From the April 1999 issue of Startups

As a new business owner, you have important questions about your company's sales and marketing programs. How will you create a professional image and win customers? Where will you run ads and how often? How can you use public relations and special events to get noticed? How much should you invest in direct-mail marketing? Take this quick quiz to test your sales and marketing know-how; then read the expert tips to put your marketing program on the fast track.

Answer True or False

1. A new business should produce a quick, temporary brochure at first, then invest in a higher-quality piece when the business becomes successful.
A. True

B. False

Answer: B. False. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Carefully craft your company's image from the start, or you risk creating a poor impression that will be difficult to correct. You may also miss out on sales that could be your initial springboard to success.

2. When it comes to sales and marketing, stick with what you do best, such as networking or direct-mail marketing.
A. True

B. False

Answer: B. False. For most businesses, the sales cycle can be fairly long, requiring eight or 10 contacts with a prospect before a sale is closed. You need a wide range of sales and marketing tactics to motivate prospects throughout the cycle.

3. It's normal for a company's marketing activities to increase or decrease based on work flow, with reduced marketing during busy times and peak marketing during slow periods.
A. True

B. False

Answer: B. False. Entrepreneurs who market only in the slow times experience corresponding highs and lows in their cash flow and risk plunging into a valley so deep they can't market their way out.

4. The advertising term "frequency" refers to the number of times you run an ad. If you run an ad seven times, you have a frequency of seven.
A. True

B. False

Answer: B. False. Frequency is the number of times readers of a specific publication are expected to see your ad. While actual percentages vary among trade and consumer magazines and newspapers, for example, a typical subscriber will not see every page of every issue. This is why ads typically run many times in different issues of the same publication.

Choose the right answer for each of the following:

5. Each time a prospect is exposed to your message--in person, on the phone, in an ad or when reading your brochure--which question is foremost in his or her mind?
A. What will this cost?

B. How will this benefit me?

C. Who else is using this product/service?

D. What are the features?

Answer: B. How will this benefit me? Prospects make critical decisions about your company based on the benefits you communicate. No ad, brochure or face-to-face sales interaction can succeed unless it answers the prospect's primary question, "What's in it for me?"

6. Case histories (descriptions of how you've solved problems for customers) are most useful when:
A. Overcoming objections

B. Building credibility

C. Demonstrating customer loyalty

D. All of the above

Answer: D. All of the above. Prepare three or four good case histories that demonstrate ways you've solved a variety of challenges for customers.

7. Contact-management software is valuable for companies with:
A. Hundreds of prospects

B. Thousands of prospects

C. Any number of prospects

Answer: C. Any number of prospects. The smaller your company, the better you must manage call-backs, letters and direct-mail contacts. Put the right software in place now to prevent important contacts from falling through the cracks.

8. Which of the three elements of an effective presentation can most easily be upgraded using a videocassette recorder?
A. Content

B. Structure

C. Style

Answer: C. Style. Before your next presentation, videotape your rehearsals to help eliminate any negative vocal or physical behaviors.

Answer True or False

9. A steady stream of press releases to a single source eventually gets your business noticed.
A. True

B. False

Answer: B. False. Journalists and news directors receive your information with one question in mind: "Will this information interest my readers or viewers?" Instead of a steady barrage of so-so information, fax or e-mail only what is of special interest or newsworthy; follow up by phone.

10. The best way to contact a new business-to-business prospect is by phone.
A. True

B. False

Answer: A. True. The traditional contact sequence in business-to-business sales is: Call, mail, call. Those who mail first, then call, are generally disappointed to learn the prospect can't remember receiving their materials.

11. A typical response rate for direct mail is 1 to 3 percent.
A. True

B. False

Answer: A. True. That's why testing is so important. Mail 3,000 to 5,000 pieces first, and gauge results before mailing to the full list.

12. With all the information available on the Internet, you no longer have to do your own primary research.
A. True

B. False

Answer: B. False. The Web has reduced the amount of primary research necessary to launch a business, but it can't replace testing your product or service with your real-life target audience, using tools such as surveys and informal focus groups.

13. You should maximize a limited special events budget by taking a small booth in as many community events as possible.
A. True

B. False

Answer: B. False. A small booth in a fair with several hundred others gets lost in the crowd. A bigger booth or sponsorship in one key event allows your company to shine.

14. A one-on-one meeting is going well when your prospect is doing most of the talking.
A. True

B. False

Answer: A. True. The two most important components of effective interaction with a prospect are asking questions and listening to the answers. If you're doing most of the talking, chances are your meeting isn't going well.

15. It's better to run an ad where there is less competition so it will be noticed.
A. True

B. False

Answer: B. False. Media such as newspapers create what's called a "search corridor" by clustering competitive advertising in a designated section or on a particular day. This is where prospects look when they're ready to buy. Running an ad elsewhere is like opening a store a mile away from the mall--you get a lot less traffic and fewer sales.

How did you score?

Give yourself 10 points for each correct answer.

150 = A perfect score! You're a marketing whiz.

120 to 140 = Very good, but you could benefit from brushing up on the finer points of marketing.

70 to 110 = You've got some of the basics down, but need to learn more about marketing.

60 or less = You've got a lot of work to do.