Archive for Marketing Strategy

Just wanted to let you guys know about a lead generation source I recently ran across. Thumbtack allows business professionals to create profiles and receive requests from consumers in their service area. As an example, you can see my LHR Benefits profile here:

LHR Benefits

There’s no cost to post your profile or receive requests. If you choose to respond to a request, you’ll need to use a couple of credits (for most business sectors, it works out to a little over $3.00 per response) to provide the requester with a quote and a description of your services.

You have the option of adding lots of information, including images and videos, to your profile. You can also ask current customers to post reviews on your Thumbtack profile, which could help customers decide your business is the right one for their needs.

I just published my profile, so I can’t say yet how well it works. But it can’t hurt to have an additional lead source, particularly given that there’s no upfront cost.

If you currently use Thumbtack, I’d love to hear your feedback on the service!

LHR Benefits

Categories : Marketing Strategy
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Businessman with laptop sitting next to swimming poolTechnology is supposed to make us more productive, help us accomplish tasks more quickly, and access the information we need while on the go. While some apps are more likely to mysteriously chew away at our waking hours (Fruit Ninja, anyone?), here are five apps that truly help you make the most of your work day:

(I purposely skipped apps like Skype, Dropbox, and Evernote because… well, they’re pretty obvious choices.)

1) Oktopost. Like it or not, social media engagement is a necessary part of marketing your business. But with profiles and business pages across multiple platforms, it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to establish and maintain a consistent social media presence on each one.

Oktopost provides a simple way to compose, schedule, and post content on Facebook profiles and business pages, LinkedIn profiles and groups, Twitter, and Google+. Posts are saved as “message assets” that you can quickly repost on other pages or social platforms in a matter of seconds. The intuitive dashboard allows you to schedule posts for optimal viewing times and see when your content will be posted to each account via the calendar. You can also access engagement data for each post and campaign so you’ll see which posts give you the most mileage.

You’ll get a 30-day trial without having to provide your credit card information. After connecting all your profiles, groups, and pages, though, you probably won’t want to give up the ability to schedule posts on the fly. Plans range from $9 to $249 a month, depending on the scale of your social media efforts.

2) Unroll.me. Entrepreneurs are always looking for new and useful information, even if it means we have to cough up our email addresses to get it. Over time, though, this translates to hundreds of marketing emails every day. Late last summer, I found out that I was wading through about 500 emails a day, only about 20 of which were important. That’s a lot of time spent skimming over emails from marketers long forgotten.

Unroll.me is a free app that compiles your subscriptions and unsubscribe with a single click. I have to admit, I had a nice little surge of megalomania when I systematically exiled more than 90% of my daily email senders in about two minutes. The app also lets you consolidate your favorite subscriptions in a daily digest (you pick the time of day you want to receive it) so that you can get all of your email reading out of the way at once.

3) Genius Scan. We live in a paperless world, right? Hardly. You might receive vendor invoices and manage projects electronically, but there is still plenty of necessary information floating around on that pesky paper stuff. Genius Scan lets you use your iPhone or Android phone as a portable scanner and organize your scanned documents into categories for easy access.

I love my business lunch tax deductions, but the receipts usually end up wadded up, faded, or casualties of the washing machine. Genius Scan keeps digital scans of my receipts in a dedicated folder, which makes makes tax time a lot less unpleasant. It’s also nice for capturing and organizing snippets from books, epiphanies scrawled on Post-it notes, and business cards. You can even instantly export scanned data to Dropbox so you won’t lose your info when you drop your phone in the urinal.

4) WebEx. A little Skype, a little Google Hangouts, WebEx is an impressive app for multi-participant video conferences. Touches like voice-activated camera switching and the ability to view content and video at the same time make this app a valuable brainstorming and collaboration tool. And since you can record virtual meetings, you can review the conversation later to pick up on anything you might have missed. On screen content sharing with annotations helps amp up the productivity of your business meetings.

5) Prismatic. You need the latest news articles in order to stay on top of your business, but how much time do you really want to spend each day wading through content that doesn’t meet your needs? Enter Prismatic. Think of it as Pandora for news content. You choose the content you want to see, then vote each article up or down depending on its relevance to you. Like Pandora, Prismatic customizes your content as it learns what you want. This app helps you find valuable, timely information in less time.

I certainly didn’t cover every app that an entrepreneur should have at her disposal. What are some of your other favorites?

 

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Oct
28

4 Observations on Talking to People

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Connecting with People

Talking to people is something that seasoned marketers take for granted. At least the successful ones.

But you might not be so sure. If you’ve worked in a traditional job for years, you’ve probably gotten used to talking to the same people every… single… day. When you strike out on your own, though, it’s network or perish.

“But I don’t want to talk to people!” you might be thinking. “I just want to do [web design/accounting/whatever your business is]!”

Sorry, Charlie. Unless you have the great fortune of being “discovered” early on by evangelists who are so enthusiastic about what you do that they run out and spread the word like wildfire… well, you’re going to have to get out there and create connections yourself.

The good news is… you can do it. At least if you’re willing to dispense with the “I’m not good at talking to people” nonsense. No one is born a great conversationalist. That person you know who “can just talk to anybody” – she likely spent years honing her conversation skills.

Look, I get where you’re coming from. I spent years tucked behind a laptop, taking whatever gigs I could get because I decided that I wasn’t good at talking to people. Or, more truthfully, that I wasn’t good enough to engage others in conversation.

A few observations that have unchained me from the fear of networking (and they just might help you and your business, too)…

1) A friendly attitude is all it takes to open the door. If you’re not feeling friendly when you walk out the door, do whatever it takes to put yourself in an approachable state of mind. Meditate. Queue up bubblegum 80s rock on your iPod. If all else fails, smile and the rest will follow.

2) Focusing on the other person makes sustaining a conversation much simpler. Even if you ultimately hope to spread the word about your business, you’ll find it much easier to engage others if you keep the conversation on the person you’re talking to. This isn’t being manipulative, kids. It’s called building quality relationships. And a relationship is much more likely to earn you a sale (or a referral) than a pitch.

3) Remember that receptiveness is closely linked to appearance. If you’re headed to the store in sweatpants and a rumpled t-shirt, you’re not terribly likely to make a meaningful connection. Maintaining an appearance that creates what you want to convey, on the other hand, commands respect and attention… even if you’re secretly terrified. (And is it really so hard to throw on a button-down or a nice blouse before you leave the house?)

4) The worst that will probably happen is that you’ll be rejected. Unless you’re trying to strike up a conversation with a silverback gorilla, you’re probably in no danger of bodily harm. The effects of anything short of a sound beating are up to you. Yes, you’re going to encounter people who aren’t interested in connecting with you. They might be having a bad day, worried about a relative in the hospital, or thinking about the thousand things they need to get done today. Or (and this is rarer that you might imagine), maybe they’re just generally unpleasant people. If that’s the case, it’s not your problem. At least, not if you don’t make it your problem.

It’s the “potential for rejection” part that gets most people. But whether a person rejects your attempt to connect because his mind is elsewhere or because of a persistently bad attitude, you get to decide whether you own that rejection. No one is making you own it.

One way to put it into perspective is this: There are roughly 7 billion human beings occupying this planet right now. One of them has roundly snubbed you. So what? When you’re making connections and raising awareness about your business, you don’t need every single person to care about connecting with you.

Make it a point to get out and connect with five people tomorrow. And the day after that. And…

Not all of them will help your business. Maybe none will. But developing the ability to simply talk to people allows you to plant seeds, and you can rest assured that some of those seeds will eventually grow.

 

Categories : Marketing Strategy
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Jun
01

Help! I Need More Facebook Likes!

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facebook_like_iconThese days, it’s not only a good idea to launch and maintain a Facebook page for your business – it’s expected. Internet users tend to view a company without a Facebook page the same way they viewed a company without a website a decade ago. Without a Facebook page, it’s hard for potential customers to take you seriously. Besides, without a strong social media presence, you’re probably missing out on an opportunity to attract a wealth of customers to your business.

“Likes” in the Facebook world are a barometer of social proof. They lend credibility to your business and speak to the “herd mentality” of consumers. Think about the last time you visited a Facebook business page. If the page has only 20 or so “likes,” you’re less likely to take the business seriously than if it has 10,000 “likes.”

Naturally, then, your primary focus when you launch a Facebook page will be on amassing “likes.” You want to build credibility quickly, and the faster you build your number of “likes” to the 1,000+ range, the more quickly you can gain that credibility.

There are several ways you can do this:

1) Start with your existing network. If you have a personal Facebook page, ask your friends to “like” your business page. The same goes for your existing customer base. Tapping into your existing network can bump up your credibility by at least a few hundred “likes” in just a day or two.

2) Add a widget to your blog or website to create a “like” button at the end of each post or article. There are dozens of resources you can use for this, such as the WordPress Facebook Like Plugin. This can widen your audience because your reader’s friends will see the “likes” on your reader’s timeline, and will likely visit your Facebook page out of curiosity.

3) Launch a Facebook ad to promote your page or a specific post on your page. You can either choose to pay per 1,000 impressions or opt for a pay-per-click strategy. In either case, you can set a daily budget to control your advertising costs.

In an upcoming post, I will go into more detail about this strategy. When used correctly, Facebook ads can help you quickly amass “likes” to improve your company’s online reputation and credibility.

4) Offline advertising. Marketers often get so caught up in online marketing that they forget about the offline stuff… but circular ads, door hangers, and even flyers stuck under windshield wipers can help drive fans to your Facebook page. Of course, offering an incentive such as a discount or entry into a giveaway contest can work wonders for motivating people to visit and “like” your page.

A word about buying Facebook “likes”

Several business owners have asked me recently about purchasing Facebook “likes.” This strategy involves using a third party that promises to deliver a certain number of likes, usually within two or three days. While some of these third parties are probably legitimate, there are many that simply use hundreds or thousands of fake pages to generate “likes” for your Facebook page.

This gives you the numbers you’re looking for, but that’s about it. And the number of “likes” alone won’t turn your fans into buyers. They’ll undoubtedly see that, even though your page has thousands of “likes,” there’s no user activity on your page — no one is commenting on your posts or interacting with other fans. And that’s almost as bad as not having a Facebook page at all.

In the end, it’s important to remember that conversions are far more important than fans. A page with 1,000 active fans will be far more useful for your business than one with 10,000 “fans” who don’t care about your services or products. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but if you aren’t attracting the right kinds of fans, you’re essentially wasting your time.

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May
27

Is Referral Marketing Effective?

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It rarely fails to amaze me that, although marketers are willing to dump thousands of dollars per month on advertising to attract new clients and customers, they often overlook simple, low-cost strategies that are often more effective. One such fall-off-a-log simple strategy is referral marketing.

Doug, a friend I met at a networking meeting several months ago, owns and operates a local insurance agency. We started discussing marketing strategies one afternoon, and he revealed that he typically spends about $3,000 a month on PPC ads, direct mailers, and buying leads from third party quoting websites. Still, his business was stagnating.

“I’m hardly getting enough new business to justify my advertising costs,” Doug confided. “My book of business just isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with my expenses.”

I asked him how many new clients he was getting from referrals.

“I’ve never had much luck with referral marketing. I mean, it brought in new clients, but it wasn’t predictable. So it’s just one more thing to mess with.”

I sat quietly for a moment, trying to think of a nice way to put what I was about to say. Doug’s logic (or, rather, lack of it) was lost on me. He saw referral marketing as a pain in the rear end, rather than as a business-building strategy.

“It’s the process of referral marketing that isn’t predictable, not the results. You can’t predict how many people refer others to your agency, because you don’t have access to that information. But you can measure the number of referrals who call you and start policies with your agency.”

Doug nodded, but I was pretty sure it was an “if I pretend to understand, maybe you’ll drop it” nod. But as my wife can tell you, “drop it” just isn’t in my nature.

“Look, let’s say you send out ‘refer a friend’ cards to 100 clients. Maybe 10 of them will tell someone about your agency. Maybe 25 will… I don’t know. But let’s say that those 100 cards bring you five new clients. You can measure that… and if you use referral marketing consistently, you can even predict it with reasonable accuracy. So who cares how many clients participate, as long as you get the results you need?”

I don’t know if Doug ever acted on my advice – he’s a great guy, but a little on the stubborn side. But if he did, he would have a predictable system for securing new clients without the cost of advertising and buying leads. If a marketing strategy costs little and produces consistent results, why wouldn’t you use it?

Besides, a referred lead is far more likely to buy from you than a cold lead - four times more likely, according to Neilsen Research. After all, they’ve already received a recommendation from one of the most important people possible – a current customer.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of referral marketing:

1) Implement referral marketing consistently. If you decide to hit 100 clients up per month for referrals, do it every single month. This gives you the power to anticipate the effectiveness of your campaign, which is critical to planning for growth.

2) Don’t assume that a new customer will tell you how she found your business. Ask each new customer how she learned about your business. Obtaining this information helps you measure the effectiveness of your referral marketing efforts.

3) Offer an incentive for referral activity. Customers who refer new people to your business should be rewarded for their efforts. Depending on the nature of your business, an incentive might include a product discount, complementary tickets to a local event, or entry into a contest for a high-value product (tech products like iPads are particularly attractive to consumers).

Sure, referral marketing is one more task on your already full plate. But the low cost and high effectiveness of this strategy can be well worth the extra time and effort you spend attracting referral business.

Categories : Marketing Strategy
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As entrepreneurs, we always need to look for effective ways to increase consumer interest and compel them to buy our products and services. One common strategy – scarcity marketing – is the source of significant disagreement in the marketing world.

What is Scarcity Marketing?

scarcity marketing, marketing strategies, limited availability marketingAt its core, scarcity marketing is a strategy that uses limited availability to influence consumer purchasing decisions. Specifically, by placing limits on the availability of a product or service, or by imposing time limits on availability at a certain price point, marketers can increase urgency and compel prospects to make short-term buying decisions.

As I noted above, there are two primary limits that scarcity marketing can place on product availability:

1) Limited availability of the product itself. There are only a certain number of units available, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Alternately, the product or service is only available for a specified, limited time.

2) Limited availability of the product at a specified price point. Most commonly, marketers offer a discount on the target product for a certain number of hours, days, or weeks. At the end of the specified period, the product is only available at a higher price.

What’s Wrong with Scarcity Marketing?

On a fundamental level, there’s nothing wrong with using scarcity as a marketing technique. It’s no less ethical than writing brilliant sales copy, offering incentive bonuses to customers, or using a CGI gecko to capture prospects’ attention.

The derision that many people hold toward scarcity marketing comes from the fact that it is frequently misused… or, more accurately, misrepresented.

If you’ve ever skimmed an online sales letter or landed on a squeeze page, you’ve undoubtedly seen scarcity marketing copy like, “Get Your Copy Now – This Product is Only Available to the First 100 buyers!” or “Hurry – the Price Will Double at Midnight!” Lots of squeeze pages and Internet sales letters even feature a “countdown timer” that shows how much time the reader has left to claim the offer.

That’s all well and good… but have you ever gone back to the sales or squeeze page later and found the same scarcity copy? I have. To protect the guilty, I’ll not include the link, but I visited a sales page for a WordPress theme a couple of weeks ago, and the price was $47 — 50 percent off the standard price — but only for the next 48 hours.

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure it was what I needed for a particular site, so I bookmarked the link. A week later, I decided to take another look at the theme. When I returned to the site — you guessed it — the theme was available for $47… for the next 48 hours.

With so many marketers using similar tactics, it’s little wonder that the marketing world in general has called B.S. on scarcity tactics.

Created Scarcity vs. False Scarcity

The point that I want to drive home here is that created scarcity is not unethical; false scarcity is. When I say “created scarcity,” I mean that there are no external factors driving availability. You might have 10,000 product units sitting in a warehouse, so if you advertise that only the first 1,000 buyers can purchase the product, you’re not really going to run out. You’re just placing a cap on how many orders you’ll take (for the time being, anyway.)

Created scarcity isn’t lying unless you say the availability limits apply to your business (in other words, that you won’t be able to produce any more units or produce them at a certain price point). You’re limiting the availability of the product to the customer, not to you.

“False scarcity” refers to the kind of nonsense I described with the WordPress theme site. It creates distrust, which can jeopardize your business. People quickly realize that you’re bluffing, and all sense of urgency is lost.

To use scarcity effectively and protect your reputation, you have to stick to your word. After those first 1,000 orders come in, stop selling the product until you launch your next promotion. Similarly, if you only offer a discount until midnight on Sunday, then you need to adjust the price at 12:01 AM on Monday.

What about the people who miss out on your offer? If you’re getting them to subscribe to your mailing list (and if you aren’t, you should be), you can notify them when the next offer is available. If they missed their chance the first time, you can be sure they won’t procrastinate a second time.

The Bottom Line

Although there’s a lot of grumbling in the marketing world about scarcity marketing, don’t be afraid to use it. A well crafted, authentic scarcity campaign can boost sales by 50 percent or more. Just make sure you’re using created scarcity, rather than false scarcity.  This seemingly small distinction can make a huge difference in your business.

 

Image Credit: Ana Philbrook

Categories : Marketing Strategy
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An old business adage goes something like, “People buy from people they know, like, and trust.” While this might seem like a platitude to some, there is actually quite a bit of wisdom in this statement. And one of the most effective ways to build familiarity, affinity, and trust is to make sure your business has a personality. Companies that do this successfully attract and retain loyal customers who not only buy from them, but recommend them to their friends and colleagues.

So what the heck does it mean for a business to have a “personality?”

1.) The business appeals to customers’ interests, rather than just appealing to their wants and needs. Hillshire Farms does a great job of this in their television advertisements — their spring/summer commercials tap into the typical American enthusiasm for outdoor grilling with the tagline, “Go Meat!”

2) Communications with customers reveal the real people behind the business. The owners and key figures of personality-based businesses aren’t afraid to show a bit of themselves instead of hiding behind their company images.

3) The business actively engages customers instead of simply focusing on building sales. Personality-based businesses put effort into building relationships, because smart business owners know that this has far more power than any sales pitch ever could.

How can you inject personality into your own business to engage customers and build loyalty?

1) Provide “featured customer” posts on your social media pages, blogs, websites, and print materials. These posts can highlight customer stories that will be of interest to your readers and prospects. This shows that the customers themselves are as important to you as sales.

New Media Expo skillfully uses this approach in social media communications. By highlighting influential people in its targeted audience – bloggers, social media advocates and others – NMX creates a unique, community-focused personality.

2) Post content about the people behind your business, as well as company events and projects that will be of interest to your audience. This might include posting pictures or videos from a company-sponsored charity event or product launch, or “behind the scenes” snippets of product development or preparation for an event.

I mentioned in 6 Ways to Make Your Social Media Pages Sing that online content should be at least tangentially related to your business… and this certainly applies here. I’m not suggesting that you post pictures of your marketing director’s labradoodle or a video from your CEO’s latest vacation in Fiji. You can inject personality without getting completely off-topic by asking yourself, “should our readers care about this?”

3) Don’t be afraid to be edgy… but use common sense. Edgy material encourages consumer buzz and shows that your business has a bit of attitude and humor. Sometimes, edgy marketing not only grabs attention, but also helps get your message across. Take the American Legacy Foundation’s The Truth campaigns, for example. These campaigns use startling content to drive home the Foundation’s anti-smoking message. And even if you hadn’t really thought about quitting smoking, it’s pretty hard to light a cigarette after seeing one of these ads.

Of course, certain types of “edgy” can do more harm than good. One Mountain Dew ad that some considered “racist” certainly drew attention and had personality, but not the type that was good for business.

Injecting personality into your business can seem like walking a tightrope. Too much, and you dilute your core message. Too little, and it can become difficult to get people excited about your business. Developing a business personality intrinsically involves risk, but it is worth finding the right balance to keep your company in front of your customers.

Categories : Marketing Strategy
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In “Is Direct Mail Dead?” I outlined the primary reason that direct mail can be an effective addition to your marketing efforts. It’s important to understand, though, that simply sending out direct mail pieces doesn’t guarantee success.

I advise against “trying” direct mail. “Trying” implies throwing together a sales letter, buying a cheap mailing list, and hoping for the best. Taking that approach is only slightly more useful than going to the bank, withdrawing a few thousand dollars, and lighting your cash on fire.

Instead of “trying” direct mail, take a step back and do it correctly. Strategic planning and execution makes the difference between a successful campaign and an utterly disappointing one.

Before you write one word of your sales letter…

Think about who your ideal prospect is. The entire process of building a successful direct mail campaign revolves around your customer, not around making more sales. The more clearly you define your prospect, the better you can connect with her through sales copy.

Now, by “ideal,” I mean the person who is most likely to need your service or product. It doesn’t necessarily mean the person who you’d most like to do business with. Although this distinction is often subtle, it trips up a fair number of marketers – even ones who have been involved in advertising for years.

Is your ideal prospect male or female? Youthful, middle aged, or retired? Does he own a home and have a family? What is the prospect’s income? Does he live in an urban environment or a rural area? What are his interests?

Defining your prospect saves you a lot of headaches, disappointment, and wasted money. You can’t create a compelling marketing message that gets results if you don’t know who you’re marketing to.

Determine why your prospect needs your product or service. This gives you the advantage of putting yourself in your prospective customer’s shoes. It also forces you to think in terms of benefits instead of features. People generally don’t care about features as much as they care about how the product can help them.

One important note: If you don’t know why your ideal prospect needs your service or product, you’re not ready for a direct mail campaign. You need to back up and research that will compel prospects to buy.

Your social media pages are excellent places to start. Post questions on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. to find out about customer needs. Interact with followers to get more details about the problems they face and how those problems could be solved… ideally, through purchasing from you.

Also, invite current and past customers to complete surveys to help you understand your target market’s buying habits. Find out why they purchased from you, how they used your services or products, and what they gained from their purchases. By the way, offering a discount in exchange for completing surveys dramatically increases participation.

Next time, we’ll look at what makes a great direct sales letter. Until then… do good work and make your customer your top priority.

Categories : Marketing Strategy
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Once in a while, I run across a marketing gem that is worth sharing with my entrepreneurial network. Today, I found one such gem:

Wendy's latest marketing gem

Now, I’m not a terribly big fan of Wendy’s, but I think it stands to reason that we entrepreneurial types should learn what we can from companies that have pockets deep enough to pull this stuff off.

The beauty is in the campaign’s simplicity. No stupid gimmicks, no ambiguous messages, no awkward attempts at humor… just a company harnessing the power of social media to build consumer interest in a product that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Because the campaign is fall-off-a-log simple, you don’t have to dig too deeply to find the elements that make it a marketing masterpiece:

1) It clearly displays the product Wendy’s wants to promote. If you want to enter the contest, there’s no question about what you’re supposed to buy. (“Supposed to,” not “obligated to.” I’ll get to that in a minute.)

2) It clearly states (and reiterates) a strong call to action. Take a look at the red box at the top of the graphic… “#twEATfor1k” is a call to action all by itself. Anyone who knows what a hashtag is knows what to do. And since flatbread grilled chicken sandwiches appeal to younger, carb-conscious consumers who are most likely mobile web users, “anyone” pretty much means Wendy’s entire target market for this product.

In case the top graphic doesn’t make things clear, though, Wendy’s provides succinct instructions that include a second call to action: “TWEET the picture @Wendys using #twEATfor1k.”

3) It offers an incentive that is of value to pretty much anyone who hasn’t been featured in Forbes. You’re heading out on your lunch break, and you remember that if you get a flatbread grilled chicken sandwich from Wendy’s and tweet a picture of it, you might win $1,000. Does that influence your lunch decision? It would certainly influence mine.

4) It has a ridiculously high ROI. Advertising costs aside (since Wendy’s is going to spend a certain amount on advertising regardless of how it markets), the company is paying $1,000 per day in contest rewards. How many flatbread sandwiches do you think Wendy’s will sell every day thanks to this campaign? A lot more than $1,000 worth.

Of course, the main takeaway from this is that people are going to go try the sandwiches so they can enter the contest. Not that they have to. Legally, a company can’t make a product purchase a contest requirement. So Wendy’s buried the obligatory “no purchase required” text “below the fold” (read: where most people who aren’t marketers won’t look for it):

Wendys2

Now, of course, most of us don’t have the enormous marketing budgets to pull something like this off on such a massive scale. As an entrepreneur, though, you can take the simplicity of Wendy’s campaign and apply it to your own marketing mindset. How can you hone your message, strengthen your calls to action, and provide greater value to your own potential customers?

(Just to clarify, I have no financial interest in Wendy’s International. I don’t even eat the stuff. I simply have an inclination to pick apart marketing media, and found this particular campaign to be exceptionally solid.)

Categories : Marketing Strategy
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When a client or fellow entrepreneur complains about not having enough business, I first take a look at their marketing strategies. In most cases, direct mail is either absent or grossly underutilized. Now, when I mention direct mail, these people usually look at me as though I’m wearing a tinfoil hat… but there are reasons why I’m a proponent of this strategy.

As usual, explaining this involves a story… so here we go:

I grew up outside a very small village in Ohio – the kind of village where, if you ran into somebody at the mini-mart, you either knew them, were related to them, or they babysat you when you were “this tall.” The village’s gas station served pizza and subs, rented VHS movies, and had a decent selection of fishing bait.

It was about a 10-mile drive to the nearest town – if you wanted McDonalds, new underwear, or a new Walkman (yes, I grew up in the ’80s), that’s where you had to go. Along the 10-mile stretch of fairly nondescript highway, there were perhaps a half-dozen billboards. Since there was really nothing else around, they definitely caught your attention. I never conducted a ROI study, but the fact that the same businesses advertised on those same billboards year after year tells me that their ad placements were working.

This memory surfaced some 30 years later as I rode a shuttle from McCarran International Airport to the Las Vegas Strip. Before I even left the airport, I was met with a constant barrage of billboards advertising hotels, casinos, shows, and (as I recall) a ridiculous number of “adult” services.

It was complete sensory overload… I could no more remember any of the specific ads than I could tell you why anyone would want to ride a roller coaster on top of a casino.

The sheer advertising “noise” effectively diluted the advertising power of the individual billboards. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to tune them out entirely.

I thought about this some months later when I met a fellow entrepreneur named Bill Hughes, who touted direct mail as the “holy grail” of marketing. Having been involved in Internet advertising for years, I had adopted the assumption that direct mail was dead. After all, why would you spend a lot of money to advertise to a handful of prospects when you can spend almost nothing and reach an almost unlimited audience?

Bill bluntly told me, “It’s simple. Direct mail gets noticed.”

I had to mull this over a bit before the tacit concept behind his position made sense. Email marketing and banner advertising can indeed give you access to a mind-bogglingly large audience. But because Internet advertising is cheap and easy, everyone’s doing it… and as a result, your potential customers are subjected to a constant barrage of sales pitches and ads. It’s like traveling to the Strip a dozen times over. And like the sea of glitzy Las Vegas billboards, Internet ads are mostly tuned out.

DM1Even email doesn’t fare much better. My inbox receives between 200 and 300 emails every day. Do I read every email? Hardly. Instead, I wade through the list to find the dozen or so emails from clients, and delete the rest. Unless a sales email comes with a particularly interesting headline, it goes into the trash folder unread.

By comparison, I get about four to six physical mail pieces per day. This doesn’t mean, of course, that I respond to (or even read) every single marketing piece I receive… but each flyer, postcard, and letter gets noticed. And since the mail usually sits on the kitchen counter for a day or so, I see the marketing messages several times. Even if I don’t need a marketer’s products today, I’m likely to remember the business down the road.

I want to make a couple of points here. First, I’m not denigrating Internet marketing. Obviously, I use online resources extensively to create marketing messages. All I am saying is that if you have dismissed direct mail marketing as outdated, you might want to reconsider.

The second point is even more critical: I’m not giving you the “build it and they will come” speech. Plenty of businesses fail at direct mail marketing. As with any advertising strategy, there is a right way (and lots of wrong ways) to go about it. In the coming days, I’ll give you some pointers to help you get your direct mail campaign off the ground.

Categories : Marketing Strategy
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