Identifying Markets and Tracking Budgets
by Carol Brzozowski
It‘s a Catch-22: The down- turn in the residential construction industry translates into shrinking revenues for portable sanitation operators, many of whom may not feel inclined to dedicate any of their budget to marketing. But they still need to keep their inventory moving and employees paid.
“Not marketing in a down market is kissing your business goodbye,” says marketing expert Shel Horowitz, author of seven books –including three on small business marketing.
Sanitation Journal has assembled a first-rate panel of marketing experts from throughout the United States whose advice will be shared in this and three subsequent stories each month. They all agree that marketing doesn’t need to be expensive, but it needs to be done. Just as it’s unadvisable to avoid marketing in a down market, it’s also not a good idea to avoid it when business is booming.
That’s the take from Skip Weisman, president of Weisman Success Resources in Poughkeepsie, New York. He is a small business consultant and coach who promotes eight strategies through what he calls “Creating a Low Cost Marketing Funnel”. “Too often, businesses in all industries tend to get lazy when business is good,” Weisman says. “They look to maximize the bottom line and do not reinvest funds into marketing because sometimes they even have too much business and see no need for marketing.
They take money out of the company in these times instead of strategically planning for future needs. I see this all the time.” Robert Smith, founder of Champion Media Worldwide in Rockton, Illinois, says growing a business boils down to three factors: one, get new customers; two, get existing customers to buy more often, and three, get customers to spend more during each transaction. “The key to marketing your business is to identify your best buyers,” he says. “Most businesses make the mistake of trying to be everything to everybody and they haven’t figured out who is most likely to buy from them and spend the most money.” Another overlooked strategy, says Smith, is creating a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), which is a brief positioning statement as to why people should do business with you
versus your competitors. Rhoda Weiss is a University of California Los Angeles Extension faculty member, the 2007 National Chair & CEO of the member Public Relations Society of America and an international consultant who’s traveled extensively to speak and consult for more than 700 organizations on marketing, public relations, business development strategy and Web 2.0 (second generation Internet technologies). Marketing must be a priority for all businesses no matter the size, says Weiss.
“My definition of marketing is the ‘sum total of impressions, experiences and relationships customers you have with your company’,” she says. “That means your best sales tool is your great customer service and relationships, real-time availability and access, on-time delivery, credibility and trust and superior products. “Marketing must also be customer-centric and segment your target audiences so the customer believes you are tailoring your products to their needs and preferences.” Many companies in the portable sanitation industry operate without a marketing plan, utilizing a marketing approach on a week-to-week basis. Stop that, advises Dave Greves, co-founder of Faction Media in Denver, Colorado and an expert in interactive Internet marketing. “Marketing day by day typically yields woeful results,” he says. “It’s important that an organization understands the value of a calculated and methodical approach to communicating with their customers and prospects.
“Evaluate every thing you’ve done in the recent past, looking at results, and pick the top five initiatives that drove desired responses. Dive deep into those initiatives in an attempt to identify what drove desired behaviors.” Keep an eye out for the “delighters” about products/services that connected with customers and prospects, Greves advises. “It’s also a great opportunity to talk to your customers,” he adds. “Ask them when they choose your company over others what do you do well and where do you fall short. You’ll gather valuable information and make them feel as if there busi- ness and perspective is important.” In creating a market plan, the first step is identifying marketing channels,” says Smith. “Research competitors and see where they are advertising. Create media lists of key publications or get a list of prospects if you are doing direct mail.” Weisman agrees that business owners need to be “very clear on to whom they are marketing. Who is their primary target market, secondary target market and where can they find them?” Weiss says it’s a myth to believe big budgets equal big results in marketing. “Often the smaller budgets force innovation and even more success,” says Weiss.
Horowitz has a website, www.fru- galmarketing.com. His books focus on obtaining the greatest response from the least expenditure. “Typically, that will focus on other strategies that are cheaper and more effective than ads, but laser-targeted ads can certainly be part of the mix,” he says. In such ads, “You know exactly who your market is and you focus your efforts on marketing that only reaches that audience so you’re not be your customer.” Creating a comprehensive marketing plan rather than flying by the seat of one’s pants is a sound use of time and energy, says Horowitz. “Abraham Lincoln said if he had only a certain time to cut down a tee, he’d spend most of it sharpening his saw,” he points out The first step in creating a marketing plan is to put aside an hour to contemplate the future direction of one’s business, from one and two years all the way to five, says Horowitz. Then, spend another hour with a marketing consultant who can map out the next appropriate steps toward meeting that goal, he adds. “Look for one who focuses on affordable, effective, and ethical approaches,” says Horowitz. Creating a marketing plan is the first step in effective marketing, says Weisman.
“Making a decision on this means to cut off from previous behaviors, so this means committing to creating and working from one beginning today,” he says. In making that plan, Weisman advises the following: ·Identify the best historical customers and industries they represent. Identify the top half-dozen to dozen key problems, issues, and concerns your company solves for those customers. Identify what sets your business apart from the competition: Why should a customer choose your company over their competition? “This needs to be something concrete and based in terms that deliver Return On Investment and focus on WII-FM (what’s in it for me?) from the customer perspective,” says Weisman.
“These cannot be platitudes such as ‘We’re better, faster, less expensive, cleaner, quicker, offer better service’, etc. What can they say about them- selves that their competition can’t or doesn’t do well? Be specific. Survey or interview present and past customers to get some of these answers.” Market first to those in the exist ing customer base who haven’t done recent business with your company. “It is easier and less expensive to sell to an existing customer than attract a new one,” Weisman points out. Identify product offerings that can be pitched to existing customers who haven’t tried them yet. Business success begins with research to understand the “who, what, when, where and why” and specific Identifying Markets Continued needs of stakeholders: customers, distributors, prospects, vendors, the general supply chain and other stakeholders from the business-to-business standpoint, says Weiss.
That research entails the following: Conduct an analysis to define your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (in marketing it’s called a SWOT analysis). Honesty and realism in each category helps achieve business success.
What differentiates you from others? What are your superlatives - the adjectives, adverbs and nouns that define your company: on-time service, quality, safe facilities, variety of facilities to meet customer needs from low- to high-end, number of years in service, cateringto a particular or many industries, among other factors.
How skilled is your work force?
What current or new offerings do you have that are not available from the competition, from design, sturdiness, safety and the look of the portable sanitation facilities to the interior’s look, feel, and smell,
among other factors.
What is the particular market region (specific geographic service area) and industry sectors (construction, events, etc.) you wish to serve?
Who is the competition? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
What makes you better? One way to identify the competition is through ‘Googling’ your industry by name and then narrow your search geo graphically.
Who are your potential customers?
Which are the most profitable ones?
Who are your potential customers buying from right now?
What is your customer’s sales cycle?
What are their buying criteria? When is the best time to make sales calls?
Do they have long-term contracts or utilize on an as-needed or project basis?
Who is the best person to reach in the potential customer’s business for the initial sales call?
What is their background? Gather knowledge of the customer - the buyer’s background, interests, family, activities in the community (try to ‘Google’ the potential customer to learn more about them).
Does the potential customer have a website that will give you even more information?
What do your current and former customers have to say about you? Have you conducted
customer surveys or can you access surveys that they may have conducted at an event that will include questions regarding your product?
Where are the opportunities be ·Do you belong to the local Chamber of Commerce or local employer associations to access lists of potential customers?
What kind of collateral materials do you have: brochures, web sites, e- newsletters, direct mail pieces, etc.?
Weiss says there are several basic marketing tools that are a “must”. These include a sales capabilities brochure and/or flyer, surveys, websites, e-newsletters and maintaining a database (some of which will be detailed in future Sanitation Journal marketing articles). Maintaining a database or file cards listing personal and professional information on each customer, such as likes and dislikes, past experiences, family, sports interests, and religious affiliations. “Sales is about relationships and feeling a sense of fellowship and trust,” Weiss points out. “Good relationships also build ‘word-of-mouth’ - one of the most critical sales tools around.” Weisman adds that building a database of present, past and future customers that becomes a reservoir of potential prospects should be an ongoing effort, always kept up to date. Marketing is a day-to-day endeavor, Weiss points out.
“Businesses must manage their relationships, reputation and brand effectively with customers, suppliers and others in order to ensure a reliable, growing distribution channel for their products to end-use businesses or events,” she says. To do so requires maintaining favorable visibility and a platform for communicating and promoting a company’s message with business- to-business audiences that generally take place via trade publications. In the special event sector, magazines such as Special Events, Successful Meetings, and BizBash are helpful in keeping in touch with the goings-on in the special events industry.
For those portable sanitation operators who place units at special events, “Connect with meeting and event planners through their associations: local chapters of Meetings Professional International (MPI) and International Special Events Society (ISES),” says Weiss. Portable sanitation operators also would do well to subscribe to trade journals or read online versions of those related to the construction industry, says Weiss. Portable sanitation operators and manufacturers also may try their hand at pitching a story on what’s new in portable sanitation to such magazines, or hiring a writer to do so. She also suggests portable sanitation operators hook up with local industry conferences and third-party organizations in the event industry such as MPI (Meeting Professionals International) and ISES (International Special Events Society). “They have many local chapters where you can promote and showcase your products at their meetings and events and online,” says Weiss.
“The end game is to manage communications and sales-supportive relationship-building and promotion which enhance demand for the products by virtue of the company’s strong reputation for product quality and reliability - key in sanitation services - resulting in sales revenue growth and to make certain that the brand promise of high-quality, cost-effective products is ensure,” she adds.
Portable sanitation companies may also want to engage the services of a public relations professional who will take responsibility for creating, building and maintaining relationships with all of the constituents important to a business’ success, says Weiss.
“For a company to protect and improve its relationships and its reputation, it must engage on all fronts, with all constituencies,” she says. “Public relations is responsible for creating the programs and the communications to do just that. Relationships that are not managed will shift with every competitive move, community concern, or even a random comment in a blog. “Effectively integrating public relations into a company’s strategic management helps a company to gain media stories, community outreach, produce brochures, create and maintain a web site, conduct surveys, collect feedback and other research and achieve for a company the most favorable environment possible for the company to do business, particularly with respect to factors involving any human element.” Used effectively, public relations can be the catalyst for sound strategy at all levels of company decision making, says Weiss. “Manufacturing executives have realized in recent years that a good reputation can be spoiled within 4 hours,” she says. “The pace of today’s communications and the enormous array of media that exist worldwide ensure that bad news travels faster than ever.
“That negative news can quickly affect sales, employee morale, share price, support from lenders and the many other constituencies that are critical to success. Ongoing, well-designed public relations can build a trust bank with those many constituencies that will help a company be more successful during the good times and a survivor during the bad times.” Economic downturns such as the present one is a time to chart new territory and identify new business outlets, says Weiss. Diversification is as important in marketing as it is in financial investing, says Weisman.
“You cannot put all your eggs in one basket,” he says. “You must diversify so if there is a downturn in one customer industry, other industries can keep things flowing.” That comes full circle to market- ing strategy and implementation, he says.
“My advice is to bite the bullet and invest time, energy and resources in creating a focused marketing strategy that focuses on other industries and markets,” says Weisman. “And to get started right away.” Once dollars for marketing are al- located, it’s important to track them to ensure there’s a reasonable return on the investment in such a way that a company manager would do a performance review to evaluate the company’s investment in a particular employee.
“Being able to measure your campaign while it’s in progress is very valuable,” says Wendy Manning, a senior account executive with Volume Public Relations in Centenniel, Colorado. “It lets you know if you’re on the right track or if your efforts and dollars should be redirected sooner than later.”
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