Marketing In A Difficult Economy – Part II
Now let’s get into specifics. We will cover some tried and true classical marketing tactics:
- Print campaigns/Direct Mail
- Collateral (catalogs, brochures, sales flyers, etc.)
- Public relations
- Special Events (sponsorships, speaking engagements, community involvement, etc.)
- Thank you
You either network formally at a Chamber of Commerce or in your local business association or informally, with existing customers and people you know. After all, we want to get the word out.
Unless networking is approached in a serious and structured way, it ends up being a social club with little to no closed sales. Even if you are very focused and manage your contacts perfectly, the results will most likely be that of a door-to-door brush salesman, or about 2%. The problem is that the people at networking events are not necessarily your target group, so they are not ready to buy your products or services. Having said that, I’m at these events on a regular basis because the 2% closing rate could turn out to be your next six months sales budget or somebody in that room knows of somebody who does need your services. Group members tend to recommend other members, so the effect is like throwing a stone into a still pond.
My mind is split when it comes to conventional advertising. I don’t think the cost justifies the gain, unless you are very strategic about it. If you are a small business in a small town, an ad can work wonders. Conversely, if you advertise locally or even regionally in publications that are read by your target groups, you should see an up tick in business. Magazines that cover two to three zip codes are good candidates. Most people read them because they frequent the local restaurants, have their hair done around the corner, or get their mid-summer treat at the ice cream parlor down the street. Offering marketing services in a residential area with median age of 18-35 will probably not be successful.
Think of your community and see if your customers live there. If the answer is positive, make sure there is a call to action, a coupon code or a business reply card so you know where your new customers are coming from. If the answer is no – do some research and find an area that will fit your demographic profile.
Print Campaigns/Direct Mail
Print campaigns, when executed effectively, can be highly successful, especially when combined with other media. A print campaign lasts typically a whole year with one mailing each month. Each month you solve a different problem for your customer and you explain in detail why it is in their best interest to choose your business. During a yearlong campaign, customers start to expect your mailing pieces. By month five or six they know who you are and start talking to others about you. Try using humor, striking imagery or highly useful information in your mailings. One of mine contained a bendable smiley figurine one month and I still see him on desks or hanging from pushpins on cubicle walls a year later.
For an example of a print company’s print campaign we created please visit
odm-online.com to “featured projects”. Again, include a call to action with each mailing and devise a way to track replies.
Almost all businesses give out brochures or catalogs. Here is another way of differentiating yourself from the pack. Instead of asking your audience to buy your product or service, why not tell them how you solve specific problems? Think of the man who buys a ¼” drill bit at a hardware store. He doesn’t want a drill bit – he wants a ¼” hole. When you write your content put yourself in your customers’ shoes. It’ll open your eyes to all the benefits you can offer them.
Instead of a generic trifold brochure, make it square, or even round. Give your catalog a cardstock cover to give it more substance. Come up with an irresistible catch phrase that will make your customer want to explore further. Connect on an emotional level that will evoke a reaction. Give them an incentive to contact you and when you pick up that phone your fist question after the greeting should be “how did you hear about us?” and make a note of it.
It is a big decision for a small business to exhibit at a trade show. I’m not talking about the local business expo but the full-fledged Las Vegas, bells and whistles one. They are expensive. You have to build an attractive booth with graphics, displays, computers, etc. One, two or more people have to be in attendance at all times, you most like likely need a hotel, flights, taxis and you need to eat! On the other hand, it is the absolute best opportunity to see a huge number of your potential customers in your specific target group in one place. So it comes down to how much you are willing to spend per visitor. Determine how many people you can realistically talk to per day and pick a percentage of closed deals from those meetings. Divide that number into the total cost of the show and see if you can live with the result. Tradeshows are a very inexact science. You can only tell if you were successful after the last visitor has left and you can tally your sales.
The residual effect should be a shoebox full of business cards you can follow up on.
If you own a B-to-B enterprise, press releases are a must. They are easy, quick and don’t cost a lot of money. You want to have a constant presence in your trade magazines to tell your industry what you’re up to. New product introductions, personnel changes, relocations, new strategies, grand openings, are all good topics to cover. In addition to conventional distribution to publications, there are many websites that allow you to publish your releases free of charge or for relatively small fees. Some examples are prlog.com, PRWeb.com, bignews.biz, newsalbum.com, freepressrelease.com, and 1888pressrelease.com. Note: press release sites change all the time, so one or two of these may be out of business. Just use “free press release sites” as your key word in your favorite search engine and you’ll see a long list.
If you are not a versed writer, by all means hire a copywriter. A poorly written press release is much worse than none. You are talking to your peers and need to look and sound like the consummate professional you are.
On a related note, editors of publications are always looking for content. If you can become the go-to person in your field you’ll be invited to contribute to editorials, further establishing yourself as the expert.
(IE sponsorships, speaking engagements, community involvement, etc.)
This topic nicely dovetails into the paragraph above. Special Events are a great way to establish your company, your expertise, your message and they allow your listeners to get to know you personally, which fosters word of mouth. Get involved in your community, sponsor a fundraiser and speak about how your product or service helps your neighbors. Accept requests for presentations; stage a free “My Business 101” seminar that does NOT hard sell your product or service. Instead emphasize education. For example: If you are a flooring retailer, hold a seminar in a condo complex on how to choose the “right floor for your needs” or “how to distinguish between engineered and solid wood”. Yes, you will leave your business cards and 20% off sale flyers on the presentation table but you added value and knowledge at no cost. Guess who they will call when they need a new floor? Enough said.
This is a big subject. Once you have sold your widget and the client is happy YOU HAVE TO THANK THEM. Current customers are the best referral source since time began with amoebas. You can write a handwritten note, you can ask for a referral, you can ask for a referral and give your customer an incentive (coupon, invitation to an exclusive event, make them a “club member”. “elite member”). Another important milestone is the follow up. Two, four, six weeks after the sale, check in with your customer to see how things are going. Is there anything else you can do for them? Oh, by the way we have a sale coming up – you get the message.
If you made it this far, this is my cue to thank you for your attention. I hope to have planted a few seeds that will germinate and grow into magnificent marketing campaigns. Keep in mind that this is only the classical part. You should definitely combine it with all the online tactics and multi media, such as websites, FaceBook pages, Twitter, videos and so on. Today, you cannot afford to stay in the tangible world. Cyberspace gives you a flexibility that conventional marketing cannot.