Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Get real in boosting your firm

Marketing must increase sales, author stresses

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Figuring out if your company or product has effective marketing is really pretty simple, author Mark Stevens says.

Stevens told about 50 members of the Advertising Club of Cincinnati at a seminar Tuesday that marketing is pointless if it fails to do one thing: Increase sales.

It does not matter whether the ad campaign wins local or national awards or whether customers say good-golly-wow when they see, read or hear an advertising spot or are reached through an aggressive marketing campaign of freebies and phone calls.

No - the only thing that matters is money, said Stevens, author of Your Marketing Sucks, adding this question: Does your company have more of it after the marketing effort than it had before?

"Most companies get buzz confused with sales," said the Purchase, N.Y.-based author and president of the marketing firm MSCO. "And that is a big, big mistake."

Stevens suggested that companies:

• Mimic infomercials, which have made boxer George Foreman a kitchen appliance mogul with 40 million cookers sold.

• Treasure testimonials, and if your company doesn't have any, it's time to go get some.

• Align the marketing division with real sales executives and strategic planners. Otherwise, your marketing department might be humming a tune that nobody wants to hear.

• Dump sales personnel who cannot close a deal.

• Seek new marketing approaches, and learn something new every day. For instance, Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, once flew to South Africa to check out a store's approach to retailing by both crawling on the floor and checking out its top shelves.

• Teach employees to warmly greet customers or clients with "the eight most powerful words in business": Did you find everything you were looking for?

• Develop attention-getting marketing that surprises potential customers and maybe even shocks them.

Chris Heile, managing director of creative services for GJP Advertising, a full-service advertising and marketing agency, noted during a panel discussion that shocking ad copy or marketing approaches can backfire.

People might be turned off by that approach, he said, and in some categories, marketing or advertising that shocks is unnecessary.

Larry Bates, president of NextStep Networking, pointed out that in a landscape cluttered with competition, differentiation can be a firm's highest hurdle.

How can a company showcase its assets? Bates asked.

One strategy is to tout personnel, Stevens said.

Look to resumes for qualities in staffers that have not been highlighted but will have an appeal to potential clients.

"A small idea can create a tidal wave of activity," he said.

Stevens' visit was co-sponsored by the club, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, and Joseph-Beth Booksellers.


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