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Getting That First Impression To Last

Posted On: 1/22/2012

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Alicia Lavay

I was recently asked to provide suggestions on what works and what doesn't work when advertising products and services to the vending industry. This got me thinking about how important it is to tailor your message to the audience you want to reach. Whether you're a manufacturer, a supplier or an operator, you are communicating with fellow business owners. Therefore, you want a marketing message that's different from the one you deliver to consumers, because the motive for purchase is different.

Advertising is a great way to get customers' attention, educate them about your products and services and leave a positive impression, so they will remember you. It's not unlike hiring a telemarketer to do the prequalification and first-contact calling for you. Once you have that qualified buyer's attention, though, the rest is up to you: you are the one who must follow up on the lead and close the deal.

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. This is true not only for face-to-face encounters, but also for the marketing messages you use to encourage a potential buyer to respond, and hopefully, let you set up that initial meeting. It's no wonder that a well-thought-out marketing strategy is an essential complement to a company's sales efforts; one is not independent of the other.

That said, here are some suggestions when implementing your company's 2012 advertising campaign:

1. Keep it real. When writing ad copy, remember that you are talking to other business executives and salespeople, so you need to speak their language. Be professional and don't insult their intelligence or waste their time with exaggerated claims. Express the offer clearly; say what's necessary and then stop. Let them know how you can help their businesses and make money for them. And if you're going to offer a discount, make sure it's something substantial or don't do it at all.

2. Keep it fresh. Change your print and Web ads as frequently as possible. Especially on the Web, readers become "blind" when they see the same copy over and over again. If they think it's the same old thing, they may not click on the ad or return to the website. If you use brochures, catalogues or sell-sheets as leave-behinds, they should also be updated at least quarterly with new seasonal offerings.

3. Market your brand. While it's important to periodically update the copy in all your marketing materials, one element such as the company logo or slogan should always remain consistent. Prospects will make a purchase when they are ready to buy, and may keep a trade publication or catalogue on hand as a reference for 12 months or longer. When that time comes, you want them to remember your company name so they will buy from you.

4. Keep it current. Including "QR codes" and referencing social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in your advertising conveys the message that you are on top of the latest trends. And if you're running a banner ad, make sure your website is user friendly, refreshed daily and the information current. If you're selling to more than one audience (for example, consumers and operators, or foodservice and vending operators) then you need a website (or pages) for each group. One size does not fit all.

5. Encourage prospects to take action, and don't overlook the opportunity to up­sell. In your Internet advertising, offer a special link that invites the visitor to "click here." You want to keep buyers engaged as long as possible. If they click and are directed to a specific landing page or website, you have the opportunity to sell them another product or service they might not have known you provide.

6. Make it easy for them to buy. Always include a highly visible phone number and email address in all corporate brochures, and in print and interactive ads. And make sure that, when they call, they are not given the runaround. In the time it takes for the buyer to find you, you already may have lost the sale to a competitor.

Now that you're ready to put these ideas into practice and execute an effective marketing plan, the rest is really up to you. Make sure your salespeople are educated about your products and able to answer any questions and deal with objections. If you can't provide prospects with the information they need immediately, they may find someone else at another company who can.

Remember, the sale begins with the first impression and you may not get a second chance. Be sure your company's advertising message makes a positive impact on prospects, influences them to buy, includes a call to action and lands you that next big account -- and be sure that this message is in front of them when they see the need to buy.

Your success is our success. Vending Times is only as healthy as its customers. Here's to a prosperous 2012 for all of us!