After The Sale: The Red-Headed Stepchild Of The Marketing Industry

I was a red-headed stepchild, so I can say that. Don’t bother emailing me to snark. I don’t care.

Jeffrey Fox, author of How to Become a Marketing Superstar, defines marketing like this:

“The profitable identification, attraction, getting, and keeping of good customers… Identification, attraction, and getting are pre-sale functions. Keeping includes all post-sale functions.”

He goes on to give some great examples of each, but one of the things I like is the stress he places on ALL post-sale functions. Yep, all of them. Bill collection? Marketing. Delivery? Marketing. Issuing refunds? Marketing. You get the idea. It seems so many marketing books and, frankly, marketing consultants, only emphasize the attraction and getting of customers that they don’t bother to think about keeping them.

Not thinking about this is incredibly stupid.

Several springs ago, when I was traveling, I bought a hat. I had concerns that I wouldn’t be able to pack it, so the store owner offered to ship it to my home office. We chatted – he said he’d visited my city once before and liked it. We discussed our mutual love of impractical dogs.

In December, they sent me a Christmas card, saying they hoped I’d enjoyed the hat that summer.

This is good marketing.

Here’s some even better marketing – the following Christmas, I got another handwritten Christmas card. They hoped my hat was holding up. They wished me a prosperous new year. They told me that thanks to me, and others like me, they were able to bring their business online. They gave me their sparkling new URL.

I was practically tripping over my cat to get to the computer.

There are three very cool things about post-sale marketing:

1. It’s almost always free.

It costs you nothing to send me an email asking how my son is adjusting to his new glasses. It costs you nothing to send me a link on IM that you thought I might like. It costs you nothing to comment on my blog.

2. It’s usually very easy.

You don’t need to hire a copywriter to say hi. You don’t need a graphic design team on retainer to write a Christmas card. You don’t need a staff of SEO specialists to click “Contact Us.”

3. Your audience is captive.

If I know you, the chances that I will read, pay attention, and even respond to your communications are very high.

If I’ve never heard of you, you’d better have a damn good marketing team.

The Takeaway:

If we look at marketing as identification, attraction, getting AND keeping of good customers … it wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend 25% of our time on each. That way none of these categories fall through the cracks.

Your buyers list is the most valuable asset you have. Take good care of them.

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Features Vs. Benefits – The Showdown

I would love to start by saying, “There are two types of people in the world…” but that would be both clichéd and inaccurate. For the purposes of this blog post, however, there really are only two types:

Those who understand “Features Vs. Benefits” and those who don’t.

If you don’t get it, that’s OK. Not a lot of people really do. But if you run a business, you need to learn. Otherwise you (or your marketing consultant) will waste many precious and expensive hours trying to sell the wrong things.

What you need to know: A benefit results from a feature.

Commonly accepted marketing wisdom suggests that customers like benefits. They don’t give a damn about features. A classic Marketing 101 exercise suggests that you take a piece of paper, and on the left side, write down a list of your product or service’s features. On the right side, list the corresponding benefit(s).

Heaters!

  • Feature: It comes with a timer.
  • Benefit: Your house will be warm when you get home from work.

Lipstick!

  • Feature: Fancy-pants patent-pending co-enzyme light-diffusing blah blah blah.
  • Benefit: Your lips will be glossier.

TiVo!

  • Feature: Preprogrammable recording function.
  • Benefit: You’ll never miss your favorite shows.

Pants!

  • Feature: Lycra panels at the waist.
  • Benefit: You will look 10 pounds slimmer.

It’s a little harder to delineate when you’re selling a service.

Features and benefits tend to look alike. Here are a few:

Phone service!

  • Feature: Call forwarding.
  • Benefit: You’ll never miss another important call.

Google Analytics!

  • Feature: Detailed statistics tracking.
  • Benefit: You know what your readers are doing.

Internet service!

  • Feature: 7 megabyte per second download speed.
  • Benefit: All those mp3s you’re stealing come much faster.

Web design!

  • Feature: Knowledge of PHP, AJAX, JavaScript, etc.
  • Benefit: You get a pretty website.

What if you can’t figure out if something is a feature or a benefit?

If you don’t know, drill down. Ask why whatever it is you’re thinking about is important to your customer. When you arrive at an answer that even a three-year-old could understand, you’ve found your benefit.

For example, let’s say you run a freelance writing business. You have a network of other writers to whom you can subcontract. Is your network a benefit or a feature?

You: I have a team of freelancers available to me.
Customer: Why do I care?
You: Because you can have your stuff done 5 times faster.

Even your dog understands why that’s important. Therefore, having a team of freelancers is a feature. Having a faster-than-the-speed-of-sound turnaround time is a benefit.

With very few exceptions (medicine and cutting-edge technology come to mind) you are wasting space and money by telling people about your features.

Nobody cares. Get over it. Move on.

Benefits are what sells. That’s pretty much the bottom line.

 

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Entrepreneurship: What To Do When You’re Scared Sh*tless

(Originally published in 2008)

Somebody (Tim Ferris? Gandhi? Princess Di?) once said that if you’re not offending anybody, you’re doing it wrong. You’ll be happy to know, I’m clearly doing it right.

When I clicked “Publish” on one particular post, I can honestly say I didn’t know people would be so bothered. I had no less than five snarky emails in my inbox before the damn post hit people’s feed readers. (Remember those?  I’m dating myself.)  Seriously, people were mad. Really mad. People were mad at my word use, people were mad that I called them cocky, people did not dig it. (For those of you who did like it and emailed, thank you. That was very nice of you.)

Anyway, somebody else (Chuck Norris? Paris Hilton? The Will It Blend guy?) said the following, and I think you’ll agree that it deserves some funky red type.

The absence of fear is not courage. The absence of fear is mental illness.

When I got those emails, I was not exactly delighted. (OK, the exhibitionist part of me was a little bit delighted.) Am I afraid that no-one will come to my blog? That people will stop coming? That I won’t meet the goals I’ve stated quite publicly to people I don’t like and who will gleefully revel in my failure?

Of course I am. But I can’t let that water me down. I can’t let that fear dominate my actions. I can’t let myself become one of those writers who just rehashes everybody else’s crap.

I have to hang out, being afraid, and going about my business anyway.

I’d love to make this into a handy bulleted list with lots of outgoing link love. Then everyone could “like” it and tweet it and I could be the linkbait queen of the world.

Sadly, I can’t.

I can tell you what I know about fear, though. It sucks. A lot. It can paralyze you and sicken you and leave you cold and lonely. I got pregnant at 17 with a man who wasn’t exactly my soul mate. I dropped out of college and people told me I would never make anything of myself. I have been on welfare. And I run my own business.

This is scary shit, people.

So here’s my not-very-linear advice on fear.

First, acknowledge it. Get to know it. The worst thing to do with fear is pretend it’s not there. You’re not fooling anyone, least of all fear itself, and by denying its existence you just look like an idiot. Get to the root of your fear. Analyze where it comes from. Find out what you’re really afraid of.

If you think you’re afraid your business will fail, you’re not. You might be afraid of poverty, of humiliation, of never finding happiness, but you’re not afraid your business will fail. Figure out what the problem really is and stop pretending the Big White Elephant of Fear hasn’t taken up residence in the corner of your home office.

For myself, I used to be almost constantly afraid. It’s gotten better, but here are some things that are still on the list:

I’m afraid if I move to the country, I will become isolated. I’m afraid that if I’m unhappy there, that will mean I’m vacuous and shallow.

I’m afraid that if we move to the city, I will be happy and Jamie will not. I’m afraid I won’t be able to enjoy it because of the guilt.

I’m afraid of finding out five years from now that we should have had more kids. I’m much more afraid of actually having more kids.

I’m afraid that now that I’m living my dream, I will be struck by a fatal illness and not live to enjoy it. (The dream, not the fatal illness.) I’m afraid that if I tell anyone that fear, then I will jinx myself and the fear will come true.

I’m afraid that all of my gigs will fall through at the same time and I will have to go back to working for the man.

I’m afraid people will decide that given my background (see: pregnant teenager, college dropout) I have no business calling myself an authority on anything.

I’m afraid my oldest son will stay a Mormon, serve a mission, and be brainwashed to hate me.

I’m afraid if I rest, I will fail.

Guess what, folks. Fear is normal.

As a bloggers, artists, writers, business owners, we are afraid. Trying to avoid fear, circumvent fear, or remove fear is an act of futility. Fear will not go away.

Live with fear, do your thing anyway.

And read this while you’re at it.

 

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