Biz Ladies 2009: Marketing Ideas from Ivie Parker

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[today’s second biz ladies post comes from ivie parker of parker-sims interiors. in the coming weeks i’ll be posting a guide to blogging series- it was way too long for one post. my apologies for the delay, i just want to make sure i get it right before posting]

Within our current economy, many of us are re-thinking our business model and trying to brainstorm ways to attract new clients and prospects. When Grace emailed the announcements on her biz ladies section earlier this month, I immediately thought about sharing tips and ideas that we’ve incorporated as a small, relatively young (2.5 yrs) business that have been successful for us. I hope that these may be helpful for you also. All of these tips are a compilation of past work experience in client management for a southeastern Advertising/Marketing/PR agency, marketing/small business/pr industry research, and small business development experience.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Ivie’s post after the jump!

Define your positioning statement.

Who are you? What does your company offer? What makes you unique? How can you justify this? These are all questions that come to mind when forming a positioning statement. There are many exercises and templates to help you evaluate what this is specifically for your company, which I will include links to at the end of this article. Think about it this way, it’s like dating, if you don’t really know yourself, how is someone else going to get to know the real you? [That actually reminds me of a Tough Love episode I recently watched, sad to say, but the concept even applied there as well.] In order to sell your service, product or both, you must truly know your company to be successful in accomplishing this (where you are now, what your capabilities are/aren’t, where do you want your company to go). Once you have determined your positioning statement, use it to evaluate all marketing, sales, advertising, and pr efforts moving forward.

For example, if a local magazine approaches you for advertising, look at the magazine’s editorial content (is it editorial or advertorial on all of its advertisers?), its look, feel, and tone, and its current advertisers. Is this consistent with your positioning statement? If it’s consistent with and upholds your positioning statement, great. If not, hold onto your money and use it on a more targeted expenditure for your company. Another example relating to sales: Let’s say you are a designer, and you target real estate professionals for business referrals. Now, rather than a shotgun approach to this target market, which I would describe as contacting every real estate agency in your practicing area, I would suggest more of a “cherry-picking” effect. Again, go back to your positioning statement, and use that to evaluate which real estate firms would appeal to your same target and overall business objectives. Then, spend a bit more time in approaching these targeted companies rather than investing too much of your time in approaching the masses.

Define your customers and expand your network.

First and most importantly, if you aren’t tracking how your customers and potential customers find you- you must start doing this now! It’s as simple as a nonchalant question during a phone call from a prospect, a simple question in an email reply, a check box on your e-newsletter sign-up or information request page or tracking web traffic with google analytics. All of these may not apply to you, but definitely incorporate the ones that do. Start by looking previous clients and how they found you. Then, look at their demographics. What are their ages, what magazines do they read, what extracurricular activities are they involved in, what are their hobbies, interests, occupations? This will help you to focus on your target market and learn how to best target “like” people similar to your current client database.

We found that nearly 90% of our clients were referrals from past clients, friends, family and colleagues. So, what did we do after realizing this? We created a referral rewards program that we announced in our e-newsletter, personally emailed it to all of our previous clients, and now include with referral cards in all of our installations. This way, we can document and reward their generous referrals. This is just an example of what worked in our business, but yours could be different. I encourage you to use this method to evaluate how customers are finding you against your marketing/sales, advertising and pr expenses.

Then, look at their demographics. What are their ages, what magazines do they read, what extracurricular activities are they involved in, what are their hobbies, interests, occupations? This will help you to focus on your target market and learn how to best target “like” people similar to your current client database.

We noticed that several of our clients enjoy social events, are involved in the community and support philanthropic organizations. We also realized that we do better selling ourselves and our business in person from a relationship-building standpoint as opposed to print ads. That being considered, this year, we are shifting our priorities and efforts to more of a relationship-building approach. We will host industry-related events, increase our online social networking, and strengthen our e-customer relationship marketing through our e-newsletters to name a few.

Lastly, I encourage you to expand your database through partnerships with like businesses.

Brainstorm local industries or businesses that would have a similar clientele, and partner with them to host an event or create a referral partnership. Get creative in the ways you could reach out to each others networks. In doing so, you’re mutually benefiting through new contacts from the combination of outreach efforts. Here’s a quick example that’s totally non-industry specific. Let’s say you’re a female LASIK surgeon and have a similar customer base as say a cosmetic facial surgeon as typically both are elective procedures. You could join forces in hosting an event that offers free LASIK screenings and anti-aging product giveaways while educating on both LASIK and Botox procedures to your network of patients with wine and hors deuvres.

An important thing to note though: in a touch economy, whether it’s paid-for advertising/marketing or pr and sales efforts, you must continue to market yourself so that you will be top of mind when the economy turns around. It is important to brand your business, but you need to determine what the best mix is for your company to do it effectively.

Define goals and implementation strategies

Now you have your positioning statement and a better understanding of your current and hopefully future customers, define your goals and create strategies and objectives for implementing them. Typically, based on re-evaluating our brand and positioning statement annually, my business partner and I will set our annual goals. We will use the research we’ve gained through evaluating our past year’s customers and how they found us to continue to enhance our current business development strategies and create new ones to expand our client base. This seems pretty straight-forward, but you must document these and keep them somewhere where you will actually follow-through and measure your progress.

Something that has worked for us, is creating a business development status report grouped by particular activities (sales, advertising, event marketing, interactive, pr, collateral, new ventures, etc.). Then, we fill in each section with plans, notes and execution dates. As we think of new ideas or alter current ones, we update it in the report and review it weekly to keep on track. As you finish each item, measure its success and make feedback notes for next year’s planning.

Remember, you must take the time to define and implement your goals, strategies and objectives and measure their success for next year to ensure your time spent on your business works the best for you. It’s a continual learning process!

Take advantage of free and low-cost opportunities

Given the current economy, it is important to take advantage of opportunities that are easy to implement and relatively inexpensive or free.

Social Networking: You’ve heard the buzz…Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In to name a few. Create a profile and manage it. It’s free and it’s a great, FREE way to increase your exposure and expand your database. Plus, these profiles appear on google when someone searches your company. Let’s face it, the more information they find when searching, the more legit you appear. Now, a hint, if you are new to social networking, read about tips for social networking for business so that you are doing it effectively so that it is worth your time.

Blogs: Blogs are a fantastic way to have streaming content without needing a website programmer to manage it. This is your opportunity to showcase whatever is on your mind, news about your company, and project updates. Whereas websites seem somewhat more static (at least for those of us smaller designers), a blog can be an excellent way to create your own news and communicate to your audience. They can also act as a website for you if you cannot afford to design your own website. Be sure to keep the design and style relevant to your company and professional when doing this. [Stayed tuned for a Biz Ladies guide on Blogs next week!]

E-newsletters: Start a monthly e-newsletter for quick updates and news for your customers. Ask them for article ideas and topics of interest to them. Incorporate some sort of incentive for readers. For our 10th reader each month, we offer design advice for a particular design dilemma or question and announce the winner in the following e-newsletter. This is a low-cost method to build a relationship with your database and to further implement and showcase your brand. Typically, most e-newsletter fees are $30/month or a set fee based on your contacts. We use Constant Contact, but I’ve also heard good feedback on Vertical Response and Mail Chimp. [see resources below]

PR: Create a press kit. Include a business profile or designer profile depending on what type of business you have. Include your basic information and information that makes you unique that reporters can appreciate. Develop a media list with targeted contacts in your local media and any regional and national media that you would like to pitch. Research how they best like to receive editorial pitches. Typically, email is preferred, but sometimes, writers use Twitter, Facebook and IM. Research the writer you want to contact prior to communicating with them. Know their writing style and make sure you’ve actually read articles they’ve written previously for credibility. Then, make contact and be sure to follow up in a couple of days. The key here is to be a resource for them when they’re writing articles relevant to your business. [Stayed tuned for a Biz Ladies guide on Press Kits next week!]

Resources:

What is a positioning statement and how do I create one?

-Great e-blasts with quick, small business relevant reads ranging on various aspects of business operations

-Insightful marketing resources

-Small business marketing ideas and strategies

-Wonderful free templates and how-to’s.

-http://www.entrepreneur.com/

-http://www.sba.gov/

[For those of you who do not have google analytics for your site, I would strongly recommend it. I’m addicted to it because you can track your website traffic per day, week, etc. in relation to your marketing efforts, geographically see where people are located who are visiting your site, track page navigation and see time spent on your site. Set up information at end of article.] Click here to get started. Then, if you have a website designer or programmer, have them set it up on your website. It won’t take long, but you will need someone with knowledge in doing this to set it up.

-Top 10 for Online Marketing Success in 2009

-50 Ways Marketers Can Use Social Media to Increase Their Marketing

-E-newsletter companies:
http://www.constantcontact.com , http://www.mailchimp.com/, http://www.verticalresponse.com/

-http://mastheads.org/- Subscription website with editorial mastheads for PR purposes

mint

kudos to grace for putting together such a fantastic series – and thanks to the ivie & lauren!! this is great! looking forward to many more.

deanna

Fantastic information. Thanks for being so thorough! I’ve printed this for my business file.

The resource links are good too.

sandra

bookmarked. thank you ivie! i’ll be working on hipclothingco.com’s referral rewards, e-newsletter and press kit within the next few months.

Amanda

This is really helpful for me as I am just starting up my graphic design business. I will be implementing the tip on positioning statements and focus my marketing better. Thank you!!!

Lieke

I love this series because before, being in Europe, it would be impossible to attend a BizzLadies event/meeting. Now I feel part of a positive (global) movement of women who want to create and use their creativity to make a difference in business. Some topics are more relevant for entrepeneurs in the US, so I read them and give them a European twist by researching the local opportunities for my own use. There is an interesting article on creativity and the current economy on http://www.design.nl (an interview with Li Edelkoort, trendforcaster).
THANKS AGAIN FOR THIS GRACE!!

ivie

glad you’re enjoying the post! i truly hope it’s helpful and beneficial information for you all! best of luck!

Angela Ficorelli

Great advice!!! Thanks so much for all of the biz advice, it is so helpful. I set up my website like a blog and it is SO easy to update :) Everything on my site is search-able AND viewers can subscribe to my portfolio, how cool?! <3

Jess LC

This is great advice. My favorite part was where you mentioned that people need to cherry-pick their target market and advertising opportunities. I think this is so true. People can “create a blog” or “place an ad” but unless they go about reaching their actual loyal customer base it might just lead to empty traffic and a high bounce rate.

Jules

Another great E-newsletter source is http://www.myemma.com. It is user friendly and the customer service is outstanding. I’ve been using them for a year now and I couldn’t be happier!

adina

this is SO great, thank you! i’m looking forward to reading more (like about press kits) next week. thanks again!

Lori

Love this post!

FYI: There are some great articles on developing your brand at Go-To-Market Strategies, http://www.gtms-inc.com/tips. My favorties are:

Branding: Perception vs. Reality
http://www.gtms-inc.com/tip_brandperception.htm

and What’s Brand Got to Do with It?
http://www.gtms-inc.com/tip_whatsbrand.htm

There are so many articles there, and I should mention their templates are VERY affordable. I also like the the site is woman-owned.

Again, great information. Thanks much!

Rebecca

Fantastic post. I am also addicted to checking google analytics daily for stats on visits to my site. It’s a very valuable tool!

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