When a company announces that they’ve lost a billion dollars in the first three months of the year, as General Motors did two weeks ago, it is a good indication that they are way, way off course. While Ford and Daimler/Chrysler weren’t in the hole for a billion dollars, their profits were down by 50% or more for the quarter. Their cars just aren’t selling.
Why are these companies having such a hard time selling their products and what does it have to do with your marketing?
According to Wharton management professor John Paul MacDuffie, these companies, “don’t tend to be good learning organizations which is something Toyota and Honda are superb at.” And in the New York Times, “General Motors and Ford have swerved off course for a far more basic reason: not enough people like their cars.”
All three companies have lost sight of the most important aspect of their business and their marketing; what their prospective customers want and need. Focused on shareholder profits, they’ve lost their vision of what their prospects are looking for.
There are two ways of thinking about making more money. You can ask yourself,
A. How can I maximize my profits?
Or you can ask yourself,
B. How can I give my customers what they want and need and maximize my profits?
Are you putting profits before prospects?
Whether you’re running a one-person firm or a hundred-person company, your compass should point to what prospects want and need. This is the direction to long-term success; your customers have the information you need to develop your products and services and map out your small business marketing strategy.
Help your clients get what they want and need, and they’ll buy your products or services again and again and tell all their friends to do the same.
Do you know what your prospects want and need?
Here’s how to keep your business and your marketing pointed to profits:
1. Constantly Collect Information
You don’t need to hire a marketing research firm and spend tens of thousands of dollars to learn what your prospects want. Yes, third party research can provide one more way of listening to what people want, but you can use many low- and no-cost ways of collecting information.
Use every prospect and client contact to find out more about what they want and need. Every time a prospect or client talks to you on the phone or visits your web site, use the opportunity to prompt them to tell you more about their needs. Get people to respond to your postcard, letter or your web site copy by offering them a free report in return for their input.
2. Ask Questions
Ask prospects and clients what they need and want. Ask clients how they used your product or service and what would make it even more useful.
3. Watch What Clients Do With Your Products and Services
One of the challenges of product development is getting prospects to identify a product they haven’t seen. Steve Maynard, a Vice President of Marketing at Wiremold in Connecticut understood this dilemma and had a simple solution.He regularly sent his employees out to watch how customers used his company’s products.
By watching customers install their wire and cable management products, they could identify any problems that occurred and come up with new or improved products. These insights into your customers’ needs and problems can also drive your marketing.
4. Listen to the Questions Prospects and Clients Ask Everyday
Prospects and clients call me with lots of questions about how to improve their marketing. I get questions about cold calling, email marketing, closing sales, getting the boss to spend money on marketing, solving office politics etc. Each question is an indication of a need. When I evaluate which products to develop, which services to keep and which to add, I use this list of my own prospects’ needs to help set the course of my business.
My primary service is teaching people how to market their products and services, but I have had so many requests for help with copy writing that uses the successful approach I espouse that I am now offering copy writing as an added service.
5. Think About How You Want to Be Seen By Your Customers
Do you want your customers to think of you solely as a profit-driven service provider? Or do you want your clients to think of you as a professional who they know and trust to help them solve their problems? The path you choose will determine how you approach your product development, delivery and marketing.
Want to ensure repeat orders and the continued growth of your business? Keep your business compass pointed to prospects’ needs and wants and you’ll stay on a course toward long term success and greater profits.