By Sherryl Dorch
Vice President of Marketing
Nautilus Communications, Inc.

As 2002 comes to an end, businesses large and small are looking back and breathing a sigh of relief. Economically, this has been a difficult year for most of us, regardless of the type of business we are in. As you look to 2003 with renewed hope for a more prosperous year ahead, consider what you can proactively do to make your business more successful. Don't assume that a stronger economy is going to take care of things for you. You need to review your business plan, reset goals and objectives, differentiate yourself from your competitors, market to existing clients, focus on customer satisfaction, improve marketing communication, define a value proposition… just to make a few suggestions.

You are in good company if all this seems a bit overwhelming. It can be, but it doesn't have to be. Start by looking at the aspects of your business that need revamping the most. Then find the help that you need to make those changes. Help could be additional full-time or part-time personnel. It could be finding outside resources to contract with. Or it could be educating yourself and your staff. There are a lot of educational options out there from college courses to on-site workshops and seminars. The Web is a great source for finding programs that address your specific needs. To help you prioritize, consider the following:

People don't purchase the best product or service. They purchase what they perceive to be the best product or service. Is your company image portraying your offerings in a way that makes them stand out from the competition? The image your company projects says a lot about the kind of company you are, the culture of your organization, as well as the people that make up your organization.

With a robust, well-designed Web site, do you still need printed marketing materials? There seems to be no end to the potential marketing materials that you could create to promote your business, if you had the budget to do so. But what do you really need in addition to your Web site? What materials are still essential? And, how can you produce them cost effectively?

Is your company Web site serving as a highly effective communications tool that meets your business needs, or is it a hodge-podge posting of your marketing materials? Most companies today, even the smallest ones, have a Web site. But are you really using that Web site or do you have one because you feel that you have to? So many companies created Web sites several years ago as a means of posting information about their products and services but they haven't taken it further and developed it into an interactive tool for prospecting and retaining clients

Even if you have an effective Web site, you still have to drive prospects to it. A Web site is not a "field of dreams." Building it doesn't mean "they will come." Are you effectively advertising your site? Are you getting as many hits on your site as you anticipated? Are visitors coming back? Are they taking the actions you want them to take when they visit (i.e., ordering your product or contracting for your service). A lot of this has to do with promotion, but design of your site is also important. For example, do you have the right mix of key words so that your site comes up in searches?

Network, network, network if you want to grow your business. Both large and small businesses rely a great deal on networking to generate business. There is no substitute for it. But how do you find more opportunities to be exposed to potential clients? What do you need to know to improve your networking skills? What networking organizations are out there? It's worth your time and money to find out.

In what ways, other than Web sites and marketing materials, can you professionally communicate to existing clients as well as potential clients? An eNewsletter is an excellent tool. You can highlight existing clients, provide helpful tips, promote new products and services, advertise "specials" and give recipients an opportunity to subscribe and/or forward to their friends and business colleagues (an excellent way to capture new leads).

Have you ever wondered how other business owners (maybe your competitors) get quoted in the newspaper or interviewed on television? Have you ever seen a magazine review or news article posted in a store or restaurant and wondered how you could get that kind of coverage? It's all about being a good source and getting your business in front of the media.

We all love to generate new clients, but businesses large and small often neglect to see the value in continuing to sell to their existing clients, a process known as “upsell.” Existing clients have already made an investment in your business. They are a great target for product or service upgrades as well as new offerings. Do you know who your customers are? Do you know who your best customers are? Do you keep accurate profile data on your customers? All of this helps you develop a customer relationship management strategy that positions you to "upsell" your customers as well as ensure satisfaction and retention.

Everyone loves a bargain. Depending on what type of business you have, you may or may not have considered special promotions. However, all businesses are faced with competition and special promotions, created and advertised in a way that speaks to your clients, can be a very valuable tool.

Is advertising worth the cost? When most people think of advertising, they think of TV, magazine or newspaper ads. And we know how costly these types of advertising can be. But there are many other ways to advertise your business at much lower costs. Consider direct mail and local advertising, for example.

Make a New Year's resolution now! While we are in the midst of the "list making season," start your list of business priorities for 2003. Look at your business and determine what areas need improvement in next 12 months. Then find the resources that you need to make it happen. And don't overlook educating your organization on how they can address these marketing communications topics. When looking at educational seminars and workshops, also consider customized training. Many companies will customize programs to fit your specific needs.


The fine print: This article is Copyright 2003 by Nautilus Communications, Inc. It may be reproduced with attribution and a link to our Web site at

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