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Get Smart

Let customers know exactly why they need your business.

You know your product is the best around, but if you're not selling obvious necessities, your customers will need some education on why they need your product or service. "Marketing really is an education process," says Michael J. Makropoulos, managing partner at Ntrinsic Inc., a strategic marketing firm in Atlanta. You might educate consumers one-on-one, for example, with an in-store demonstration of your product. Or you could use educational brochures, point-of-purchase materials and direct-mail postcards.

Linking yourself with respected members of your target market's community can be an especially effective education tactic. Faith Smith, founder of Eyes Cream Shades Inc., collaborated with eye doctors to educate customers about why they need her high-quality sunglasses for kids. Smith, 40, took her Irvine, California, company full time in 2003 after noticing the dearth of quality eyewear for children. Learning that most eye damage comes from sun exposure before age 18, Smith designed her shatterproof polycarbonate lenses to offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection in fun and funky colors. "I have a point-of-purchase pamphlet that speaks directly to a parent or grandparent in simple terms [about] protecting kids' eyes, and that's been a really important part of building my business," says Smith. Printing the doctor's name on the pamphlet lends credibility to her product and helps doctors sell her product in their offices.

Another way to gain credibility is to market to the media. "External validation is really important for prospects," says Makropoulos. Pitching from the angle of protecting children's eyes, Smith got reporters to cover her Eyes Cream Shades in many publications, which helped boost her annual sales to six figures.

You can also educate consumers by participating in community activities. Donate time or resources to local community services, advises Makropoulos. Smith, for instance, does charity work with organizations including the Blind Baby Fund and the Boys & Girls Club, building her reputation as a good-for-kids company. Says Smith, "Marketing and education are the ways a company is able to stay in business and grow."

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This article was originally published in the February 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Get Smart.

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