Tag Archives: Marketing

Do you Make Sales or Sell?

There is a difference between making a sale and selling someone. The former is how a company makes money and takes care of overhead. The latter is how a once successful company will see its revenues quickly and seemingly inexplicably decline as the years drag on (or how a start-up fails to get off the ground at all).

Let me explain with an example I think we’re all generally familiar with: buying a car. About two years ago, I was in the market for a new car. While I didn’t tell the salespeople this, I needed a car as mine had been so wonderfully totaled by a new driver in a blizzard. Thankfully, I had already been thinking of getting a new car and knew exactly what I wanted… meaning that really all a salesperson had to do was give me a good price and treat me with respect. I was moving in about two months, so the ‘service after the sale’ pitch did absolutely nothing for me.

I tried two dealerships that were close to my house. I had emailed both previously to get a deal started that I could further negotiate once I arrived. The first one told me that they didn’t offer any deals online and that I’d have to come in to discuss price (nice sales tactic..). The second offered me an actually good deal from the get go, and told me who to ask for when I arrived.

When I went to the first one, the salesman exhibited all the classic signs of the hard sell. He tried to get me to test drive one of the models that was the same color as my shirt (he guessed wrong), used phrases while I was test driving the car to try to make me think of myself as already owning it, and tried his best to create a sense of urgency. When we sat back down in the dealership, we started talking about price. He tried to tell me that they couldn’t go any under the MSRP because, and I quote, “Hyundai really doesn’t mark up their cars much at all. If we went any under MSRP, even $500, we wouldn’t make any money”. Apparently, I had a “I’m stupid and today is my first day on earth” stamp on my forehead. I told him I wasn’t buying it and that I would be going to another dealership. He tried to call my bluff, and told me good luck, but I would never find theĀ  kind of deal I was looking for, especially not with the service that he could offer.

The second dealership was like a dream. Before the test drive, since I knew who to ask for, the salesman pulled my email (which included what car with exactly what features I wanted) and went and grabbed that exact car. During the test drive, I did all the talking – asking questions as I saw fit. Once back in the dealership, I negotiated down a bit more (which was shockingly and unexpectedly simple and non-combative), and we figured out I qualified for all of the current factory incentives (yay!). I’ll leave out the boring paperwork details, but it seriously was a breeze. I bought my car that day.

Guess what I came to find out? The first dealership, with the salesman who was trying to sell me, operated off commissions (like most dealerships do). Thus, the salesman wanted me to pay the absolute most possible because that directly impacted his paycheck. The second dealership, with the friendly it’s-all-about-you salesman, operated off a salary and a bonus structure. Basically, it didn’t matter what price I negotiated. The salesman would get $50 for every car he sold, and at the end of the month would get a bonus if he sold the most. That’s it. Cut and dry. Why? Because this second dealership wanted to make sure the experience was about customer satisfaction instead of having each customer that walked through the door have figurative dollar signs over their head.

Now, I’m not saying that a commission structure is bad, or that not having one is better. What I am saying, however, is that no matter which model your business chooses, you had better have a kind of fail-safe built in so that your sales team knows how they should approach a customer, and that that customer feels as good about their buying decision years down the road as I feel about mine now.

What are your company’s best practices when it comes to sales? Do you have any great stories or nightmarish ones we could learn from? Share in the comments below!

(754 views)

The Common Misconceptions of Military Marketing

This morning at one of my Chamber of Commerce committee meetings, I was tasked with the chance to get up an speak for 5 minutes. While I am used to doing this and talking about my company, this was different (and a little nerve-wracking). I had to speak about how the knowledge I have gained through my business could relate to and help all the other 49 businesses represented at the meeting – without trying to sell my own products.

Of course, I psych myself out whenever humanly possible because the student inside of me still feels like I have to get an “A” (probably something a therapist would have a field day with). I instantly had visions of talking about what I thought would help other businesses and people thinking it was useless information or not applicable, or that maybe I would secretly be selling my own company while thinking I was not.

When all was said and done, I actually got some really positive feedback from my peers. So, I thought I’d psych myself out again and take to the World Wide Web. Here it goes…

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions out there about marketing to the military community. First of all, some people think that they are judged as terrible people if they do not offer a military discount. While the military spouse in me loves racking up the savings, I promise – we are not mad at you if you do not offer one. Honestly, if you just have a little sign on the counter that says something about appreciating the military men and women, that goes a long way. If you are trying to market to the military, “thank you” are two of the most effective words you can utter or print. You may not think much of it, but we really do sincerely appreciate it. And, your business will stick out in our heads.

Second of all, if you do offer a military discount, think of it as a marketing opportunity as much as you think of it as a way to say “thank you”. I’m sure I’m getting some glares thinking this is selfish, but it’s not. It’s just smart marketing. By this, I mean if you are going to actively publish and mention your military discount, whatever you offer should stand out. Think about it: the point of marketing is to make your business stand out from the competition. Now think again: what do you think of when you hear “military discount”? 10%, right?

Now let me note – there is absolutely nothing wrong with 10%. We really, truly appreciate it. However, from a marketing standpoint, do something DIFFERENT! This is absolutely not to say that your discount has to be bigger, because it doesn’t. But if you get a little creative, you can think of a way to word it so that it stands out, even if it equates to the same dollar savings. For example, a restaurant might try a free app, dessert or drink with minimum purchase. Doing the math out, this very well would come out to 10%, but by wording it differently, you just made your business stick out (in a good way).

Third of all, there are subtle ways to gear your marketing toward the military without plastering combat boots, camo, tanks and flags everywhere. Think subtle but attention grabbing, and you’ll get our attention in a very positive way without overdoing it.

Finally, there are a lot of military groups out there that you can work with to bolster the effectiveness of your paid military campaign at no additional cost. Marketing can’t be completely free, but it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, either. Feel free to comment here – I am happy to help you build your military marketing campaign (I figure this student loan debt should help more than just myself to be worth it :)).

(2476 views)

Does Your Slogan Require an Explanation?

Slogans: every company has one, and many of us don’t have a single clue what they actually mean. They might be catchy, profound, inspiring, funny… or even annoying, incorrect or downright weird. But one thing they all have in common is that someone, somewhere thought it was the perfect way to quickly sum up whatever the brand, product or service at hand. And while they might be right, if the non-company employee doesn’t get it, what good is it?

There is always something utterly ambiguous about a company. The owners, employees and their families are excited about the business model and what it stands for. The customers (kind of) know what the company does or offers. But somewhere along the way, we all get stuck either being on the inside looking or, or on the outside looking in. And while we may all be looking through the same window, what we see on the other side usually doesn’t come close to what the other people are seeing. Sound familiar?

I’d like to be as un-ambiguous as possible, so let me tell you a bit about MMI and our slogan – “Marketing That Matters” (sounds deep right?). I thought it was great when I first heard it – but that’s because I understand what it means. If you don’t, you might think we’re really full of ourselves, or a non-profit or charity, etc, etc. So what does it really mean? Here goes…

We contract with military bases to produce their base newcomer’s guides, directories and maps – important resources people PCSing, TDYing or visiting the base need. The guides have plenty of information about the base itself, but also about the community because, let’s face it, no one wants to spend their entire time on base.

So, businesses have the unique opportunity to market themselves in these publications – putting them in front of personnel at a time when they are most likely to need them and are ready to make purchases. In fact, new residents typically spend in 6 months what current residents spend in 2 years… Sounds pretty tempting to market to.

So that’s the “marketing”. Why it matters (aside from the business side of ROI) is that while the businesses who advertise within the base guides are increasing their visibility and business, they are helping to support and keep the guides running. With little to no budget for them, business sponsors are the only way we have been able to give the military personnel the resources they need for their bases since 1981.

Get it? Help build your business; help support the military base guides and directories programs – Marketing That Matters. Not to sound too cliche, but that’s a win-win.

(4113 views)

What Every Business Owner Needs to Know About Marketing

I get it. In the world of business ownership, much like the world of home ownership, it seems like the expenses never stop coming. You need to pay your employees, pay the rent, utilities, licensing fees, insurance, get products in the store, etc, etc, etc. So when you’re balancing the budget and trying to keep your checkbook from catching on fire, you look for things to cut. Typically, marketing is one of those things – seen as a luxury which would be nice to have, but isn’t realistic. And all those advertising salespeople ringing your phone off the hook just make you want to put your guard up and say “No, we’re not interested, we can’t afford it right now”.

What I want to say to you is why can’t you afford it right now? And before your guard goes up, I’m not a salesperson. So just think about why. Is it because sales aren’t going quite the way you thought they would? Or because you’ve spent money on everything else so you want to wait until some people start rolling through the door to bankroll an ad campaign? Don’t get defensive, these make sense. BUT, you need to adjust your way of thinking. Let me give you an example.

When you go to the store and buy a bunch of groceries, you know that money is never going to magically reappear in your checking account. Groceries are certainly a necessity, and are a lot more economical than eating out all the time, but the $100 you spent isn’t ever coming back. Now, think about when you buy a stock. You’re not buying it to eat or serve some other purpose, you’re buying it in the hopes that you’ve done enough research to be reasonably confident that the $100 you forked over will multiply and become $150 or $200 or more. So while you might subtract it from your bank account for the moment, the chance of that money coming back exists.

THIS is where most business owners go wrong when they think about marketing. Marketing is not like groceries – it’s like stocks. It is an investment made in your business that, if done well and through the right channels for your particular industry, should bring you a positive ROI. When business slows, marketing absolutely should under no circumstances be the thing that gets cut. After all, if it is designed to improve business and increase brand awareness, why would you get rid of it at a time of year when you need these things most? I get that you only have a defined amount of cash, but if you treat marketing like the necessity it is, then you can typically find other areas to trim to make the budget work.

Now, I’m not saying that you should suddenly buy into every single advertising opportunity that comes your way. You’d go broke real fast if you did that, considering how many different media channels exist and the fact that not every type of advertising is right for every business. But if you change the way you think about marketing, do your research, and work with someone who understands your company and who your target market is, then paying to promote your company won’t be a minus sign in your books for long.

Need specific advice? Have any particularly good or bad experiences with marketing you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

(1331 views)