How to get more customers: Key marketing principles

Want more customers?

Good sales ability helps. You need to grow sales by attracting and retaining people. But beyond this, you need to have a credible business that the marketing and sales activities are representing.

There are some things that can’t be polished!

Here is my guide to the rules of the game when finding and keeping customers.

If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t get lost

You need a long term vision. If you don’t have this, how will your customers understand what your business is for? And how will your staff and / or partners be able to represent it?

Even if the product you sell is a commodity and customers are indifferent about where they get it. They still need to trust the company from which they buy.

It’s not all about ‘customer benefits’

Many people will have learned to translate product or service features into tangible customer benefits. Of course this is important, because talking endlessly about product features is phenomenally dull to all but the real nerds in your sector. But it’s not where the marketing job ends. Your competitors will probably be able to offer the same benefits and will probably be saying so in very similar terms in all of their communications. So what else do you have to offer? This is where your brand comes in to its own. Your brand is what the others can’t match. What does your brand stand for? How much investment do you make in it? How well understood is it internally? Only then will it have any chance of being understood externally.

I see lots of companies, large and small in which sales people believe that once the customer understands the benefit, they will buy.

  • Maybe the customer understands the benefits already (in which case, you risk patronising them)
  • Maybe they will get those benefits somewhere else
  • Maybe they will buy nothing

The answer? Involve the customer more in the process. So that it’s a genuine conversation. So that they trust you and want to buy even without needing to be ‘closed’.

Don’t follow the trends

This applies both to the development of products and to the marketing communications. Following the trends makes you the same as everyone else. But the whole point of marketing is to be different. A word of warning though – don’t be different for its own sake. That’s like the person at the party in the silly shirt trying to be all funny. Don’t be that person. Be different in ways that your customers value!

When it comes to product development it means doing whatever it is that you excel at that people want to buy. There is a level of balance to be had because there are some features of any product that are non-negotiable. A smartphones must be wifi enabled and must have a camera. A computer without a Windows or Apple Operating System would be of limited appeal. But don’t follow trends in the mistaken belief that they will guarantee sales. Remember if it’s a trend then that means it has already been acknowledged by your competition.

In terms of communications, think about scrolling banners on websites … What are they for? Do they improve user experience? No, the research shows that they are typically not read and not liked. Do they improve your ability to get your message across? No, they confuse things because you have key messages (at least I expect they are key messages) that are only displayed for some of the time. So they serve no useful purpose. Ah, but they allow you to put several message up instead of just one don’t they? Yes, but:

  • This is no use to you if they are not read
  • It shows your confusion about your message or lack of effort in choosing one
  • What you should do instead is pick the most important message and put the other content somewhere in which it is better suited

Once you have defined a brand, don’t undermine it

We all see examples every day of the week of people ruining their own brand through their behaviour. Maybe you do this / maybe you don’t. If you employ people, are you sure they are not damaging your brand on your behalf?

My favourite examples of this include:

• The accountant whose main message was ‘trust us – we don’t send you surprise bills.’ Unfortunately, they sent me … a surprise bill! Guess whether or not I’m still a customer!
• The telecoms Business Development Manager who told me that I was ‘not profitable’ to them because I ‘only have one phone line’.

Choosing the right marketing techniques

There is absolutely no such thing as a marketing technique that works for everyone.

In any case, what matters most is how you use the techniques.

  • An entertaining newsletter is more effective than one that is dull, product oriented, badly timed or badly targeted. But it is the customer, not the sender that determines what ‘entertaining’ means.
  • Some targets (schools are one example) are very unlikely to respond to email marketing. Unsolicited emails will have even less chance of achieving anything.
  • Interesting and relevant social media campaigns will work better than spammy and obviously automated content.
  • There are still industries and companies that lead industries that use good old-fashioned telesales. They include parts of the IT, telecoms, utilities and recruitment sectors. If it works (as long as the widest measure of ‘success’ is adopted) then it works.

So pick what is right for your business. Whether you want lots of sales or long term loyalty will make a difference.

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