Cathy Atkins

Cathy Atkins

Just exactly what is it that falls under the umbrella of “marketing?”

That’s one of those words whose definition changes depending on the person you’re talking to. I believe that true marketing is everything you do to promote your business, and that includes both active and passive strategies and tactics.

Passive marketing – stuff like business cards, brochures, media, and interactive efforts, serve a powerfully supportive role. Active marketing efforts involve the direct toe-to-toe and belly-to-belly interactions with a consumer. Both must receive appropriate attention.

Therefore, advertising and direct selling are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other. The best signage, logo, business card template and glossy brochures in the world aren’t worth much if your salespeople or customer service reps mess up a deal at the point-of-sale. On the other hand, salespeople who operate without the support of appropriate and effective lead generation efforts end up chasing poor leads and working 10 times harder than they need to.

Being aware of a few marketing missteps that businesses make can save you a lot of stress, wasted time and line-of-credit applications.

  1. “Ring, Darn It!” Never depend on your passive marketing to carry the load by itself. A common mistake is spending all your preparation time building the polished brochures, business cards, signage, even Web sites on the expectation that you’ll be able to fill your coffers from the response. It seldom, if ever, works that way. An exception would be a commodity-based business where a quality Web site will help sell the product. However, if your business model is a value-based transaction where price is not your driving force, it won’t sell your services for you. Only you can do that. Too many business owners put these passive methodologies in place and then sit back and wait for the phone to ring. When that doesn’t happen, they tend to “shoot the messenger.” Advertising agencies and well-meaning reps get blamed for poor campaigns when their job was just to bring the leads in the door.
  2. “I Don’t Know.” Make it your business to measure and track response. I have a friend who spent the last few years in Iraq with the Marines. He tells me that “I don’t know” is a completely unacceptable response in the Marines. “I don’t know” can get you or your comrades killed. It’s your job to know…so find out. Many businesses waste thousands of dollars a year on marketing efforts and have no idea what’s working and what isn’t. Left alone, that equates to business death. It’s your job to know. Methodology ranges from the very complex online tracking to the very simple question, “So how’d you hear about us?” Partner with your advertising people, and figure out a way to find out what’s working.
  3. “Cold Spaghetti Sales.” In other words, throw a bunch of it against a wall, cross your fingers, and hope something sticks. It’s a good way to eat dinner if you’re a Viking. It’s a terrible way to run a business. Most business owners suffer from LOF (Lack of Focus), and make decisions on advertising or sales efforts because of price, whim or ego. Having a marketing plan ensures that all your investments are being utilized to their fullest extent. Make sure that your on-hold messaging is consistent with your newsletter, which is consistent with your Web site, and those are consistent with your media, your trade show booths, and so on…AND that your salespeople understand how to support that focus.

As a commission salesperson for more than 20 years, I can attest to the fact that there’s nothing better than making a cold call and having a prospect say, “As a matter of fact, I have heard of you guys. Aren’t you the company that does…” It may not close the deal (that’s my job), but it sure does make the process flow easier. It also communicates to me that my company is out to help me succeed.

And when salespeople succeed, the company succeeds.

© 2009 Sandler Systems Inc. Sandler Training is a global leader in sales and management training and consulting. Catherine Atkins, President of Savant Business Development Systems, is the exclusive authorized franchisee of Sandler Training. Visit

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