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Straegize, to stand out in the crowd, marketing consultants advise
You think you’re selling widgets to your clients.
But your clients think they’re buying gizmos from you.
It’s the classic marketing versus mission issue: Is what your customers think they’re buying from you the same thing you think you’re selling to them?
Marketing experts in southeastern Wisconsin agree that the ability to answer that question is critical for successful marketing.
“Although it may seem elementary, many organizations have no sense of purpose,” says Alan Gaudynski, who runs Alan Gaudynski & Associates in Brookfield. “In today’s competitive market, it’s imperative to develop a sense of purpose that sets your business apart.”
“Don’t assume they know you,” adds Todd Robert Murphy of Todd Robert Murphy Marketing Communications in downtown Milwaukee. “This holds true even if you’re in business for years.”
Murphy suggests that business owners put together a list of all the products and services they offer, then ask a few existing customers – without aid – to develop the same list. “You’ll be surprised at how little they know,” he says.
The result of such an exercise, Murphy says, is potential new business.
“You could have been selling all kinds of additional products or services to your own customers.”
Christopher “Kit” Vernon, chairman and CEO of Blue Horse, a downtown Milwaukee marketing, advertising and public relations agency, advises business owners to develop a positioning statement. Such a statement, he says, forces your firm to take a stand in its industry.
“Marketing without positioning is like communication in a vacuum,” Vernon says. “Your positioning statement is not a slogan; rather it is the cornerstone on which your company is built – the lens through which all of your marketing materials are focused.”
Adds the staff of Core Creative in downtown Milwaukee: “Ask yourself some tough questions about your company. What makes your product or service special?”
Additionally, the firm advises, “Determine who you are and/or who you’d like to be; then hammer that message home repeatedly.”
A logo can convey a firm’s position, the marketing consultants say.
“Think about it,” says Murphy. “Your logo is the one element of your marketing arsenal that will appear in every form of promotion you use, including letterhead, business cards, signage, display ads, matchbooks, coffee mugs, truck signs, billboards, whatever. Consider your logo an investment in name recognition.”
If you have a logo, be sure to use it consistently, adds Joan Cotter Pike of Zeppos & Associates in downtown Milwaukee. “Treating your logo consistently and using it whenever you can will help people remember your company.”
If you don’t have a logo, Cotter Pike adds, develop one. “A clean, simple, memorable logo can help solidify your corporate identity.”
On a related matter, John Murphy, owner of Murphy Associates, The Shared Marketing Department, in Brookfield, says business owners need to take a good look at their firms’ names. “Your company name should say what you do,” he says. Additionally, business cards should say what you do. “The majority don’t,” he observes.
The consultants are nearly universal in their call for firms to have a marketing plan that involves solid research.
“Do strategic planning yearly, utilizing information gathered from both internal and external surveys,” says Diane Chamness of Chamness Consulting in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point area. “Involve key staff in this planning and review the plan every three months or so, updating as things change within your organization or the marketplace,” Chamness adds.
McGlinchey & Associates of Brookfield advises firms to set annual or semi-annual marketing goals and then develop a plan to realize those goals. “Define your target audiences and think about the best channels to reach them,” the firm says.
Karen Lindsey-Lloyd of Lindsey-Lloyd Communications in Wauwatosa says that in creating a marketing plan, at least the following should be considered: What do you want to accomplish? Who is your target audience? What contacts do you need to make? How will you get your message out? And what action steps need to be taken?
Look at the implementation of that plan as an ongoing process, says Gail Sideman of CourtSIDE Sports Communications and Write On! Promotions in Bayside. “I equate it to planting a seed an nourishing it through the years,” she adds.
Along with getting clients to speak on your behalf, the consultants also advised firms to gain attention by sponsoring seminars and workshops and by participating in charitable events.
“Testimonials are one of the best and most underused marketing tools available,” says Dana Burke of Mind Your Business in Wauwatosa. “And customers are almost always willing to give them.”
“Happy, satisfied customers can be your best advertising,” adds Cotter Pike of Zeppos Associates. “If you can’t spend much on advertising, be sure to invest in keeping your customers happy.”
Similarly, a business can get marketing mileage out of special events – either its own or those it helps with, the consultants say.
“Partnering with charity groups and sponsoring events such as runs, local sports teams and the like can make your company more visible with your target audience,” says the Core Creative staff. “Aligning yourself with the right organization can get you valuable exposure and create feelings of goodwill toward your company.”
The trick to gaining the right attention from aligning with charities, says Todd Robert Murphy, is to “get caught at it” rather than blowing your horn about it.
“The fact is, your potential customers appreciate the fact that your business tries to make our community better,” Murphy said. “It makes them feel better about doing business with you.”
McGlinchey & Associates suggests that firms host seminars for clients or potential clients. To add value to your product or service, look for opportunities to educate and train your customers, they say. If you can help them to better use your product, you’re doing both the customer and yourself a service. At the same time, you establish your company as a knowledgeable source.
Another essential for garnering attention in the crowded marketplace is to set yourself apart.
“Zig when everyone else is zagging,” says Blue Horse’s Vernon. “The best way to gain attention for your product of service is to be different.”
June 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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