We all know the importance of networking as a means to expand our business contacts and spark word of mouth recommendations and commentary about a service or product. One of the fastest growing networking outlets online today is LinkedIn. I’m on LinkedIn. Unlike other more social sites, like Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn offers a professional environment to conduct your online networking activities. It’s a wonderful way to keep in touch with those you currently work with and re-establish or continue corresponding with professionals outside your workplace. I can see how it would be useful to students as they begin to establish themselves in their field and form alliances that will help them in the years to come. You can also create a listing for your business that people can follow. There are groups you can join and reap the benefits from having access to the discussions and comments of others in your industry. These groups can provide contacts, answer questions, provide insight, pass along job postings, and support you through the ups and downs you may experience.
So who uses LinkedIn? According to this Infographic:
- 61% are men
- High tech, financing, and manufacturing are the most represented
- Sales, academic and administrative functions are the most common job functions
That’s a small sampling of the information provided. It doesn’t really matter how predominantly your gender or your profession are represented on LinkedIn. Fact is LinkedIn is an established resource to connect with the people that you know and the people that you need to know. Give it try. And don’t forget to connect to me. I’m waiting to hear from you.
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.
Increasingly the focus has turned to metrics to measure the success of a marketing plan. One of the aspects that’s up for review will be your database of leads. It seems more and more companies have become obsessed with the length of their database versus the quality of the leads they’ve collected. It’s easy to get off target when you feel the pressure to produce a list of current and potential customers to aim your message to. Think for a minute – what would be more beneficial to you as the person responsible for marketing and ultimately the company? An extensive database of names or businesses that might produce marginal results in generating sales or a smaller qualified database that would have a greater potential for ending in a successful sale? I know what my answer would be…
Let’s review some of the ways you might collect data and discuss the effectiveness of the resulting information.
1 – When people call your place of business inquiring about your product or service you ask for contact information. The very fact that they’ve initiated the call qualifies the lead.
2 – You cold call a list of people or businesses that were picked randomly based on area code or some other broad category. While this attempt might result in interest down the road, you would have greater success with calls made to individuals or businesses that already have some connection to your product or service. They use a competitors product, they work within the same industry, etc.
3 – You send out direct mail pieces hoping for a good response. You even have a perforated section on the mailer hoping the recipient returns it with their contact information. I won’t discuss the effectiveness of this tactic right now, but if you do get a response that is definitly a qualified lead.
4 – You attend a tradeshow and you aggressively hand out business cards and accept business cards from everyone who passes by or is willing to stop for the exchange. You then catalog all of the information on those cards. If the tradeshow is industry related you, at least, have a related audience. If it’s a generic trade show, (Ex: Chamber of Commerce) attended by various trades, you’re less likely to connect with someone who has a direct interest in your product or service. I’m not saying you shouldn’t attend these shows, please do. Just keep your lead generation goal in mind when you’re there.
5 – You rely on passed along information from a third party who thinks that someone or some business might be interested in you. Unless they know for sure that there’s a definite need on the part of that lead for your specific product or service, you either will or will not have a qualified lead.
I think I’ve given you enough examples for you to see the process. The closer the connection to you and the lead regarding the fulfillment of their specific need the more qualified that lead becomes. It’s up to you to decide how you want to accumulate and process your leads. You can easily separate the information into categories of HOT, WARM, or COLD. Once you’ve set up your database, guard it. Don’t allow your hard earned information to find its way to your competitor. (Remember to BCC your e-mail communication!) Groom your database on a regular basis. Purge or move to another category the leads that no longer work or have changed in status. And always continue to add to your database. It can mean money in the bank because it’s your lifeline to your true target market.
And whatever you do – don’t forget to back-up your files!