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Ways and means are being devised to acknowledge the importance of customer satisfaction. However, a much-less-publicized yet fundamental lever is customer intimacy. Customer intimacy is the formal or informal set of relationships which impacts revenue growth and earnings per share, by creating long-term sustainable competitive advantage.

Profit Power of Customer Intimacy: Deliver Top Line Revenue and Earnings Growth

Profit Power of Customer Intimacy: Deliver Top Line Revenue and Earnings GrowthRegardless of industry segment, progressive CEOs and Board of Directors are looking for the silver bullet to consistently deliver top-line revenue and earnings growth, as means to increase share price and shareholders value. Numerous articles are being published promoting the importance of customer satisfaction, and ways to improve it, or touting the needs and means to flawless execution, or the benefits of process reengineering, or of outsourcing to lower-cost regions such as China, India, Latin America or Eastern Europe. These can, indeed, be good strategies towards better profitability. However, a much-less-publicized yet fundamental lever of higher and sustainable shareholders returns is customer intimacy. Customer intimacy impacts shareholders returns for both sides: the supplier side as well as the customer side. What is "customer intimacy" ? Customer intimacy can be defined as the formal or informal set of relationships established between supplier and customer, with a diverse array of partners, from corporate leadership to functional leadership (engineering, marketing, operations, maintenance, or service) and end-users of products or services. These dynamic relationships provide multiple points and frequency of contacts between the company and its customer, as well as multiple points of view about the relationship and its benefits to both parties. What are the benefits of customer intimacy? First, from the supplier side, customer intimacy impacts revenue growth and earnings per share, by creating long-term sustainable competitive advantage through the early identification of unsatisfied needs. Contrary to the all-too-common syndrome of if we can make it, they will buy it, that is prevalent in technology-driven companies; customer intimacy allows the adoption of a customer-need-pull strategy, as opposed to a technology-push strategy. By establishing long-term relationships with key customers, representative of their targeted market segments, companies set a framework within which they can have repeated opportunities to tap into their knowledge base. Voice-of-the-customer (VOC) interviews, focus groups, and users group meetings are well-practiced means used by marketing teams to access that knowledge base. But, much more simply, sales and service engineers can provide feedback as they are in a position to interact much more frequently with the end-users. Establishing very close and frequent relationships with key customers allows companies to be aware of the evolution of their processes and unsatisfied needs in advance of the competition. The corollary is that the investments for research and development of new products can then be focused towards differentiated product features and away from me-too products, thus reducing the risk of commoditization. Commodity products and services are essentially differentiated by their price. As a result, competitive positions must be based on lowest cost of manufacture. In the case of business-to-business dealings, commoditization is essentially driven by purchasing organizations. In order to obtain price concessions from vendors, purchasing officers tend to negotiate with vendors under the assumption that offerings from competitors are providing the same value, and that price is the deciding parameter. It is rarely the case, but, in front of weak or poorly trained sales people, this ploy allows them to obtain discounts from list prices. In any industry, however, commoditization leads to profit erosion and destruction, rather than increase of profit that is necessary for shareholders value. Commoditization can transform the market for a unique, branded product into a market based on undifferentiated price competition. Commodification can be an unintentional outcome that no party is actively seeking to achieve. Fighting this trend to protect some pricing power requires market and application knowledge on one front. On another front, training and development of the workforce are required. Differentiated products and services that bring an innovative solution to recognized but unsatisfied customers requirements are obviously easier to price and sell, on the basis of real value, thus avoiding the setting of list prices as costs plus. Second, from the customer side, considerable advantage can be generated when dealing with a vendor who is well aware of the details of the business and operations, its main drivers and constraints, as well as its objectives. If this vendor is willing to listen to issues with existing products and services, or to new requirements which may fall outside of their current offering, and is willing to invest in finding solutions, each of these situations corresponds to opportunities for reduced costs or increased capacity, and obviously leads to improved earnings. Key progressive customers are very willing to partner with strategic suppliers to develop unique solutions to their most tangible, high-impact problems. The next question is how to establish or improve customer intimacy? Every business has some level of customer intimacy, loosely exercised by its various customer interactions: Internet, emails, phone calls, sales and service calls, etc. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to improve customer intimacy. It requires the right attitude, and the motivation to ask the right questions. Attitudes can be developed through communications, training and development. Motivation can be enhanced by the quality of the talent hired by the company, and by the compensation and rewarding systems. Employees, who clearly understand how their behavior in front of customers can cause increased customer intimacy and how relationship marketing relates to profitability and growth, are more likely to pay attention to their attitudes and to strive to bring value to the customers. In summary, beyond customer satisfaction, which is essentially transactional, another layer is developed in terms of relationship between supplier and customer. Customer intimacy brings with it a virtuous circle of additional opportunities for companies to avoid the pitfalls of commoditization and bubble-hype, secure sustainable competitive advantages, and protect pricing power and profit margins, which then in turn enables additional investments towards growth (marketing, new product developments, sales channels, etc.). All of which promotes increases for shareholders returns.

The Downside Of Targeting Niche Markets

The Downside Of Targeting Niche Markets

While there exists a rather large potential for profit when marketing for a specific audience, the process is not without its disadvantages. The work that must be put into analysis and research is often overwhelming and the unwillingness to put in the effort is frequently the downfall of businesses seeking to target a niche market. While this process can certainly be time consuming, it is essential that a business looking for a niche market complete this research. In performing the necessary market analysis a business can gain an upper hand on its competition.The main goal of businesses looking to target a specific audience is to identify the needs of this niche market and learn how to better serve them, thereby increasing their sales and profit. Without the research and analysis it is nearly impossible for a company to do so. Within the analysis a business should aim to obtain information on the extent of their market, trends within the market, competitor prices, particularly those selling a similar product or providing a comparable service, and the preferences of this niche market also. The information you collect and examine must be accurate if you are to make a well- educated and beneficial business decision. As such one can see how rigorous this process can become, especially when one considers the need for information authentication.While conducting this research can be quite painstaking, there are means through which a business can alleviate some of the stress associated with market research. Businesses can easily take advantage of the methods of conducting a market assessment in order to obtain better quality information with fewer errors. Using libraries, business publications, questionnaires, media sources and information obtained from government agencies can make the process of market analysis much less chaotic and simultaneously make it seem like less of a disadvantage.

Discover the Secrets of Effective Marketing

Discover the Secrets of Effective Marketing

The discipline of marketing can often be complex and confusing. As a marketing veteran, I have seen countless marketing professionals get hung up on various aspects of marketing which have little impact on actual marketing results. Based on my experience, there are four critical elements to an effective marketing campaign. Whether youre looking to improve your search engine marketing results, internet marketing, or marketing in general, be sure to follow these simple guidelines which I refer to as the A.T.O.M approach.A.T.O.M Audience, Timing, Offer, Message1. Know Your Audience. No one can effectively market, communicate, or sell without knowing their audience or what motivates them to buy. Is your potential customer male or female? Young or old? A first time buyer or frequent purchaser? Are they the final decision maker? Do they have preferences for a particular product, service, or delivery method? The more you know about your audience, the more targeted and relevant your marketing can be. 2. Timing is Everything. Even with the most convincing marketing campaign, prospects will have no interest in your product or service if you arent communicating to them at the right time. Be sure your marketing message is in front of prospects when theyre ready to buy. This could be at a particular time of year or perhaps prior to a life event.3. Finding the Right Offer. In direct marketing, experts say that results are 40% dependant on your list, 40% on the offer, and 20% on your creative. The same is true for internet marketing, search engine marketing, and the like. Test your offers and find the one that out performs all the others. This offer should continually be tested and refined to improve your results.4. Its all about the Messaging. If you know your audience well enough, you should be able to craft a message that addresses their needs and differentiates your product or service from the competition. Additionally, be sure to stress benefits over features. This will give your audience a reason to read, try, and buy.The next time you are conducting a marketing campaign, use the A.T.O.M. approach. Knowing your audience, ensuring that you reach them when theyre ready to buy, experimenting to find the most productive offer, and communicating to them productively, are essential for any marketing campaign to deliver results.

Color It Right

Color It Right

Artists use color in many different ways. The colors that we see are light waves reflected or absorbed by everything around us. In nature, a rainbow is actually a white light that is broken apart by the moisture in the air. The nineteenth century was the turning point for the development of color illustration. At the start of the century, books with colored plates were hand colored by the artist using techniques that dates back to the Renaissance. A hundred years later, the steam driven printing press and the photo reproductive techniques took printing out of the hands of the artist and introduced processes which would be used until the computer revolution of today. Todays color printing uses new technologies and techniques such as digital lithography. Color printing today is generally handled using offset lithography. This printing process coats a rubber drum with the color and water necessary to produce the image. The image is then transferred to the offset drum. From the offset drum the image is transferred to the paper or other printable medium. This process makes it possible to transfer color photographs easily. As technology continues to develop, new printing techniques will eventually overtake offset printing as the number one printing option. Offset printing is the least expensive at this point but manufacturers of digital printing are trying to catch up. Keep in mind that the right printing technique for any business is one that delivers a superior output, time after time, with no breakdown in quality. Traditional full color printing involves higher set up costs, thus, excluding small quantity jobs from full color. The increased set up costs also creates large outdated inventories of previously printed materials produced in large amounts to justify the costs of full color. But that is in the past. Digital color printing is fast gaining with offset printing. Digital printing is one the best kept secrets of the printing industry. Using this technology, you can print full-color materials with high resolution images and crisp text in very short runs on demand. There are two types of digital printing in color. The first one is purely electronic. This method uses no plates and toner based ink on true digital presses. The second type is called direct image printing or DI printing. This method uses conventional ink and plates to print runs as low as 250 to 500. Whether you use pure or DI printing, you can now afford to print in color. Printing in color has been much affordable these days. So, jazz up your advertising materials with color and images. Dont be afraid to print your text in red, tangerine or deep green and throw in a few pictures.

3 Steps To Getting Highly Motivated Prospects Or Customers

With the many ways to advertise, it is easy to sometimes be in a rush to just get something out somewhere. But, no matter where you plan to advertise, there are several basic fundamentals that will help create advertisements that are effective and profitable. Here are three that will get you headed in the right direction.1. First on the check list is; is your unique selling position (USP) clear and provoking?You need to find out what makes your business different from that of your competitors. From that, you can develop a strategy based on the strengths or even weaknesses of those differences. Actually, good marketers identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOTs) and develop their strategy from those factors. Here is an example of a USP that stems from a companies weakness:Were not #1, so we work harder to get the job done.In this example, a weakness was used to let customers know that they will do what it takes to get the job done. Customers know that they are not #1 so the service and pricing will be competitive.Having a USP is extremely important in setting you apart from your competitors. It is what gets you into the minds and eventually the wallets of your customers and prospects.2. Effective Headings and Ad CopyIn developing effective headings and ad copy, it is essential to live by the adage, Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Better know as AIDA.This simply means that you grab the attention of the prospect or customer with an compelling headline or graphic, you keep them reading with an interesting ad copy which creates a desire and ends with a powerful call to action .When developing AIDA it is important to keep in mind that all purchases revolve around basic human wants and they fall into two categories; the desire to gain, and the desire to avoid lose. The latter which is usually the most effective. This is an entire article in itself, but if you focus on those two principals, you will be on your way to an effective ad campaign.3. It doesnt matter what you say if your not saying it in the right place.Just as important as what you say, is where you say it. Where and when you place your ads will have a tremendous effect on the results of those ads. Knowing little facts, such as, the following will give you a much more effective campaign:Full page ads get better response on the right hand pages.Larger ads work better than smaller ads.If placing smaller ads, they are generate more response if lower on the page and closer to the outer margins.In direct mail, buyers are more responsive to mailings received mid-week than on Mondays, Fridays, or weekends.Seminars and lectures work better during the second and thirds weeks of the month.Those are just a few simple facts that will create better response for you. Being a student and learning all the intricate details of advertising will be time well spent in regards to the success of your campaigns.Ok, so those three simple steps will help you create more effective and more profitable advertising campaigns. Advertising can be costly if the little details are not given proper attention , but highly profitable if you do your homework and create the most compelling ad and place it at the right time and place.

How to Develop a Marketing Plan

If youre thinking about developing a marketing program, you need to begin with a marketing plan.Having been in marketing for more than a decade, I have seen my share of "marketing plan" s.Some are short and to the point, others are hundreds of pages thick and cost thousands of dollars to produce.The irony is that many of the expensive marketing plans end up on a shelf and rarely get implemented.The simple plans, if researched and implemented effectively, have the greatest impact.Regardless of the scope of your marketing plan, you must keep in mind that it is a fluid document.Every business needs to begin with a well structured plan that is based in thorough research, competitive positioning and attainable outcomes.Your plan should be the basis for your activities over the coming months.However, you should always be willing to enhance or redirect your plan based on what proves successful.Marketing Plan Basics1. Market ResearchCollect, organize, and write down data about the market that is currently buying the product(s) or service(s) you will sell. Some areas to consider: Market dynamics, patterns including seasonality Customers - demographics, market segment, target markets, needs, buying decisions Product - what's out there now, what's the competition offering Current sales in the industry Benchmarks in the industry Suppliers - vendors that you will need to rely on 2. Target MarketFind niche or target markets for your product and describe them. 3. Product Describe your product. How does your product relate to the market? What does your market need, what do they currently use, what do they need above and beyond current use? 4. CompetitionDescribe your competition. Develop your "unique selling proposition." What makes you stand apart from your competition? What is your competition doing about branding? 5. Mission StatementWrite a few sentences that state: "Key market" - who you're selling to "Contribution" - what you're selling "Distinction" - your unique selling proposition 6. Market StrategiesWrite down the marketing and promotion strategies that you want to use or at least consider using. Strategies to consider: Networking - go where your market is Direct marketing - sales letters, brochures, flyers Advertising - print media, directories Training programs - to increase awareness Write articles, give advice, become known as an expert Direct/personal selling Publicity/press releases Trade shows Web site 7. Pricing, Positioning and BrandingFrom the information you've collected, establish strategies for determining the price of your product, where your product will be positioned in the market and how you will achieve brand awareness. 8. BudgetBudget your dollars. What strategies can you afford? What can you do in house, what do you need to outsource. 9. Marketing GoalsEstablish quantifiable marketing goals. This means goals that you can turn into numbers. For instance, your goals might be to gain at least 30 new clients or to sell 10 products per week, or to increase your income by 30% this year. Your goals might include sales, profits, or customer's satisfaction. 10. Monitor Your ResultsTest and analyze. Identify the strategies that are working. Survey customers Track sales, leads, visitors to your web site, percent of sales to impressions By researching your markets, your competition, and determining your unique positioning, you are in a much better position to promote and sell your product or service.By establishing goals for your marketing campaign, you can better understand whether or not your efforts are generating results through ongoing review and evaluation of results.As mentioned earlier in this article, be sure to use your plan as a living document.Successful marketers continually review the status of their campaigns against their set objectives.This ensures ongoing improvements to your marketing initiatives and helps with future planning.

Summary

Ways and means are being devised to acknowledge the importance of customer satisfaction. However, a much-less-publicized yet fundamental lever is customer intimacy. Customer intimacy is the formal or informal set of relationships which impacts revenue growth and earnings per share, by creating long-term sustainable competitive advantage.