Marketing is often misunderstood. To many it looks like an insurmountable mountain to climb with every possible view increasing in size, depth, and the manpower to accomplish it. Having been in the ever-changing world of marketing for much longer than the internet has been around, our company has witnessed some major shifts in the way we communicate to both the B2B and B2C markets. Whether or not your company has the advantage of a marketing director, manager, a staff member that wears many different hats, or you employ a marketing agency, here’s a sensible approach to the most basic but most important marketing efforts you should be incorporating to keep your customers and grow new ones.
Who’s this for? Your customers, so let’s start with what’s important to them. Because ultimately, marketing is pre-sales. Know thy customer. What do you provide that your competition doesn’t so your customers can do their jobs better? Match their needs with your specialties. Do you work with customers who require cylinder inventory reports? Being able to show what cylinders were used for separate projects or departments has provided a specialty niche for Middlesex Gases and Technologies of Everett, Massachusetts, which has been tagging cylinders since 1987 because a large part of their customer base, life sciences and universities, have strict controls on their purchasing process. Realizing what was important to their customers, and acting on it, made it possible for Middlesex to become the expert in this arena.
A discovery trip. Gather what you already have in place and decide if it’s working for you or not. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your expectations? Gathering everything together enables you to see your marketing efforts as a whole and set goals for accomplishing what is feasible. Determine your top objectives that would be most likely to enhance your customer relationships and increase your business if implemented. Maybe it’s a new more efficient website, customer service training, a better fill plant, or cost saving delivery methods that will put you above your competition.
Take your pulse, and often. Sit down with whomever is in charge of your marketing as often as necessary; monthly, quarterly, or yearly. What questions or issues have you received from customers and have you resolved those issues? Are you genuinely filling your customer’s needs? Do you have new equipment, expanded rental capability, or a new branch opening? Let your customers and prospects know about it. If you’ve taken the time, effort, and financial investment needed to make something better for your customers and for your business, don’t stop there, tell everyone about it. A good example of this type of marketing is from WestAir Gases & Equipment based in San Diego, California as reported in gasworld US, September of 2019, “Expanding the shopping cart, Q&A with Gas Industry e-commerce providers.” When WestAir implemented an e-commerce tool for their customers to have the ability to place orders and pay invoices, they designed a simple instructional PowerPoint and WestAir’s Dan Fairchild, Director of Supply Chain and Marketing joined sales reps out in the field to present their new e-commerce tool to their customers. The immediate results: In one month, WestAir received 700 payments made by customers through the e-commerce site amounting to over $300,000. That also equated to 700 less stamps, envelopes, and printed invoices to produce and send that same month.
Back to the basics. Start with your website. It needs to provide ‘service,’ quickly and simply. Do some snooping on your competitors’ website and the websites of companies you’d like to emulate. Are they providing services that you aren’t? This extension of your brick-and-mortar store must be convenient for the customer, otherwise they will find a site that is. Are your phone numbers, locations, and contact information easy to access? Can your customer order online? Pay their invoices? Check cylinder balances?
Another basic marketing tool that is undervalued is the press release. Look to the trade publications that you read and the one’s that your customers read. They are great sources to promote your news and are generally willing to include your information if it is viable and timely. If you have large sized construction companies you work with for instance, a press release to a construction publication they read and other construction companies read, would be the perfect place for you to publicize your newly implemented technology that makes the ordering, delivery, and tracking process quicker and more accurate for them. If you have incorporated a way to do business better for your customers, talk about it, let them know. It’s one more reason to continue doing business with you rather than your competition.
Let’s get social. If you aren’t well versed on the essential social marketing tools at your disposal, find a social media champion for your company that is. But don’t think that you have to be everywhere. It’s better to have a great presence in a few well thought out places, namely, where your customers hang out. Potential customers look, we all look. Like it or not, your basic business information is on the internet so nurture it. If you have a disgruntled customer who’s posted their complaint, use this as an opportunity to rectify the situation. Ask happy customers to leave you a review. According to a recent article on Inc.com, not only do 91% of people read online reviews, 84% of people trust these reviews as much as friends.
External messaging. I’m not talking about anything paid here. No ads, print or digital, no paid social, no direct mail, billboards or otherwise. Use what you already have. Take advantage of email, you are already using it to communicate other things, so use it to keep your customers informed. Make use of flyers, invoices, picking tickets and receipts. Your sales staff, delivery drivers and front counter staff are your first point of contact. Make it count. Every encounter – sales to deliveries, even simple inquiries – are an opportunity to educate your customers.
Customer Service. When times are tough, think outside the box and quickly. When a pandemic arrived on the scene and many businesses were shuttering, Jake Maynard, Sales Manager at Sutton Garten Company, Welding and Gases, started curbside delivery. They let their customers know that Sutton-Garten had them covered by having their sales team contact customers personally, through call-ins and email blasts. They added social media outlets: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. By taking phone orders and using their in-place mobile applications they were quickly able to provide safe curbside service to their essential customers. The very best marketing tools costs nothing, are easily attainable and will never change. In this competitive business, give your customer every reason to buy from you.
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This article was originally published in gasworld US in August 2020. The writer, Gayle Smith, was a content creator at Computers Unlimited.
Last updated January 12th, 2022.