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Increase Your Marketing Response

Want more prospects to respond your marketing? Here's how to avoid six barriers that stop customers in their tracks.

Here's a plain fact: Marketing exists to support sales. Sure, it's also used to create awareness and build a brand image. But ultimately if your marketing doesn't motivate customers to take action, it's probably not doing its job.

If you're experiencing less than stellar results when it comes to getting customers to respond to your marketing messages, it may be time to take a hard look at your campaign. Here are six factors that may stand in the way of customer response, plus tips on what to do to improve your response rates.

1. Ads are out of context. Due to the proliferation of specialized media, it's easier than ever to reach prospects in the right place at the right time. For marketing success, your customers must be exposed to your message when they're in a receptive frame of mind. Suppose you owned a landscape nursery. You wouldn't place your newspaper ads in the Business section-you'd run them in Home and Garden, because readers there are more likely to be interested in landscaping their properties and would find your ad relevant. You'd follow the same principle if you used local cable TV advertising by running your ads during gardening shows, not general programming, in order to present your message in the right context.

2. Benefits are weak or missing. Sometimes marketing campaigns that reach prospects in the right context fail nonetheless because their message is all wrong. No matter whether you're running advertising, sending direct mail or even placing PR, it's vital to create a benefit-oriented message that will capture the attention of your target audience and motivate them to take action. What specific benefits will your prospects derive by responding to your marketing? Benefits may be tangible (such as saving money) or intangible (such as peace of mind) and they should help to differentiate your company or its products and services from competitors.

3. The offer is off-target. When a campaign fails, the real problem may lie with the principal offer, such as when the product or service that's being marketed lacks the right appeal. This can often be overcome by bundling in additional features that meet the special demands of the target audience. And if a special offer is used to motivate responses, it's not unusual to test several different versions to find the one that pulls best.

4. The execution is poor. Many forms of marketing are not do-it-yourself projects. Creation of advertising is something that should be left to experts. And even then, it's important to enlist the right people. Some designers and copywriters specialize in direct mail and collateral materials, while others create ads for magazines. Marketing failure is often the result of poor copy or design execution. At other times, the advertising or materials may look great, but they just don't work because tried and true rules have been ignored. It takes experience to create marketing that produces results.

5. Your marketing is invisible. Your prospects can't respond to your ads or place orders on your website if they never see them. When it comes to advertising success, business owners tend to underestimate the amount of frequency required for their ad placements to be remembered by prospects, or to achieve "penetration." The exact ad frequency required for each unique campaign will vary, but the bottom line is that multiple placements in a single publication or within specific broadcast programming are absolutely essential. And if you want to make sales on an e-commerce website, you'll need an effective online advertising campaign to send prospects there. It's unrealistic to expect high traffic volume without one.

6. It's too hard to buy. No matter how compelling you make your marketing campaign, if you ask prospects to take too many steps, or if there are other sales barriers (such as uninformed salespeople or out-of-stock products), you'll lose them. For example, suppose you send out a direct-mail package for a service business. Interested prospects respond by calling your toll-free number, but get voice mail-and most hang up. Only a few, highly motivated prospects leave messages on your voice mail. Then you call them back, miss them and leave messages of your own. At this point it's unlikely your prospects will return your call. Get the picture? For best results, walk through your sales process to eliminate any unnecessary actions and to make sure the prospects that respond can quickly take advantage of your offer.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.
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