Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Focus on your customers, not you.

It is easy to do things the traditional way. Old habits are hard to break. Problem is that some old habits become ruts. And I don't want you to get stuck in a rut.

In Fort Wayne, we have two semi-independent traditional newspapers. There's the morning paper, the Journal-Gazette, which is published 7 days a week. We also have an afternoon newspaper, the News-Sentential, which is published Monday through Saturday.

When I was growing up, we got the afternoon paper and the Sunday morning paper. I had a paper route for awhile too, delivering the afternoon paper after school.

I mentioned that they are semi-independent, because they are owned by two competing companies, but they also have a joint operating agreement that manages much of the business side (advertising).

It's a fragile relationship due to the declines in paid subscriptions for both papers, but especially the afternoon paper. It used to be the morning paper leaned to the left and the afternoon paper leaned to the right politically; now they are leaning on each other for survival.

They are also leaning on alternatives to traditional daily newspapers. They have one of the best possible website domain names (FortWayne.com) from which you can go to either papers website, and they have also reached out with more specialty publications and magazines in recent years.

Newspaper readers tend to skew older (Age 50 plus) and as the population ages and dies off, the newspaper printing business will need to reinvent themselves. As long as our local papers can find away to generate revenue, using whichever medium works best, and they maintain costs, we can always have at least one newspaper serving our city.

But the subject I want to talk about is not newspaper survival, but what they are doing and what you need to do to.

Focus on your customers, not you. The News-Sentential is having their 175th anniversary this year. It is fun to take a look back, but a traditional newspaper is designed to bring you the latest happenings in your world over the last 24 hours, not the last 175 years. Which fortunately they are doing a bit of both.

As they move forward, they are going to where their customers (readers and news consumers) are, and that is the internet.

This morning I met with a successful insuarnce agent and liked what I heard. His son, who is also a part of his business is creating a Facebook page for their business. Social Media is where a lot of people are going for connecting. Facebook and MySpace are the leaders in this field right now.

The jury is still out on how to use social media for advertising purposes. But this is a step in the right direction. And as the technology evolves, the options will increase. No matter what you use for your advertising and marketing however, remember to focus on your customers, not you.

Go to where your customers are. You're not going to convince my 23 year old son to read the newspaper and see your ad, but his grandparents still subscribe and read the paper daily. Both of them spend money on car insurance, you just need to decide how to reach them.

Another way of focusing on the customer is to focus on what they care about. Caring is an emotion. Don't confuse it with stating the facts.

For example: "In business for 56 years..." is a fact, but says nothing directly about how you will take care of your customers.

A way to convert this to be customer focused could be, "We'll take care of you the way we have your family for more than 50 years." Or, " Individual, personalized attention to fit your needs."
My second example doesn't even mention how long the business has been around, because, it really doesn't matter to most people. To some of the younger generations, it could be a sign of being old fashioned and out of touch.

The key, has to be to focus on your customers, not you and go to where your customers are and invite them to do business with you.

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