Bill Haenel

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Posted by Bill Haenel on 13-Sep-06

As my second installment of Web Master Tidbits, I'll tell you everything I know about marketing. At this point you may ask, "Dude, why do I need to know something about marketing? I'm just a web master." To this my reply is simple:

Firstly, and most importantly, I hardly think we know each other well enough for you to call me "Dude".

Secondly, marketing, whether we realize it or not, is an every day part of our professional lives. We all have the job of understanding someone's needs and somehow fulfilling those needs in a way that mutually benefits both ourselves and those we serve, a.k.a. marketing. The definition of Marketing, as I learned it when I went to college (briefly) went like this:

"Marketing is the process of planning and executing conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of goods, ideas and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals."

However, this was changed to something new, better and just as wordy. I guess the old definition was getting, well, old. The new definition as I understand it, goes like this:

"Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefits the organization and its stakeholders."

Anyway, as Web Masters, one of our biggest jobs is understanding our customer's needs, and then delivering a product or service that meets those needs. And to understand our customer's needs, we must first understand our customer and who he or she is. So how do we do this?

Well, this is simple, but not easy.

Years ago an old mentor of mine taught me how to sell cameras using a system called S.A.L.E.S. (corny, yes, but also very effective). The same principal defined in SALES works for most any situation where one must understand and meet client expectations.

S = Smile
A = Ask
L = Listen
E = Educate
S = Sell

And so it goes like this...

Smile: We greet the client and present ourselves professionally. This is important as the client will feel more comfortable being open and honest about their needs if they feel you are qualified to understand and help them.

Ask: We ask questions that qualify our clients needs in order to understand not just what they want and what they think they need, but also what they actually need (the two might be different). "What do you want to do", "where do you want to do it", "what was your previous experience", "how would you like ti to work", "why do you want to do this", etc.

Listen: You're probably only going to get to hear the truth once, so listen carefully the first time your client says what they need. Your client will love you if you spend lots of time with your mouth closed, listening attentively to their concerns and ideas.

Educate: This is the part where you explain to the client what is possible, what is practical, and what is affordable. It's a good idea to let our client know whether or not their expectations are reasonable at this point. It's also a good idea to help them understand what we do. When our client feels at ease with our practices, he will be much more likely to trust and accept our proposals and solutions.

Sell: It is important, whether you are selling a product, an idea, a service, or whatever, to close your sale. This means that at some point you say, "OK. Great. We're excited about this, aren't you? Let's get started!" We use this point as the opportunity to define the moment at which everyone agrees that we are going in the same direction. "Here is what we've arrived at, and if everyone agrees that it is appropriate, we'll get started right away."

It is important to note that the last step never ends. At least not until the job, task or project has ended and everyone has received what they needed and they never want to speak with you again (let's hope for you that this never happens). We are constantly selling, constantly reviewing the "here is what we've arrived at" part and making sure that we are on track for delivering according to the customer specifications, or needs.

Again, this is a simple technique that can be applied to so many different situations. The basic idea is simply that we spend time understanding our customer. Then we spend time educating them, and we follow it all up with following it up. We review to be sure everyone is in agreement and then we execute.

Do you know who your customer is? Is your customer your boss? Is she your client? Is he your co-worker? Hey, is your customer your wife?

I digress, yet again.

Just go out and find your customer. Then you can have a really great, lengthy conversation asking lots of questions about her needs. When you're done, you'll have on your hands someone who feels like you really truly care about what they want, and that you will actually make good on their desires.

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