Have you looked for marketing advice on the internet recently? There is no shortage of self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ from which to choose. But what kind of advice are they shilling out? Too often, it's over-the-top hype, blatant commercial ad copy and other tips designed for selling an inexpensive product to the general public.
When your target market is other businesses or involves a costly product or long-term service, these methods can be not only ineffective, but also often counter-productive. A more refined, image-conscious approach is required.
Professional marketing does not mean old-fashioned, traditional or boring. What it does mean is consistently viewing the big picture and the overall image you want to project. Yes, this sounds very similar to branding in traditional marketing. In a corporate or conservative climate, however, the techniques are more subtle and strategic. Very few CPAs use a catch phrase like “Don't squeeze the Charmin!"
Marketing is communicating. This communication consists of making your prospects aware of your existence and establishing a professional, esteemed public image of yourself and your product or service. Only after this foundation is successfully laid do features and benefits become part of your marketing program.
These two components should be factors in all activities, even those you may not have thought of as marketing. For example, how are telephone calls received at your office? Are they answered by a person or machine? How many times does the phone ring before it is answered? What are the first words heard by the caller and in what tone are they uttered? This is often the first contact a prospect will have with your business and can set an indelible impression of you and indicate how you do business.
Similarly, what does your business card say about you and your business? If your target market consists of corporate buyers at Fortune 500 companies, do you really want to have a tie-dyed neon pink pattern and a marijuana leaf as your logo?
Does every communication from your office exhibit your professionalism? Are your letters, brochures and emails grammatically correct? Do you proofread all documents?
Do you carry your business cards with you at all times? Do you introduce yourself to others and actively participate in industry associations? Do you dress in a style similar to that of your prospects? Do you remove your sunglasses from the top of your head and take the gum out of your mouth before calling on a prospect?
These are all factors in creating your professional image. They communicate an impression of the quality and value of you, your business and your product or service. This communication is professional marketing.
Meredith L. Hamilton