Welcome to the Talon Mailing & Marketing October 2014 Newsletter.
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Keys to a Great Small Business Marketing Strategy
By Greg Head, smallbiztrends.com
What’s the difference between the confident
entrepreneurs who lead growing businesses and owners who can’t get out of
It all comes down to this: All successful businesses have a
clear marketing strategy that makes everything they do more effective. Direct
mail outperforms many tactics, particularly with prospects.
Unfortunately, many busy small business owners get so
caught up in tactical daily marketing execution like building a website,
sending email, tweeting, advertising, optimizing a landing page, blogging
and so on, that they are not taking the time to work on the decisions
that’ll improve the performance of their tactics.
Strategy is simply the decisions you need to make so your tactics work
better. Your marketing strategy is the foundation for creating awareness,
generating interest, closing new sales and continuing customer engagement.
Your marketing strategy guides your company culture, your products and
services mix and your pricing.
There are many things to consider when crafting a successful strategy, but
there are five key decisions that over the years I have seen help hundreds
of small business owners grow their sales and create sanity in their
1. Who is Your Target Customer?
The first decision in any marketing strategy is to define your target
customer. “Who do you serve?” always needs to be answered clearly before
you can execute any tactic effectively. This means you have to say “no” to
other potential customers who might buy from you but who are clearly bad
fits for your narrow focus. This takes time to develop the discipline, but
you can’t do effective marketing without it.
Focusing on a well-defined target may make you uncomfortable at first, but
stay the course and follow through. An accountant friend of mine changed
his business from “doing taxes for anyone in Phoenix” to “a CPA who does
taxes and investments only for physicians” – his best customers who have
special needs. He made this change over a period of two years and tripled
his business, narrowed his service offerings and strengthened his pitch.
If you are spending time and money on marketing but your efforts are not
driving enough sales, the problem is almost always that you haven’t
narrowed your target market definition enough to be effective. The
narrower you define your market so you can focus on those that you can
best serve and those that can best service you, the more effective your
entire business will be.
2. What is Your Category?
Your category is simply the short description of what business you are in.
What few words would someone say to describe your business? Starbucks is
“high-quality coffee” Chipotle is “fresh Mexican burritos.” My friend’s
tax business is simply “tax accounting for physicians in Phoenix.”
Most business owners can’t resist over-complicating their company
descriptions. This leaves people unsure of what you actually do, which
weakens your marketing effectiveness. Here’s a simple rule: If someone
can’t clearly remember your category description a month after you meet
them, they were never clear about what you do in the first place.
Clearly defining your category helps amplify your marketing and sales
efforts. Think of what it would take to be the best – the leader – in your
category. You’re not the leader? Then narrow your category definition (or
your target market focus) until you are the leader. A focused laser can
melt steel at a distance, but the same light undirected has no effect. Be
laser-like in your focus.
3. What is Your Unique Benefit?
Your unique benefit should highlight the one (or two) main things your
product or service actually delivers (benefits) that your target customer
really wants, not a long list of all the things your product does
At Infusionsoft, we know our customers don’t just want our software: They
want to grow sales and save time. We don’t describe everything our
software does or the hundreds of benefits, we keep our focus on those
three key benefits in everything we do. And the simpler we describe it,
the better our marketing works.
4. Who is Your Competition?
When someone is looking to buy a solution to a problem, they will quickly
make sense of the alternatives to compare against – your competition.
However, most entrepreneurs haven’t specifically defined who their real
competition is and don’t focus their messages to create clear
differentiation for their buyers. This frustrates the buying decision
process and makes your marketing efforts weaker.
You need to be clear in your own mind about what your biggest competition
is. If you are a tax accountant, is your competition really the other tax
accountants in town? Other CPAs or financial planners? DIY tax software?
Doing taxes manually? National tax accounting chains? Each competitor type
would create different comparisons, so you need to narrow it down to one
or two main competitor types.
5. Why Are You Different and
Better for Your Target Customer?
Once you have defined your competition, make a list of all the things you
do differently and better. Then rank each of them by how important these
factors are to your target customer. Pick the top one or two and put them
on your homepage and include them in your elevator pitch.
Don’t overcomplicate this. People just want to know one or two things to
move their decision along. Is it cheaper? Do you have faster delivery?
Best personalized service? Are you the only accountant who exclusively
serves physicians in Phoenix?
What Does Your Marketing Strategy
Statement Look Like?
When you put the five key decisions of marketing strategy in a sentence
form, it looks like this fill-in-the-blank statement:
Your company name is the leading category for target customers that
provides unique benefit. Unlike competitors, your company does unique
Our growth rate doubled when we focused and committed to this clear and
simple marketing strategy.
Try it for yourself: Fill in the blanks to create the marketing strategy
statement for your own business. Get some perspective from employees,
friends and best customers. List all the possibilities and then make some
decisions. Say it out loud a few times. You should feel clarity and power
coming through. It will also show you a few things you could stop doing in
your business that would create more focus.
Can you see why it makes no sense to Tweet, to send a broadcast email or
build a new website if you are not clear about your marketing strategy
that has laser-like focus? Doing these tactics without a road map – your
marketing strategy – will not deliver the right customers and will give
you fewer sales than if you had invested the time to implement a focused
Creating a clear marketing strategy is not what companies do after they
get big, it’s what small companies do to grow and get bigger in the first
Direct Mail May Go in the Trash If You Make These Four Mistakes
By Craig Simpson
A direct-mail campaign
has a lot of moving pieces. This means a lot can go wrong.
Here's how to avoid four big mistakes.
If you’re managing the campaign on your own, you want it to work like a
well-oiled machine: send out your sales piece, intrigue prospects and make
sales. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. You might not even know
the mistakes you’re making. Here are four common pitfalls that you should
1. Marketing to too many people. There
is no such thing as a product or service everyone wants to buy. To be
effective in direct mail, you need to know exactly who your best prospects
are. You cannot just send your sales piece out randomly and hope for the
best. You have to send it to a list of people that are already likely to
The easiest way to find your best prospects is by modeling your current
customers. You may not know much about the customers in your house file,
but someone does. There are a number of data companies that have plenty of
information on individuals. For example, Epsilon, North America’s largest
survey response database, covers more than 35 million households and 65
Here’s an example of how this works:
You send your house file of 20,000 names to one of these huge data
companies. They run your 20,000 names against their file of names to find
any matches. Then, the company can give you data such as average and range
of ages and income, how large the families are, what kind of home they
live in, what hobbies they have and maybe even where they make charitable
You can use this information to tell your list broker exactly what
characteristics you’re looking for in the mailing lists you will be
buying. This will increase the effectiveness of your future marketing
It’s more than just who wants to buy your product, too. It’s also about
how to get them to buy it. Think of it like fishing: You use different
kinds of bait for different fish. Once you’ve modeled your current
customers, you can start using your knowledge of your best buyers, their
likes and dislikes, their interests and their demographics to write and
design sales pieces that will be more appealing and motivating.
2. Using the wrong sales piece. You
aren’t going to convince someone to buy a $1,000 piece of workout
equipment by using a postcard. And you don’t need a 42-page letter to
convince someone to give you their email address in exchange for a free
With so many formats to choose from, how do you know which one is best to
promote your particular product or service?
The answer is actually simple, but many companies get it wrong. When you
are trying to decide what format to use for your direct-mail piece, always
put yourself in your customers' shoes. What would catch your attention?
Another great idea is to find out what others in your industry are
successfully mailing and what format they are using. I’ve helped create
thousands of sales pieces for my clients in dozens of different formats.
And it’s my job to know who’s mailing what, in every industry! Trust me:
It’s worth collecting samples and learning what others are mailing.
3. Having a weak (or confusing) call to action.
A sales letter is the most valuable employee you could ever hire. Think
about it. Day after day, it delivers your best sales message perfectly --
every time. It never calls in sick. Never takes a day off. And it never
quits on you. Really, a powerful sales letter is like having a little oil
well in the backyard, pumping out money for you, day and night.
But that sales piece will only be effective if it has a strong
call-to-action. A call-to-action tells your prospective customers exactly
what you want them to do.
“Visit our website now!”
“Order now before time runs out!”
A strong call to action is specific, urgent and singular. To get the
response you want, you need to make it abundantly clear what your offer
is. Your sales copy must convince readers that this is something they need
to act on now. The entire piece must ask your prospects to do one thing:
sign up, call, order, visit, whatever single action you want them to take.
One more tip: Include your call to action more than once in your sales
letter. People skip around when reading, so make sure your instructions
are simple enough that a 12 year old can follow them. You don’t want to
leave it up to readers to figure out what you want them to do. If they
lose interest, you lose a prospect.
4. Ignoring your current customers.
Your house file is more than your history, it’s also your future. Do not
make the mistake of leaving your current customers out of your marketing
efforts. These people have proven that they’re interested in what you’re
An important aspect of maximizing the use of your house file is to develop
a sales funnel of back-end products or services that you can market to
them. I call this a customer retention path.
You may have a series of backend products that go with your original
product. When customers buy they enter a sales funnel or customer
retention path, where they receive regular mailings selling the other
products and services. This way you can send them new offers, run specials
and make it easy for them to reorder.
Direct mail can help boost your business, if you do it right. Avoid making
these four mistakes and you’ll see what a great impact direct mail can
have on your bottom line.
Cut Has Shippers Switching to the Post Office
The new Priority Mail rates are up to 55% lower for medium-weight
packages. Could Standard Mail be next?
The Postal Service’s recent price cuts for big businesses that ship
packages are already trickling down to the small fry, like eBay seller
And based on Strader’s reaction to the rates that took effect on September
7, a lot of other small shippers will be switching their
business to the U.S. Postal Service as well.
The proprietor of the eBay store Joe’s Surplus and Salvage noted a
change he made this week on an item he ships frequently.
“In the past this would have been all FedEx but Priority Mail beats them
with the discount. In addition, it gets there on Saturday rather than
Monday. For small items, I get free boxes, not an insignificant saving.”
"Yes, that is a 49% discount off of retail,” Strader says of the USPS
shipping quote of $9.14 for sending a 20-pound package. FedEx would have
charged $10.86 for the same shipment, and United Parcel Service would
have been even higher, he adds. Before the rate change, Strader used the
Postal Service almost solely for items weighing less than 6 pounds.
“This is going to get ugly,” he says of the heightened parcel
competition among the Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS. The new Priority
Mail rates are slightly higher for retail customers who drop off a
package at a post office but up to 55% lower for medium-weight packages
sent by large business mailers.
Extra bonus for eBay merchants
EBay sellers have an additional reason to like the new Priority Mail
discounts: “When a customer of eBay calculates shipping, it gives the
rate before the discount. The seller gets the difference,” explains
Strader, who offers most of his eBay merchandise with free shipping.
“For those that charge shipping on transactions based on calculated
rather than flat rate, it is a significant difference” (and additional
He even finds the much-maligned Postal Service often beating its
private-sector competitors on customer service. He described what
happened with a recent USPS shipment that was supposed to be next-day
service but took two days:
“I filled out the simple form, took my receipt and paperwork to the post
office and handed it over. After a few strokes on the computer, I had a
cash refund, that day, no waiting. I was shocked that I did not have to
wait a few weeks like FedEx or UPS only to find out it was my fault for
some reason. I asked and the agent said that since it was delivered and
obviously the wrong date, the refund is automatically processed.”
“Admittedly, mine is a small town post office and much more convenient
than most. However, the service is great, they have picked up as many as
a dozen small packages at my door (UPS and FedEx Ground charge by the
package), and a lot of stuff I just put in the mailbox with the flag up.
They have a few goofy employees, they are often slow at the window, and
there are occasional lines (don't go at 8:30 or 3:30). But, I ship 90%
of my items USPS.”
Hopefully the Post Office will realize that they can create a second
surge of business by cutting standard rate postage. A cut in the
postage rate would have a positive effect on mail volume and actually
increase their profit. With so much of the Post
Office's costs being fixed-costs regardless of mail volume, a postage
decrease seems like a logical next step.
Talon has great seats for you to win.
are giving away a pair of tickets to see the New York Islanders! To
win, be the first telephone caller (please don’t hit reply or
email). Voice mail messages count so it's fine to leave a voice mail.
Call Michael Borkan at 631-667-5500 x 11.
Tuesday October 28th, 7:00PM.
Islanders vs. The Winnipeg Jets
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Five Keys to a Great Small Business Marketing Strategy
Your Direct Mail May Go in the Trash If You Make These Four Mistakes
Rate Cut Has Shippers Switching to the Post Office
Mike Borkan's Links - Web sites you probably
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Direct Mail Humor!
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mediabistro.com - News for the
clutchprep.com - Specific videos for college
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kinsights.com - An advice-sharing
network for parents. They help you get answers and advice from parents
justgiving.com - A global online
platform for charity giving.
They watch sports. Every game. Every channel. And alert you when to tune
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