One of the most cost effective ways to reach out to current and potential customers is to communicate via e-mail to a deliberately chosen mailing list. In the same manner direct mail sent via the postal service has benefited businesses in the past, e-mail marketing can also reap the same benefits but at a fraction or no cost to you.
Depending on the frequency and size of your mailing list you can either send out e-mails using your current e-mail service or purchase or pay to use a software program designed specifically for larger quantity e-mail distribution. Always adhere to the rules of etiquette and the law when initiating an e-mail marketing program.
Here is a list of some of the things you can accomplish utilizing an e-mail marketing program:
1. Announce new products and services – Why wait for a print ad to be published or a new brochure or catalog to be delivered when you can announce a new product or service in real time?
2. Generate sales leads – If you have a unqualified list of potential customers you can e-mail them an offer for something of value and in return require them to sign up to receive your newsletter, blog posts, e-mails, etc.
3. Promote a conference or webinar – Use your current mailing list to generate a larger audience at conferences and to participate in webinars that you are conducting. Any event can be announced and promoted via e-mail.
4. Offer demos and samples – Offer to demonstrate your product or provide a sample to allow a potential customer to overcome any doubts regarding your product. It allows them to become familiar with what you are offering.
5. Solicit newsletter subscribers – E-mail a sample of your current newsletter and offer the opportunity to subscribe. It’s a wonderful way to share information and build a relationship.
6. Conduct surveys and research – Collecting data on trends and attitudes about your brand are a key component of your marketing strategy. Surveys conducted via e-mail are a cost effective way to reach out to your target market. You may want to offer a small reward to encourage participation.
7. Direct offers – With an established mailing list you can offer current customers the opportunity to purchase your product or service when running a promotion. You can encourage usage or upgrading of a product they currently use.
8. Offer a new catalog or sales literature – Announce the availability of a new catalog or literature about your product. Cut down on the expense of mailing out these items by offering it via e-mail and providing a link to a pdf of the literature. You can always offer a print version in your e-mail too.
9. Increase trade show booth traffic – Pre-trade show marketing using e-mail to announce your participation and booth assignment for a trade show can increase traffic. Offer a personal demonstration, valuable information, or redemption of a promotional offer which can only be acquired by visiting your booth.
10. Educate customers and prospects – Provide information that helps your market understand your product more clearly. Focus on the features of your brand than are of value to the consumer. Provide the links to online tutorials, tips, and learning programs associated with your product.
Part of any marketing agenda is the need to create and measure awareness of your brand. One of the current media outlets that you can employ is a blog. A blog created to promote your product or service can benefit your business in a number of ways.
1. Search Engine Marketing – Your online presence via your blog will increase search engine activity and ultimately should result in higher rankings on search engine return pages.
2. Direct Communications – Your postings allow you to speak directly to your potential market. If you speak honestly, openly, and with authority you will instill the perception that you are an authority within your product or service category.
3. Brand Building – Blogs are another media outlet to promote your brand’s core values and how they will positively impact a potential customer.
4. Competitive Differentiation – How you present your brand in your blog in comparison to your competition will help you promote the ways in which your product or service is different and more relevant to a consumer’s needs.
5. Building a Relationship – By presenting your brand with an honest approach to your target market and promoting trust in the benefits you are offering you can eventually build a long-lasting relationship with your customers.
6. Niche Marketing – Tap into an underdeveloped niche for your brand category by using your blog to reach a niche market you may otherwise be missing.
7. Media & Public Relations – Blogs offer a free opportunity to spread the news about your brand. Regular press releases reinforce your brands accomplishments and place within your category.
8. Position Yourself as an Expert – Your blog will enable you to establish your level of knowledge and expertise pertaining to your brand category. It helps in demonstrating to your market that you are a source of information they can benefit from.
9. Reputation Management – A blog allows you to build on the perceived image of your brand. It also allows you to state your position if your brand is perceived negatively.
10. Low cost – It doesn’t get any better than FREE. Most blogs can be set up using existing online publishing platforms.
I routinely suggest the creation of a blog for a client. More often than not I receive a lukewarm response to my suggestion because there is a false assumption that blogging requires extra special skills. If you know enough about your product or service to offer it to the public you should have the required knowledge to write about it. If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of creating and operating a blog there are professionals to help you. I admit that most likely includes a fee, but the potential benefits should outweigh the initial cost.
Don’t lose out on a wonderful opportunity to promote your brand by eliminating a blog from your marketing mix. With some thoughtful preparation and a little practice anyone can master the art of posting on a blog. If the thought of doing it yourself is still something you prefer not to tackle remember that you can always hire a blogger to promote your brand for you. By educating a blogger about the benefits of your brand and setting boundaries for the blog’s performance you never have to give up control of your brand’s voice. Ultimately, isn’t that what your crave for your brand? At the forefront you want to establish a dialogue with your target market that allows you to build trust and brand loyalty for the present and into the future.
The best way to insure a successful outcome to any advertising endeavor is to prepare ahead. Collect all the data you will need and set the goals you hope to achieve. Whether you are doing this yourself or plan to work with a professional, I can assure you that the following questions will need to be answered.
1) What are your brand’s core values? What is unique about your product or service? How do you set yourself apart from your competition?
2) What is the consumer market you are competing in? What brands do you compete against? What benefit do you offer in that market?
3) Who is the advertising talking to? What is your demographic? What media do they relate to/use the most for information? Besides statistical information, like age and geographic location, ask yourself:
- How does your market approach life?
- What do they place value on?
- Is there a common affiliation, attitude, experience, etc.?
4) Why are you advertising? What’s your goal? You can’t measure success without a goal.
Are you trying to:
- create new buyers
- entice return buyers
- establish or reinforce brand loyalty
- impart a sense of community involvement
- reduce inventory for a specific item
- increase usage
5) What does the consumer think/feel about your brand? How is your product or service viewed by your market at the present time?
6) What single benefit will you promise in the advertising? Value? Quality? Prestige? Accessibility? Customer Service? Etc.
7) Why should your market believe you? Demonstrate how your brand’s benefit is indisputable.
Once you’ve done the hard work of qualifying your target market it’s time to refine your message and its goals and utilize the best media to reach that market. If you have a fully developed marketing plan or have advertised before you are likely to inherently want to stick with what you’ve done in the past. If you’ve been successful, great – continue on the same path. If you haven’t been able to measure your success or you’ve seen a decline is response – maybe it’s time to review some alternative media outlets or change the mix to reflect your changing customer base. There’s no harm in researching and trying out a new medium that you’ve never thought of using in the past. For example, social networking is the latest trend in communication yet many are not familiar or comfortable enough to make that leap.
Current statistics show an increasing pull toward digital media and away from print for younger audiences. Young adults have grown up enjoying the benefits of instant access to information and entertainment. Mature audiences on the other hand continue to value print as a demonstrated reliable source of information. It is in your best interest to weigh the benefits when choosing between digital and print media or when configuring the mix using both. Today’s businesses no longer have the luxury of relying on subjectively chosen media outlets. Just because you might prefer one over the other is not going to guarantee the best return on your investment. A lack of knowledge or expertise in applying a new venue to your marketing plan is no excuse for ignoring current trends and a new vision in approaching your customer base.
Once you recognize who your market is and how they receive information it will make the job of developing a media plan easier to conceive and hopefully result in a profitable outcome. A balanced approach to communicating with your target market will require a complete understanding of which media your market is drawn to and then determining your voice when using that preferred media. Every outreach to your audience is an opportunity to build your brand and reinforce who you are and what you offer, what makes your product or service different and relevant to their needs, and where you fit amongst your competition. The greatest impact will be achieved with a consistent dialogue utilizing the available media that is proven to connect with your customer base. Continuity in your message and presentation are vital. Make sure you are representing your business or service in the same way throughout each venue. Stick to your core values and find ways to reinforce how they positively impact a potential customer.
Each media choice requires a specific creative product. Unless you are comfortable with your knowledge of the skills required to develop those products it would be wise to acquire the services of a professional. Trained design professionals will help you define the problem and envision your desired outcome. They can help you define your approach and give you the needed support while seeking information and potential solutions. A design professional will help you make the tough decisions along the way and work as part of your creative team. Focusing on each specific media choice they will assist you in shaping your message to match the media. The benefits of working in this team effort are clearly demonstrated in a streamlined creative process that results in a product that is both professionally produced and more likely to attain the goals you’ve set in your marketing plan.