I was meeting with a client last week and during our launch meeting we were discussing his current sales and marketing tactics. Convinced that he needed a ‘fancy brochure’ for an important industry conference he’s exhibiting at in the fall, we got into an extensive dialogue about why he thought a brochure was a good use of his limited marketing budget.

He was concerned that he might lose an opportunity to meet new prospects if he didn’t have something to give them when they came to his booth – so he automatically assumed that item should be a brochure.

Have you been in this position?

Well, I didn’t agree with him. Simply handing something out to prospects – that would likely not be read –  isn’t the way to begin a relationship with a new prospect.

At the end of the day, marketing is all about what your customers VALUE. If you understand what’s important to them (e.g., research findings, helpful tips, advice, etc…) that’s what you give them – not general marketing material about your products and/or services.

What’s the problem with most brochures?

Unfortunately they are usually filled with product facts and data about a company and its capabilities… versus the value the company can provide for its potential customers (think Features vs. Benefits). This is a good time to look at your own brochures and marketing material, and see if you’re guilty of this. If your brochure is all about features without focusing on critical ‘value’ and benefits, then it’s likely to be bound for the recycling bin after prospects review it… not a good use of your marketing budget.

Think about a piece of marketing material you’ve kept… what was the appeal?

Most likely it was a case study that was interesting or important tips that would help you with YOUR business… not just data about the OTHER company’s business. With the Internet such a huge part of our lives, many buyers go to a company’s website to review details about features, especially when they’re in decision-making mode.

However, if you provide advice, tips or a case study that demonstrates how your company has helped others, well, now you’re giving them something that is valuable… and hopefully worth holding onto. This can be a competitive marketing tactic because if your competitors’ brochures have hit the ‘junk pile’ or recycling bin, but yours remains with the prospects, then you’re hopefully top of mind when customers are ready to buy.

I know you’re waiting for an answer about which marketing tools to use and which to avoid?

Sorry, but I can’t honestly answer that question for you.

If I gave you my opinion then it would be simply that – an opinion and not solid advice because I don’t know your customers like you do. You have to know a lot about your specific customers to decide which marketing tactics make the most sense. However, I can give you some tips (I hope you’ll keep this) to help you answer this question on your own – or with your team.

How Well Do You Know Your Customers’ Buying Habits?

Below is a list of questions you should be able to answer about your customers’ buying habits. If you can’t, please review relevant articles or my marketing book, The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Toolkit, for ways to identify customer needs.

When you have answered these to the best of your knowledge, use what you’ve written down (did I mention you should write down the answers?) to help you determine what information to share with them and which methods to use to share that information:

  • What challenges do my prospects/customers face that I can demonstrate my company has solved for current and/or former customers?
  • Is there known demographic information about my customers that will help me understand how they make buying decisions (i.e., gender, age, experience level)?
  • What influences their purchases? Do they need key data (i.e., regulatory or competitive information) prior to making a purchase? Can I give them advice on these topics and establish myself and/or my company as an expert or thought leader?
  • What sources do customers currently rely upon to find information about my company AND my competitors? (HINT: This is a critical question – is it online, in person, seminars, etc…?)
  • How important to the buying decision is building a personal relationship and how does that influence my customer communication and sales process?
  • Do customers/prospects rely on online social networks, bloggers or review sites to make purchasing decisions? If they do, which ones are the most credible sources

Based on your answers to these questions, you should now be able to determine which customer touch points and methods of communication will deliver the highest ROI.

Don’t use tactics like direct mail or social media because everybody else is using them and you don’t want to be left out. Use only those methods that clearly reflect how customers want to communicate with you, ensuring these tactics are practical, accessible and will help you build vital relationships… not just provide them with material for their recycling box.