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Fresh ideas for 2010

Marlene Olsen

A lot of business people I know have more time than money right now. That can be a good thing. Really. As the New Year approaches, it is a good time to inject new life into your marketing. So, why not start the New Year off right by considering these six tips.

Get clear on who your idea customer is. Consider the qualities that you look for in an ideal customer. I have listed a few here. Impact: you deliver products and services that have a significant impact on their businesses or their lives. Budget: Ideal customers easily afford your products and services; maybe even have a line item reserved in their budgets (especially for services). Profits: You earn a substantial profit by delivering these products and services. Insights: You understand what your ideal customer needs often better than they do.

There are other qualities of an ideal customer that will fit your business better. You can start with this list and add to it in a brainstorming session with your staff.

Build an ideal customer profile for every service and product you offer. An ideal customer profile is a list of demographic factors, customer concerns and needs, and their preferred method(s) of communication. The value of building an ideal customer profile is that it will help you see clearly whom you are seeking to serve and the results from associating with your firm. This profile can and should be shared with everyone inside your organization to ensure you are all united in your vision and goals.

Conduct a communications audit and analyze your messages. Customers buy because they believe in a promise. What messages and promises are you making to your customers and prospects? To answer this question, you need to take a look at your promotional materials. Most of the time, promises are made through brochures, web pages, presentations, webinars, and other types of marketing materials. Gather those materials together in one location and lay them all out on a table. What do you see? If your firm is like most, you’ll see conflicting messages and inconsistencies including your identity and look, value proposition(s), and specific results and benefits that you promise. Ask yourself this question on each piece: can a customer look at this and know within seconds why they should buy and do business with you?

It can be difficult to be objective in viewing your own materials. You can hire a company that does communications audits, or find a colleague and do a review of both of your companies marketing materials.

Don’t forget about media relations and publicity. Almost all media outlets have slashed their staffs, and the reporters left are strapped for time and resources. Providing news about your business or your industry provides badly needed content. News should be something that is sufficiently interesting to the general public, or to the audience of the publication/station/website that you are interested in pitching.

To stretch a little further, for a great story, your news topic should have some of the following attributes: immediacy, proximity (to Reno, or wherever you are pitching), prominence (of a person involved), oddity, conflict, suspense, emotions and/or consequence.

Consider thought leadership. If you tell customers how to solve their most pressing problems, they will pay attention. Make sure you provide insights that come directly from your experiences. This is an excellent starting point for building a customer relationship and for becoming an expert in your field. As you implement this strategy with great content, you’ll notice that customers perceive you as both an expert and a source of great ideas and solutions.

Think of the following tactics for thought leadership: white papers, articles, case studies, webinars and speeches. The content is used in the pull strategies above.

Know your marketing ROI: Make sure you know what your return on investment is on your marketing/communications activities. What is giving you the best bang for the buck, the best response and the best new customers? You can figure this down to the cost for a sale, hit, call, new customer, etc. Prioritize your top producers, and if you can’t figure out if an activity, ad campaign, etc., is effective, consider it on the chopping block. Total media impressions should not be the sole focus of results, as it is important to reach customers in a way that is meaningful or useful.

So, how is your New Year going to be? We can focus on the tough economy, or control what we can in our businesses.

As Americans and residents of the Truckee Meadows, we are fortunate to wake up each day and decide how our day should be. We have the choice, unlike some, to jump out of bed and improve our attitudes and get working on our businesses. And when we make a wrong turn during the day, we can again focus on what is working, instead of the nuances that nip at our heels. Go for a walk, consult with a great client, have a glass of wine, or talk to a friend.

We have the opportunity to choose, unlike some who are fighting for a drink of clean water or hiding from shrapnel flying overhead. In 2010, I wish everyone the same world where peace and prosperity is a given and all have the luxury to view the world as a wonderful place to be.

Marlene Olsen is president of Olsen & Associates, a public relations, and communications company in Reno. Contact her through http://www.o-apr.com.?