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Marketing ... Nothing is Difficult About It Just get the right system and PERSEVERE

By Peter Urs Bender |

What is marketing?

No need to bang your head against the wall for an answer. It's simply "the expression of who you are." It applies whether you're Big Blue or Barney Brown in your own small business.

Think about it for a minute.

You answer the phone and snap at the person on the other end of the line. You've marketed yourself as an unpleasant person to deal with. Your callback ratio will drop. No one wants to deal with a crank. Worse still, you're never there. People get tired of leaving voice messages that are never returned.

You show up for a business meeting in casual clothes and scruffy shoes. You've marketed yourself as a person who doesn't care about appearances. The message you send: 'I don't care about my appearance; I won't care about yours.'

I believe the definitive expression of marketing is simple. "You cannot not market."

For purists who are already finger pointing at the double negative, note that in language, as in mathematics, a double negative becomes a positive. In fact, the expression says that no matter what you think, you are marketing yourself with your every action. Those actions can result in a positive image, or a negative one. The trick, in the words of the old song is to "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative."

Marketing, in fact, is about how you present yourself and your business to the world. It's about how persistently you do it, and above all, it's about how systematically you do it.

And that message is the key for anyone who needs a marketing program. Marketing requires a systematic approach.

It definitely does not require bags of money (although sufficient money to market is always nice). But you don't need a bundle of money up front, which is how most people think of marketing programs. Look for those tried and true methods of marketing that don't cost the earth, and which most entrepreneurs can understand without having to hire a translator.

Marketing is not a course you study at business college (although business colleges do teach it). It's not sales (although it helps you sell). It's not any one of a dozen things you can think of – advertising, promotion, cold calls, and direct mail – although all of those can be aspects of marketing.

There are basically Five Strategies of Personal Marketing. I emphasize the word 'personal' here. These strategies can be implemented by a single individual to make his or her business grow.

But they can just as well be applied to any business, large or small. It's just that most large companies also have access to advertising dollars, and my emphasis here is that big bucks do not a marketing program make.

So what does?

First, take control of the perceptions people have of you and your company. That means, take a close look at your own or your company's image and make sure it reflects well on your business. Think again about the examples above. The guy who answered the phone could just have easily been nice, helpful, and courteous. What image would he have projected then?

Second, you must form relationships with people of influence. It's as the old proverb says: 'You're known by the company you keep.'

Third, look for ways to get yourself into the media. Try to get yourself recognized as an expert in your field, someone the media will remember and come to for advice or comment. It doesn't matter whether you're marketing chocolate, cheese, or china. The principle remains the same.

Four, Leverage your limited resources. Get as much out of them as you can.

Five, create and control a database of your prospects to concentrate and expand the reach of your marketing tools.

Remember your mother telling you that first impressions were lasting. It's true. The idea is to make the first impression the most positive one possible. Sell yourself. Watch how you dress. Smile. Stand and walk confidently. Use a firm handshake (not a crusher). Create distinctive stationery for yourself. Try to create a short memorable slogan for your company. There are literally hundreds of small things that influence others' perceptions of you. Make a list of the ones most important to you, and then work at making it stick.

Form relationships
You've been doing this all your life. There should be nothing difficult about it. The only difference when you use it as a marketing strategy is that you work at it deliberately and systematically. Your objective is to genuinely build bridges to your clients. The best way to build such bridges is to show your clients you care – even when you might not be receiving business from them.

Call, send notes, congratulations, and thank-you's – and if you're keeping a database (which you should be) – remember their birthdays with a card. Our world is becoming so high-tech that personal touches like a hand-written note are treasured when received. Build a “Relationship-Building Action List” that will set you on the right path and keep you there if you've forgotten the simpler courtesies.

Meeting the media
Getting your feet wet can be as simple as writing a letter-to-the-editor, or calling a radio station on-line show and asking to speak to the commentator. Write about yourself, your company, your product, and send it off to the local newspaper. In smaller areas, most editors are looking for news like this . . . and even if your article doesn't get used, it may become the springboard to something else.

If you have a message you want to communicate to others via the media, you must persist in getting it out. Your best bet is to try to get something into the print media. Television and radio are great for spot news and information, but their impact dissipates quickly. Print stays around . . . and if you get something printed about you or your company, you can reprint it and use it is a marketing tool. Even something as simple as a restaurant review can become the basis for a neighbourhood flyer that will tell your customers who you are.

More and more opportunities are opening up, too, for Internet promotion. Try to get something on an Internet site in your field. Link to it from your own website. The more you can link into like databases, the better are your chances of your business expanding rapidly.

Leverage your assets
Everyone's heard of Archimedes: 'If I had a lever long enough I could move the world,' he said. Leverage simply means making the most of what you have. Learn to focus, be unique, and be creative with your assets. For instance, don't advertise; sponsor. Get your name out there on a team, associated with a cause. It will cost you some money, but will get your name effectively known in the community in which you work. Potential clients will remember you when they hear your name. It may not bring you business right away, but it will if you persist.

Remember, marketing is not for short-term gain. It's for the long-haul growth of your business. It's like planting bamboo. In the first six years, bamboo seedlings grow only about a foot high – but their roots become well established. In the seventh year, the bamboo suddenly sprouts to eight feet.

Create a database
If don't have one now, start right away. There are many computer database programs you could use to keep a list of your contacts by name, address, and phone number. But it's not enough just to start a database – you have to work it.

When you're not actively working at your business, get on your database and call, call, call. Keep a record of your calls. Sure you'll get lots of turndowns and rejects, but try not to take them to heart. Every time you get a 'no' make a note of it, and call again in two, three or six months, whatever seems to work for you. Things change, and often change rapidly. The client that didn't need you last week, last month, or even last year may become a client at last.

The way to market yourself or your business is to get a system at which you persist. That's the core of it. Everything else is about technique. A business that works persistently at a marketing program, no matter how simple or fundamental, will grow. Treat your business as a journey, not a destination. That's the way to make it flourish.

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