Marketing Tactics, Tactics and More Tactics


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If you read anything about marketing other than this column, you’re inundated with tactics you should/could use to grow your business. Some of the companies promoting these tactics have taken to advertising on the radio, and if you just call them and leave your email address they will send you the secret to growing your business. Wow, a secret everyone now knows is how valuable?
It’s frustrating trying to figure out what to do when so many people and ideas are being thrown at you. And then, of course, you have to blog, tweet, and use LinkedIn and Facebook until you are in a stupor, which doesn’t leave much time to run a shop.
Until you can make an informed decision, don’t do anything: it’s cheaper. You would not buy a new piece of equipment for your shop without some idea of what you plan to do with it and what return you expect from it. The same must be true for marketing tactics.
Marketing, and its related tactics, can help you in one of three ways (and some tactics can help in more than one of these three ways): create new customers; retain your customers; increase your share of customer or share of wallet (get more of their business).
As should be clear, the tactics selected are dependent on which of these three areas are most important. (Some tactics overlap, but focus is important.) A shop can’t emphasize all three equally or none of them will be done well. 
Some shops have all of a customers’ business, so increasing share of customer is not relevant. Others don’t know what their share of customer is, so they should ask them. If you have a relatively small share of customer, what will it take to grow it? I ask because growing share of customer is usually the least expensive way to grow your business. Before you look to add new customers, consider growing your share of customer first.
What about customer retention? Do you have lots of turnover in your customer base? One of our clients called it the “hole in the bucket” problem. His marketing investments to add new customers kept growing because he was losing too many existing customers. Once we helped him patch the “hole in the bucket,” he could reduce his investment in creating new customers, because he did not need that many new ones anymore. He could also be a lot pickier about who he went after for a new customer.
If you are losing customers, do you know why? If they tell you “price,” our customer survey experience suggests that is a cop-out to get you off the phone. When we survey our client’s customers, we find that price is almost never the real reason the customer left. It is usually related to delivery issues, attitude, flexibility or a failure to understand that lack of planning on your customer’s part constitutes an emergency on your part.
If you already have high customer retention and high share of customer, then to grow, you can wait for your customers to grow or add more customers. Acquiring new customers is the toughest job in marketing. Therefore, what have you tried in the past that worked or didn’t work? 
One of our clients runs a big shop and has his sales people call new customers to talk about their capabilities and to see if there is something useful to quote. Often, the answer will be “sure,” which is really about getting you off the phone and doing some work for them, for which you are not going to get paid.
I understand that you have to quote to win, but quoting alone will not win the business you want. Why are particular customers potentially a good fit for you? Why are you potentially a good fit for them? How can your shop help them more than their current supplier?
There are lots of marketing tactics, and most of them are designed to make money for the marketing agency that does them for you. Before you decide what tactic to use, decide what outcome you are looking to achieve.