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Monday, November 16, 2009

Aligning your marketing; Going with the flow

The greatest marketing opportunities, I think, occur when you are in the enviable position of having something new that overcomes an existing product/service's biggest deficiencies, and can be sold within the framework of that service.

Consider, for example, the marketing environment of services such as Reach Local, which provide Internet marketing alternatives to the Yellow Pages. (They co-ordinate keyword advertising placements with the search engines.)

For these services, the market is easy to find, their representatives simply need to open the Yellow Pages! (Connecting with decision-makers within the companies is a greater challenge, but that is a sales more than marketing problem.)

The problems of the traditional book are apparent: You need to sign up (and pay) for a year's service, hoping things will work, but with no recourse if they don't. If your business circumstances change, you are stuck. (Of course if you have a successful ad, you don't mind at all, because everything is locked in and secure, also.)

As a marketer, however, you also have a good idea of how much the potential clients are paying, and if your research is good, yo can suggest alternatives which will generate better results for less money -- and without the mandatory yearly commitment. You still need to build trust and prove yourself, but you know the market is there, and you can align your product and sales approach to it.

You may not have the same technology-disrupting opportunity, but you can still study your business (and market) to find out where your service has a significant advantage over your competitors, and where you can then sell into it effectively.

For example, you are a new roofing contractor with experience in the business and contacts (and credit access) to key suppliers Here you can enter public bid competitions and undercut the competition for larger jobs because your internal business costs and overhead are lower, but you have access to supplier capital. Once you get these initial clients, you then can broaden your scope (and brand) to serve commercial maintenance accounts. (This is how successful Shorex Roofing got established in Ontario.)

Of course your challenges are different if you are in a defensive market position. If you are the Yellow Pages, you can use your existing clout to push aggressively into search engine marketing (perhaps with limited success, but enough to confuse the mind-set of your existing clients, at least).

In some cases, of course, you have an uphill battle in gaining trust because of the destructive impact of your competitors.

We continue to earn most of our revenue by providing advertising supported editorial features in our print and electronic publications, but this approach to marketing has been abused, severely, by some competitors who combine high pressure techniques with low quality/value. The result: "Once burned, twice shy."

In these circumstances, I think you have a couple of choices. You can work hard to build and maintain the trust to overcome the competition, or you can reframe your service so that the competition doesn't matter.

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