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    Marketing 101

    Graphics | September 1, 2009 | By:

    Reviewing our company’s development and how we originally created a marketing plan started me thinking of the company’s humble beginnings. We started it from scratch; two employees and one customer. The plan seemed to develop as we progressed. As a one man show, you wear many hats and move through stages in creating a niche. Along the way, it became clear that what I didn’t know was overwhelming.

    If I learned one thing, it was not to be shy in asking for help when getting into areas that were not my expertise. Let’s take a look at a basic plan to create your own marketing program.

    The essence of any marketing effort is to:

    1. Gain your prospect’s attention
    2. Motivate them to buy
    3. Get them to actually make the purchase
    4. Have them return as a regular customer

    Marketing is how you define your product, promote your product, distribute your product, and maintain a relationship with your customers. We grew simply by adapting these rules. By following a policy of setting aside a day a week to make cold calls, we increased our base. By going after prospects locally and increasing our circle of calls to an ever expanding area, we developed a following. From that point, our quality, service, integrity and persistence began to speak for itself.

    Word of mouth was the easiest marketing tool. I recall building a relationship with an individual at one of my first large accounts. Although we had a strong base of support throughout that company, this one individual left and headed to a new firm in Colorado. We now had the original client, plus one new one. From there, the same individual built a strong support for us in the new client, and, again, after a few years, left to form his own company. He continued to be a strong supporter of our firm. The original Colorado company was bought out by a firm from Minnesota, and we gained support from that firm.

    As employees left to find new employment, they continued to show support for our company. The cycle continued over the years, and from this one account we were able to gain 20 new ones.

    So what makes up a strategy that can be followed by an average textile print shop? If you have followed my comments in past articles, you will begin to see a pattern. We have a tendency of not being a follower. That doesn’t mean we are not aware of our competitors, but it does mean that we have more faith in our own ability to create rather than copy. If you seek to develop your own strategy for marketing your product, it’s best to start by looking at your strong market areas.

    How well is your product developed? In other words, is your product line new? How established is it? What room for growth is there? Can the product be adapted to extend its life? Once you have evaluated where you are along the food chain of product life, you can better prepare a strategy for development of your product offerings.

    Criteria for development of a basic marketing strategy

    Positioning. How does the market view your product line in relation to your competitors? What makes you unique? What benefits do you offer? We sometimes get caught up in what we do that we can’t see new opportunities with simple changes in strategies.

    Environment. How does your product line fit in with being eco-friendly? Can you build on this? What type of environment are you creating to build exposure and longevity? Too bad we can’t get the government to see the benefits of energy savings through the use of awnings on homes and businesses—what a tax credit would do to stir this market. If this is one of your products, think of the opportunities in changing your marketing strategy to beat the competition.

    Promotions. Newspapers, Yellow Pages, internet, direct mail and cross promotions are all valuable tools. For us, trade shows are the heart of our business. Anyone proclaiming that trade shows are not worth the effort is not aware of their real power. We strongly suggest exhibiting at major shows, whether they be local or national. Trade journal advertising is powerful, especially if you are trying to break into new markets. Our first ad ran for several years without change. The continued presence of the same message brought recognition.

    The internet, when used in combination with other tools, is a major asset. As with any other tool, doing it right is a must. If you lack expertise in establishing your presence, seek advice. It is not only a sharp site, but proper exposure that will sell your company and its products.

    In closing, I recall a wonderful TV ad where a company’s owner gathered his sales team and informed them that a major account had just fired them. The next scene shows the owner handing out airline tickets, as well as sticking one in his own coat pocket. The moral here is that we all need to get back to knowing our clients. Creating personal relationships is the basis of any great marketing plan.

    Get back to the basics that created your dream.

    Pat Hayes is founder and chairman of Fabric Images Inc., Elgin, Ill., a member of the Fabric Graphics Association and a director of the Industrial Fabrics Association International.

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