Marketing for the Best of Us™!

  •  What are YOU selling?
  • Who should buy what you sell?

  • Why should they buy what you sell?

  • How do you inspire them to buy?

 Part three of my four-part Marketing for the Best of Us™! Blog series, which answers the four critical questions for growing the revenue of any business.

Why should they buy what you sell?

They, your customers or clients, will buy what you have to sell for the same reasons that YOU buy what others have to sell – because their wants or needs are being fulfilled by your product of service better than they can be fulfilled by your competitor, or better than by not making a purchase at all.

Recall that the reason Laura purchased a drill from Ace’s Old Town Hardware store (see my “What are YOU selling?” blog posting) was NOT to own a drill, but to fulfill her want or need to make holes. But, why did she buy from Ace’sinstead of Lowes or Home Depot? They both sell drills and probably the same one that Laura bought from Ace’s.

Are you More Fulfilling than your Competitors Are?

To answer that question, you have discover (1) what it takes to fulfill your customers’ wants or needs and (2) how effectively you are satisfying them when attempting to do so. These answers will simultaneously reveal what your business’s “brand” is, which, in my rudimentary manner, can be defined thusly:

  • Your brand IS your organization’s reputation, image, or perception, as determined by the public (customers and others), but NOT by you.

  • Your brand is NOT your logo, brochures, or letterhead, which merely serve as communicators of your brand.

TIP:Although you can influence your brand, it is the public’s perception that decides what your brand really is . . . e.g., the public’s perception of Penn State today versus one year ago?

Answering Question 1: To determine what it takes to best fulfill your customers’ wants or needs, first identify thosepersonal characteristics which most clearly represent your customers (income level, location, lifestyle, etc. – mentioned in my “Who Should Buy what You Sell?” blog posting). Then deliver your product or service in a way that fulfills their wants or needs by catering to those characteristics. This process, including both your product or service and how you deliver it, is an expression of your “brand.”

Example: Nordstrom’s is far from the least expensive clothing store, but their customers are willing to pay a premium because they want to be able to select from a wide selection of quality products and receive legendary customer service that is “above and beyond” the norm.

TIP: Unless you are destined to be a high volume purveyor (along the lines of Walmart or H&R Block), DO NOT base your brand on (low) price, but do convey the value that you deliver at your price level.

Answering Question 2: So, you believe that your product or service is satisfying your customers by fulfilling their wants or needs better than the other guy can, but how do you find out for sure? Your customers’ satisfaction level can be gauged by any number of measurement methods, from the basic (surveys, contests, giveaways, loyalty programs, directly asking them) to the more sophisticated (“secret shoppers,” social media tracking, online evaluation sites – Yelp is one prominent example). But, make sure that the methods you use are welcomed by and not annoying to your customers (Pavlovian rewards can assuage the latter). Also, find out why your competitors’ customers prefer or avoid your competitors, which can be used to fine-tune your brand accordingly.

TIP: Your competition is anyone or anything that discourages customers from buying from you.

Example: Market insight software provider Cint conducted a survey (released January 17, 2012) which revealed that almost two-thirds (62%) of those surveyed were more likely to purchase a brand’s product if they were asked their opinion in a study, and over half (56%) of the consumers polled felt more loyal to a brand if it takes the time to find out their opinion.

Go forth and Multiply (Your Buyers!)

Integrate your target market’s personal characteristics into the delivery methods of your product or service so that you can fulfill your customers’ wants or needs by responding to their characteristics better than your competitors can. And don’t forget to take your customers’ temperature so that you can stay ahead of the pack!

Peter Baldwin, with over 30 years of marketing and business development experience, is founder, Managing Principal and Chief Marketing Coach of MarketForce StrategiesTM, a business coaching firm specializing in the design of more effective marketing strategies for small-to-medium businesses that will improve performance, attract more clients, and increase revenue.   

Enhanced by Zemanta

Good Promotions for Back to School Season

Back to School season is really important for Small Business retailers. And, after Labor Day weekend sales are over, the rush of the autumn season pushes not only our clocks back an hour, but sometimes sales. Pat Melton, researcher extraordinaire (among many other hats) of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, came across a great article by Sharon McLoone at the Old Town Alexandria Patch site. As the article states, “Heather Stouffer, founder of Alexandria-based Mom Made Foods, shares some healthy eating tips for kids starting the school year.” She is finding creative ways to promote her business through the Back to School season, and not just because her line of food lends to kids start school shortly. Every event, holiday or celebration must be contemplated by Small Business retailers and services providers to see if there’s an opportunity to highlight products and services. This economy is going to get better thanks to the work we do as Small Business to kickstart the US market, so let’s take advantage as often as we can!

Read the full story over at Old Town Patch.

What are you doing for Back to School season to push out good promotions to finish your third quarter well?

Small Business Marketing…on the Go

Marketing doesn't have to stop while small business owners have some summer fun on the beachJuly and August are often a time when businesses slow down, and employees and their families take vacations while school is out for the long summer break. If your business or staff takes a break, it does not mean that you should stop promoting your business. Have you ever realized that travel-related items can be an effective way to promote your enterprise, whether in summer or any other time of year? Tourism and hospitality companies, such as travel agents, hotels, and tour operators have been doing this for a long time. Their clients may be other businesses who use their hospitality or travel services, or they may market direct to the end customer. You may be able to relate your business to travel in some way, and if so, travelers can be walking around displaying your business name wherever they may go with travel-related items

Let me give some examples. Have you ever noticed luggage tags or straps while you are checking your luggage at an airport or retrieving it from a carousel? Luggage tags and straps not only serve the obvious practical purpose of identifying luggage, but a standout color or design really help the luggage, that is so often black, stand out from the rest. This is a welcome advantage for the busy traveler and anyone who does not want to search among dozens of look-alike piece of luggage. One of my favorite (and inexpensive) ways to identify luggage is with a colorful Luggage Spotter which wraps around a handle, with a logo on the outside and the personal identification on the inside, so that it is protected from casual view. The Luggage Spotter™ uses Velcro to stay in place and the bright colors make it easy to spot from a distance. I use them all the time on my own luggage. Several of our customers have selected this as a way to give travelers something useful at a low cost. The logo could be that of a hotel, travel group or some affinity group that the traveler belongs to.  There are also many styles of luggage tags to choose from that hide personal information.

Still on the subject of air travel, did you know that TSA approved locks, and also plastic pouches that hold the allowed three oz. or less liquid or gel in bottles in a one quart zip top bag can be imprinted with a business logo? These are very useful items for any air traveler. If you wish to make a special gift, consider a travel wallet that will hold a passport and airline or other tickets. Low cost ones are available in vinyl, or go for a first class impression in leather.

Luggage itself may be one of the ultimate special gifts, and is certainly likely to be kept and used again and again by the recipient. A piece of luggage may include anything from a simple duffel bag or a garment bag to a set of luggage in different sizes. Inexpensive custom cameras will appeal to ad wide audience and can be tied into a special event or location. Maps and guides are other ways to make a traveler feel valued. Conventions and meetings planners can provide custom fold out maps to their attendees, whether it is a map of the exhibit hall and meeting space in a convention center or a map of the city and location that they are meeting in. If it is designed for the attendees at that event, it Has greater value and will certainly be appreciated.

So your business need not take a vacation, even if your employees do. With the imaginative use of some customized travel-related items, travelers can be out there promoting your business while they are on the go from place to place and they do not have to be anywhere near your business location to do this for you.

If you would like to discuss promotional ideas for your business, please contact Judith Harley at Oxford Communications, Alexandria, Virginia. Oxford Communications has been providing custom-imprinted promotional items, business gifts and corporate clothing to the business community for over ten years. Oxford Communications may be reached at 703-922-4193 or [email protected]. You are invited to visit our website at


Photo courtesy of Horia Varlan

What are YOU selling?

What are YOU selling?

  • Who should buy what you sell?
  • Why should they buy what you sell?
  • How do you inspire them to buy?

This posting (What are YOU selling?) is part one of my four-part Marketing for the Best of Us™! blog series that answers the four critical questions for growing the revenue of any business.  Future blogs will focus on each of the three subsequent questions, but for now we’ll just ask . . .

What are YOU selling?

If you’re just starting a business, it’s fairly important to know how to describe what you are offering to potential customers and clients.  Even those businesses which have been around for a while have to understand what their customers are buying from them.  And, Mr. and Ms. Business-owner, if you believe that you are selling printing, bookkeeping, medical care, meals, or whatever, you’d be wrong!

No matter what business you’re in, you actually sell something much more meaningful than the mere product or service that you promote.  In addition to that actual product or service, what you really are selling is fulfillment of your customers’ wants or needs.  What your customers may be buying could be convenience or time-savings or prestige or reliability or piece of mind, while the product or service is merely the mechanism which delivers it.

Here’s a classic example:  Laura needs to screw a few shelves to her wall, so she goes into Ace’sÒ Old Town Hardware store and purchases a drill, but what the store really is selling her is the ability to make holes for her screws – thus fulfilling Laura’s want or need to create holes, not to buy a drill.  In this instance, the drill itself essentially is irrelevant, because if there were a viably better and affordable alternative (laser beam, anyone?), Laura would likely purchase it instead.  Especially if it did a better job of fulfilling her want or need to create holes.

Another example: Nowadays, customers can buy freshly-brewed coffee just about anywhere, but millions buy it at StarbucksÒ instead – because what StarbucksÒ really is selling, the wants or needs it fulfills for its customers, include atmosphere, exclusivity, dependability, a meeting place, and so on.  Those are the things that inspire customers to spend their money on coffee, because what they are receiving is much more meaningful than coffee alone.

Now, if you’ve been exposed to a modicum of dictates from sales and marketing gurus, you have heard this entreaty before – you must sell your product’s or service’s “benefits” and not its “features.”    Or you need to discover a customer’s “pain points” and relieve them.  Or offer customers your “value proposition” (a phrase, by the way, that I dismiss as meaningless drivel).  Or provide a solution to their problem.

My position of fulfilling customers’ wants or needs means just about the same thing as the gurus’ messages, but I believe that my concept is easier to grasp and simpler to execute (well, at least it is for me).

The distinction between what constitutes a “benefit” or a “feature” can, at times, be blurry, especially as some benefits evolve into features: yesterday’s ease-of-use touch-screen found exclusively on iPhones (benefit) now is available on numerous smartphones (feature).  Thus my reliance on fulfilling wants or needs instead of attempting to distinguish between benefits and features.

And remember, if you’re interested in achieving business success, those wants or needs that you are fulfilling are NOT determined by you, but by your customers.  It is their perception of what you are providing that determines whether their wants or needs are being fulfilled.

Peter Baldwin, with over 30 years of marketing and business development experience, is founder, Managing Principal and Chief Marketing Coach of MarketForce StrategiesTM, a business coaching firm specializing in designing more effective marketing strategies for small-to-medium businesses that will  improve performance, attract more clients, and increase revenue.   



Who should buy what you sell?

Part two of my four-part Marketing for the Best of Us™! Blog series, which answers the four critical questions for growing the revenue of any business.

Who Should Buy what You Sell?

If you are a typical business leader, you’d like your product or service to be purchased by scores, maybe thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people.  Whether your business is just beginning or has been operating for some time, is selling to individuals or organizations, if you are determined to excel you’ll want to maximize the number of your buyers.

After divining your answers to “What are YOU selling?” (see my June xx, 2012 blog post), what’s the best way to determine which types of customers or clients are most likely to buy what you are selling?

To find out, let’s break down this process into digestible bits.

  • Hone in on those wants or needs that (your customers perceive) you are fulfilling when they buy what you sell?
  • Identify the customer characteristics (or demographics) that best represent your buyers.
  • Determine where your customers are located so that you can craft the most effective tactics for inspiring them to buy your product or service.

Wants or Needs

Remember from my June xx blog that, in addition to your actual product or service, what you really are selling is fulfillment of your customers’ wants or needs.  The nature of your product or service determines what those wants or needs are – perhaps convenience, timesavings, or prestige.  With this understanding of your customers’ wants and needs and how you can fulfill them, you have the basis for identifying which characteristics your customers possess that inspire them to buy what you sell

Customer Characteristics

Customers who buy from you and those whom you want to buy typically are labeled as your “target market.”  Customers in this group, your target market, are those which you are, or should be, trying to acquire.

Customer types can be identified by any number of telltale characteristics, such as income level, location, lifestyle, gender, age, race, personality traits, or types of activities in which they engage, to name a few.

The attributes of your product or service foretells those customer characteristics, which ultimately reveal the types and numbers of customers who will be interested in buying what you sell.   If you sell yachts, income level, location, and personality traits are likely to be relevant customer characteristics.  On the other hand, chewing tobacco probably appeals to those having a certain lifestyle and gender.

Truth be told, this process takes time and effort if you want it to be the critical component of your marketing program that it should be.  Gather as much relevant data from as many sources as possible to complete your analysis.  Here in Alexandria, there are several rich suppliers of these data, including: our very own Small Business Development Center; the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership; SCORE; the Small Business Administration (SBA);and Reference USA.

Locating Your Customers

The most efficient and cost-effective method of acquiring customers is from referrals made by satisfied customers and third-parties (your “evangelists”).  Which means that, if they’re not proffered voluntarily, referrals have to be requested – either directly (“Do you know anyone else who might be interested in my widget?”) or indirectly (“Submit a testimonial and the names of other buyers for a chance to win a widget.”).

Additional acquisition techniques for finding customers include cold calling, advertisements or commercials (newspapers, yellow pages, radio, television, Internet, smartphones), direct mailers, brochures & pamphlets, newsletters, social media, your (Search Engine Optimized!) Website, membership directories, customer lists, public relations, holding workshops, exhibiting at trade shows, and, importantly, networking.

By developing a strategic process (I use and recommend the Prospecting Pyramid™), you can transform prospects (from your target market) into customers by converting leads into qualified prospects into hot prospects into customers.

Peter Baldwin, with over 30 years of marketing and business development experience, is founder, Managing Principal and Chief Marketing Coach of MarketForce StrategiesTM, a business coaching firm specializing in the design of more effective marketing strategies for small-to-medium businesses that will  improve performance, attract more clients, and increase revenue.   


Pinterest for Small Business Retailers: Marketing Hot or Not?

Red Pinterest logoIf you are savvy about social networking, you know that Pinterest is all the rage lately. But, do we really know what Pinterest is? According to its website, the social media site is a “Virtual Pinboard” that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” The About page talks of using the service to plan weddings, redecorate your home and organize recipes–a far cry from a platform that contemplated a business use down the road. However, as with everyone on the Web today, if it’s free and you can create a community around your product, service or industry, businesses flock there trying to push their wares. Pinterest has struggled to manage the change, but certain business users have stuck with it as the platform addresses these missing functionalities for marketing purposes. I’m going to try to contextualize what makes Pinterest so appealing to people, what I see as a challenge for Pinterest’s growth, and then what aspects of the service are positive for Small Business retailers on Pinterest. From there, you can make your decision whether investing in Pinterest is right for you and your business.

Continue reading…

Google to Great Webinars: Google Sites

Using Google to Be Found, Part 1 – Google Sites from Ray Sidney-Smith on Vimeo.

In our first Webinar, we present Google Sites, the Internet giant’s tool to help your Small Business quickly and easy draft, edit and publish a Web site in minutes!

Google describes its product as:

With Google Sites, you can easily create and update your own site. Google Sites allows you display a variety of information in one place—including videos, slideshows, calendars, presentations, attachments, and text—and share it for viewing or editing with a small group, an entire organization, or the world. You always control who has access to your site.

We go over you would use Google Sites to plan and implement a new site, how to modify the look and feel, how to navigate the basic and some intermediate features of the product. During the Webinar, we allotted ample Q&A time with our favorite “Google-ologist,” Ray Sidney-Smith, and had some great questions!

Do you have a question after watching the video? Ask it in the comments below, or tweet @w3consulting and include the hashtag #googletogreat in your tweet. We’ll post a video response to your question!

Make Every Day Earth Day

Make Every Day Earth Day at the Office
“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” Has this become the mantra of the first two decades of the 21st century? To a dedicated few perhaps, but so far most behavior change has focused on recycling , rather than reducing or reusing the products we use in everyday life.
To see if I am making a correct assumption here, ask yourself if your habits have changed significantly in the last few years regarding conservation, energy efficiency, and a lifestyle with less physical waste. For example, do you turn off the lights more frequently, use water saving toilets and energy-efficient light bulbs and (Energy Star) appliances, and turn off computers and other “idle” media when they are not in use?
At work, have you switched to lights that turn themselves off when there is lack of movement in the space (as at the Alexandria SBDC offices)? Have you stopped the bottled water habit and switched to water filtered at the faucet instead? Do you use ceramic coffee cups and plates and individual reusable water bottles instead of the use once and throw away variety? Instead of answering “paper” or “plastic” at the supermarket, many shoppers, although still usually a minority, now bring their own multi-use non-woven or other grocery shopping bags. They are sometimes rewarded with five cents off at checkout. Some municipalities such as San Francisco have gone as far as banning stores from providing plastic bags and business seems to be thriving in spite of this minor inconvenience.
Surprisingly, changing behaviors can be good not only for the environment, but also for a business’ bottom line. There are plenty of ways to make a small environmental contribution and save the business unnecessary expenditure at the same time. Builders can construct energy-efficient buildings that are attractive to prospective tenants, and they do not have to become LEED-certified to do this. You, as a business owner, can reduce and reuse, as well as recycle, within your office or workspace and set an example for employees, customers and the community. If you develop a reputation as an environmentally-friendly business, that might help to attract new customers or solidify relationships with your existing client base.

Three Simple Steps

  1. Paper – certainly something that can be reduced, reused AND recycled. While not easy to go paperless, reducing paper output, and using both sides of the paper are easy steps in the right direction. It will also decrease the ink cartridge bill, which can be significant in itself.
  2. Mail – cutting down on snail mail will have an immediate impact. Fax, email and social media have reduced the need for using the post office, UPS or FedEx.
  3. Lunch room – providing a refrigerator and microwave oven for employees will be popular with staff, and will encourage them to bring food and beverages for lunch. Provide a way to filter water from the faucet to discourage the throwaway plastic water bottle habit and encourage staff to bring their own reusable water bottles. Plastic plates, utensils and cups are not necessities. Paper napkins may be harder to relinquish.
If you have the budget and opportunity to do some branding and be environmentally-friendly at the same time, there is an increasing choice of products made from recycled materials (e.g. pens or t-shirts made from plastic water bottles), reusable bags, including lunch bags, water bottles, and many other everyday items used in a typical workspace.
So, although there is only one official Earth Day, and it falls on Sunday, April 22, 2012, every day can be an opportunity to make a difference in our own consumption patterns. If we remember to “reduce, reuse and recycle” we can continue to make an individual and collective impact on conserving our scarce resources and the environment we are fortunate to live and work in, here in Northern Virginia.
The author, Judith Harley, owns and operates Oxford Communications, in Alexandria, Virginia. Oxford Communications provides branding for businesses, associations and non-profits through the use of custom-imprinted promotional items, corporate apparel and business gifts. Oxford Communications is known for providing creative environmentally-friendly options for clients.

Celebrate Earth Day by Recycling Your E-Waste!(


Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video