Businesses who are ineffective in conveying their mission and product offering to the marketplace simply cannot effective and efficient enough to wring profits out of insufficient revenues. Image may not be everything, but it can mean a great deal in terms of buyer perceptions that influence purchasing decisions. Clearly, not every business can be recognized as the “best in category.” However, you can continuously improve your market position by marketing and positioning your company as one that fulfills its mission and satisfies customers. The public must know your company and its offering!
One goal for keeping a business strong in its marketing efforts is to increase name recognition. Keeping the company–and often one or more of its top executives–in front of the local “players” (centers of influence who will talk you up) can provide tremendous benefits; when these individuals refer or bring a client to you, it is because they:
- know you,
- know your reputation, and
- trust you to do a good job for their friend(s).
Other means of getting the word out include building a thought leadership role through public speaking. If you are not the type who enjoys standing in front of a room and attempting to engage them in a conversation, you may be more comfortable as a panelist or panel facilitator. Through active participation in community groups, you are afforded a unique opportunity to discuss your company’s success and how your core values, product offerings, and service standards are opportune for the listener or someone they know.
The customer must be researched continually, paying particular attention to discriminating tastes and preferences. Your sales team should be your best source of information as to what buyers seek. Research reports should compile information gathered from key figures in your community–those “centers of influence” who are gateways to networks of potential buyers for you. Study what you find out with an eye towards possible adjustments in product offerings as quickly as possible; the key here is to beat competitors to the punch. When you meet new prospects, ask them questions about what they like, try to keep a running tab of demographic trends about them, and find out what may be holding them back from purchasing from you.
Attend industry meetings for either your vertical market or the markets in which your customers are likely to hang out–better yet–do both! Stay abreast of trends in the market, listening carefully for changes in design, pricing, or delivery. This information can serve as a launching point for later team discussion back at the office of how to “up your game.” On at least a quarterly basis, someone should “shop” the competition, pay attention to how they operate and promote, so you can glean strategic insights. Chances are high that, armed with better information, you will make significantly better decisions!
Weighing the Competition
Ask your management team what they hear about competitors from suppliers, attorneys, CPAs, banks, and the like. It can be very helpful to keep spreadsheets listing others’ products, price points, features, and promotional incentives. By monitoring these over time, your team begins to get a feel for where the competition feels the market is moving–and you can adjust your own planning accordingly. Try to figure out how many employees your rivals have, as well as their real estate expenses, number of sales or distribution arrangements, and other key metrics. Watching these statistics from one measurement period to another can provide you with opportunities to win market share. When you have a feel for what obligations the other guy has, you can estimate their break even point, which translates into pricing policies, potential availability of financing, and many other factors critical to your success!