by Jim Roddy, president, Business Solutions magazine
The education session on the final day of the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) Inspire 2012 winter conference was titled "Become the First Choice in Your Market: Marketing and Selling to Meet Your Financial Objectives." Business owner, consultant, and author Brett Harward led the discussion. Here‘s what I thought were the best VAR-focused nuggets of advice from this education session:
Your marketing doesn't need to sell. The goal of your marketing should be to build the awareness and brand identity of your organization. Don't jam your advertising with all the text required to make the sale. Few prospective customers will read an ad dense in text, and because of that they won't walk away knowing how your organization can benefit them. Your marketing materials will rarely cause someone to immediately buy from you. Try to move the consumer of your marketing to become a lead for you. Your marketing material should cause them to pick up the phone to call you or shoot you a quick email.
Sales step #1: Gain their trust by offering "social proof." Low trust is the most common marketing hurdle. According to a survey cited by Harward, only 3% of Americans trust businesses in general and only 2% trust salespeople. Could the salespeople for resellers be in a stickier spot? Social proof will help you overcome trust. Don't think of "testimonial letters" or customer quotes on your website as examples of social proof. True social proof is feedback from consumers monitored by an outside independent source, like the 5-star reviews you see on Amazon.com. A strong B2B (business-to-business) example of this independent rating is the "Rate Your Reseller" section on www.RSPAcertified.com. That site offers a collection of RSPA Certified resellers rated by their actual install base.
Know how to affect the five-step buying process: (1) Awareness, (2) Search for Information, (3) Evaluate Alternatives, (4) Make Purchase Decisions, (5) Evaluate Purchase. Understand that your marketing can influence steps 1-3 and your sales efforts affect steps 3-4. Advertising can best impact awareness, and a search engine optimized professional web site will aide you when prospects search for information on a solution you offer.
Be patient. A big marketing-related mistake resellers make is when they need sales they try some marketing and expect immediate results. Understand that marketing happens over time; it happens only with multiple hits. If you set aside budget for 50,000 direct mail pieces, you're better off mailing 10,000 pieces five times vs. doing a 50,000 mailing once. You'll get some response on the first mailing, but gain more customers with every subsequent mailing. Repetition helps build trust. The first time the prospect is exposed to your marketing, their trust of you will be at an all-time low. As they repeatedly see your consistent marketing message in different formats, the trust will expand. (Author's note: Burned into my brain is a comment by BlueStar VP of Marketing Mark Fraker from an RSPA Marketing Committee meeting four years ago. He said, "You have to connect with a person at least nine times – nine times! – before you can get them to move off their dime.")
Embrace these four tips for great copy writing. (1) Simplify – short sentences, single message, bullet points, (2) "Chunk it down" – separate clear thoughts, (3) Benefits, benefits, benefits, and (4) Eliminate risk for the customer such as offering a free trial or money-back guarantee. (Another author's note: I understand that simply reading these four points doesn't make you a copy writing guru. So lean on experts who can help you craft your marketing message. Ask your distributors or vendors for guidance in this area. Another good option is the marketing services division of the RSPA. For more information, go to www.NoneoftheBS.com or email Publications@GoRSPA.org.)
The Los Suenos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort in Herradura, Costa Rica is hosting RSPA Inspire 2012 Jan. 29-Feb. 1. For complete coverage of RSPA Inspire, go to www.BSMinfo.com/POS.