Introduction to Marketing Articles

In this series of articles I will be suggesting some practical, value for money ways to generate more enquiries and close more sales. These articles will include effective use of the telephone, direct mail, press releases and your website. Later on, articles will cover exhibitions, seminars and open days. As different marketing communication opportunities are covered, this Marketing Forum will look at the reasons why they could fail.

Whichever marketing communication opportunities you use, you will require marketing collateral such as a brochure, fliers, product brochures, case studies, direct mail material and, possibly, reply cards. You will also need a website. Websites can be simple brochure type websites that cost £200 or so, up to website costing thousands of £'s for full e-commerce. This Marketing Forum will look at all of the above marketing communications opportunities.

As the world becomes more competitive, marketing will become crucial, yet few companies measure how successful their marketing is. This makes it difficult to justify further funds or fine tune consecutive campaigns for success. So this Marketing Forum will look at how success can be quantified and measured and how marketing theory can be applied to control costs as well as increase sales.

The role of marketing communications is to produce quality leads so sales staff can close profitable business as easily (and inexpensively) as possible. As it takes time for any marketing campaign to produce results, it is important to have a continuous plan of activities. Simply throwing a campaign together because sales forecast have taken a down turn is not good enough in this competitive World.

Inertia can be further enhanced by integration of the different marketing communication opportunities open to your company. As an example, the benefit of integrating direct mail with a telephone canvassing campaign, and an open day or seminar, is greater than running each campaign individually. The Marketing Forum will look at the different balances that are possible and which balance is best in which set of circumstances.

If your products are good and your marketing effective - your prospects will feel comfortable about your company, the staff, products, services and the prices you charge. The prospect will have no objections to placing his business with you. The prospect will simply require the sales person fine tune the offer to his needs, before a deal is finalised. Good marketing ensures the easiest option for your prospect is to place the business with you. This philosophy recognises the importance of building credibility, for your company, in every marketing communication opportunity. All forms of marketing are expensive, but some manufacturers and distributors claim they will help the channel market their products by providing marketing funds and facilities. The Marketing Forum will look at how marketing assistance can be claimed.

To start a direct mail or telephone marketing campaign you need a database of companies to communicate with. Lists of companies include Yellow Pages, Chamber of Commerce directories and other business directories. You will have to pay for professional directories such as the Law Society Directory.

Spikes Cavell, Dun & Bradstreet and Profords provide lists at varying costs. Such lists have the advantage that they can be selected by a number of criteria such as vertical market, geographic area and size of company by turnover or number of employee's.

One reason why direct mail can fail is because it is not specific enough to warrant being read. So vertical marketing is more effective and is usually lower cost.

Even if your products are not vertical, you may like to consider selling them into vertical markets. This will give you an in depth understanding of the problems your prospects are facing, and prospects will be more likely to buy from you.

Although we work in the IT industry it is extraordinary how hard it seems to be to design a database and load it with details of target companies. Some of my clients want to design the most elaborate database systems which would do everything a professional marketing department could possibly want. However, the time spent to get them to work never ceases to amaze me and can become a constraint to progress. Unless the database is practical, easy to use and always available, staff may get fed up with using it.

Sales staff need to be motivated and, for them, there is nothing worse than their access to the database being restricted because a `techy' is working on it or because someone has borrowed their terminal!

Alternative, low cost approaches to building a database include using a Windows based sales tracking system or, even easier and cheaper, simply loading names into the database of an integrated office suite. Because my requirements are simple, I use Microsoft Works. I have a list of companies interested in training services and a list of companies I think may be interested in my marketing services. It may be simple, but it has never stopped me from sending a direct mail campaign on time!

The database you build will become the life blood of your company. You will be feeding off it for the next few years.

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