Reality Check Please

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Products don’t sell themselves. Good marketing DOES.

So you have this fantastic product/service you’re offering. You’ve done your homework and through your calculations, there is simply no other product/service on the market that competes with it. It solves needs or problems that you know your prospective customer is facing and in your honest unadulterated opinion, it is truly the best thing since sliced bread. You’re so proud of your product you simply can’t stop admiring it and as soon as it’s available for purchase, it should just fly off the shelf. Right?

Sounds fabulous but, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way.

Products don’t sell themselves. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they don’t. The idea that a product simply “sells itself ” is a poor misconception— especially among startup companies. Is it important to have a great product? Well, of course! But no matter how great the product is, you still have to promote it effectively. You have to get the right message to the right person at the right time and in the right manner. And unfortunately, the product doesn’t magically do that on its own. Good marketing does.

So what exactly is good marketing? Well, frankly, it’s a number of things. It’s understanding the difference between the person who buys your product and the person who makes the recommendation to buy your product. It’s understanding that people buy something when they have a problem to be solved, or when they have a good incentive (or maybe both). It’s realizing that if the customer doesn’t trust you, they probably won’t buy from you. And trust is earned in a variety of ways over time. It’s getting people to think of your product first whenever a certain topic is mentioned. It’s making sure that every single message you put out there is promoting your product in a manner that is consistent with how you want your brand to be viewed. It’s remembering that typos are unacceptable—period. It’s understanding how important it is to know your customer intimately and keep in touch with them regularly. It’s getting people excited about your product before it’s even available for purchase. And the list goes on.

So if you have not done any real marketing for your business up to now and you are planning your first major effort, here is a brief checklist to keep in mind. And if you consider yourself already having a great marketing program, feel free to use this as a quick refresher course.

Imagine you’re on the elevator. The door opens up and I get on. I have a giant sign on my forehead that says “I fit the profile of your ideal customer.” What would you say to me? Quick—you’ve got about 30 seconds. And if a 12-year-old can’t fully understand it, then you need to redo it. This is a very important exercise to help you understand your value proposition and practice your ability to easily communicate it to potential customers. If you can’t communicate the value of your offering in a quick elevator ride, how do you ever expect to do it in an e-mail? Or a phone call? Or an advertisement? The truth of the matter is, people’s attention spans are extremely limited. If you can’t get their attention and pique their interest within a minute, you will likely lose them.

You’ve taken the time to create this “Rolls Royce” product. Great job! So why would you then turn around and present it as if it were a Corolla? Presentation matters. What you are saying is just as important as how you are saying it. Your brochure, Web site, advertisements and other marketing collateral should be just as wonderful as your product is. And if it looks like a 17-year-old intern produced the materials, then chances are that is exactly how your product will be viewed.

How well do you really know the person who is actually buying this? Not just their contact information and demographic profile, but what this person does on a regular basis. What do they read? What Web sites do they visit? What is their role at their company? What are their personal interests? What product are they using right now instead of yours and why? The more you know about this person, the better you will understand how to best get your message in front of them and what to say to them when you do.

Develop a long-term marketing strategy, as well as a short-term one. Understand the difference between the two and constantly fine tune them both. You shouldn’t just focus on one. A good marketing program should have both elements working in unison.

Your long-term strategy is designed to build your future. It focuses on tomorrow. This is when you build your brand name and make it easy for prospects to remember so that when the day comes and they need your type of product, you will be the first provider that pops into their head. If you have promoted and branded yourself well over time, the customer will actually seek you out by name. Believe it or not, competition won’t be quite as fierce because you are already one of the finalists. Since they know you, or know about you, they just might call you out of the blue and give you the sale! Things like advertising, public relations and networking are all great ways to develop a relationship and build a name for yourself over time. But the key words are “over time.” Don’t be the guy who runs an ad for two months and gets mad because you haven’t already made a return on your investment. You wouldn’t treat most stocks that way, so don’t treat marketing that way either.

However, your short-term strategy is altogether different. This involves going after those prospects who are actively seeking what you have to offer and thus stand the best chance of buying right now—today. For instance, if you are a travel agent, hop on Twitter and target people who are tweeting about taking a vacation in the next few weeks. They stand a great chance of buying very soon. If you offer accounting services to small businesses, you will find thousands on Craigslist everyday searching for it. Contact them. If you are selling a franchise opportunity, get a list of people who are actually searching for a franchise to buy and reach out to them. Even search engine marketing would fall in this short-term category. Your short-term strategy doesn’t really care so much about tomorrow. It’s primarily focused on getting results today. But beware of putting all of your eggs in this basket. It can be tempting, but you must resist because otherwise your business will never grow to its full potential.

A good marketing program involves many elements and should be treated just as seriously as the other parts of your business. You’ve taken the time to make sure your product is fantastic. Make sure your game plan to sell it is just as good.

About Courtney R. Harris 1 Article
Courtney R. Harris is a Sales and Marketing Consultant helping companies improve sales of their products and services. He specializes in developing an effective marketing plan/strategy designed to help a company’s product stand out from the competition, capture the customer’s attention and prompt them to take action. Courtney has developed and executed marketing campaigns with a variety of objectives, including branding/identity, media exposure, direct response, and performing deep customer profiling. Courtney can be contacted directly through his Web site

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