florida, and selling me a bottle, Adam asked me to jot my e-mail address in his register.

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Fine-tuning our marketing effort, like Adam did with his honey e-mail, is the best way to increase effectiveness at reduced costs. Normally I don’t give out my e-mail because of spam-o-phobia, but in this case I figured, “What’s the kid going to do with it anyhow?”

Boy, was I wrong. No, Adam didn’t sell my address to some hacker. He actually filed it away along with a note about my purchase. So this week—a year later and the first week of the farmers market—I got a wonderful message from Adam in my inbox. It read, “Dear Mike, I hope that you enjoyed the honey you purchased from me last year at the farmers market and I wanted to take a moment to invite you to stop by my booth again this Sunday. I’ve expanded my honey varieties and bottled some orange honey that is sure to kick your salmon glaze up another notch.” Naturally, I stopped by this morning and Adam made a sale.

We can all take a lesson from Adam in these difficult times, as budgets tighten, and the customer pool shrinks. Fine-tuning our marketing effort, like Adam did, is the best way to increase effectiveness at reduced costs. Here are a few steps that you can make to hone your marketing approach this year:

1.Forget shotgun-branding campaigns that don’t impact your short-term sales. Instead, concentrate on making sales to well-targeted groups of prospects, like Adam targeted me. For the time being, eliminate any promotional investments that don’t show a significant ROI toward generating qualified leads or closing sales. Let your website and corporate brochure take care of championing your brand until the economy turns around.

2. If you don’t have a very complete e-mail list to market from, then find a marketing partner. Team up with a company whose services complement yours and combine your data. By sharing resources, you and your partner will get more than either of you would alone.

3. Once you

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have a prospective target list, increase your direct marketing efforts in the form of e-mails, post cards, and letters that focus on specific offerings to your target customers. So far this week I’ve received post cards from the local wristwatch shop informing me of their pre-owned trunk sale and several hotel chains. These merchants know me from their data and see that I am more likely to buy a wristwatch or stay at their hotel chain than an unqualified lead.

4. Perk up your website. It's amazing how just a few cost-effective changes will make your website a lead-generating tool. By selecting keywords carefully and posting keyword-rich text and bullet points, your site will appear in the search results of more potential customers. This, in conjunction with placing offers and calls-to-action on every page, will dramatically improve sales potential. I can't say enough about this topic. But to learn more, read Larry Bailin's book Mommy, Where Do Customers Come From? I had the pleasure of hearing Larry speak at the last HTSA Fall Pump-Up event and can tell you that reading his book will change your business.

5.Create a referral program that leverages your existing customers. Getting referrals from satisfied customers is typically as easy as asking for them. Make sure that you let every customer know, "If you are pleased with my service, I would certainly appreciate the name of anyone you believe would appreciate them, too."

I’ll bet that you find that implementing these simple techniques will trigger additional ways to kick up your marketing efforts, develop leads and generate sales during these tough times. Doing so will definitely enhance your company's position in the market. And e-mail me if you want my secret recipe for “Sparkyacki” salmon glaze.

Mike “Sparky” Detmer is vice president of sales and marketing for Niles Audio and a member of the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) Multi-Room Audio Video (MRAV) council board.

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