Archive | May, 2013

Your Unique Selling Proposition

28 May

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What’s a unique selling proposition (USP)? First the Wikipedia explanation:

“The unique selling proposition (a.k.a. unique selling point, or USP) is a marketing concept that was first proposed as a theory to understand a pattern among successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. It states that such campaigns made unique propositions to the customer and that this convinced those buyers to switch brands. The term was invented by Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. Today the term is used in other fields or just casually to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects.”

A strong USP can mean the difference between being “just another company” and one that’s unique and memorable in the minds of customers and prospects. To do this, a USP must accomplish three things.

  1. Each USP must make a strong appeal to the target audience. Not just words, not just product puffery, and not just window advertising. It must say to each reader: “Buy this product, try this service, and you will get this specific benefit.”
  1. The benefit must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. In other words, it must be unique.
  1. The proposition must be strong enough that it can attract new customers to your product or service on its own.

Here are some USPs you might recognize:

  • Nike: “Just Do It!”
  • Apple: “Think Different.”
  • Miller Brewing: “Tastes Great, Less Filling”
  • KFC: “Finger Lickin’ Good”
  • Subway: “Eat Fresh.”
  • Energizer: “It Keeps Going, and Going and Going…”
  • Head & Shoulders: “You get rid of dandruff.”
  • Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free.”
  • FedEx: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”
  • M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”
  • Metropolitan Life: “Get Met. It Pays.”
  • Southwest Airlines: “We are the low-fare airline.”
  • Walmart: “Always Low Prices. Always.”

Your USP is your unique answer to these questions:

  • Why should I listen to you?
  • Why should I do business with you instead of anybody and everybody else?
  • Why should I do something instead of nothing?
  • What can your product do for me that no other product can do?
  • What will you guarantee me that nobody else will?

There are two types of USPs: explicit and implicit.

Explicit USP

  • The message you lead with
  • Clearly stated in your marketing materials
  • Involves promises & guarantees
  • Aimed at new customers or first-time buyers of a particular product or service

Implicit USP

  • What customers love most about you
  • Things that keep existing customers coming back to you
  • May get mentioned by customers in testimonials & word-of-mouth referrals
  • You may go for years and never state it publicly: “We operate with absolute integrity.”

Whether you have a new business or an existing one that needs a stronger USP, here are some ideas to help you come up with a USP that translates to a benefit the customer wants. A strong USP can have some or many of these characteristics.

  • Faster service
  • More personal service
  • Services above and beyond the basics
  • Guaranteed on-time completion
  • Guaranteed delivery
  • Guaranteed friendliness
  • Guaranteed live phone support
  • Better prices
  • Exclusivity (“Ours is the only package that includes ‘x.'”)
  • Superior quality
  • Convenience
  • A better promise or guarantee of results

Your USP should be unique, useful, simple, and memorable. A well-thought-out USP can help you position your company in a powerful and strategic way. It’s never too late to strengthen your USP. Start today.

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Emotional Advertising

25 May

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Most advertising today is of the “me too” variety. When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The louder they yell: “LOOK AT ME!” the faster you want to toss the ad in the trash, change the channel, or click delete.

Open the yellow pages (if you can still find one!), look inside a magazine or newspaper, listen to a radio ad, watch a TV commercial, or take a look at your mail. Can you see any difference between most of the messages you encounter? Very few of the ads truly stand out.

Why does this ineffective method continue? Because competitors continually monitor each other. They conclude, without any real proof, that the competitor’s ads must be working. So they copy each other.

The line of thinking that goes with this method is to hit the audience over the head repeatedly until they cry uncle and buy something. This might work for a company with a massive advertising budget, but it is ineffective for smaller budgets.

If you want to create real wealth and grow your business, dump this method of old school, lazy, traditional thinking.

Start by taking a look at the most critical aspect of any advertising campaign: the message itself. Most ad copy lists a series of features. The better ones will also list some of the benefits you get from those features. But there is still something missing to make it stand out.

Most of us believe that we, as smart shoppers, make our buying decisions based on left brain logic. That may be true when we first start looking at a product or solution, but study after study has shown that most buying decisions are ultimately made with the right brain emotional side.

The way to hit a home run with your marketing messages is to appeal to that emotional side when prospects look at your product or service. To determine what emotional triggers work for your business, you’ll need to get inside your product or service to pull out what real solutions it provides. But that’s just the start. Next, you’ll have to tie the solution you provide to an emotion your prospect may feel about it. What pain does it solve?

The more emotion you can weave into your ad copy, the more effective your ad will be.

As an example, think about the luxury car market. Specifically Mercedes-Benz. Logically, it makes little sense to spend well over $60,000 to buy one of their higher-end models when a vehicle for less than half the price can get you from point A to point B just fine. How do they overcome this sales problem?

Sure, they provide a list of bells and whistles fit for a NASA space shuttle, but that’s not what really sells a Mercedes-Benz. The way they sell one is to appeal to the emotional part of the brain. The ads paint the picture of a countryside drive, sitting inside a quiet cockpit, where you can almost smell the luxurious leather. You can see yourself zipping around the curves while others look at you with envy. Mercedes-Benz is selling status, not just another car.

Emotions drive our purchasing decisions. We all tend to buy products from brands that make us feel good about ourselves or enhance our sense of self-esteem in some particular way.

Emotional advertising is not just for big brands with big budgets. It takes a little mental work to get to the message that will resonate for your audience, but the effort is worth it. Once you get to the core emotional hot buttons, your business and marketing messages will truly stand out from all the clutter.

Is Your Business Card Bringing You Business?

25 May

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Typically, many hours are spent deciding on the logo, layout, and tagline to include on a company’s business cards. But not much time goes into thinking about strategies to make those business cards actually work to bring in customers. That is a mistake.

Business cards are like mini ambassadors for your business. They represent you, your company, and your brand. Business cards often provide the first impression a recipient will have of you and your company. They shouldn’t be just an afterthought in your marketing collateral mix.

To effectively market and advertise your business, whether through business cards, social media, or a website, the first step is to create awareness. Awareness is generated through uniqueness. The colors, stock, font, graphics, and unusual finishing touches like rounded corners or foil stamping and special die cutting can all add up to create a business card that stands out in a crowd.

Simple elegance and a clean, uncluttered layout work best. Sometimes more is learned about a business by the professional look and design of its business card than by almost any other marketing collateral. Prospects may forget about and toss out many other collateral pieces, but they usually keep an interesting business card.

Visually standing out is the first step to make a business card work to bring you business. The second involves the recipient and answering a simple five-word question…

What’s In It For Me?

The text on your business card must quickly and clearly explain the benefits of working with you. You can’t fit an entire brochure on the small area a business card provides (although some people try!). Most companies will list the services they provide. That is fine to do on the back of a business card.

On the front, however, where everyone looks first, you need to state clearly what results your products and services deliver. What is the primary benefit of working with your company? Make it short and sweet. Don’t hide it. Proudly display it on the front of the card.

The quality of the stock used, the font and layout, the finishing touches, and the copy used all work hand in hand to create a powerful, client-getting business card.

But those beautiful cards won’t do much good if they aren’t getting deployed. Take business cards everywhere you go. Put a stack in your car, in your wallet, and in your purse or briefcase. If you find the right target audience, hand them not one but several cards and ask them to pass the extras along to colleagues or friends who might be able to use your services.

Strategically thinking about the design, production, and copy on your business cards has the effect of creating a viral campaign for your business. Unlike the online variety, this is a viral campaign that can actually bring you real results and not just buzz in the marketplace.

How Not to Feel Like a Fish Out of Water at Your Next Networking Event

22 May

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Networking events such as Business After Hours and organizations like BNI and Meetup.com provide great opportunities to meet and mingle with other, like-minded businesspeople outside their place of business in a more relaxed and non-threatening environment.

Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs do not get the most of this great opportunity because they feel awkward or simply don’t know what to say or do. Instead of getting excited to start building relationships, they end up heading for a quick exit, the buffet line, the bar, or the restroom. If this describes you, there is a better way.

To make this type of networking event feel comfortable and more enjoyable, you need to have a plan. When you’re prepared, you’ll feel more in control. Being in control can help relieve the anxiety of being in a new setting and situation.

Your plan should include making new friends, building relationships, giving before asking, and looking for opportunities to grow your business. It’s important to attend business networking events. They have a social aspect but are primarily created as places to develop mutually beneficial business relationships.

4 Simple but Powerful Questions to Ask of Every New Contact

  1. “What do you do?”

 

  1. “How long have you been doing that?”

 

  1. “What do you like best about what you do?”

 

  1. “How would I know if someone in my circle of contacts would be a good referral for you?”

The first three questions provide an opportunity for the other person to talk about themselves, which everyone likes doing. They also allow you to start building a bond and relationship by getting to know about the other person and their interests.

The last question is the key. It will make you stand out and also serve notice to the other person that you want to help them grow their business. (Remember: you give before you get.) At the same time, it plants a seed in their mind that this in turn is also what you are there to do.

You now have a simple but very effective network marketing plan.

At your next networking event, remember to ask these four simple questions. Doing so will give you the confidence to feel like you’re where you want to be and know exactly what you’re doing there.

It’s the difference between feeling like a fish out of water and being a fisherman at the best fishing hole in town.

9 Marketing Lessons to Grow Your Business In Any Economy

22 May

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Let’s get right to the lessons:

  1. Follow up.
  1. Follow up.
  1. Follow up.
  1. Follow up.
  1. Follow up.
  1. Follow up.
  1. Follow up.

 

  1. Follow up.
  1. Follow up

Studies of sales practices continue to show that most salespeople don’t follow up more than one or two times after making a presentation or giving a quote.

Marketing is no different.

Most businesses will attempt to deliver one or two marketing messages and rarely follow up afterward. Unfortunately, one or two delivered messages will rarely produce tangible results.

We live in a world where people are bombarded by marketing and sales messages every day. So it’s unrealistic to expect one message — no matter how creative the graphics or how great the sales copy — will make it through that clutter.

Our logical minds would tell us that if our target audience wants the product or service we’re selling, they’ll take us up on the first offer we provide. But that’s not how it works in real life.

The reality is that most people’s busy, scattered lives often get in the way of acting on an offer, even if they had every intention of doing so. Whether we like it or not, the rules of the game have changed. For better or worse is debatable.

So what’s the solution?

Follow up. How many times? Start with two or three, and build from there.

Customers don’t always go for the lowest price. They buy from whoever they perceive will provide the best option. Businesses that communicate their value proposition regularly capture most of the attention and position themselves as the most obvious choice. By doing so, they make the buying decision easier.

Can you follow up without being a pest or nuisance?

The best salespeople aren’t pushy, but they are persistent. They present their case by providing valuable information so the prospect makes the best decision. That’s how your messages should be presented — useful information without the hype.

To get your messages read by your best prospects and your cherished customers, you must deliver them consistently and across several marketing channels. For most businesses, a combination of print, email, social, and web-based messages works effectively.

So what makes an effective follow-up marketing plan? Start by creating a compelling message that would have value for your audience. Spread that message across the most effective marketing channels for your business. Do it consistently. Rinse and repeat.

Following up on your marketing messages will make you stand out the same way as the salesperson who doesn’t give up after one presentation or quote. In the end, you’ll become the most logical choice when your prospect is ready to make their purchasing decision.

Please Don’t Ignore Me

10 May

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The bulk of marketing budgets is often reserved for acquiring new customers. Much energy, time, and money is spent pursuing prospects that have a marginally small chance of ever becoming a customer. There’s a flaw with this strategy.

The simplest and most effective way to boost your bottom line profits is to remember who brought you where you are today: your existing customers. If you aren’t consistently advertising and staying in touch with current and past clients, you’re missing out on the best way to continually grow your business.

For every month that goes by without making contact with your past and existing customer base, you’ll lose up to ten percent of the clients you’ve worked so hard to acquire. Retaining clients is therefore an extremely important business growth strategy.

Selling your services to new customers means earning their trust. It takes hard work to build this trust. When a prospect becomes a customer, you have only begun to earn their trust. You cannot expect to maintain that trust without consistent, frequent contact that adds some value for the customer.

One of the best ways to maintain and build that trust is to communicate regularly via a newsletter. An effective newsletter has a mix of about 80% infotainment (fun and informative content that may not have anything to do with your particular industry) and 20% information about your business or industry.

The recent trend of companies switching to all digital email newsletters is now reversing with the realization that actually getting the emails opened and read is far more difficult than many were led to believe. Also many survey respondents favor a printed newsletter that they can hold versus one more email that clutters their already overfilled inbox.

Sure, email newsletters are inexpensive and require no postage, but there is a cost involved when the recipients never see or open the messages. By contrast, a printed newsletter is still one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to stay in front of your customers without overtly selling them.

The Lifetime Value of a Client

Perhaps one of the reasons past clients are ignored is because some business owners don’t really know the lifetime value of a client. An existing client who is treated right, is not ignored, and is communicated with on a regular basis will not only return to do more business themselves but will also refer your company to those around them. Therefore the actual lifetime value is often five, ten, twenty (or even more) times the value of an initial sale.

That’s the power of relationship marketing and the reason why your existing customers should get the bulk of your marketing budget. If you treat your existing customers well and communicate with them on a regular basis, you may not need to chase as many prospects as you have in the past.

To learn more about defining and understanding your lifetime customer value, please visit: http://hbsp.harvard.edu/multimedia/flashtools/cltv/ (requires Flash).

Marketing That Works Today

7 May

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There are two broad categories of marketing you can use for your company, and it’s important you understand the difference. These two types of marketing are called brand/image marketing and direct response marketing. Although both can have a place in marketing your business, for small businesses one (direct response) is much more effective and efficient than the other.

Brand or image marketing works off the premise that you can create awareness for your business or products by building name recognition. As Wikipedia explains it, branding “involves associating a product name or image with certain qualities in the minds of consumers.” Successful brand marketing needs mass media like TV, radio, and billboards to push the message to a broad audience. For large companies with big ad budgets, this can be effective. Unfortunately, institutional marketing like this is difficult to track, making it hard to quantify a return on investment.

Fortunately for small businesses, there is a better way. It’s called direct response marketing, and it’s designed to generate an immediate response. This type of marketing has a message that — when delivered correctly — compels the receiver to respond by calling the business, walking into the business, or visiting the company’s website for a special offer.

Direct response marketing is typically delivered via print (catalogs, sales flyers, postcards, etc), radio, and the Internet. Ads are results-driven, so it’s easy to find out quickly if the campaign was successful or not. As a result, it’s much more effective for most businesses because it can be measured, tracked, and held accountable for its performance.

There are several effective direct response formulas. One of the most popular is: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action (AIDA).

Attention is captured with a compelling headline. The best headlines focus on benefits to the customer.

Interest is generated by telling a story. Explaining the process and care that goes into each of your products is an example of content that can generate interest to read further.

Desire is created with a compelling offer.

Action is prompted with a deadline (time sensitive: respond by) and a call to action (call today, come by to redeem, visit the website).

Whatever the formula, good direct response marketing uses reasons other than just price to get customers to call or visit. Using direct response marketing to tell your company’s unique story is a powerful weapon to help you stand apart from your competitors and increase the effectiveness of your ad campaigns.