Market Research on the Cheap – How to Do It

In these days of perpetual negative news about the economy and the stock market, one runs the risk of getting caught up in the bad news and foreseeing the same for your business. Yes, business will likely drop, perhaps by double digits if it has not already. However, a declining business in a declining market is not a death knell if you do not let it become one. Now is the time to focus in on your customers. Do NOT cut your prices. When you cut your prices you risk commoditization of your service and product offerings. What you should focus on instead is in adding significant value to your goods and services.

What “value” you could add depends on who your customer is. For B2B companies, the value depends on whether your customers are public works entities or other government entities, large corporations, industrial installations, retail developers, property managers,… and the list goes on. Although these customers appreciate some of the same things, each of these customers have nuances for which certain activities or offerings would resonate more strongly with them than it would another customer in a different category. The key is to determine WHO your customers are, then determine WHAT your customers want.

If you have a large customer base of satisfied customers, start there. Determine what they like and why. Sit down with a few of your top customers and ask them why they keep coming back, what you are doing well and what you could do differently. Are they fully clear on how you differentiate your company from other similar companies in your target geographic area? If not, what can you do?

If you are not in touch with your customer base, then you need to start anew. If you have traditionally pursued the “low hanging fruit” – any prospect who is relatively easy to obtain -, you may not know who your real target customer is. Nor will you know how to access that customer. If this sounds like your company, then you have probably been garnering business based predominantly on price. Now is the time to conduct the research to find out who your real customer (the best customer for your product or service offering and your strength in that area) is and craft a strong value proposition that will help you weather the construction industry downturn and position your business for serious growth when the economy recovers.

Here are some recommendations for conducting that market research affordably:

1) Get back to basics. A lot of the most valuable market research comes directly from prospective customers, not from a 50-page industry research report. Identify who your target customers are, build a list of people or businesses to call, craft a questionnaire to get the answers you seek and dial for dollars. Enlist the help of employees, temporary staff, or use a virtual assistant if the list is lengthy.

2) Use Hoovers.com or similar website to determine who the larger companies in your industry providing a similar good or service are. Many of those companies are public which means they must publish detailed quarterly (10-Q) and annual (10-K) financial reports. You will find these in the investor information section of the companies’ respective websites or on the SEC website at www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml These reports are filled with significant current industry and market information that is often directly applicable to your company.

3) Some of the best research involves competitors. Obviously, no direct competitors in your area of operation (i.e., construction companies in Georgia) will freely share information with you but often direct and indirect competitors in completely different regions of the country will willingly answer questions that could help you assess the market, identify prospects, and avoid pitfalls. Find out who they are and call (preferred) or write.

In an economic or industry downturn, many times business as usual doesn’t work. So many industries – the construction industry, the automotive industry, the real estate industry, the heavy goods industry – are cyclical. During a down cycle those companies that focus on good fundamentals – which includes identifying and keying in on the most appropriate customers and ensuring your company has an excellent value proposition for them – continue to do well relative to their peers and ultimately position themselves to excel when the market shifts.

Why You Should Consider Revamping Your Marketing Campaigns

Are you willing to revamp your advertising and marketing campaigns to achieve success? Well more than likely, your answer to this question should be a resounding “yes”. If you’re not currently seeing the results that you had hoped for in your business, then it’s time to take a look at your marketing pieces.

If you’re relying on brand advertising to give your website some awareness, then you should know that this model of marketing your business is totally ineffective. Let the huge corporations worry about branding.You focus on attracting prospects to you with something called “direct response marketing”.

What is direct response you ask? Well it’s simple. Direct response is a method of advertising that’s solely focused on generating a response. Unlike brand advertising, you hold your marketing and advertising efforts accountable. You see with brand advertising, you don’t know what the response is like for your ads. But with a direct response ad, you know right away if the ad was a success. And you know it by the amount of phone calls and new website visitors that you get.

Always follow direct response advertising methods. If anyone ever tells you that it takes “exposure” to market your business successfully, then know that this is a load of crap. If you want to earn money in your business the smart way, use direct response marketing only.

So now if you’re interested in direct response, you’re probably wondering how you can put it into practice for your business. Well the answer to this is that you can run a direct response ad in any targeted publications, and see whether or not the ad is working for you. Even if an advertising rep for a magazine tries to hit you with a lot of industry jargon, tell them that all you want to do is run a direct response ad, and not the kind of advertising that they will advise of you.

The bottom line is that advertising reps are in the business of making money for their company. So if you have success with your ad, then great. If not, the reps could care less. You would think that if they wanted you to do more repeat business that they would try to work with you in any way that they can, they would do it for you. But the fact of the matter is that this is just not true. They’re in it for the money, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

When running your ad, be sure not to attempt to sell your prospect on your ad. Lead them to a 1-800 number or a website where they can request more information. You see your prospects aren’t ready to buy right away when they read your ad. They have a lot of questions and want to make sure that they’re making the right decision. So offer lots of helpful information in your subsequent contacts with this prospect.

Use these tips to market your business successfully using direct response advertising. It will be more than worth it.

Good luck with marketing your business.

Maximize Your Marketing Buzz – Channel Your Communications Into One Integrated Marketing Plan

The concept of Integrated Communications stems from Integrated Marketing Plan, but taking it to a different level. Let’s just say this is the “Art” of marketing and Integrated Marketing Plan is the “Science” of it… Or put it another way, Integrated Communications is like the art of cooking, planning all the right ingredients to be put into the cooking pot. Integrated Marketing Plan is the reality check presenting you with a budget which restricts the amount of ingredients.

This is seen as a reality check for enthusiastic marketers with the planning phase allows you great creativity in applying your marketing mix. It helps you to apply your rational thoughts to justify your marketing spending. It helps you plan your budget by guiding you to match your financial and manpower resources, gives you a time line for achieving your goals and helps you monitor your progress.

Integrated Communications is a term which defines a concept which consolidates and reiterates through one focused & unified message across all the marketing mix of advertising, public relations, direct marketing as well as all marketing collaterals.

The concept works well for both the traditional as well as internet marketing. Large brick and mortar corporations will manage theirs via synchronizing their TV, radio & press ads, publicity with direct sales initiatives with one single message. Past experience suggested that great effort must be executed to ensure that all marketing mix activities are aligned throughout with one single message. This is especially so when the corporation is large and adopts a decentralized business model.

By contrast, with regards to Integrated Communications for Small business Internet Marketing, there seems to be lesser alignment problems. You can standardize and focus your keywords in your scripts, online display ads, emails, newsletters to enhance search results via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), do your social book-marking, networking and viral marketing all within your control.

Successful campaigns almost without fail (don’t mind the pun) consists of at least 4 aligned marketing tactics, namely extensive exposure advertisements, direct marketing, website, email marketing.

Hence, “Integrated” takes on a whole new meaning when you examine the various potential communications tools you can used, match it with your marketing budget plan, time it for implementation and review it over time for enhanced effectiveness. This effectively speaking, forms the Integrated Marketing Plan.