Reaching out to customers and prospects in a business-to-business world is getting more complicated. E-mail overload, spam filters and the proliferation of online media are making it harder and harder to get your target audience’s attention.
Let’s face it—your customers and prospects are bombarded daily with all sorts of communications. How do you make yourself heard above all this noise?
It’s clear that an over-reliance on just one marketing approach, such as e-mail, is no longer effective. You need to reach out and touch your target audience in many creative ways.
Multi-Channel Marketing Is A Must
Most marketers now employ multiple communications channels with every campaign, according to recent marketing trends reports. More and more, the power of e-mail seems to be most effective when combined with direct mail and other complementary venues.
The most common multi-channel approaches are combinations of direct mail and e-mail, often integrated with another channel such as telemarketing or online advertising. Simply put, people are more likely to open an e-mail from a company that sparks some form of recognition.
Getting Started; Think Like Your Customer
To set the context for your multi-channel marketing efforts, think about how your target customers work, what motivates them, their purchasing patterns and what they need. Picture your typical customer sitting at the desk or conducting daily business. How can you best reach out and touch that customer to gain his or her attention and/or elicit a response?
The More Diverse The Campaign, The More Successful It Will Be
Odds are you don’t have a generous marketing budget. Your challenge is to come up with a diverse marketing campaign, while keeping costs in check.
With your target customer in mind, consider the options for gaining attention:
1. E-mail is cheap and easy. Sending e-mails is a quick and inexpensive way to broadcast your message to your target audience. This is a no-brainer. But everyone else on the planet is e-mailing them, too. You need to position your e-mail to stand the best chance of being read.
Start with a catchy subject line. Keep it less than 50 characters and avoid spam-like words such as: “free,” “act now,” “discounts,” “$$$” or “limited-time offer.” Keep your e-mail message simple and to the point with a specific value proposition and a compelling call-to-action. Ask yourself: What’s in it for my potential customers, and why would they want to respond?
Try to make your e-mail as customized to your individual target as possible. A personal e-mail is more likely to be read. If you are conducting a large-scale e-mail campaign, make the theme timely to promotional purchasing patterns such as holidays, tradeshow seasons, summer events and so forth. Tweak your messaging to smaller test groups to see what works best. Shoot for a response rate in the double-digits.
2. Snail mail is still relevant. Mailing postcards, letters or simple brochures is also relatively inexpensive and can effectively supplement your efforts to build brand awareness.
Industry research shows that some market segments still prefer print marketing to digital marketing. Snail mail tends to be less annoying than a cluttered e-mail inbox and much harder to ignore. Plus, an attractive piece of mail makes a more lasting visual impression and has a longer shelf life.
Keep messaging simple and to the point with a clear call to action. Emphasize your corporate brand to make an impact.
3. Word of mouth—referrals rock! Good word of mouth is a fundamental part of building businesses and establishing a local brand and reputation. It starts with good customer service. Make sure your people are responsive and caring—every time, all the time. A good customer-service experience will pay dividends.
Do you have a strong base of repeat, happy customers? Ask them for referrals. If they send you a referral, be sure to thank them.
4. Facebook builds communities. Social media, such as Facebook, can be an effective, low-cost marketing support tool. Create a company profile that uses all the right key words to improve your search engine rankings. Make it friendly and newsy.
Remember: It’s a community, not an advertising medium.
Invite your customers, partners and suppliers to join. Keep your page current with information such as company and staff news, new product information and community participation. If you have any Gen Y staffers on board, this is their turf. Let them run with it.
5. LinkedIn builds a contact network. LinkedIn is designed to be a more professional social network and a great venue to connect with peers, vendors, customers and potential customers.
Develop a strong base of contacts and nurture them. Use the “Advanced People Search” feature to build prospect lists. Remember, it’s important to be professional and credible on LinkedIn—not opportunistic. Be sure to nurture your relationships wisely to maintain a proactive and trustworthy reputation.
Participate in group discussions related to the industry. Even better, create a discussion group, fuel it with meaningful topics and insights, and invite your contacts to participate.
6. Hot off the presses. Have you just celebrated a special company milestone? Have you recently expanded, scored a notable first or made a significant contribution to your community? These are all newsworthy items for your community newspapers or local business publications.
Create a news release and send it to all relevant local media outlets. Use an online media dissemination service to leverage the announcement for search engine optimization. Costs for distribution can be as low as $19.95 on sites such as WebWire (www.webwire.com). Most online news dissemination sites will also guide you through the development of an effective news release.
7. Online advertising—stand out. Paid search/pay per click (PPC) advertising is still the biggest portion of most online marketing budgets. However, PPC campaigns can be time-consuming and complex to manage. AdWords Express (www.google.com/adwords/express) is generally considered to be the easiest way to advertise on Google and is ideal for businesses looking for local customers.
AdWords Express basically delivers the benefits of a targeted online ad campaign without the hassle of managing it. It works as follows: When someone in your area searches for “promotional products,” your business will appear prominently in search results and be highlighted on Google Maps.
Setting it up is easy. You determine the budget limits. And it is managed automatically to ensure that your ad is only highlighted to people who are specifically looking for what you offer.
8. Current customers are birds in the hand. Your current customers are your most likely source of new business. It makes a whole lot of sense to market specifically to them to keep them coming back for more. Reach out to them throughout the year with holiday cards, Facebook invites, product news, open houses and seasonal reminders to keep your company top of mind for their next promotional products purchase.
9. Most importantly, pick up the phone and call. Even though we live in an internet era, we all still have phones. In fact, we have more phones now than ever before. Given the daily bombardment of digital media, picking up the phone is still the best way to connect.
Dan Rochette is founder and CTO of business services company Facilis Group (UPIC: FACILIS), headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.