Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products

March  2005                                Volume 44,  Issue 2

     Supplier Know-How
         Advice For Your Business

Paving the Way for Selling
by Art Ramsey

How many times do you see it in business, companies with their back against the wall just to keep a reasonable order file? Companies that were great, but now are out of business, have been purchased by other companies or have lost their best customers to aggressive, more visible promotional-minded competitors.

A strong marketing-driven strategy makes the selling process easier. How?

To start with, promoting your company, materials, products and people creates the first and most important aspect of marketing: creating awareness. Before a customer makes a purchasing decision, they must be directed to you either as a new customer or an existing customer who is visualizing something new they can purchase from your company. When the buying decision takes place, the awareness you created causes customers to look for you. It also breaks down the barriers when you solicit their business.

Marketing helps to form the image of your company or product brand you want to create, i.e. the right company with which to do business. It creates credibility by protecting the company and product image—how the brand is perceived and appreciated. It can also provide a feeling of goodwill, knowledge and value that helps to protect your company against some of the problems that occur in business and that can make you vulnerable.

Asking the Right Questions
Good marketing and good selling skills equal an easier, more profitable and faster sale. Marketing now brings in the customers two to eight years from now and, once started, the pipeline continues to grow.

What should you do to market your company or products? There are a number of ways to accomplish this task. First, there are some questions you need to answer:
1. Have I researched my company and products to understand where they fit, i.e. their strategic advantage of value uniqueness, and the demand needs of the market?
2. What are my true advantages over a competitor or competing product?
3. What audience do I want to reach, and what impresses this audience?
4. How will I communicate my message?
5. Have I committed to a long-term process and expenditure?
6. Have I chosen the right media and action steps? This can be essential. Consider advertising, direct mail, trade shows, literature, email, telemarketing, promotional handouts, sample programs, etc.

In many cases, your choice will be to use part or all of these tools to reach the customer. In fact, I recommend all of them in one form or another. Advertising is the easiest way to reach a broad base or individual market channel with the awareness message.

Next, follow with direct mail and other events. Samples and promotional literature will bring the hard collateral to the customer, if it is well focused at the market channel.

Trade shows complete the loop. There, prospects can meet and make physical contact for sales call follow-up. Many times customers will say to me at shows, “I see your stuff in the magazines—I want to try it!”

10 Things to Remember
Most marketers with experience in building brands and awareness through advertising offer the following:
1. Identify and communicate one key message in each ad.
2. Don’t market your company from “within,” i.e. what internally you think is right. Talk to customers and prospective customers about what products they want and like, don’t like, or for which they have a need. You will learn quickly how to form the right message to get the attention when the ad hits the street.
3. Communicate differently to various prospects. Some of this can be accomplished through general advertising followed by more formal, specific advertising. The same works for literature and brochures.
4. Make sure the ad says something specific, i.e. if you buy from my company or product line, you get this specific benefit.
5. Plan your advertising and trade shows well into the future. The old saying “necessity never made a bargain” is very true if you do last-minute thinking and little planning.
6. Pull together your sales and marketing team, management group, even manufacturing and finance. Share the plans, get them involved by communicating and sharing the objectives of what you want to accomplish and keep everyone updated. Send them the magazines with your ad so they can share with employees. This always creates a lot of excitement and support.
7. Ask customers what they think of your ads. Be concerned only with what they think. Sometimes agencies sell you on clever things that make the agency or advertiser feel good but don’t fit your prospective customer. Don’t waste your money on anything that doesn’t fit your prospects.
8. Repeat your message over and over again. It will take five to ten repetitions to be seen and finally read and bring the prospect to action.
9. Tie your advertising and website together to round out information. The ad will get attention, while the site brings in more in-depth collateral information and completes the image the salesperson now can present to close the prospect.
10. Don’t be discouraged; have patience! Sometimes it’s easy to question, “Should I have bought another machine versus spending money on marketing and advertising?” I read somewhere that marketing, and advertising especially, never rang the cash register. No argument there, but the question really is, what brought people to the store? 

Art Ramey is the executive vice president of sales, marketing and distribution of Royal Mouldings of Marion, Va.

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