When it seems everybody is using great graphics, and there are so many marketing messages competing for our customers' attention, Phil Ashforth, Synergy Coaching Business Coach, asks us to consider what we can do to make our offer, stand apart from the crowd.
New channels, new media, new technology It's easy to see why so many companies find competing for customers a headache. Yet, with all the technology and new ways of presenting sales and marketing messages, why does it seem so hard for so many companies to make any real impression?
In many ways, it appears that we are experiencing a backlash to technology, increasingly companies are removing there telephone numbers from sales databases, narrowing the pool available for outbound call centres, intensifying the battle so that companies still on the lists are getting more sales calls, often of variable quality, than ever.
Similarly with other marketing techniques, there is growing evidence that as businesses and individuals, we are experiencing 'noise burnout', filtering all types of advertising and placing printed materials, mainly into the B.I.N file (wastebasket) with nothing more than a cursory glance at the envelope to determine it as junk mail.
So we all need to keep new customers in the pipeline, and tell our audience of prospective and existing buyers we still exist, but how do we get through all the noise and reach our harangued target audience with our own palatable morsel?
Firstly, we can take some lessons from Google and other major search engines. The key factors in achieving ranking within these search engines is simply to have website content that is relevant and high quality in answer to a surfer's search query. If content of a site is a good match for what is being searched for, it will usually get a better ranking.
We can use this as a simple metaphor for how we communicate with our customers, i.e. taking time to construct messages more specific to individual segments of customers, giving them good quality content related to their actual needs. Relevance is what cuts through noise, content is much more valuable than clever strap lines or a stunning creative.
Another key area to make you stand apart is in simple accuracy, how good is your data? Try cross-checking a batch of contacts by a personal call to the named contact, check the job title, you might be surprised at the level of inaccuracies, especially if you buy in lists.
When a recipient of a letter or mailer sees their details are incorrect, it can mildly offend and that may create a negative association with your brand, it will be hard to get a second bite there, let alone any enquiry.
In terms of communications with existing customers, how do you inform them of your full range of products and services? There are many ways to achieve this without the need for expensive advertising or printed media, it may be a simple email or letter, or brought into conversation on a sales visit, or via an open day. There are lots of original ways of simply telling customers about all the other products they could buy, but are probably not be aware you provide.
With all sales and marketing communications it pays to be true to who you are, don't create marketing messages that are outside your personality and values as an organisation, if you have a culture of technical innovation and excellence, then your communications should mirror that positioning. Getting positioning wrong just confuses customers and lessens the likelihood of them responding.
When it comes to getting your brand noticed, the old fashioned principles still hold true, work on your offer, sharpen your delivery, follow-up enquiries quickly, and develop a good rapport with your customers you will find your marketing communications are the ones that will be opened and acted upon, whilst your competitors' are those creating an unwelcome distraction.
Phil Ashforth is Managing Director of Apple Creative Design, a design agency offering graphic design for print and web based in Preston, UK. The agency also provides marketing consultancy to complement their range design services - Look at his work on http://www.apple-design.com