Over my 25 year marketing career, I have had the pleasure of marketing a multitude of diverse products: mutual funds; chiropractic pain reduction devices; bowling alley coatings; original oil paintings; financial planning services; and the list goes on. Twelve years ago, I founded Breakthrough Direct Mail Marketing, Inc., since shortened to Breakthrough Marketing, Inc. Breakthrough has found a niche in developing marketing products for wedding professionals S and beyond.This column will explore marketing strategies with the goal of revealing new ideas to help you make more money faster. The strategies are based on my experience, marketing studies, and direct feedback from Breakthrough’s clients in 50 states and Canada. Here are basic ideas essential to making your business grow in the way you want it to grow:
View marketing as an investment, NOT as an expense. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? It’s not. Typical DJs or wedding videographers would love nothing better than to spend their money on the new, sexy piece of equipment on the market. Marketing plays second fiddle to equipment purchases. And yet a solid, professional marketing campaign PAYS for equipment and business expansion.
You must view marketing as the first necessary investment to increasing sales, increasing profits, and boosting your paycheck. I propose that your return on your investment will be greater than stocks, bonds, or real estate if you invest in your business, and marketing is the first essential investment you should make in your business.
How will your investment in marketing pay off for you in your business? In four ways:
Expanded market. The right marketing allows you to reach more qualified prospects, increasing the overall potential of your business. If one hundred prospects heard of you last year, wouldn’t it be great if 150 qualified prospects heard of you this year? If one-thousand prospects heard of you last year, wouldn’t it be great if 1200 qualified prospects heard of you this year?
Increased response. Targeted marketing efforts have the potential to get your phone ringing more often. Imagine that you received about 1000 inquiries over the phone last year. Imagine what could happen to your sales if you get 1500 inquiries this year! How is it going to happen? Marketing.
Higher prices. Add one-hundred dollars to every job you did last year. What does that do to your bottom line? It makes it look pretty good! One of the easiest ways for you to raise prices is to raise the quality of your prospects. Professional marketing attracts better prospects than amateur marketing. Professional marketing attracts prospects seeking quality services. And quality-oriented prospects EXPECT to pay more for services.
Higher closing rate. High quality, professional marketing does some wonderful things for your company: it increases prospects’ perception of your professionalism, integrity, value, and reliability. In other words, they are partially pre-sold on you before you ever meet with them. You find it easier than ever to close the sale.
Each single benefit of marketing listed above can produce a dramatic return on investment for you. Marketing is a dynamic investment for you. Don’t forget it!
Assuming you are a business owner, you will enjoy a valuable, residual benefit to your investment in marketing: the value of your business will increase. Should you decide to sell your business someday (and you should!), the high public awareness of your business as a result of years of marketing makes your business more attractive and more valuable to future owners.
Is there an easy way to get more business without spending a ton of money? Yes, and we’ll cover it next month.
Nurture referrals. Everyone loves word-of-mouth advertising. It’s powerful, but not enough to sustain you alone. However, you can increase the quantity of referral business you receive by actively soliciting it from satisfied past customers. You should maintain a list of past customers and mail them a copy of your brochure twice a year.
Why twice a year? Because you can capture address corrections from the post office for customers who have moved if you mail about every six months. Post offices generally only keep address corrections on file for six months. Be sure to put the words “address correction requested” on the upper left hand corner of your envelope, and mail the envelope first class. Brides in particular move often in the early years of their marriage. Keep tabs on them. They are a valuable source of future business. A letter should accompany the brochure. It could go something like this:
Thank-you for the honor of providing our services at your wedding. We are lucky to work in such a fun, joy-filled business, and feel privileged to have been a part of your wedding.
Our business has grown as a direct result of referrals from satisfied customers. That’s why I have enclosed a copy of our latest company brochure. Do you have any friends, family members, or co-workers planning a wedding in the next 18 months? If you do, could you pass this brochure on to them? We’d love to become the “official” DJ for your family and friends!
If you’d like additional brochures, just call me at 1-800-810-4152.
P.S. A recent customer wrote: “The nicest thing my best friend did for me was to give me your brochure. I called you. I hired you. And you came through for me with fabulous entertainment at my wedding. Thank-you!” Do your friends a favor. Hand them our brochure. We will take good care of them. I promise.
Always nurture referral business. Now it’s time to take the next step to expanding your business and increasing your paycheck. We’ll look at a critical marketing strategy next month.
Repeat your message over and over. Why will someone buy from you? Because they’ve heard of you. Conversely, prospects don’t buy from you because they haven’t heard of you. It is essential for small businesses to get their message out repeatedly to create awareness of their company. One shot isn’t enough to build your business. You need repeat exposure. Let me give you a mini quiz. Name the companies or products who used these slogans in their advertising:
“Just do it.”
“Ring around the collar.”
“We’re number two, we try harder.”
“The nighttime cold medication.”
All readers of this column can probably rattle off the answer to (a) without even thinking: Nike. They have repeated this message over and over for years. They have created a memorable identity for their product line. The next three are going to be fairly easy if you are at least 40 years old: (b) Wisk; (c) Avis Rent-A-Car; (d) Nyquil.
What is interesting about Wisk and Avis is they haven’t used these slogans for years, and yet they are still memorable to members of the baby boom generation because we’ve heard them so many times. Interestingly, Avis developed this positioning statement in the early 1960’s, not to take on Hertz, the giant of the industry, but Budget Rent-A-Car. Budget was their big rival for #2. The Avis strategy worked. And part of the reason it worked was because they repeated their message over and over again.
I don’t know how many people I’ve heard call up our company and say, “Okay, Tom, you’ve got me! I’ve been receiving your brochures in the mail for the past three years. I guess it’s time for me to give you a try!” The same simple strategy of repeat exposure will work for you. Take the bridal market. Brides are stressed. They have over a thousand decisions to make. They don’t know where to start. Some brides book your type of service a year in advance of their wedding date. Some wait until a month before the wedding to do it. Timing is important. Your message must reach the bride repeatedly at different times to capture her attention. Only then can you begin to create interest and desire in your business with the bride.
Take the corporate market. Corporate needs evolve and grow. The company who doesn’t need your service today may need you tomorrow. Make sure your message reaches them repeatedly. What are the odds that a decision maker with a particular company changes jobs? High. Your message needs to reach companies repeatedly because personnel change. The last person on the job may have used a different vendor than you. The new person in that same position may be interested in some fresh blood. Keep your message flowing.
What’s the best way to reach prospects? I’ll answer that question next month.
Communicate from different directions. The best way to market most services is to reach prospects in different ways. Let’s look at the wedding market. Brides get information about potential wedding vendors from many sources. I conducted a 12 month survey of brides ending in July of 1998. Among other things, I asked them what were their most valuable sources of information in planning their wedding and getting meaningful information about wedding vendors. Here are the results, ranked in order of importance to the bride:
Wedding magazines & planners.
Brochures from vendors.
(tie) Direct Mail & Bridal Shows
News articles in the newspaper
Phone calls from vendors.
Focus on these benefits of these key communication methods:
Wedding magazines were the most important source of information to brides by far. They offer you a targeted way to reach a well-defined market. Wedding magazines give you credibility and stature in brides’ eyes. That counts for a lot.
Brochures are the next key information source for brides. Brochures reveal something important to brides: they reveal what you think of yourself. Brides are wary of vendors who do not present themselves professionally. If they care so little about their own image, how much will they care about the job they do for the bride?
.Because Breakthrough Marketing is in the brochure business, we delved deeper into what brides are looking for in your brochure. In follow up surveys, we discovered that brides reacted positively to romance and emotion in copy, photographs, and graphics. But they also like tangible information such as testimonials, references, and packages, even if prices weren’t included (and in most cases, they shouldn’t be included). Once you put prices in your brochure, you are encouraging brides to become price-conscious instead of quality-conscious. Save prices for face-to-face meetings.
Yellow Pages can get your phone ringing. Small ads can be good for newer companies striving to get their calendar booked. The downside: Yellow Pages generate too many price shoppers. As you get established, you will want to decrease your investment in Yellow Pages and increase your marketing investment in other areas, especially if you are interested in increasing your prices and profit margin.
Direct Mail can be your secret weapon to opening the floodgates of response. You can time the delivery to reach brides when they need information on your type of service. You can target zip codes to reach market areas right for your business. Direct mail can get your phone ringing. Now.
You should know a few important features of direct mail. If one mailing is good, two or three is even better. It vastly improves the odds of reaching prospects at the right time. This is especially true if you market to corporate prospects. Direct mail works best as part of an overall campaign: Brides see your ad in a bridal magazine. Brides see you at a bridal show. And then they get your mailing. What a powerful combination!
There is a downside to direct mail. Some brides get irritated from getting too much mail. You can somewhat overcome this obstacle by mailing first class and sending her high quality marketing materials.
Bridal Shows allow you to connect with prospects face-to-face. This is so important because the wedding industry is personal. The downside to bridal shows is cost. The cost per prospect reached can be high if the show doesn’t deliver a good-sized crowd. Shows with a good history of getting brides in the door are worth consideration. Talk to other people in the business who attended a particular show in the past. Ask them:
1. About how many brides did you talk to?
2. How many appointments did you get?
3. How many weddings did you book?
The quality of your brochure is vital to maximizing your success at bridal shows. This is what DJs and videographers around the country tell me time and time again. Vendors handing out professional materials at shows make the company in the next booth handing out one color fliers look like rank amateurs.
Balance your marketing program by communicating from different directions. Just how important is the way your present yourself in your marketing program? Vitally important. You’ll see why next month.
Attract the right kind of prospects by presenting a quality image. The way you present yourself in your marketing materials affects the type of prospects you attract. What an obvious statement S but how ignored by most wedding professionals! Look at your ads, your business card and stationary, your brochure, and your signs. Do they reflect the quality of your service? Be honest. You see, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in marketing is to project the wrong image.
Let’s say you are an upper end videographer or DJ (or would like to be), you will send a mixed signal to the bride if your brochure looks home made. I know one very upscale videographer who actually uses his competitors’ brochures against them. During his presentation, he sets his brochure side-by-side to a couple of his competitors brochures. His is beautiful. Professional. Emotional, but packed with important information. His competitors’ brochures immediately smack you with the “home made look”.
After a brief pause to let the magnitude of the difference between brochures sink in, he says: “Which of these companies cares the most about their image?” The answer of course is self-evident. He continues: “If they don’t care any more about their own image than this, how much are they going to care about the job they do for your wedding?” Again, the answer is self-evident.
Do you realize how important perception is in marketing? Perception is everything. It doesn’t matter whether you are the best videographer or DJ in town. What matters is what the prospect thinks of you. Let me quote authors Al Ries and Jack Trout from their 132 page must-read book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing:
“Most marketing mistakes stem from the assumption that you’re fighting a product battle rooted in reality. All the laws in this book are derived from the exact opposite point of view.
What some marketing people see as the natural laws of marketing are based on a flawed premise that the product is the hero of the marketing program and that you’ll win or lose based on the merits of the product. Which is why the natural, logical way to market a product is invariably wrong. Only by studying how perceptions are formed in the mind and focusing your marketing programs on those perceptions can you overcome your basically incorrect marketing instincts.”
To get greater insight to this perception thing when it comes to brides, we conducted in-depth surveys with brides in a number of cities about marketing materials. I will use results from brides surveyed in Phoenix, Arizona. We presented them with various brochures for DJs. We asked them the following questions:
How professional do these companies look to you based on their marketing material? Please rate them on a 1 (unprofessional) to 10 (highly professional) scale.
Look at the literature for each of these companies. About how much would you guess each would charge. Just make a rough guess. Base your guess on an average four hour package, assuming these DJ companies were in your area.
How trustworthy do these companies appear to be to you based on their literature? (using a 1 to 10 scale).
Which companies would you be LEAST and MOST likely to call based on their literature alone?
The difference in perceptions created by the brochures was profound. Let me contrast the results between two of them, which I shall call Brochure A and Brochure B:
Regarding professionalism, Brochure A was rated 8.7 on a 1 to 10 scale (10 is the best); Brochure B was rated 5.6.
Regarding price, on average brides guessed the company using Brochure A would charge $612 for a four hour gig, and that the Brochure B company would charge $370.
They gave Brochure A a rating of 9.0 when it comes to trustworthiness. Brochure B was rated lower at 7.4.
These brides said they were more than 3 times as likely to call the company using Brochure A than the company using Brochure B.
What was the difference between these two brochures? The perception they created. One brochure created the perception of a company that was more professional and trustworthy than another company. The same brochure created a perception of a company worth more money. And here is the payoff: brides were more likely to call the company they perceived to be worth more money than the one they perceived to be cheaper. Extraordinary!
Let me be clear. A small minority of brides did indeed gravitate toward the perceived “cheaper” company. These were brides only concerned about price, not quality. These are the brides most likely to shop using the Yellow Pages. But they were overwhelmed by the quality-oriented brides. The way you present yourself to these quality-oriented brides means everything. You must create the perception of quality, reliability, professionalism, trustworthiness, and high value in the way you market. Only then can you attract high-caliber prospects willing to spend more on your services.
Marketing is a game. Winners don’t take all, they just get more. Are you taking your marketing seriously enough? This five part series gives you some basic guidelines to jumpstart your marketing efforts. Next month we’ll look at how (and how not) to treat your customers. Do you know the 6 steps to creating happy customers?
Tom Quiner, Breakthrough Marketing, Inc.
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