By Bill Oxford
1. Empower the marketing department.
Marketing is a coupling of customer and company. It is the organization charged with understanding the market. It must drive the company to respond to the customer. Marketing is the organization that must make development groups aware of the customers’ needs and the manufacturing organization knowledgeable about capacity and cost issues. Marketing must be active in planning the company’s products.
2. Create a marketing plan.
This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many products are pushed to market without any plan in place. Once it is created, it must be a living plan as well.
The company must know it exists and must follow it. The plan should be continuously reviewed. If the plan is written and never looked at again, it is not a plan at all. An excellent software program for creating a marketing plan is Marketing Plan Pro by Palo Alto Software.
3. Make sure that your product is a complete one.
Meaning, it has a defined market segment and successfully solves a problem for that particular group. Don’t try to be all things to all groups. One – you may not have the budget or staffing to pull it off. And two – your efforts will become diluted.
4. Do your research.
Know why your market segment will want to buy your product. Don’t rely exclusively on high profile, research companies such as Forrester and Jupiter for your market research. These same folks told us that the dot.coms were the “new economy” and would wipe out brick and mortar retailers. Talk to your customers and listen to them. Demographics and projected industry trends are important, but not enough.
5. Be different.
Products succeed and become profitable when they are dramatically different in significant ways. If a product is truly different in ways that are important to customers, they will automatically perceive the product as better. Marketing departments should create differences and be capable of articulating their importance.
6. Define your product positioning.
The first concern is whether the positioning for a product has ever been defined. If the product has been rationally positioned, the next question is whether or not that position is adequately reflected in the company’s promotions. A product’s positioning should be the cornerstone of every piece of sales literature, advertising, and promotion. The effectiveness of any promotion depends on the creativity of the people involved.
7. Look like a winner.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. All marketing communications elements must present a professional, energetic and creditable identity. Poorly designed web sites and marketing communications materials will drive away more customers and potential employees than you can ever imagine.
8. Energize your sales and marketing team.
The launching of a new product must be an event. Without enthusiasm, confidence and commitment driving the program, your results will be diminished.
9. Get positioned
Your web site must be positioned on page one of Google, under the keywords your customers would normally use to search for your product. It is the cheapest form of marketing you can create and it works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on a worldwide scale. Have an ongoing SEO program in place to monitor your page rank and continue to modify your site to ensure high rankings. On-page optimization is critical and back-links to directories such as this (Website Design) are important.
10. Make your web site user friendly.
Create a special section of your web site that will contain essential information about your company for editors, analysts, journalists and reporters. They are often on short deadlines and need only distilled information which includes, the name and phone number of the PR contact, basic facts about the company (spelling of an executive’s name, their age, headquarters, etc.), the company’s own spin on events, financial information, and downloadable images to use as illustrations in stories.
11. Facilitate information gathering.
Offer easy to understand and useful information about your product on your web site. Downloadable PDF documents are essential. Include a reply form on your site to collect important information and respond to inquiries in eight hours or less. Phase two of the selling cycle begins, and often ends, at your web site.
12. Integrate your marketing programs.
Sales methods, promotional programs, distribution, advertising, public relations must all work together. Managers must work together to ensure this happens. Unless all of the ancillary activities are in step, the effectiveness of any marketing program is bound to be impaired.
13. Simplify your selling message.
Dumb it down. Your prospect must be able to quickly understand the features and benefits of your product. Without rapid cognition there is no sale.
14. Unify sales and marketing.
Good marketing departments take weak products and turn them into successes by owning up to the problem and working with the sales force to target the product in a niche where it can succeed. Where there is real teamwork between sales and marketing, great products become more successful and even the weaker ones can be made to succeed.
15. Know your competition.
Visit their web sites. Purchase their products. Stroll their trade show booths. Their goal is to grab the majority market share quickly and defend it. Rapidly respond to their tactics and new developments. Don’t antagonize them or bash them to your customers. You may, some day, buy them or get bought by them.
16. Develop a virtual focus group.
An inexpensive and effective way to test ad concepts, direct mailers, web sites or any other marketing items, is to save the files in a PDF format and email them to a list of existing customers who have agreed to participate in your testing program. It’s informal, efficient and provides valuable feedback. Consider expanding your target sample to include targeted prospects for even higher quality responses.
17. Create a program, fund it and drive it.
Too often marketing programs are never actually developed and maintained with a long-term commitment. In many cases, only a limited number of marketing elements are created on a project-by-project basis and media is placed as undefined budgets allow. An effective marketing campaign must be driven by a marketing plan based on a sound strategy. It should include a broad mix of tactics and a budget should be allocated to fund the entire program. Only then will a program achieve the goals set forth in a well-executed marketing plan.