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Playing the Field

Apply dating rules to marketing, and sweep your customers off their feet.

Sweaty palms, racing heart, butterflies in the stomach--it happens to the best of us. When it comes to marketing, making a good and lasting impression on your target customers can be as nerve-wracking as asking someone out on a date. The good news: Rob Levinson, founder and president of RL Strategies, a marketing strategy consulting firm in Dover, Massachusetts, says you can use some of the same basic tactics used in dating to make customers fall head over heels for your product or service.

  • Stop talking, start listening. Do extensive research to get to know your target consumers. Observe them, conduct online surveys, and talk with them one-on-one.
  • Whisper sweet nothings. Once you know your consumers, make them feel good with appealing marketing images or words. Says Levinson, "It's all about feeding customers signs on how they want to feel about themselves."
  • Don't be cheap, or at least don't show it. There are inexpensive ways to market your company, such as networking, speaking publicly, hosting seminars and advertising in local publications. "Share your expertise or your product wherever you can, [even if] sometimes you give it away," Levinson suggests. "The exposure is worth it."
  • No kissing on the first date. Entice your customers to come back for more with regular marketing strategies, but make sure these are always of interest or value.

And if you get stood up-your product or service gets bypassed for another--don't despair. "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again," Levinson says. There are many more fish in the sea.

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This article was originally published in the May 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Playing the Field.

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