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Improve your marketing and increase your profit

What is marketing? I define marketing as any action taken to attract or keep customers. Therefore, improving your marketing should help you attract and retain more customers thereby increasing your profits. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

In fact, successful marketing is not as difficult as some would have us believe. While this does not mean that we can all become David Ogilvy overnight, it does mean that application of some common sense and effort will almost always result in an improvement in your marketing. After visiting countless commercial sites and assisting many clients in improving their marketing, I have compiled what I believe are the ten most important, and most often overlooked, elements of a successful marketing campaign.

1. Select Your Market
Don't fall into the trap that EVERYONE needs your product, most people have gotten along just fine without it. However, if you have done the proper research, you should have an idea of who your target market is. Tell your potential customers who will benefit from your product and more importantly, who will not. If your product is targeted to sophisticated end users you will not gain by selling it to a neophyte. This kind of honesty is guaranteed to make an impression on your potential customers.

2. Demonstrate Your Advantages
Your product is probably like many others that are available to your potential customer. What is it about your product that makes it better for the customer to buy it from you? Is your product cheaper than the competitions? Faster? More durable? Easier to use? Once you have identified the key advantages to buying the product from you, make certain that all of your marketing reflects these advantages. Each ad should include at least one advantage to the customer. Your printed marketing materials could include several and your website should detail them all.

3. Don't Sell Your Customers, Help Them Buy
No one wants to be sold but most people appreciate assistance when making a purchase. Write marketing materials with the customer in mind. How will your product help them solve a problem they have? Point out the benefits of your product, not the features. If you are selling cleaning products -- making clean up faster is a benefit, containing xylitol-237 is a feature. Having difficulty distigushing between features and benefits? A useful rule of thumb is benefits are about feelings, features are about facts.

4. Offer An Ironclad Guarantee
A solid, believable guarantee is critical to doing business on the Internet. For some of us old hands it is hard to believe but to the majority of people the Internet is unfamiliar territory. Many people are still uncomfortable making purchases via the Net. You must do your best to put their fears to rest. A believable, unconditional money back guarantee goes a long way toward reducing the customer's perceived risk, clearing the path for completion of the sale.

5. The Personal Touch
People buy from people they know. While it is impossible to meet all your potential Internet customers it is possible for them to gain some measure of familiarity with you and your company. If you are a small business, put a personal profile page on your website. Include photos of yourself and your employees along with a brief biography. Utilize the customers name in any correspondence. Always sign any letters sent to the customer with a person's name, never with something anonymous like "webmaster" or "the staff".

6. Get Testimonials
The most effective, and least expensive, form of marketing is word of mouth. When you are marketing a product on the Internet it can be difficult to get people talking to each other about your product. The next best thing is to have your satisfied customers tell your potential visitors about their experience with your product. Ask past customers for their opinions and for permission to use their words and names in your advertising.

7. Employ Multiple Channels
You have created a web site, now the orders will just pour in, right? Wrong! You need to utilize as many channels as possible to drive customers to your web site. Ezine ads, search engines, publishing your own ezine, buying advertising on high traffic web sites and link swapping a just a few of the many channels that must be exploited to drive traffic to your web site and ultimately, to your order page. Maximize your efforts by focusing on channels that target your market.

8. Partner For Profit
Select complimentary businesses and propose joint marketing ventures. If you sell a product that restores that new car smell, partner with businesses that repaint vehicles. If you are a networking consultant, partner with a reseller of network hardware. Refer customers to each other, create joint advertising materials. This not only helps share the cost, but allows your product to reach markets that may not have been accessible without the partnership.

9. Seek Free Publicity
Nothing establishes your credibility like exposure in the main stream media. Offer your services as an subject matter expert to local talk shows, create and distribute press releases to the appropriate media outlets, involve your business in community affairs such as sponsoring the local Little League team. Keep your eyes open, there are possibilities for free publicity all around. With a little practice you will get better at identifying and capitalizing on these opportunities.

10. Be Consistent
You must select a message and stick with it in all of your marketing. Marketing is all about building a brand. If your message is inconsistent, people are never going to remember your business or your product. Think about Pepsi and their "Pepsi Generation" ads. Even when they shifted to a new campaign, they stayed consistent by employing the new slogan "Generation Next". By maintaining a consistent message, they built on the brand recognition they had already established.

The ideas above are just a starting point. The most effective methods for your product will vary depending on factors such as your target market, the amount of research you have done and your budget.

Ultimately, you know your product and your customers the best. It is up to you to select the marketing methods you think will be sustainable and successful in your market. The real secret is "get started". The sooner you start learning about what marketing works for you and your customers, the sooner you will start to increase your profits.

About the author
Copyright 1998, 2003 Tony L. Callahan All Rights Reserved
Tony L. Callahan, is a successful Internet Promotions Consultant with more than twenty years of industry experience and is president of his own Internet marketing company, Link-Promote. He also publishes Web-Links Monthly, a newsletter full of tips, tricks, tools and techniques for successful web site promotions. To subscribe, send e-mail to: Web-Links-subscribe@topica.com. For an online archive of Tony's articles available for reprint, visit: http://www.link-promote.com/articles

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