Targeting Everyone and Reaching No-One
Have you ever placed an advert or run a marketing campaign and received little or no response in spite of having a good product, well described? You are not alone. 9 times out of 10 the reason is simple – poor targeting or the scattergun approach.

Think of a farmer sowing seed widely across his whole field, taking no account of whether the soil is fertile, stony or full of weeds. We’re not at all surprised when only some of the seeds take root and flourish.

The same applies to promoting your business and its products – don’t waste valuable seed. If your marketing activity is indiscriminate – you haven’t decided exactly who you want to reach with your message and how best to reach them – you are unlikely to succeed and very likely to waste your investment in marketing.

The key to success is knowing your customers and target clients really well. Imagine them sitting in front of you. What do they look like? How do they speak? What are they reading? Where do they socialise? What type of job do they have? What type of car do they drive?

What influences them? Who’s opinion do they value? And if you are in the business-to-business arena think about the type of business you sell to – size, industry type, and decision-making process. But don’t forget it may be a business cheque you receive as a result of the sale but it’s an individual or at worst a group of individuals who make the decision – find out what motivates them.

All of this will help with targeting because the clearer the image you have of your target audience the more likely you are to strike a chord with them.

The most successful businesses have a deep understanding of the market they operate in and carefully segment that market. So rather than, for example talking about operating in the insurance market selling to UK adults, they segment down to motor insurance and understand the divisions in the market and motivation for buying which will be very different for example in the youth, new driver market to the over 40s new driver segment.

In the first case the excitement of passing the test, buying a first car and a desire to obtain insurance cover quickly may result in a decision based on price and availability alone. In the second the potential customer may be more aware of a range of players in the market, and in fact may go to an existing supplier, for example the company they have their home insurance with. They are more likely to have an opinion and perceptions about insurance companies in the market. They may be more interested in the added benefits they can get, like breakdown cover, for added peace of mind. They will almost certainly have a better understanding of what they are buying and the type of things to look out for – excess penalties, named driver restrictions and so on.

Obviously the way you would target the youth driver would be very different to the driver who’s over 40. The message would be different, as would the media you would use. Thinking through the segments of the market you are trying to target can prevent a lot of wastage.

Having defined very clearly the target segments that you want to communicate with lets explore why you need to set SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely) objectives for all of your marketing activity.

Not Knowing When You’ve Failed, Or Succeeded
You wouldn’t spend money on a new piece of machinery or an accounts package without deciding what your business will gain from the investment. Make sure you treat your marketing investment in the same way. And don’t be vague or hide behind the fact that it is all too difficult – when planning any form of marketing activity you must set very clear, measurable targets or objectives and ensure you can measure results and response accurately.

Think about the type of response you might get. Do you want phone, fax or email response? More importantly have you briefed all front-line staff to confirm with callers how they heard about your company or it’s products so that you can accurately monitor response to specific marketing campaigns.

Are you looking for direct sales? That one should be easy to measure, but only if you can trace back sales from each difference source. There’s no need to over complicate matters here – too many businesses hide behind the fact that they’d need to invest thousands in complex computer systems to track response, this is rarely the case. Our advice is – unless you can measure and monitor results from your spend on advertising don’t do it.

The next time you are approached with an unbelievable offer from your local business magazine or newspaper with a special rate for a ¼ page advert – stop and think. If I take this space what do I want to achieve? Who will be reading the publication? How many responses can I expect – don’t be over ambitious? Could I spend the same amount on other marketing activity and get a better result? The simple fact that you have thought these things through should improve your result.

You know your market and you have decided how best to approach them and you will be carefully measuring the response you get. Now lets take a look at the more practical side of things – how to handle enquiries effectively.

Generating Enquiries, And Then Ignoring Them
All too often companies fail to handle enquiries effectively. Whether these enquiries are unsolicited, “free prospects”, or in response to adverts, website pages, direct mail or other promotions there are some key pointers to follow:

Availability Make sure you have people on hand to answer the calls, receive face to face visitors, deal with web enquiries, fulfil mailing requests, return calls and arrange sales visits as necessary.

And a really obvious point – if your advert will appear in the evening newspaper give serious consideration to manning the telephone outside normal working hours to deal with immediate response, and promote this fact in the advert.

Staff Awareness Brief all staff, but especially front line staff. Show them the advert; explain where and when it will appear. Let them know how you want them to handle enquiries, do you want them to give out prices on the phone? Would you prefer them to send out full details or book an appointment for a salesman? Don’t forget to explain to them the importance of monitoring what has prompted the call so that you can measure and judge the cost effectiveness of your activity.

Speed of Response Don’t delay in responding to enquiries. Generally people expect to receive information they ask for within 24 – 48 hours of their request. Personally if I email a request for information I like to get at least an acknowledgement of my request by return email – this message can tell me when to expect the information I’ve requested if it can’t be supplied immediately. Either way I don’t expect to wait more than a few days.

Provided the customer’s expectations are managed and fulfilled they will be satisfied.

Don’t go for false economies when sending out fulfilment material. A first class stamp looks as though you are interested as does returning a sales enquiry call within a few hours.

Handle every new customer enquiry like it’s your first or your most important and you won’t go far wrong.

Keeping Customers – Don’t Let Yourself Down
You might attract prospects to your business through advertising activity but it’s only through their experience with your firm that they will become a true customer, buying from you on multiple occasions and recommending you readily to others.

Think about going out for a meal. The type of food you want to eat, location and the atmosphere you are looking for will affect your choice of restaurant but your choice will also be influenced by your experience of the restaurant to date or their reputation and your perception of the experience you might enjoy.

Reputation will come from a number of factors: including company image, product performance, in this case how good the food is, and service standards, which goes way beyond whether the cutlery is clean.

Once you’ve attracted a customer you want them to spend with you, and then to return and buy more in the future. Whether they do or not will be determined by their experience. The way customers are treated, the grooming of your staff, the approach they use with customers, their knowledge of your products – haven’t you ever ordered the most expensive thing on the menu because the waiter described it in such mouth watering detail?

If the customer’s experience is a good one they will return, they’re likely to recommend you to others, and next time they may bring a party of people. If their experience is a bad one they are unlikely to give you a second chance and they’re likely to dissuade others from trying your restaurant.

Having invested in promoting your company make sure the customer’s experience makes them want to return. Their first visit or purchase shouldn’t be their last.

Make sure you spend as much time, energy and marketing investment keeping your existing customers, as you would trying to attract new ones. For many businesses this should be the only way they market their business, through referrals they will continue to grow their customer base with minimal investment.

It is easy for us all to understand and appreciate the restaurant example – but the pointers and tips apply to any business. Understand the importance of the image and reputation of your company, especially the role that your staff play in creating, or destroying this image. Set and maintain clear standards, sometimes called values, and invest time and effort in making sure everyone in the business knows, understands and is prepared to live by these values. It’s one sure fire way to develop a sustainable competitive advantage because it’s one that others will find most difficult to copy.

Points to Remember
Make sure you:

  • Understand your market and how to target your best prospects
  • Set measurable objectives for all marketing activity
  • Handle customer enquiries effectively, every time
  • Provide excellent customer service, encourage repeat purchases and ask for referrals.

This combined with a clear marketing plan setting out what you are trying to achieve will ensure you maximise your investment and generate better results from your marketing activity.