Time for Some Year-End Decluttering?

30 12 2011

A cluttered desk is said to be the sign of a cluttered mind. (I’ve also heard that a clean desk is the sign of a cluttered drawer, but that’s another story.) In any case, clutter can lead to confusion, and confusion can lead to poor results. So like that desktop (or desk drawer), an occasional cleaning may be needed to clarify your marketing.

With the new year just around the corner, this seems as good a time as any to get started.

Declutter your message. Are you sending a clear, consistent message with all of your marketing? You should. People will remember you more readily if you keep your message consistent and clean. “You’re in good hands.” “A diamond is forever.” “The breakfast of champions.” “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” I could go on, but you get the point. A consistent, unified message helps to make your marketing more memorable and effective.

Declutter your design. Ever visited a website, seen a billboard, watched a commercial, or read a print piece that left you overwhelmed? Perhaps maybe even your own? One of Steve Jobs’ proudest legacies at Apple was simplicity (and elegance) of design. It carried through (and still does) not only in the products Apple makes but also in its packaging, its website, its print ads, its stores, and all of the various other marketing the company does. Simple, clean, elegant design provides visual clarity and eliminates the unnecessary clutter, confusion, and noise.

Declutter your approach. Are you a dabbler? A jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none? That may serve you well in life, but it’s no way to handle your marketing. That’s not to say you shouldn’t market in multiple media (you should), but you need to start with a plan that spells out the reasons and goals for each medium you enter. Once that’s established, you can then work your plan, knowing that each marketing effort you start is part of a grander vision with clear expectations and tangible goals.

Schizophrenic, hit-and-miss marketing efforts, taken just for the sake of “doing something” or following the latest trend, will drain your budget and leave you with just as schizophrenic results. On the other hand, clear, consistent, clutter-free marketing will (over time) produce more consistent and satisfying results. And isn’t that the goal of marketing?

So, what are some other ways you can think of to declutter your marketing? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Marketing Takes a Holiday

27 12 2011

If you’re planning a winter getaway or are already thinking about a summer retreat (and really, who among us isn’t thinking about summer already?), here are a few ideas to help you take your marketing with you on the road….

  • Hold a sale. We’ve all seen ads with the idea of “the boss is away, so we’re having a sale” or something to that effect. Have fun with it, and make it memorable.
  • Send postcards. Bring the names and addresses of your top customers with you, and send them postcards from on the road. Or send postcards back to the office, and have your employees post them in a common area where everyone (customers included) can see them.
  • Blog about it. Along those same lines, post regular updates to the company (and/or your personal) blog, with lots of photos and details about the things you’re doing on your trip.
  • Encourage involvement. Ask your customers to send you updates when they go on vacation, then post them to a display at work or as guest posts on your blog.
  • Have some fun. Bring along an item related to your company, such as a shopping bag or mug with your logo on it, or a fun object like a garden gnome or stuffed animal wearing a company shirt. Then take pictures of the object sitting in front of popular tourist attractions.
  • Make a promotion/game out of it by encouraging your customers to do the same thing on their trips or by having people guess where these photos of your “mascot” were taken. If you have your customers take their own photos, supply them with the “mascot” to take with them on their trip, and offer an incentive for participating (such as $x off their next purchase for each photo they provide).

So, what other vacation-related marketing ideas can you think of? I’d love to read about them in the comments below.

Gumming Up the Works

23 12 2011

Here’s something to chew on as you think about your business plans for the coming year:

A young entrepreneur moved from Philadelphia to Chicago in 1891 with $32 in his pocket and the idea of selling his family’s scouring soap to customers. As an incentive, the 29-year-old offered free baking powder with each soap purchase.

Before long, the baking powder became so popular that he began selling it instead. He then came up with a new incentive: two free packages of chewing gum with each can of baking powder sold.

As you might have guessed, the gum proved more popular than the baking powder, so he decided to change his product line once again. And that is how William Wrigley, Jr., started one of the most iconic brands of chewing gum on the market today.

In business (as in life), things don’t always go exactly as we plan. Markets change, technologies evolve, and what worked yesterday won’t always work today, tomorrow, or down the road.

Knowing when — and how — to adapt can mean the difference between success and failure for any enterprise. In Wrigley’s case, that meant understanding his customers’ evolving needs — and adapting his product line to meet those new demands.

What will it mean for you and your company in 2012? Only time will tell, so be prepared to recognize new trends, embrace new attitudes, and adapt your plans accordingly.

Seven Steps to a Better Sales Letter

20 12 2011

Even in today’s increasingly wired world, sales letters remain a staple of most sales processes. Whether on paper or by email, a well-crafted sales letter can help reinforce your sales message, convey information about your products, break the ice, and warm a cold call. Here are seven tips to help you make your sales letters more appealing.

  1. Plan ahead. Outline your thoughts before you start drafting your letter. Decide what you want to say and how you want to say it.
  2. Start strong. If you’re not sure how to open your letter, consider a quote, anecdote, story, or other attention-getting device. But keep it short. Remember, you want to get the reader’s attention… not get it and then lose it right away.
  3. Don’t bury the lead. Avoid the temptation to “build excitement” for two or three paragraphs before revealing your reason for writing. Come out and state it right away in the opening paragraph or two. If you’re offering a discount or requesting a meeting, say so up front. Your reader is busy. Respect their time.
  4. Use short, active sentences. Your letter will flow better and be easier to read. By the same token, keep the tone conversational and avoid exaggerations, embellishments, and flowery prose.
  5. Consider headlines and bulleted lists. Busy readers are far more likely to skim your letter than to read it word for word. Headlines and bulleted lists will help draw attention to the points you want to emphasize.
  6. Add a P.S. A reader’s eyes are naturally drawn to the P.S. line when they read a letter, so use a P.S. to restate your offer or emphasize a key point you made elsewhere in your letter. Consider making it a handwritten P.S. (depending on your penmanship) for even greater effect.
  7. Proof it carefully. Don’t rely on your software’s spell-checker to catch every mistake. Ideally, you’ll want to print the letter out and proof it on paper, rather than just proofing it on screen. If time permits, allow a day between the time you write the letter and proofread it, so you see your words with fresher eyes and a more objective point of view.

How Much Printing Do I Need?

16 12 2011

Deciding how much printing to order is not always an easy task. Sure, sometimes it’s as simple as looking at the size of a mailing list, but other times it can get tricky trying to balance the price savings of bulk ordering with limitations in storage space, long-term usefulness, and overall need. As you plan your printing purchases, consider the following:

Shelf Life
Will the piece need to be updated frequently, or will it remain as is indefinitely?

For some items, such as business cards, you might consider ordering preprinted “shells,” which contain all of the static design elements common to all versions of that item, with space left open for more dynamic (variable) content. That way, when you need business cards for a specific employee, for example, it’s just a matter of dropping in the appropriate contact information and cutting the cards down to size.

Preprinted shells allow you to take advantage of bulk discounts, and many printers (including us) will even store them for you onsite and help you manage your inventory, so you don’t run out at inopportune times.

In addition to business cards, shells may also be useful for letterhead, manuals, and even certain brochures or other promotional pieces that have common designs but dynamic (variable) content.

The Aging Process
Paper ages, and it doesn’t always do so gracefully. Storing your printing in a cool, dry place helps, but it will only slow the process. As your printing gets older, it can fade, warp, and dry out. Carbonless paper, for example, will lose some of its transferability as it ages. If you have forms you use infrequently, consider ordering them in smaller quantities.

If you have any documents you know you’ll want to keep on hand indefinitely, consider acid-free paper. When properly stored, acid-free paper will resist fading, yellowing, and becoming brittle much better than ordinary stock.

Past Experience
If the item you’re printing is a reorder, look to the past to determine how much you’ll need to order this time around. If you can’t remember how much you ordered last time (or when that was), give us a call. We can check our records and help analyze your needs to determine your best strategy for future purchases.

4 Steps to Turning Objections into Sales

13 12 2011

Objections are a natural part of virtually any sales process. How you deal with them will go a long way in helping you close more sales. Here are four steps to help you turn objections into sales:

1. Believe in what you’re selling.
It’s always easier to convince someone else to buy your product or service if you truly believe doing so is in the best interest of the customer. When you believe in the products you sell, your passion and enthusiasm shine through. So make sure your products and services are worthy of your talent and time. If they aren’t, decide why not. Then improve them until they are.

2. Anticipate objections.
What potential worries might prospects have when they first see your products? The specifics will vary of course based on the kinds of products you sell. For some, there might be pricing concerns or worries over setup costs and the learning curve. For others, security, safety, or support might be more apropos. Whatever the case, think of as many objections as you can ahead of time, then look for creative ways to address those issues as part of your presentation. Prospects will feel more confident investing in your products or services once they see how much thought and effort you put into overcoming the “real world” challenges facing them.

3. Listen… and hear.
We’ve all heard the adage that we have two ears and one mouth so we listen twice as much as we speak. In sales, listening is essential — as is truly hearing what a prospect is saying and determining what they really mean by what they say. So how can you improve your listening? Start by asking questions and restating the concerns a prospect shares with you, so you’re sure you understand them properly. All of this will go a long way in helping you connect, build trust, and reach a mutually beneficial sale.

4. Remain positive.
This is potentially the hardest step to follow. No one likes to hear criticism leveled against the products and services they’ve worked so hard to develop, build, and sell. But objections are natural, and they aren’t personal. Remember that the customer is just trying to make sure they get the best value for their hard-earned money. So try not to get defensive when someone raises an objection. Instead, try to get to the bottom of what’s causing the concern, so you can address it properly and help the prospect feel more comfortable about the sale. Stay as professional and upbeat as you can. Don’t sugarcoat legitimate concerns, but don’t get shaken, either. Remember that objections are a part of every sale.

Are You Just Spending Time…or Investing?

9 12 2011

December is a time of reflection for many of us, as we approach the end of one year and the start of another. Recently, I ran across a quote from Helen Keller that I thought fit this spirit well, and I wanted to share it with you here.

I will not just live my life.
I will not just spend my life.
I will invest my life.

As you probably know, Helen Keller was an incredible woman who, despite being born both blind and deaf, became an accomplished author, speaker, and activist. She invested her life helping others, and the world was better for it. In her lifetime, she inspired many with her words and actions alike, even earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

I like the idea of life as an investment. Unfortunately, in our busy and hectic world, it can be easy sometimes to forget that time is our most precious commodity and that we must do more than spend it. We must invest it in the people we care about, the causes that inspire us, and the businesses we’re working to grow.

So how are you investing your life? And how do you plan to invest it in the year ahead?

Michelangelo once wrote, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Make sure you’re aiming high and investing your life wisely.