Thursday, December 30, 2010

Use Surprise To Wow Your Customers

Customers come and, all too often, go. If you want to keep your customers coming back time and time again, give them a surprise. When you do something unexpected that wows them, they'll not only keep returning, they'll recommend you to their friends--a great way to grow a solid customer base.

The surprise you give your customers doesn’t have to be a big one. In fact, it’s the small touches that resonate with meaning, that make them feel like their order is more than just another job on your list. In fact, it was a little thing that sparked this idea for me. We got a Christmas card from Ed Plante Auto Detailing last year. The card wasn’t anything special, but there was a surprise inside that made it stand out from all the other business associates’ holiday greetings we received: he included a picture of our family SUV taken after his last detailing. In other words, he surprised us with a small, personal touch that made us feel just a tiny bit special.

When you do a little something extra like Ed did, you acknowledge your customer as a friend, as someone whose good feelings toward you warrant particular attention. The picture itself wasn’t any big deal either, but, as your mother always said, it’s the thought that counts.

The main factor to keep in mind is that what you do needs to be slightly out of the ordinary, something the customer doesn’t expect. That means it doesn’t have to occur at the point of service; in fact, surprises work really well when they come later, after the customer has started to forget the last time they did business with you. Secondly, the surprise should have a personal angle to it. If it’s something you do for every customer, like the book store clerk who automatically puts a bookmark in the bag with every order, it’s not going to prompt anybody to give it a second thought.

Different kinds of businesses present all sorts of opportunities to give customers great surprises. The picture Ed sent was of our clunky old family SUV with a fresh wax job. Can you imagine what kind of impact an unexpected picture of an auto restyler customer’s tricked-out rides would have? Those customers’ cars mean a lot or they wouldn’t be spending money on them. To the auto shop customer, getting a picture of his car is like getting a picture of his kids—maybe better!

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Marketing Pros Praise The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising

Another marketing professional offered a positive Amazon review of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising this week.

GraceW wrote:
I worked in financial services and marketing for 30 years. I wish I had a book like this when I first embarked on my marketing career. Mr. Donelson offers some clear and concise practices to encourage success in a sales/marketing position regardless of the industry. His writing style is crisp, yet full of energy.
Click here to read the entire review.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Marketing To Your Best Customers

Want to get to know your best customers better? Do a little above-board sleuthing. Compile your best customers’ street addresses from credit card records, phone numbers, delivery destinations, etc. Plot them on a map and look for clusters of them. Good marketers know that birds of a feather flock together; similar people tend to live in similar neighborhoods. Once you’ve figured out where your best customers live, you can look for other birds of that feather—they’re your best new prospects.

Now drive through those neighborhoods. Guesstimate the value of the homes and look at the cars there to get a rough idea of income. Check for kids and/or their bikes, swing sets, and sports equipment (or lack thereof) to get an idea of their parents’ ages. Don’t limit your surveillance to weekdays, either. Take a few minutes on the weekend to drive through to see how many residents are doing their own yard work or washing their own cars. These things will also tell you a lot about their lifestyle. The more you know about your best customers, the better marketing decisions you will make.

If you are a business-to-business marketer, your research job is actually a little easier. You probably have fewer (but bigger) transactions with fewer customers than someone who sells to the general public, which simplifies your data-gathering. What may complicate it, though, is the tendency for businesses to have multiple decision-makers in their buying processes. Don’t be daunted by the details, though—just gather data on one person at a time until you’ve got a clear picture of who they are and what their role is.

You may also think that personal information like education and lifestyle choices aren’t relevant to business buyers since their job is to make rational, profit-oriented purchases. Nothing could be further from the truth. Corporate buyers are people, too, and they allow plenty of emotion to influence their decisions. In fact, a personal, human reaction to a vendor’s marketing approach may be the only factor that separates two competitors. The more you know about that business-to-business customer as a person, the greater your chances of tipping their decisions in your favor.

So, before you make any decisions about price, or which products to sell, or what ads to run, take a good hard look at your customers as people. Identifying your best customer takes some work. The end result, though, is marketing that works better, costs less, and generates greater profits.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Marketing With Your Mother-In-Law

“Mother-in-law research” is pretty simple: look around you at your customers and try to spot some patterns in their behavior. If you are observant and objective, you can learn a ton about who they really are and why they act the way they do. As the term implies, you can also learn some interesting things about your customers by asking people who know them—if not your mother-in-law, then your friends, vendors, and employees.

You can get started by making a simple tally of who comes into your store or office during a given week. Are they men or women? How old are they? What would you guess their household income to be? Their education? Blue-collar or white? Are there any other salient facts that might pertain to your particular business like how many cars they own or whether or not they have children? You can often tell a lot by spending some time in your parking lot and watching the people come and go. Keep in mind that you don’t have to ask the customer a bunch of questions. Use your powers of observation to make some educated guesses—they’ll be close enough.

Another good method is to look at your sales records for a given period. If your data allows, rank individual transactions by profitability (not by gross margin percentage, but by gross profit in total dollars). If gross profit data by transaction isn’t available, use the gross sale figure for each one. Credit card transaction records are a good source, although you’ll get a more complete picture if you can reconstruct single cash or check transactions as well. Even if you don’t have transaction records available, you can use inventory turnover data as a substitute. In that case, rank items by profit volume and try to connect specific customer names to them.

Now make a list of the top 20% of those customers ranked by the size of gross profit they produce. Those are your best customers. According to the justifiably popular 80/20 rule, eighty percent of your gross profit probably comes from them, making them your most profitable customers.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Marketing Begins With People

Before you begin applying the four P’s of marketing to your business, you need to understand the most important “P” of the discipline. The other four, product, price, place, and promotion, all intersect at one point: People.

“People” as in customers. “People” as in the folks who buy your product or service. It doesn’t matter if you are a manufacturer, a retailer, a wholesaler, an inventor, an insurance agent, banker, restaurateur, doctor, lawyer, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. Without customers, the auto manufacturer’s cars turn to piles of rust. Without customers, a farmer’s corn rots in the silo. If you don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business.

And customers, of course, are people. Attracting their attention, persuading them to buy from you, and ensuring their satisfaction with your product or service all require good people skills.

Doing these things really well is how small businesses grow to be big ones. If that is your goal, I urge you to invest your time, energy, and yes, some money, in learning everything you can about the people with whom you do business—your customers. The more you know about what makes them tick, what they want out of life, why they get out of bed in the morning, the more you will know about things like why they buy your product or your competitors’, what price might make them change their purchase intentions, and which services they think are important and which ones they find a colossal bother.

The behemoths of marketing, companies like Procter & Gamble and Pepsi, have legions of market researchers to find, dissect, and analyze their customers. They can pay for consumer surveys, finance test products, assemble focus groups, and use dozens of other relatively scientific tools to determine the kinds of things a good marketer wants to know about his customers. As the owner or manager of a small business, you probably don’t have those kinds of assets at your disposal. That doesn’t mean you have to operate in the dark, however. You can learn almost as much about your customers as they do by turning to that acknowledged expert on almost any subject, your mother-in-law.

Seriously, information gathered through what is known as “mother-in-law research” can be just as valid as the reams of data gathered by P&G’s army of white-coated market researchers. It will also be a whole lot cheaper and, even more importantly, it will be much more timely and specific to your business.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Monday, November 22, 2010

Marketing Like The Big Boys

My first job in advertising was as a copy writer for a radio station. It didn’t pay much, but I learned a ton. Over the years, I produced TV commercials, designed print ads, and planned many media budgets. But you never saw my TV spots on the Super Bowl or my print layouts in Vogue. My clients weren’t gigantic multinational brands like Coca-Cola or Chevrolet. Instead, I created ad campaigns for Casey Meyers Ford and Soda Boy (whose still-memorable slogan was “Oh Boy! Soda Boy!”), advertisers in St. Joseph, Missouri, the small town where I grew up. My ads were for local businesses, not national conglomerates. In other words, they promoted businesses just like yours.
Working in local media as I did is a great way to learn a lot about all kinds of businesses. Car dealers, grocery stores, clothing retailers, and home improvement contractors all have different advertising needs. Some are looking for more store traffic, others want to expand their market area. Attracting new customers, building loyalty in the existing clientele, encouraging repeat purchases or introducing new product lines each require different tactics. There are a few principles that apply to them all, but there really is no such thing as one-size-fits-all advertising. Please keep that in mind as you consider the concepts in the Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising.
When you mention advertising to most people, they immediately think of the behemoths of the airwaves--companies like Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, or Wal-Mart. But big spectacular national ad campaigns like theirs have little in common with advertising the way it’s done by small businesses--the kind of advertising you do. In most respects, advertising your business is harder.
Mostly, of course, that’s because you don’t have a gazillion-dollar advertising budget. You probably don’t have a lot of expensive research to precisely define your market or a dedicated psychometric laboratory to test your ads before they run. Your copy writer may double as your store manager most of the time. Your art director most likely spends most of her time freshening merchandise on the shelves. Your media planner? Probably the person who writes the checks—you. In other words, your advertising isn’t designed and executed by a team of Madison Avenue gurus, it’s the product of the good-hearted people who help make your business a success.
That certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Quite frankly, somebody who spends 90% of their time talking to your customers (like you or your store manager does) is going to have an infinitely better understanding of what they want than some clip-board-toting psychological profiler or white-coated lab technician. You don’t need a super computer to calculate your media efficiencies to the fifth decimal point when you’re trying to decide whether to promote this year’s Father’s Day Sale in the Weekly Inkspot or the TV-49 Six O’Clock News. What you probably do need, though, is a better understanding of what makes advertising effective and how to make it work better for you.
That’s where The Dynamic Manager’s Guide To Marketing & Advertising comes in. The book offers you some basic rules that will help increase the return on your marketing investment. Some of them come from my experiences creating ads and watching customers react to them as I stood in my clients’ stores and offices as the campaigns ran. Others were drawn from the lessons learned by small business owners themselves, from auto repair shop owners to nursery retailers, clothing stores to insurance agents. As in all the books in the Dynamic Manager series, much of this material was drawn from my conversations with thousands of small business managers and owners. I filtered their stories through my own experiences as a manager and entrepreneur to distill some sound guidelines on why and how you can market your products and services in the real world. In other words, my books aren't about theory—they are about the real world of small business marketing.
Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Niche Is Your Market?

The last man who envisioned the automotive market as a homogenous mass was Henry Ford, and it didn’t take him long to realize that selling one model in one color to satisfy every single customer wasn’t the best possible business plan. Most modern markets are no different, with a seemingly ever-growing list of market niches that the savvy service provider or retailer can serve.

Just like Henry Ford, though, it’s not possible for a business owner to be everything to everybody. You need to specialize, at least to some extent, in order to maximize the return on your investment in facilities, parts, and equipment, not to mention the demands on your technical knowledge.

Selling to each market requires a specialized knowledge base, too, since the customers in each one are motivated differently. If you are in the automotive aftermarket, for example, you know that the people who build and drive nitrous-powered dragsters aren’t generally the same ones who tear around dirt ovals in restored 1930’s roadsters. And the baby boomer replicating his ‘55 Chevy dream machine differs greatly from his son or daughter bolting some speed onto their first Honda Civic.

As Chris Sutton, owner of the Street Rod Garage in Grant, Alabama, says, “You’ve got people that are original equipment freaks most of the time on the restoration side of it. You couldn’t give them a street rod. But street rods guys, you couldn’t give them an original.”

Sell what you know for customers you know

Most small business owners follow their own interest into the niche markets they serve. It’s a natural choice, since they tend to know what people like themselves are going to want and have the technical expertise to provide it. Beyond that though, serving a special market successfully requires paying particular attention to customer communication.

John Pruitt, owner of John’s Rod Shop in Abbeville, South Carolina, has been studying his customer base for a long time and understands them very well. “Generally, my customer who builds a car is in his late forties or better,” he says. “They want to reach back and touch that nostalgia. They say, ‘I had one of those when I was a kid, or Dad had one of those, and I’d like to have one.’”

Pruitt’s shop builds street rods from the ground up as well as performing maintenance and repair on muscle cars, modifieds, or early model speedsters. He follows a strict routine with his customers. “The first thing I try to find out when a customer calls me is what kind of car are they looking for,” he says. “The second thing we want to know is what they want the car to do for them. Do they want a car they can get in and drive to California and be comfortable at interstate speeds? Or do they want to build a street bruiser that they can get out here and drive like a race car?”

This process doesn’t stop after the initial meeting. Pruitt adds, “As you complete the project, you have to be in continual contact with that customer so he knows what’s going on and he knows where his money’s going.”

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guide To Marketing Now At

The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing is now available unabridged--and without commercial interruption--as an audio book from

To grow your business, add “People” to Product, Price, Place, and Promotion, the classic elements of marketing. In this book, you will learn how to attract their attention, persuade them to buy, and ensure their satisfaction with people skills - the heart of successful marketing. Find out what makes your customers tick, why they buy from you or your competitors, and how to make them customers for life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another Guide To Marketing & Advertising Amazon Review

From an Amazon reviewer on November 6:
Dave Donelson spent many years in the small business trenches and it shows in this book. He understands what makes a small business work and knows how to make it work better. His advice is practical, his approach realistic, and he keeps the preaching to a minimum.

As a small business owner myself, I identified with many of the entrepreneurs the author interviewed. They include a wide range of businesses in retailing, service, and manufacturing. The book is basically a collection of articles Donelson wrote for various trade publications (there's a list in the front of the book) covering auto service, nurseries, pizza parlors, health clubs, home building, art galleries, and many more. He does a good job of showing how the problems and solutions in one type of business apply to another.

The advice the author gives is very down to earth. When he talks about competing with Big Box stores, for example, he points out, "You can be very successful selling add-ons to your customers whereas the clerk in the megastore (if you can find one) is charged with doing little more than ringing up the sale and processing your credit card." Later in the same chapter he advises the small retailer to target their advertising: "When the only people who see your ads are those in the market for your product, the return on your investment skyrockets. Ads in home show programs, signage at the shows, your logo on a builder's dream home, post cards sent to the local garden club's members--these are ways you can promote your business without breaking the bank."

I'm not sure any of the ad campaigns and promotions he explains in the last section of the book are ones I can use because of the type of business I run, but they did start me thinking about some possibilities. To me, that's the measure of a good business book--it gets my creative juices flowing.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The First Amazon Review For Guide To Marketing & Advertising

A business owner posted the following review on November 5:
Having owned and operated a business for many years, I found this book quite valuable and realistic. Unlike most business how-to books, this one is more than just the author giving advice. Donelson cites numerous business owners who talk about the issues they faced and how they dealt with them. That real-life approach is not only informative but more readable than the usual platitudes and pontifications from business consultants.

The book is divided into three sections. The first covers marketing; figuring out who your best customer is and how to serve them. Donelson covers everything from employee conduct to pricing, with an emphasis on taking your cues from, and the importance of, the customers. The second section is about advertising, which is a vital function of marketing, elements of effective advertising and the nuts and bolts of how to do it are explained. The final section contains 23 sales promotions and ad campaigns that the reader can use.

Sprinkled throughout the book are case studies of several businesses that illustrate the principles contained in each section. These, combined with the interviews Donelson conducted with various entrepreneurs and managers, gave the book an extra dimension and added value.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Monday, November 8, 2010

Complete Marketing And Advertising Guide Now Available

My goal when designing the Dynamic Manager's Guides was to present each topic in as many formats as possible so entrepreneurs and business managers would have affordable, convenient access to them. The first collection of dynamic management tools is now complete and available in various formats ranging in price from FREE to $14.95:

The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Your Sales And Boost Your Profits is now available from or your favorite bookseller.

  • Market more effectively online--and off
  • Beat the Big Box competition
  • Find out what makes your customers tick
  • Compete without chopping prices
  • Tune up your publicity machine
  • Learn the five rules of good advertising
  • See seven ways to "Wow" your customers

The 256-page trade paperback contains all three of the ebooks listed below as well as a bonus preview chapter from the next book in the series, The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Creative Selling. It's also available for Kindle and other ebook readers through
Trade paperback ISBN 978-1453889602
ebook ISBN 978-1452385679

The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing: How To Create And Nurture Your Best Customers
Learn what makes your customers tick, why they buy from you--or your competitors, and how to make them customers for life.  Available for Kindle and other ebook readers as well as a free audio book podcast from
ISBN 978-1452444994

The Dynamic Manager's Guide to Advertising: How To Grow Your Business With Ads That Work
Learn how to attract new customers, build loyalty, encourage repeat purchases, and increase your share of the market.  Available for Kindle and other ebook readers as well as a free audio book podcast from
ISBN 978-1452491011

The Dynamic Manager's Handbook Of Sales Promotions: 23 Ad Campaigns And Sales Promotions You Can Use
Each one has been tested by businesses just like yours and includes step-by-step instructions as well as helpful do's and don'ts--including how to get others to pay for them! Available for Kindle and other ebook readers for only 99 cents.
ISBN 978-1452317328

Watch for complete audio book editions of several titles coming soon from

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a for and

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Classic Four "P's" Of Marketing

Businesses come and go and there are plenty of reasons for their success or failure, but the ones that thrive almost always have one thing in common: they are good marketers. What does that mean? It means they make all their business decisions based on meeting their customers’ needs. Which products or services they sell, where they sell them, how much they charge for them, how they encourage customers to buy them, and all the other hundreds (if not thousands) of business decisions a good marketer makes start with a simple question: how will this affect my customers?

This customer-first business philosophy isn’t something I invented. It’s been around since early in the last century when the dynamic managers of their time realized that supplying the kind of widget the customer wanted was more important than how many widgets their factories could produce. In other words, the manager who wanted to grow his business turned his eyes away from the factory floor and started looking outside—at the customers—to figure out how to succeed. Thus began the study and practice of marketing.

Like many people, my introduction to marketing came in college. The classic approach divided the discipline into four elements—the four “P’s”—Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. While plenty of academics and others have tried to update, enhance, and expand on this simple scheme, I still feel it’s pretty solid. It’s probably obvious to you, but here are what the four terms mean:

Product is the “what” of the business—as in “what should we sell?” You probably know that the best answer to this question is “what the customer wants to buy,” but you’d be surprised at how many companies try instead to build a business around “what can we make?” When you ignore the customer’s needs and wants, you suffer the fate of the apocryphal buggy whip manufacturer or, to cite a more modern example, you become, home of the hugely irritating sock puppet mascot and proof that just because you can sell kitty litter online doesn’t mean you should.

Price is market-driven, too, regardless of what your accountant tells you. Sure, you have to cover the cost of your product or service (as well as the overhead of your company) with enough left over to provide a profit, but you won’t be able to do that unless the customer is willing to pay for it in the first place. Individual customers don’t set your price, but as a group—when they become the market—their judgment of whether you’re delivering fair value can’t be ignored.

Place deals with the “where” of the business, as in “where does the product come from and where does the customer get it?” This includes topics like supply chain management and product distribution that are a little outside my areas of expertise, so I’ll just touch on them lightly in subsequent posts.

Promotion covers all the ways you communicate with the customer—from advertising and public relations to how your sales people interact with them in your store, office, telemarketing center, or online. These facets of marketing are so important I cover them separately in The Dynamic Manager’s Guide To Advertising and The Dynamic Manager’s Guide To Creative Selling, but a great deal of what I write about is promotion based on good marketing practices.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits
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Friday, October 1, 2010

Hello World - Welcome To The Dynamic Manager

Succeeding in a small business isn’t impossible, it’s just hard. It’s hard to handle the thousand details of starting up and the thousand more you face every day once your business is open. It’s hard to create an effective marketing strategy. It's hard to hire good employees, motivate them, compensate them, and help them grow your business. It’s really hard to manage your cash flow and keep your company solvent and on the growth track. But it’s not impossible.

I’m Dave Donelson, and I’ve helped hundreds of small business owners and managers run successful enterprises all across the country. I've advised them on everything from advertising campaigns to corporate restructuring. In The Dynamic Manager Blog, I’ll show you how to manage and grow your business by following a few basic rules of the game. Some of them come from my experiences in my own businesses, others from what happened in my clients’ stores and offices. Others were drawn from the lessons learned by small business owners themselves, from auto repair shop owners to nursery retailers, clothing stores to insurance agents and told to me in my role as a business journalist. In other words, this book isn’t about theory--it’s about the real world of small business management.

Much of the material in The Dynamic Manager books, audio books, website, and blogs comes from seminars I’ve presented around the country over the years. Some of it has appeared previously in the national business and trade publications I write for. I encourage you to sample, to think about, and to try out different concepts over time. I hope you’ll find some useful guidance that fits your specific situation and discover some tactics you can use to accomplish your particular goals.

Above all, I hope you gain a few insights into how to grow your business by becoming a Dynamic Manager.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits
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