Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Successful Marketing

This article was written by Robin Noah, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

A BUSINESS REALITY: It has been said that close to 90% of new products brought to market fail. When you take into consideration the effort, money and time it takes to bring a product to market, which often is the launching of a new small business, you have to ask what the contributing factors are. Best answer: Failure to meet the bridge to success. A product or a service (p/s) has no value without its ability to fulfill the primary intention a customer has for using them. Your p/s crosses the bridge as you demonstrate how the p/s achieves the specific result the customer is seeking. No matter how great or how good you are at providing the service or the use of the p/s if the customer cannot see it at the get go – you are climbing a very steep hill.

How do you get control of this and make it work for you? Develop a profile of your potential customers. Who are they, what problems do they have, what does the result of your p/s impact – health, education, wealth, pleasure? Is your p/s the answer to their dilemma?

Successful marketing is designed from a customer’s perspective. The message clearly defines how you will meet your customer’s expectations. It tells how the p/s will achieve the result they seek; that yours is the essential resource for meeting their needs, expectations and interests. Engage in a question and answer process where you can get answers to:

  • What is the basic need of your potential customer?
  • What emotional need has to be satisfied?
  • What benefits and features of your p/s meet their needs?
  • What success will they achieve as a result of your p/s?
  • What is the best way to express these attributes?
  • What action words will appeal to your potential customer?

Reality is based on knowledge not assumption. What you believe to be the answer may not be what you customers are looking for. Listening takes precedence over talking. Use what you hear to fortify you as you cross the bridge to success.

Customer Service

This article was written by Jerry Margolin, SCORE Orange County Counselor

Customer Service is simply providing information to your customer in a reasonable and timely manner, whether you have solved the problem or not. It is seldom recognized, because it is rarely seen.

  • When talking to a customer on the phone, put a smile in your voice.

Believe it or not, it carries over to the person on the other end of the line! Do you know how hard it is to sound harsh if you are smiling when you speak? Simply put; it’s almost impossible. Any time that you can have a pleasant, and friendly conversation, it’s a lot easier to solve the problem. That’s your job. It’s not a contest, and the customer will remember it well..

  • Listen to what your customer is trying to tell you.

A customer can be upset about many things. They may have been waiting on hold and left there for a long time. They may have worked with customer service agents in the past, who were argumentative, and are dreading doing it again. A cheerful voice, showing some empathy, and saying something like “No wonder you’re upset!” Let’s see how we can solve the problem” is hard to ignore. In many cases it is enough to keep the customer.

  • Don’t lie or make promises you can’t keep!

Yesterday I had a meeting at 1:00 PM that was very important. I hadn’t eaten yet, and it was already 12:35 p.m. so I ran next door to the hamburger place, and asked how long it would take to make a hamburger for me. He thought carefully, and said “Seven Minutes.” That was plenty of time to get it down, and make my meeting. I said “go for it!” Almost twenty minutes later I was still waiting and running out of time. I asked him why it wasn’t ready. The answer was “We make all of our hamburgers cooked to order, and to perfection, this is not McDonalds.” I asked him why he lied to me for an $8.00 order. He kept talking about the quality and how much I would enjoy it... I explained that an honest answer, would have allowed me to make the decision as to what I wanted to do, but trying to keep me there for the order, was not acceptable... His partner suggested they should give it to me raw. They wanted to win. I knew that asking for my money back was pointless, and I saw that they were finally wrapping it, so I took it and gulped it down as I ran back to the office, also noticing that everything I asked to be left off the hamburger was on it. They got their win but it will cost them my business and all my friends business if I can help it. So don’t be so intent in winning the battle, that you lose the war..

Anyone can sell a product that works well and is reasonably priced, but your real opportunity to impress a customer is when they have a complaint. The way you handle it is critical. A fast efficient solution which is positive for both sides can create a permanent bond with your customer. Try it; you’ll like it!

SBA Offers Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative

The Santa Ana District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announces the launch of a comprehensive initiative that focuses the agency’s full menu of financial, procurement, and technical assistance programs on the military community. The centerpiece of this initiative is a streamlined loan product based on SBA’s highly successful SBA Express loan program.

The Patriot Express Initiative includes new and enhanced programs and services for veterans and members of the military community wanting to establish or expand small businesses. Eligible military community members include: veterans, service-disabled veterans, active-duty service members participating in the military’s Transition Assistance Program, Reservists and National Guard members, current spouses of any of the above, and the widowed spouse of a service member or veteran who died during service or of a service-connected disability.

More than 150 banks have already been approved to participate in Patriot Express and more applications are arriving daily. Loans are available up to $500,000 and qualify for SBA’s maximum guaranty of up to 85 percent for loans of $150,000 or less, and up to 75 percent for loans over $150,000 up to $500,000. For loans above $350,000, lenders are required to take all available collateral to secure the loan and may obtain collateral for smaller loans depending upon individual bank requirements. Interest rate maximums for Patriot Express loans are the same as those for regular 7(a) loans: a maximum of prime + 2.25 percent for maturities under 7 years; prime + 2.75 percent for 7 years or more. Interest rates can be higher by 2 percent for loans of $25,000 or less; and 1 percent for loans between $25,000 and $50,000.

The Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative can be used for most business purposes. Details on the initiative and the list of participating lenders can be found at http://www.sba.gov/patriotexpress.