Rules of Engagement: Tips for playing a winning marketing game

Marketing a business is like playing any game. If you know the rules, you are much more likely to win. All too often, small businesses spend their limited time and money on advertising, networking, making calls, mailings, meeting with prospects, yet only achieve mediocre results. It?s not that they don?t know their business, or that they don?t provide high-quality products and services. Rather, the problem is that they do not know the rules of the marketing game.

To win the marketing game you need to observe five key rules: (1) sell your prospective clients on the solutions you offer, not your own expertise; (2) target your market with precision; (3) demonstrate the value a client would receive from your product or service; (4) build your network; and (5) stay in touch.

Let?s dissect each one.

Selling Solutions

Most service professionals focus their marketing on their own expertise, their approach and the products and services they offer. While competence is important, the primary concern of most clients is getting problems solved and having their spoken and unspoken needs met. Instead of marketing your credentials, processes and methodologies, market the solutions you offer.

Marketing is about making connections, specifically between a client?s unmet need and the solutions you provide. The best way to impress clients is to show them you understand the problems they are experiencing. If you want to leverage your credentials, mention past clients when you provide examples of how you solved similar problems.

Target Your Market

Are you getting a positive response to your marketing efforts? If not, you may not have targeted your market and its specific needs and interests precisely enough. Independent professionals or small-business owners often try to be everything to everybody?an impossible task. Instead, define your niche market and focus on getting the attention of this group.

Demonstrate Value

Actions speak louder than words. If you want clients to know the value of your products and services, you will need to give them a test drive. This can take the form of newsletters, workshops, a free session or articles posted on your Web site. Over time, demonstrating the value you provide with these samples will convince prospective clients of your ability to solve their problems and help position you as a trusted advisor.

Build Your Network

The objective is to know who is interested in your products and services. Networking is a good idea because people like to buy products from people they know and trust. If they?ve met you before, or if they were referred to you by someone they know and trust, they are more likely to trust you. Depending on the business you are in, you can build a network of prospects through conventional networking, or through your Web site and e-mail. Either way, the more qualified prospects you have in your network the better.

Stay in Touch
Many of us, once we hit middle age, cannot remember what we had for dinner two days ago, much less the host of services various firms provide. In most instances, it is safe to assume that your target market has forgotten about the range of solutions you offer, if they remember you at all. Stay in touch with your target market on a monthly basis or, at the very least, on a quarterly basis. Once you make contact, be clear about the action you want taken, depending on whether it is a prospective, existing or past client.

Win the Marketing Game

Once you know the rules of marketing, you can apply them to map out your marketing strategy and to select marketing tactics that will leave your competition in the dust.??

Marketing coach Charlie Cook can be reached at, or via his Web site at