Product Marketing and Sales Ideas: Can help to move progress forward.Below are several relatively inexpensive and simple marketing and sales ideas. Do not write them off just because they are common ideas.
Ideas for your product marketing and sales efforts can be difficult to create.Start from basic marketing ideas, rather than reinventing the wheel. Then apply your creative time to refine or modify those ideas to work best for your market! Please contact me if you have an idea that you are willing to share.
Take a customer to lunch, to play golf, to see a hockey game. It is a small token of thanks and a great opportunity to hear about their level of satisfaction, and new opportunities. For example, serve lunch to your customer's entire plant during a holiday.
Call your best customers, often, but not too often.
Meet with your largest customers at least two times each year, better once a quarter. A good agenda might be something along the lines of a "quality review". Present your company's improvements and actions taken to improve products or correct past problems. Let your customer ask questions and voice opinions and ideas.
Starving for a good question to ask a satisfied repeat customer? "Is there anything else that our organization could do for you, that we are not?" and "Is there anything that you think our organization should plan for in the future?"
Do not forget about your vendors. Vendor relationships are critically important to your marketing and sales efforts. They should be second on your list, after customers. Vendors are a wonderful source of real-time marketing intelligence. Who's meeting with your competitors? Your vendors are meeting with your competitors. Build strong relationships with your vendors -- the very kind of relationships you dream your customers would build with you.
Looking for a future? Find a lasting competitive advantage in your marketing strategy. Maybe its a secret manufacturing procedure? A distributor network? It could be public such as a patent, or secret such as a formulation. Do not tell your vendors about your secret competitive advantages.
Postcards. They cost little to mail, are particularly interesting when creative, and are a great way to say 'hello' to your current customers. For example, one company puts a photo of all of their employees on one side of the card. The other side asks the customer for their next order.
Ask each of your employees to write down 20 new product ideas. The first 15 ideas rarely offer much. The last couple of ideas can be surprising. (Try it yourself -- the struggle of thinking of the last few ideas isn't as easy as you might think and sparks creativity).
Before you call a customer to discuss your approach to a complicated problem, make a few notes on what you plan to say. During an potentially emotional discussion, these notes will serve to ground your approach.
Do you have a customer who is not happy, and won't say why? Is he is afraid of hurting your feelings? Try asking this way, "Is there anything that we could do a little bit better for you, might make your life a little easier? Even the smallest thing?" Get ready to keep your mouth shut, and write lots of notes.
Go beyond "open ended questions" to get your prospect talking. Try stating a fact (perhaps something you saw in the morning paper), followed by a perception gleaned from that fact, followed by your question. For example, "A distributor told me today that plastics prices are increasing. It would seem that molding efficiency would be more critical in this industry than ever. How will it affect you?"
On a shoe-string budget? You might be shocked to learn how much marketing information is available for free at a good library. Try looking in universities or large cities. The business section in the Philadelphia Public Library is an outstanding example. The last time I checked, they provided free access to several particularly expensive business databases.
Cold calling is a tough but effective tool of marketing. If you are in upper management, its a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the market. Why not cold call 2 prospects each morning as part of your daily discipline.
Put this next to your phone: An index card with several issues about your market that you wish to better understand. Take it with you to meetings, or to trade events. Whenever you wish you to spice-up a conversation, admit that you are confused by one of the issues. Everyone likes to help -- not too different than asking for the time. You get lots of answers; and it all makes great conversation!
Periodically call or send a simple sales letter or postcard to customers who haven't purchased lately.
Quick Ship. Do you market products that are customized in some aspect? Consider carrying an inventory of a few popular 'standardized' items. Then advertise the quick shipment of these products. This may have the added value of more efficient production.
Develop a list of trade shows in your market. Make sure you visit several trade shows each year and learn. If you have ruled out exhibiting at a large national show, consider a small show within driving distance. Many offer an inexpensive "table top area" which is a great opportunity to put together a simple exhibit.
Install contact manager software on an internal network (its not difficult to network a few computers). When a customer calls in, they want an immediate response. You will be able to see notes on your associate's past conversations, quotes and promises. Long gone are the old answers of "You will have to call back, Jim is on vacation".
Need to handle an angry customer? They will not listen? The first rule is to let them talk! (Most sales people become anxious and try to jump in too soon with a solution.) Then they will be more responsive to your efforts to help.