[Smart Marketing] Market Planning Chapter 6

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October 7, 2003

So, now that we know who our customer is, where he/she is, and when we’re going to be actively recruiting new customers, let’s address the message side of the marketing process.

If demographics, geography and the matter of when we’re going to be out there constitute some of the science of marketing, the message is definitely part of the art. What do you want consumers to know that will encourage them to give you an opportunity to sell to them?

In our next installment we’ll talk about media. Media selection does, to a certain extent, influence your message but not its essence. This could get complicated but follow along with me for a minute.


MAKING AN OFFER. Are you going to be making an offer to customers? An offer means something special for a specific period of time. Are you going to reduce your price? Are you going to expand your service offering to include something for which you normally charge extra? If you are, and if you are going to make this offer for a specific period of time with a specific end date, then that’s your message! It could be something like, "Twenty percent off our normally low price" for pest prevention, termite protection, whatever, "through November 30. Call today, time’s running out." Or, it could be "Purchase termite protection before November 30 and we’ll give you three months of pest prevention absolutely FREE!" These are bona fide offers that should stimulate a response from folks looking for a discount or something not normally offered.

Or, are you going for awareness, believing as many of us do, that people only really buy our services when they have a real or perceived need? Awareness requires that you don’t hide your point of differentiation behind an offer. "We’re Cincinnati’s oldest, largest, award-winning service organization." Or, "JJJ Pest Prevention Company … Oklahoma City’s environmental leader." These are positions that hopefully can differentiate your company from others in your marketplace so that when a customer has a real or perceived need for your service, he or she will remember you and give you an opportunity.

The obvious next question should be, why can’t you stake out an awareness position and make a time sensitive offer, all at once? The obvious answer is, you can, but unless you’re disciplined at extracting information from folks when they first contact you, you’re going to have some difficulty determining what message they’re responding to. If they’re responding to your offer, they’re probably going to be vulnerable to the next offer that comes along. If, on the other hand, they’re responding to your point of differentiation, and if you’ve staked out that position and "branded" it on the marketplace by being out there consistently, they’re going to be less vulnerable to the next siren’s song they hear.

Don’t get me wrong — a well conceived and executed "special" offer can be a powerful tool to help obtain a spike in new business. But over time, a well staked-out position that leaves you "different" in the eyes, hearts and minds of those in the marketplace will pay larger dividends.

Many successful organizations, both on the product side as well as in the service sector, have done consistent branding while occasionally putting a special offer in play. If you have the resources and systems in place to do this, by all means do.

Here are some key points on messaging. First, keep your message simple and easy to understand. Second, try not to put multiple messages into a single initiative. You can say more than just one thing, but everything you say should support a single theme or idea. Third, make your message suitable to your media. Don’t put lots of words on a billboard and don’t do anything complicated on radio. Fourth and finally, present your message in a "friendly" manner. People generally don’t like their senses assaulted.

Next up, we’ll talk about media. Stay with me. We’re almost there.

The author is president of MPB Communications, Maitland, Fla. He can be reached via e-mail at budbrewer@pctonline.com.