A potpourri of springtime marketing ideas

    Wow, hasn’t the weather been great?
It seems like Bellingham comes alive again after the long winter’s hibernation. We get outdoors. Plant our victory gardens, wash our cars and live on the soccer fields on Saturdays.
    Even the rain starts to feel warm.
    While it is easy to get distracted from the challenges of running your business, now is the best time to revitalize your marketing efforts.
    Here is a potpourri of marketing ideas to stimulate your creative marketing. Plant the seeds of features and benefits of your business and watch the sales grow with the longer days and sunshine.
    — Spruce up your window presence: Your store windows are the first thing a customer notices when passing your store. What message do your windows send? Are they inviting the customer to come in? Do they communicate a strong message about what you do?
    Walk by your store and really see what your message is. Watch how people react to your displays. Even if you aren’t a retailer that relies on walk-in traffic, your windows are important. Do you support community events by displaying their posters? Are they overwhelming your storefront? Do you display products you manufacture, or display a simple fact sheet on who you are and what you do?
    Ask people what they think about your storefront.
    — Focus on your existing web traffic: When it comes to web site traffic, online companies should make the most of what they already have.
    Too often companies obsess with getting more traffic to their web site and continue to spend thousands of dollars to generate hits. Instead work on optimizing the traffic you already have visiting your site. Offer a free paper on a particular subject to subscribers, start an e-mail newsletter, coupon for future purchases or frequent buyer programs.
    Reward your existing visitors to your web site, like you would those that visit your store.
    — The best sales techniques in the world: Get endorsements from your customers. Ever wonder why those home shopping networks are so successful?
    The sales network has a special line set up just for endorsements. Only, they call it a “testimonial line.” The salesperson/host does his or her spiel regarding the product, and then people call in with their “testimonials.”
    The caller is so happy to be on the air that they go on and on regarding the virtues of the product, trying for one-upmanship regarding the excellence of the product.
    Using this technique, they’re actually able to sell perfume on the air! Can you picture buying a fragrance without smelling it?
    — Anniversary marketing: I know of a successful car salesman who always sends a yearly anniversary card addressed to the car and not the driver to mark the day it was originally purchased. Reminds the car owner that the salesman is ready and waiting to sell him or her a new car or to encourage a referral.
    Different, but it works.
    Another successful anniversary marketing program comes from Amazon.com. They send out an e-mail titled “Our Anniversary Gift to You” for the one-year anniversary of the first time you bought something from them.
    — Hate to Be Put On Hold: 94% of all marketing budgets are spent to get customers to call while only 6% are spent to handle the call once it is received. AT&T estimates that the average business receives 128 calls per day. 7 out of 10 callers are placed on hold for an average of 43 seconds. That’s one hour per day or over 30 days per year of customers on hold. This is prime marketing time. Use this time to market your products and services using on-hold advertising messages.
    — Offer Something Unique: An apartment complex was having a hard time renting their apartments. They started offering a free weekly car wash to every tenant. Result: They are never empty and have a waiting list of prospective tenants.
    A restaurant offered their customers free dessert for seniors. Result: sales increased 15 percent. An oil change company offered every 50th customer a free oil change. Result: Sales increased 10 percent due to the word of mouth referrals from the surprised and happy customers.
    — Marketing in the Most Unusual Places: A beauty salon has sold advertising space to local businesses. They place the advertising posters above mirrors in their beauty salons. Customers receiving a haircut or having their hair done are a captive audience, as men spend an average 25 minutes per visit, and women spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours in a salon. Now that’s unusual.
    — Create a unique marketing niche: Find a marketing niche that will promote your company in fun and lasting ways. One local company gives out T-shirts to all their VIP customers that wear them everywhere. It costs the company about $3-$4 per shirt and it becomes more than just free advertising whenever someone wears it; it also acts as a testimonial of endorsement by the wearer.
    — Close the Sale: Often it takes just a few choice words to close a sale. One client bids a lot of jobs and adds a handwritten paragraph at the end of each proposal stating:
    “We guarantee our work. Only the highest quality materials will be used. We perform all work in a professional and timely manner. We will even come and fix any problems with our work when something unexpected happens. We understand that keeping you satisfied is our primary job.”
    This simple language has helped close more sales. It tells the customer that you do good quality work, you stand behind your services, and you understand that exceeding the customer’s expectations is your job. It also communicates that you are interested in them as a person, not just their pocketbook.
    — Closing the Sale II: When someone is “considering” you for a sale or service, take the time to send them something, whether it be a postcard or letter or anything to remind them that you are “thinking” of them. This personal touch means a lot. It could as simple as saying, “Thank you so much for considering us. We value our clients highly. We will consider it an “honor” if you decide to go with our company.” People want to know that their business will be appreciated.

Tom Dorr is the director of the Small Business Development Center at Western Washington University.


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