Pro-Choice Freedom of choice motivates consumers. Build a winning campaign by giving patrons the power to choose.

By Kim T. Gordon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every day, Americans are inundated with product and servicechoices. Just walk down any aisle in your supermarket, andyou'll find that almost every product category is saturated.Yet we continue to crave--even thrive on--our freedom to choose,and smart marketers incorporate this component into the veryessence of their campaigns.

Affluent customers often expect multiple choices. At, you can"build your own BMW" from the menu of enticing onlineoptions in exterior colors, seductive leather interiors, andaccessories such as satellite radio. But wealthy consumersaren't the only ones captivated by the idea of choice. Thismarketing strategy has virtually universal appeal and is built intoproduct offerings on every level. Wendy's, the third-largestquick-service hamburger chain in the world, has constructed itsproducts and marketing messages to focus on giving fast-foodcustomers a higher level of choice. Late last year, Wendy'stook this concept to the max by giving consumers 40 different waysto create a "combo meal" according to their individualpreferences.

Here are three steps you can take to build a successful campaignthat gives your own customers the freedom of choice.

Step 1: Find out what customers want. Start byinvestigating the hot buttons or issues that affect product orservice choices. Discover what your best prospects are buying nowand how you can give them that--and more. To learn what choicesyour customers want:

  • Solicit online feedback through your website ore-newsletter.
  • Use customer surveys and informal focus groups orroundtables.
  • Draw conclusions from sampling your prospect group withmall intercept studies and online surveys, and by examiningcompeting offers.
  • Institute regular meetings with your front-linecustomer-service and sales staffs.

Next, armed with a clear understanding of the choices that wouldmotivate your prospects, modify your product or service offering.If you need help stepping outside the box, bring in a third-partyexpert to meet with your in-house team for an idea-generationsession.

Step 2: Build out your strategy. To carry the newstrategy through into your new product offering:

  • Create special pricing. For example, CAL Performances atthe University of California, Berkeley, markets ticketsubscriptions by allowing buyers to choose any six or more eventsand offering "three ways to save 10 percent on single-ticketprices."

Test-market your product or service choices and newmarketing message with a small target group.

  • Make your offer real by allowing customers to takeadvantage of it through all your sales and marketing channels. TheWendy's website, for instance, shows how to create your owncombo meal out of the many choices available.

Step 3: Build buzz before you advertise. You cancreate demand early on by marketing to:

Influentials: Media and individuals who are known to beon the cutting edge and can be reached through media relations.These may include bloggers, media writers and reviewers in verticalcategories.

  • Aficionados: People who are really "into" thekind of product or service you sell. Let those who savor having orknowing something new be the first to buy or receive samples, andthey'll spread the word. Suppose you owned a day spa anddecided to expand your offering by adding hot-rock massages at apremium price. You could send special invitations to your bestclients, plus offer gift certificates so they could spread thisnew, "in" choice to their circle of friends.

Once you have integrated your new strategy into yourcompany's psyche--from product development through mediarelations--you can expand your reach with a full-blown marketingrollout and give your entire prospect and customer base the freedomto choose.

Wavy Line
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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