April 2003 Issue #7


IN THIS ISSUE

  • Marketing feature: Image vs. perception
  • There's still time to . . .
  • Entrepreneurship feature: Why the internet matters - even if you don't have an online business
  • Newsletter news
  • Good links: Internet Public Library
  • Write to us and pass it along

Marketing feature: Image vs. perception

Have you ever had the experience of talking with a prospective customer and coming to realize that their perception of your business, of what you offer and how you offer it, is totally different from what you had intended? Do prospects often say to you something like, "What is it you do again? I've never been clear about that." This is a common occurrence with service providers but it can happen to anyone. If it has happened to you, it should raise a red flag. Your message is not clear.

One of the most neglected aspects of developing a clear and focused marketing message is "image." Image is that subtle aspect of your marketing programing that communicates volumes to your prospects before they have read a word of advertising copy or heard you utter even the opening phrases of your sales pitch. It is subliminal. An image that appeals to people in your marketplace and is consistent with your unique selling proposition and your marketing positioning statement will help people remember you and will help close sales. An image that is not consistent will undermine your efforts.

Appearance is an important component of image. However, being neat and businesslike is not enough.. Color and graphics set a tone that can be even more powerful than words. Different styles appeal to different groups of people. You might prefer classical styles and subdued colors, but is that what appeals to your best potential customer? Would bright primary colors and contemporary design work better? If very high quality is a key part of your unique selling proposition, do you think that simple, black on white printing on inexpensive paper will support the quality message? If "easy to use" is key, simple design and soothing colors might support that message. To make the best decision you will need to research what will work best in your market and carefully consider what will support the message you are trying to send.

Appearance is important but it is not the only component to image. Frequently, companies will spend substantial time and money on developing a "corporate image" package - logo, stationery, etc. - then neglect to pay attention to how it is applied: how sales personnel present the product or service, where advertising is placed, where the product is distributed, how it is priced, and so on. All aspects of bringing your product or service to market need to support the image you have developed.

For example, a luxury item that is priced below what that market expects to pay can send a message that the product lacks quality. Pricing it at a level that purchasers of luxury products expect to pay will actually enhance sales because it will be consistent with the "luxury image."

Advertising that same luxury product on late night TV in a self-produced ad with a loud voice over shouting "buy now" will also send a confusing message. Luxury buyers who see the ad will be less likely to buy because this type of advertising generally targets people who are looking for bargains. The idea that this is a luxury item will not be believable. Those who tend to respond to this kind of advertising might not respond in this case because you have presented a product that is not normally found in this time slot and presented in this manner. Both ways, the prospective buyer can be confused because the type of advertisement and where it is placed is not consistent with the "luxury image."

To send a clear message that people will remember, you need to be sure that your image is well-defined. Write a statement describing your image. Set up rules for ensuring that all aspects of your marketing - everything that customers and prospects see and hear - supports the image you have established. Then, you will have fewer people asking, "What is it you do again?" and more people becoming customers or clients.

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If your business needs help defining an image that your prospects will respond to, Business Odyssey now offers an in-house mini seminar to do just that. Conducted at your location, this half day seminar will help you produce a more sharply focused marketing program. Give us a call (216/221-8970) or e-mail info@businessodyssey.com for details.


There's still time to . . .

. . . beef up your marketing . . . write or revise your business plan . . . take your business online. Registration is still ongoing for these seminars and workshops:
  • "Power Marketing for Small Businesses" class at Lakewood High School starting Monday April 28 at 7:00 PM and running for four weeks. (Call 216-529-4192.)
  • "Write Your Own Business Plan Workshop" meeting once a week for six weeks starting at 7:00 PM on April 8 *SOON* at Polaris Career Center. (Call 440-891-7750.)
  • "How to Start an Online Business with Little or No Money" class on April 10 at Lakewood High School. (216-529-4192.)
Complete descriptions and additional information are available at www.businessodyssey.com.

Entrepreneurship feature: Why the internet matters - even if you don't have an online business

I've been amazed by owners and managers at well-established businesses who refuse to utilize e-mail or the internet in any way. They often cite spamming, viruses and other potential problems without considering the effectiveness and efficiency of this tool. Nor do they consider the fact that the rest of the world is passing them by. Years ago, this might have been the equivalent of refusing to install telephones!

Just like the telephone, the internet has changed the world for all of us. It has made communication faster, easier and cheaper. It gives us global access to prospects and customers at a cost that nearly every business can afford. The amount of information that is available, literally at your fingertips, boggles the mind.

Because of this ease of access, the internet has also changed the way that products and services are delivered. Consumers and businesses can make purchases at better prices and receive delivery in far less time. They have access to information about products and services and the ability to place orders and communicate with suppliers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Consequently, the marketplace has become much more demanding.

For example, only a few years ago, the expectation for delivery from an order placed by phone or mail order was six to eight weeks. Everyone accepted that. Now, delivery times are down to a few days in most cases. The bar has been raised - your customers now expect that kind of response.

As a result, even small, local suppliers have had to improve their efficiency. Order entry and fulfillment operations have had to become nimbler and faster. To deliver the level of service customers have come to expect, businesses need ready access to information about customer purchase patterns and preferences.

Even your local pizza parlor has felt the impact of these changes. Call any busy carry-out operation and they will have a database with your name and address and what you have ordered in the past. Ordering is a breeze - just ask for your "usual." You know what is on the menu because it is posted on the internet - often along with coupons.

Beyond the easy access to product information and the ability to order 24/7/365, there are operational and cost efficiency considerations. The pizza parlor now has a database that documents demand. They know what days, weeks and months will have heavy or light business. They also know which products sell best in which season. More salads in summer? More ribs during football season? Its all documented. This makes planning and ordering supplies a lot easier - reduces guesswork, risk, waste. Ingredients are on hand - no more "Sorry, sir. We are out of that." They then can place orders, perhaps on the internet, and receive stock "just in time." This reduces waste, reduces storage needs, and reduces costs. They are better positioned to compete.

The pizza scenario holds true for any business - retail, wholesale, manufacturing, service, consumer or business to business. Better service, faster delivery, more convenient hours, and reduced costs have become the standard for all businesses today. Whether you accomplish these by utilizing the internet or not is your choice. Even if you choose to remain "off line," the internet is still having a profound impact on your business.

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Newsletter news

With every issue of the Business Odyssey Chronicle, I find more and more things to write about. This is creating a dilemma. As I look over the last few issues, I have noticed that they are getting longer and longer. If you are anything like me, you probably don't have the time or patience to scroll through a newsletter that goes on and on and on and . . .

I would like to include more tips for beginning entrepreneurs, more practical marketing information for everyone, more free downloads, and I'd like to add software, service and book reviews. So, how do I provide more information in less space?

Answer: publish more often. Beginning in May, the Chronicle will come out twice a month. The first issue will include the "Entrepreneurship" feature and several shorter items. The second issue of each month will include the "Marketing" feature and shorter items. In months that have major holidays, we will probably give everyone a break and publish only once.

I hope that you find the new features interesting, fun and useful and the shorter format easier to swallow and digest! Let me know what you think.


Good links: Internet Public Library

If wading through all of the commercial web sites listed by search engines has ever frustrated you in searching for good, solid information, try going to the Internet Public Library. Yes, there is such a thing!

Operated by the School of Information at the University of Michigan and sponsored by Intel and Sun Microsystems, this portal will lead you to some of the best informational web sites and resources out there.

The home page is deceptively simple and very general. You will find several dozen categories including general references, specific subject areas, special collections and writing and research aids. As you drill down into the area you are researching, the information becomes more specific.

Visit it at www.ipl.org. Fascinating, informative and useful.


Write to us and pass it along

If you have questions, comments or idea for article you would like to see in The Chronicle, please drop us a line at

info@businessodyssey.com Please pass this newsletter along to anyone you think might find it of interest. If you do, be sure to forward it in its entirety and include the copyright notice.


Copyright 2003 Kathleen Thompson ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Business Odyssey

Cleveland, Ohio

www.businessodyssey.com