Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

Locations and facilities

Your Location Matters

Most online only businesses operate in an online space so a physical location may not be needed. However, your location still affects your business’s marketing efforts even as an online company.

For example, if your company is located within the state of Texas, but seeking to do business in New York or another, you need to make certain that your website addresses the concerns of each target customers’ location

Things to consider:

  • Is your location/website convenient (address / online address)
  • Is it consistent with your brand image?
  • Is it what customers want and expect?

Private Label Brands

If providing your product to private label retailers, you may be concerned about competition and losing revenue. However, if you choose not to provide your product to private label retailers, another brand likely will. An online study consisting of 1,600 customers found that brand imitation by private labels increased a customers’ preference relative to the imitated brand. However, the study also found that if the private label retailer used its name on the imitated national brand, it did not hurt the sales or reputation of the national brand, but may have negatively affected the private labels’ brand image and reputation.[1]

Private label products account for more than 30% of global grocery sales. Although there are individuals who are cautious about their purchasing decisions, there are also many shoppers who shop based on name recognition and perceived value. Within the United Kingdom, for example, private label production rose from 21.5% in 1980 to 39.3% in 2003.[2] The success of private labels throughout the world has presented challenges to international brands concerning budgets, advertising, and sales.

An example of national and private label products are over-the-counter medicines. While a national brand may present a televised commercial or a print advertisement, the private brand offers little or no promotional efforts. In this regard, the national brand should sell fairly well based on their marketing efforts. Regarding the private brand, individuals who purchase private brands likely do so because they are not affected by marketing efforts and are attracted to the lower cost. Consequently, if your business can earn revenue by providing to private labels, you will not necessarily lose a customer or profits. Whether you lose revenue is determined by the real value of the product. Regarding working with private labels, your business would be responsible for product sourcing, advertising, warehousing, and promotional efforts. If you can generate higher profits from selling the same product under a different name, and still have your current business, what’s the harm?

The main difference between private label and national brand awareness is the brand’s marketing and advertising efforts. Marketing generates familiarity to customers, and the assumption is that the perceptual response patterns are different toward private labels than national brands. One important factor is that private labels lack outside advertising which affects product knowledge and sales. Customers are likely to purchase a national brand if they believe the private labels are of lower quality. National brands often sell more product than private labels considering customers perceive that national brands have a better quality than private labels. Wonder bread, for instance, may not use the same quality materials for private labels as it does for its national brand. Additionally, the company may use a different formula or materials that are not as fresh.

Large national brands seek customers with a higher level of knowledge than private labels. By promoting their brand, national brands enjoy customers that are loyal and who are likely to promote their products. In addition, national brand customers often purchase based on cues from their memory of the brand. For instance, if a customer were to arrive at a retail shelf to purchase a box of cereal, they are likely to purchase the box that reminds them of something they have seen or with which they have a positive perception. In this instance, the national brand is the likely choice of the customer considering the national brand generally has a larger marketing budget and will be more familiar to the shopper.


[1] Aribarg, A., Arora, N., Henderson, T., & Youngju, K. (2014). Private Label Imitation of a National Brand: Implications for Consumer Choice and Law. Journal Of Marketing Research, 51(6), 657-675. doi:10.1509/jmr.13.0420

[2] Lamey, L., Deleersnyder, B., Dekimpe, M. G., & Steenkamp, J. E. (2007). How Business Cycles Contribute to Private-Label Success: Evidence from the United States and Europe. Journal Of Marketing, 71(1), 1-15. doi:10.1509/jmkg.71.1.1

Your Unique Value Proposition

You can overcome your competition by offering products or services that are unique to your industry. When attempting to set your business apart from the rest with a unique product or service, you may arrive at situations where your customer does not fully understand your unique benefits. You will need to educate your customers on why your product or service is better for their personal or business needs.

A potential setback of creating differentiators such as unique features, services, and benefits, is that you are open to imitation by your competition if your differentiators are not proprietary. In this sense, your uniqueness will last only as long as it takes your competition to mimic your approach. Additionally, by offering too many differentiators or products, your customers could become confused, overwhelmed, or feel that you’re trying to sell them something they don’t need. To resolve this, take precautions and carefully educate your customers on the offerings and the importance and relevancy of the additional products or services.

Value Proposition. Customers have more options at their disposal than ever before, with that in mind, a well-drafted value proposition should be at the core of your sales collateral to solidify your competitive advantage. A value proposition is a statement of promise in terms of overall value delivered to the customer, and is a major factor in increasing sales. A value proposition helps you define how your product is the better solution for your customers’ needs. A strong value proposition is persuasive and outlines why the customer should purchase your product or service over the competition.

Having an effective and unique value proposition (UVP) is of critical importance as it distinguishes your business from your competitors. A UVP should uniquely identify the value of your business and should resonate strongly with your customers. For example, if you offer a product or service for the price of $10, and your competitor offers the same product or service for $11, what stops your competitor from stealing your customer if they match or lower their price? While price is considered a UVP, unless it is tremendously lower than the competition, you need to offer better and more UVPs.

UVPs may include:

  • Better price point
  • Better product quality
  • Better location
  • Better customer service/ hours
  • Better warranty / guarantee

Your business can evaluate and enhance customer benefits through gaining feedback from reviews of current, previous, and potential customers. Through this method, flaws within your business can be identified and needed corrections made. Another valuable method is to monitor your competitors’ marketing efforts, as well as gain insight into your reputation, by reviewing forums, complaint boards, and competitor websites for credibility, design, and customer testimonials.

Creating financials for your business

Sales plan

The sales plan is designed to reach new customers. The plan is the process used to close the deals that the marketing plan opens. The sales plan explains how salespersons are rewarded or commissioned, how orders are processed and tracked, and how the business keeps in contact with the customer throughout the sales process.

Revenue forecast

Lists major products, services, and other revenue streams. Organizes them into sensible higher-level groups as appropriate. Revenue forecast can also be used as a comparison against actual results.

Budget

This section includes estimated expenses for the creation, development, and distribution of materials. The budget plan includes the estimated purchase cost of raw materials, printing and postage. Additionally, it analyzes the budget of taking part in trade shows, travel costs, booth fees, setup costs, and any other particular expenses.

Cash Flow Assumptions

Managing cash flow is one of the most important aspects of business. In the planning phase, the business can radically change its cash outlook by adjusting a few basic assumptions about when it pays and gets paid. This section, which is a required part of a detailed forecast, walks through those assumptions.

Responding to Reviews

With the popularity of social media and the internet, customers have come to expect businesses to engage and respond quickly to questions and complaints. A primary marketing objective is to always to leave customers with a positive feeling about your business and the services provided. It is necessary to know how to engage with customers to influence positive feedback and relationships. Developing effective correspondence is the first step in accomplishing brand loyalty and supports the development of positive relationships with customers. An internal and external support staff tasked with monitoring your website, social media sites, twitter, and the like is beneficial in helping you to identify customer reviews, especially negative reviews, and in helping you work through any conflicts by addressing the reviewer and resolving their concerns.

When responding to customer reviews, the objective is to make certain the message is positive, the matter is resolved, and the customer is satisfied with the outcome. Considering most customer reviews are on social media networks, the individual responsible for responding to customer reviews should have cognitive writing skills and a good compass for creating appropriate responses. Researchers found that 72% of customers wrote negative reviews with the expectation that businesses would respond and take responsibility.[1] Empathy, compassion, and having the ability to relate are the primary characteristics needed of an effective review responder. Responses should be prepared in advance to prevent your business from scrambling for a response at the last minute.

How to respond to a review is dependent on the type of review received. If the response is negative, in addition to replying, you should communicate with the reviewer via phone or e-mail to quickly resolve the issue. The best course of action is to respond tactfully, and in a timely manner, and then work with the customer to prevent future problems or concerns from occurring. When a customer writes a review, you should respond promptly with a quality resolution to the customer’s concern. Furthermore, you should respond promptly to negative reviews to prevent customers from posting the review elsewhere and sharing it with other customers. In addition to empathy, compassion, and problem solving you should have the ability to investigate and satisfy the customer’s issues.

 

[1] Gurău, C. (2012). Solving customer complaints: A study of multiple commercial settings. Annals of the University of Oradea, Economic Science Series, 21, 827-833. Retrieved from http://anale.steconomiceuoradea.ro

Customer Behavior

Customer behavior refers to the study of the purchasing tendencies of customers. Understanding the buying behaviors of customers will help you better market and sell your products or services to your targeted customers. It’s important that you understand what prompts your customers to purchase a particular product as well as what keeps them from making a purchase. Understanding the behaviors of your customers will additionally assist in comprehending the decision-making stages your customers go through before making a purchase. Generally, there are several stages your customer goes through before they finally make a purchase. Other factors, be they cultural, social, personal, or psychological, also influence the buying decision.

To help understand customer behaviors in an online environment, a study consisting of 350 customers concluded that customers’ attitudes and behaviors toward businesses depended on their perceptions of the business, the product, ease of use, and convenience.[1] Establishing an understanding of the behaviors of your customers is central to developing successful marketing strategies. Analyzing customer behavior is vital for exploring opportunities that help in the development of successful strategies that influence customer decisions and expand brand awareness. Moreover, attempting to offer a product without understanding customer behavior could cause a loss of both revenue and time.

Social Behaviors. Understanding customers’ social behaviors are valuable for gaining insights into human motivations and how customers allocate resources in various circumstances when making purchasing decisions. Your business could benefit from learning about the social behaviors of your customers as a means to direct marketing correspondence and impact customer behavioral attitudes.

Personal Values. In the context of business marketing, personal values are defined as an underlying determinant of the attitudes and behaviors of customers. In addition to social behaviors, personal values were found to have a significant influence on customer behaviors. However, personal values were noted to have a more significant effect on customer behavior compared to other psychographics considering personal values link centrally to an individual’s cognitive system.

 

[1] Lim, W. M. (2013). Toward a theory of online buyer behavior using structural equation modeling. Modern Applied Science, 7, 34. doi:10.5539/mas.v7n10p34

The Customer Trigger Point

While working on my bachelor degree, I was employed as a student recruiter for a local college in Dallas, Texas. During sales training, I learned lessons that remain current in all my customer relationships: Never ruin a hot lead and know the customer’s trigger point. Finding the trigger point is as simple as asking “Why are you calling or meeting with me today?” Every customer has a reason for the decision to do business with you, at your particular location, with your price, and on that singular day. In education, reasons adult students chose to go back to school included that they wanted to do it for their family or kids, they wanted to change the world, or they wanted to go to school to prove to someone who said or believed they couldn’t achieve a higher education.

In relationships, you wouldn’t marry someone you just met. You date for a short while and get to know their likes, dislikes, and interests. It’s the same with customers. When you have found the customer’s decision-making trigger, you can easily put together a strategy that helps you get to the next stage of satisfying them. The goal of sales is to find and finesse your customers’ trigger point. If a customer wants to purchase your product or service because it would make them more productive, it is your responsibility to continually integrate that productivity trigger in conversations by noting how your product or service could help with their productivity. Once the trigger point is outlined, the sale becomes much easier. Your customer has a reason for doing business with you, and it is your responsibility to figure out what that reason is and make that trigger point your key to developing a successful selling strategy.

Trends and Innovation

For innovation to be advantageous within your business, you must have a strategy for informing customers on the specific benefits of the trend or innovation in relation to your product or service. Trends affected by customer choices, the internet, social media, and technology have a greater influence on customer behavior than conventional advertising. As a leader, you should develop strategies incorporating a knowledge of trends and areas identifying with technology, internet, innovation, and social media.

Technology Trends. Technology influences customers regarding business sustainability and corporate responsibility. Emerging innovative technology can propel your business to growth by providing a medium for evaluating choice patterns of your customers. The advancement of technology can additionally influence the value of your products and services. Moreover, by using technology, you could develop strategies that decidedly enhance your perceived product value. You can additionally utilize innovative technology to improve marketing research knowledge. For technology to remain beneficial within your markets, your business must have a system for effectively using technology to train and educate customers on the benefits of your product or service.

Technology in Marketing. Marketing is not shaped by what technology can do but instead centers on what the customer will accept, understand, and want. There are three changes that you must consider when creating successful marketing strategies using technology. The first is to move away from market research and instead look toward being able to interpret information extracted from your customers through databases of information. The second change is to move away from traditional advertising and placing more attention on social media for communication. The final stage is to stop looking at marketing as a means of mass markets and move toward building a personal relationship with customers through media outlets.

Market Research Methods

Marketing research knowledge has significantly increased in response to growth in disruptive innovations including the internet and technology development. In my experience, I have found that market research has been essential when repositioning my business to support product advancement, and in helping discover marketing opportunities and expanding market shares through various conveyance channels. Additionally, marketing research has helped influence the performance and effectiveness of my marketing strategies by helping to find my ideal customer with little error and without wasting time and resources on customers that were never going to purchase.

To help with analyzing markets, there are two useful forms of marketing research; primary and secondary.

Primary Research. This is a research methodology where you interact with your customers and gather as much information as you can directly from them. The information is generally collected through surveys, questionnaires, feedback forms, and interviews.

Secondary Research. This research relies on information which has been collected by others (blogs, previous researchers, data channels). You should conduct this type of research by collecting and analyzing articles, web pages, and books as references for the collected research data.

Phenomenology. A phenomenology research method uses analysis to capture individual customer experiences. This method is used for unfolding customer experiences by examining the uniqueness and commonalities of events and circumstances. The data collection techniques used in phenomenology research include in-depth analysis, documentary, and observation.

Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methods

When conducting research, you should first decide the method of research you intend to use. Research study methodologies are characterized as either qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of both, which is referred to as mixed methods. Of these methods, none can be considered the best method without factoring in the goals and objectives of your research.

I know it may seem a bit overwhelming, but understanding research methods are critical if you desire a certain outcome for your marketing efforts. For example, when I’m putting together an AdWords campaign, I would rather put together my campaign based on data collected from a quantitative method versus a qualitative method. Otherwise, I would waste time and money guessing what to do based on trial and error. A quantitative research method is better for helping to pinpoint your customer and develop a more effective marketing campaign.

Quantitative. A quantitative research method is beneficial for collecting data in the form of tests, reliance, probability theory, and surveys for analyzing statistical hypotheses that relate to your business, marketing goal, or research questions. A quantitative research method is best used when you want to analyze numbers. For example, you could use a quantitative approach when sending out a survey where you expect to get the survey results in numerical format, or if the survey has multiple choice questions.

Qualitative. Qualitative research consists of using real-world experiences and interpreting the phenomena. Unlike quantitative research, a qualitative examination is non-measurable. This research method can be used to help you understand and discover experiences, perspectives, and insight of your customers. An advantage of a qualitative approach is that the study participants are not constrained to a predetermined set of responses such as those in multiple choice or numerical questions. Meaning, through qualitative research, the participants would give their broad perception versus clicking a checkbox or radio button like in surveys.

Unlike a quantitative method, a qualitative examination technique can help to assess why customers behave a certain way. The method also helps in discovering boundaries that influence thought by breaking down points of interest and gathering information from in-depth sources. A quantitative method often makes the assumption that there is a singular truth that exists, which does not include human perception. A drawback of using a quantitative approach to collect data is that it is expensive considering the amount of time needed to collect and analyze the data.

Mixed Methods. Mixed methods are useful when you want to combine qualitative and quantitative methods by linking their differences. The key principle of mixed methods is that various forms of data can be collected by using multiple strategies and methods. Mixed methods can assist in reflecting complementary strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative methods, and produce opportunities for approaches with weaknesses by correcting method biases.

Determining whether to use a qualitative or quantitative method is dependent upon the importance of how you desire to collect your data. Simply stated, qualitative techniques define and describe while quantitative techniques estimate and quantify. When creating a new marketing strategy, neither qualitative nor quantitative measures are more important than the other when determining value and sales. If you are confused on which method to use, testing both measures will help you find the best outcomes.

Mobile Optimization

Some businesses have websites but don’t have a properly built website that is optimized for mobile devices. Even if you do have a mobile website, customers may complain that the website doesn’t look as good or that the website’s performance on mobile devices is sluggish. When you’re building your mobile website keep in mind that it’s on a phone, or device smaller than a computer monitor, meaning your buttons need to be bigger, some content needs to be moved, and some content needs to be removed or blocked from being seen on the mobile version of the website. A mobile website should be a watered-down version of your main website and should include only key selling points and a call to action. Keep in mind that most mobile users aren’t on your website to view your special graphics or large photo gallery. If your site is not built or optimized specifically for mobile users, your bounce rate will skyrocket and you’ll lose a potential customer over a fixable problem.

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