Reaching your potential customers and creating a positive image for your business are two of the most important indicators of a successful marketing campaign. Sometimes associated with branding, establishing a positive business image is actually more than that; it involves the quality of your product or service, your commitment to customer satisfaction, your consistent customer outreach efforts and your involvement in the community. It also goes hand in hand with a solid marketing plan that not only guides your activities, but also indicates a certain level of professional sophistication to existing and potential customers.
Every day you should be paying attention to advancing your public image. Every day you should be proactive in your approach. In the process, don’t be afraid to experiment with new marketing tactics, but be careful it is not at the expense of your overall plan.
If you have already developed a marketing plan, you probably already know the answers to the following questions. If not, now is the time to do some important thinking and doing!
· Who are your customers and competitors?
· What is your goal? Are you starting a new business or expanding an existing one?
· Have you clearly defined your niche in the market?
· What are your key messages…what makes you unique?
· What are your key approaches?
· What are your tactics within these approaches?
· What is your timeline, and what are your benchmarks?
Once you have figured out the answers to these questions, you can begin to explore the different steps that you can take to reach your target customers. The steps below are a few of the most important ones to evaluate:
1. Create online visibility
· Make sure that you have a website. If you can’t hire someone to design it for you, use a company like Yola.com; SiteSell.com or HomeStead.com.
· Set up a listing in local search engine directories using resources like Google.com/local/; Bing.com/local; and listings.local.yahoo.com/.
· Create a business profile on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
· Participate in online conversations and comment on blogs related to your product or service.
· Write your own blogs about your area of expertise or share tips that can help your target audience.
2. Develop branding tools
· Create a logo and company slogan.
· Design and print professional business cards and stationary.
· Give your friends and associates your cards so that they can distribute them to their contacts.
3. Reach out to your industry
· Attend meetings held by groups like the Chamber of Commerce or other civic associations. Be attentive to the people you meet. Develop relationships.
· Join and be active in several membership groups. These groups often list their members and contact information on their websites.
· Offer to speak at industry conferences.
· Place an ad in a conference brochure.
4. Reach out to your community
· Create goodwill by volunteering for an annual cause.
· Sponsoring a fundraising activity.
· Offer your service or product to a non-profit to use in their fundraising events.
5. Satisfy customers’ expectations
· Make sure that customer satisfaction is a business priority. Anticipate their needs. Meet deadlines. Exceed their expectations whenever possible. Word travels fast.
· Offer two versions of your product or service – one that is “premium” and one that fits their budget.
· Always deliver a high quality product or service.
· Communicate often with your customers.
· Perform quality assurance surveys (hire a third party to obtain honest feedback)
· Follow up with them periodically even after your transaction has been completed.
· Ask them for testimonials and referrals.
6. Explore low and moderate cost advertising:
· Send press releases to local newspapers, TV stations and radio stations. Explore online press-release services.
· Consider using a magnetic sign on your car advertising your business.
· Partner with businesses that complement your business. Share leads and mail lists. Experiment with cross promotional activities.
· If your business is minority-owned or woman-owned, consider getting certified by private or government organizations.
· Write letters of introduction to people who may be interested in your product or service. Follow up with postcards or phone calls.
The bottom line – be constantly attentive to your business and to your customers. Engage consistently. Look for opportunities to expand your client base while also retaining your existing one. Be positive; be ethical; be sincere. Your business is an expression of who you are. Treat it with care!!