What makes your customers tick?

That is, what do they believe, and what do they want?

Many marketers build their marketing programs by starting with what they’re selling — products and services which they ask prospective customers to buy. They believe if customers understand the features and benefits of the products, they will buy them. So the task becomes communicating what those features and benefits are. These marketers start with their products, then target their customers. Which is precisely why many products don’t sell.

A customer must be convinced a product relates to what she believes, and what she wants. It makes no sense to try to sell her a tank-style vacuum cleaner if she’s convinced that a upright is a better machine. You can talk all day long about the benefits of the latest tank vacuum cleaners, but you’re violating her mindset. She wants a computer that she believes — correctly or not — is easier to use. So — no sale.

The moral of this story is:  Marketing starts with your market, not with your product. Learn what your customer wants, and why. Learn what she believes. Then decide what to sell, and what to say about it — in your advertising and promotion, and in face-to-face selling.

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Yellow Pages: Which ones should you buy?

Two facts of life about the Yellow Pages:  First, for many kinds of businesses, Yellow Pages are effective marketing tools, and for some, virtually indispensable. And second, Yellow Page advertising can be quite expensive, especially in areas that are served by more than one phone directory.

Should you advertise in the Yellow Pages? Which ones? Your answer has to do with what you’re selling, and where your business comes from. Yellow Pages ads work far more effectively for some kinds of businesses than for others. Check and see if your competitors are in the Yellow Pages.

If yours is an independent store, most of your business probably comes from no more than a half mile away. A chain store — one mile. A store in a shopping mall — as far as five miles. Try to match your advertising with directories that have the appropriate distribution.

Don’t keep advertising in the same Yellow pages blindly year after year unless you can be reasonably certain it’s bringing in customers. Ask every new customer how she found your business.

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One big ad or lots of small ones?

It’s an issue that small business advertisers face all the time. Should they spend their ad budget of $1000 for a full page in the local paper, or should they insert a small ad 10 times, for $100 each? While it’s true that a bigger ad gets better readership, it will reach each of its readers only once. The smaller ads develop what the advertising boys and girls call frequency — that is,  they reach prospects more than once.

Studies have shown that, in general, an advertiser will get better results reaching a thousand prospects 6 times, then he/she will by reaching 6 thousand prospects just once. In most cases, it’s frequency that makes advertising pay off.

The same principle applies to broadcasting and cable advertising. You can spend a limited budget buying a handful of spots on radio morning “drive time,” where the audiences are big and so are the prices. Or you can choose to buy many more spots on nighttime radio, where the prices are low (and where good deals can be negotiated).

I have always believed that any campaign should have an absolute minimum frequency of 5. And 10 or 15 is much better.

Spend those ad dollars wisely, and space your campaign over a reasonable period of time. The prospect who didn’t need what you’re selling last week, might well need it this week.

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