Marketing Health Check for 2013 Nicci Troiani Creating a great product or service, hiring a few good people, and opening the doors to your business is no longer enough to sustain your business, much less grow in today’s market. Your customers are shopping and researching online and constantly getting marketed to in both traditional and online methods (Search Engines, Social Media, email marketing). Doing the same old thing or relying on referrals and word of mouth is a death sentence. Here are 5 things you must be focusing on in 2013; no doubt some of your competitors are already there. 1) Capture and organize your contacts: Do you have a clean list of your contacts? (Prospects, Customers, Past Customers, Lead Sources, etc.) Can you quickly and easily see what your customers buy from you? Or what products or services your prospects are interested in? Most likely the answer is no. Even companies that have a CRM tool (Customer Relationship Management) often are not diligent about capture notes on their contacts or segmenting them effectively. Whether you have been in business for 1 year or 30, your most valuable asset is your contact list; 80% of new business can come from your existing customers. Most businesses focus on new business and neglect their existing contacts. Why spend the time getting in front of new people if you can’t keep track of the contacts you already have? You must effectively capture and organize all of your contacts. The pile of business cards on your desk gathering dust is not doing anything to help grow your business. In addition, make sure you have a compelling offer (a coupon, whitepaper, testimonial, overview video, etc.) on your website that encourages visitors to enter their contact information. If you drive visitors to your website (more on this later) and don’t capture their information it is like a bucket with a big hole in it, you are going to lose a good portion of what you are trying to collect. 2) Stay in touch: How often do you reach out to your customers and prospects? Monthly, Quarterly, Annually? It doesn’t take much to convince a business owner that it is a good idea to stay in touch with their prospects and customers. The problem is in the practice. You are busy and your sales people are busy. Even with the best intentions it is virtually impossible to keep up with everyone. Your time is going to be spent on two groups, the hottest opportunities and the squeaky wheels. These groups make up about 10% of your contacts; you end up neglecting the remaining 90%. Hire an assistant, get a business development person to focus only on this, or start researching automated marketing tools (hint, hint). 3) Be found: When is the last time you watched a commercial, actually read all of your mail or went to the Yellow Pages to find a business? It’s probably been a while. That is because the way people shop has dramatically changed. We live in an “instant gratification” society. When somebody has a question or needs something they head to their computer and search for it. They buy on their timetable not yours and worlds have to align perfectly with traditional methods to capture the right person at exactly the right time. Try this: Go to Google and search for your product or service and see where you show up in the results; page 1, 2…25? Now see if any of your competitors are on page 1. If you haven’t done it already you need to start looking into SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or Ad Words to make sure your prospects and customers can find you. 4) Share your knowledge: How does the old saying go? When you assume you make an a** out of u and me. You assume that your customers are listening as you tell them about our products and services. You assume they will retain more information about your product or services than they actually do. You assume that they will call you when they have a need. You are the expert not your customers or prospects and they rely on you to be that expert. To be effective you must constantly educate them all the ways your company can benefit them, you must remind them why they and others choose to work with you and you must constantly provide value to your customers beyond just selling. 5) Socialize: Get out there. Social media is a great way to promote yourself and your products and services. But social media can be tricky. People can quickly see through a sales pitch; social media sites are cluttered with businesses pushing products or services. For example, imagine you are at a high school reunion. There is a group in the corner sharing old stories and pictures of their kids; then you walk into the group and start telling someone about your product or service. You will quickly be dismissed and alienated from the group. That is how social media works, you must be relevant to the conversation and add something of value; an entertaining story, a few relevant tips or just an idea to enhance the conversation. If the people in the group see that you enhance their experience, the business opportunities will follow. And don’t forget, social media does not replace real face to face socializing.