Internet Overload

The internet is a beautiful thing. We can Google anything our heart desires and be inundated with articles, pictures, charts, graphs, quotes and on and on and on for the item we searched.

It’s great how we can search for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and immediately have the lyrics displayed. But, sometimes I find myself frustrated more than delighted.

Today, I wanted to purchase a 36” round small conference table. I have now wasted several hours trying to find something that either doesn’t exist, or exists under a search term I am unaware of. So, I have decided to comprise and purchase something that isn’t what I want, but will suffice.

At this point, I actually believe I could have left my office, visited a few stores, found something that would satisfy my requirements, purchased it and had it in my office in the time I have spent searching online. More is not always better. In fact, more can actually cause overload. Too many choices can be overwhelming and you just click out and stop searching because you can’t decide.

Then there were those sites that seemed to have what I wanted, but when I clicked on the item, sometimes nothing happened (broken link), or it would take me to a different item entirely. I quickly left those sites out of sheer frustration.

How do visitors feel about your website? Websites can either be a valuable tool for your organization, or they can be a roadblock and headache to your customers and prospects. Do you make it easy for them to interact and do business with you?

  • Image matters and your website may be the first impression that people have of your organization. It should accurately portray who you are and be consistent with your brand.
  • Make it easy to navigate, and easy to get back to your home page.
  • Provide links to other sites they may find helpful.
  • Insure your contact information is displayed on each page of your website.
  • Short paragraphs, subheads, bullet points are all great ways to keep their attention and not overwhelm them with too much copy.
  • Find a way to engage visitors through video demonstrations, helpful tools, articles or white papers.
  • Make your website logical to visitors.

Customers and prospects expect you to have a website – it’s your front door. Make sure it is always open to them.

 

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Customers Count!

In his blog earlier this week, Seth Godin, asked the question, “What if it was impossible for humans to have more kids? How would we treat the last generation?”

Couldn’t we ask the same question in regard to our clients? What if it was impossible for us to sell to another new client? How would we then treat our current clients? These are great questions to ponder, aren’t they?

I’m betting that any business, that knew their future success was 100% dependent on their current customer base, would be over falling over themselves to provide an unrivaled customer service experience.

And, if you wanted sales growth, you would be 100% dependent on your current customers buying more than they are currently purchasing. What would you do to encourage these increased purchases?

Would you be more proactive in finding creative solutions for your clients? Would you be willing to expand your current product and service line-up so that you had more to offer? If not, why not?

Unless you’re in a sales position, it’s easy to forget just how difficult it is to land a new account. Sales cycles are longer, pricing concerns are more prevalent and loyalty appears to be dwindling. The value of your existing customer base is quite high. Do your current customers know how much you appreciate their business? If not, why not?

Are you giving them unparalleled customer service so they are happy to refer you to others in their organizations who may be interested in doing business with you? If not, why not?

Hitting aggressive sales goals requires an account rep to keep their current customer base while finding new customers. Does your sales plan call for rewarding increased business from existing accounts? Does it call for high marks on customer service? If not, why not?

I don’t have all the answers, and do have lots of questions. But, just writing this has validated my belief of just how valuable and irreplaceable my current customers are. Hope this gets you thinking also.

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Bigger Is Not Always Better!

For years, marketers loved to talk about how many targets they had on their mailing lists. Let’s be honest, these “targets” were just names. We didn’t have the tools available to really determine who was a legitimate target.

To us, any name was a good name. We spent millions of dollars sending static direct mail to every address we could lay our hands on. Today, that is no longer the case.

Technology has given us tools that can help us better initially build our prospect lists with what we think are valid prospects. We then have data collection tools we can use to even better qualify these prospects and actually determine if they are valid leads.

What this means is that we’ve gotten smarter. We are focusing on not being everything to everybody, but to offering the best product or service to a qualified lead at the right time. We are spending our marketing dollars in a much more effective way.

Is junk mail dead? Of course not! We still have those organizations that must have more money than sense. As a condo dweller, I’m amazed at the number of mail pieces that I get from lawn care, roofing and swimming pool companies. Those are usually followed by an offer from a roofer or an offer for gutter guards. I will never buy what they sell – I live in a condo.

However, as an organization that produces direct mail, I am grateful for their support of our industry. As a marketer, I’m appalled at the amount of money they are wasting.

It’s not the quantity of people on a mailing list, but the quality of those names. Our goal should be to focus on targets who will actually buy what we sell!

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Opinions – Everyone Has One!

When did it become wrong to express your opinion? When did it become acceptable for someone with a different opinion than yours to personally attack you and attempt to discredit you?

On December 15, 1791, The United States of America added the Bill of Rights to our constitution. One of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights is the right to freedom of speech. Many patriots of old and every member of our military have put their lives on the line to defend our rights – our right to free speech. Many have died to insure that each American has the right to express their opinion freely.

And, America is not the only country that protects freedom of speech. In fact, you can find references to freedom of speech in early human rights documents, such as:

  • England’s Bill of Rights 1689
  • The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which were adopted in 1789 during the French Revolution
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • European Convention on Human Rights
  • African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Alexander Meiklejohn, a philosopher, university administrator, and freedom of speech advocate, points out that democracy is that of self-government by the people. If democracy is to work, we must be informed. How can we be informed if we choose to block out and attack anyone who shares information that we disagree with?

Just as having people in your organization that have different personality types is vital to the success of the organization, I would also think that having people around you with different opinions is vital to you becoming knowledgeable and able to formulate your own educated viewpoint.

There are some limitations on your right to speak your mind. You can’t go around libeling or slandering  someone. There are both common law and criminal law exceptions to free speech. The following are just some items not permitted:

  • Pornography
  • Obscenity
  • Defamation
  • Incitement to riot
  • Items protected by copyright law
  • Terrorist threats
  • Perjury
  • False advertising

But, nowhere can I find that it is illegal to share your opinion on a political candidate’s platform, a tax proposal, a new business product, a proposed regulation or just an idea of how to improve your city, county, state or country. Ideas are the lifeblood of a successful organization.

We’ve all heard the statement that “knowledge is power”, but what exactly does that mean? To me, it means that when you open yourself up to learning new things you will be able to make better decisions. Hopefully, those better decisions will improve your life, the lives of those around you. Knowledge leads to more options.

Today, we need as many options as we can get. We have big problems to solve – business problems, drug problems, infrastructure problems, political problems and more. But, without information we will not have the knowledge that we need to solve those problems in the most advantageous way. How do we get that information? I believe it’s by listening to others.

There are many brilliant people in this world and why would we not take advantage of hearing their thoughts and their ideas so that we can come to the best decisions?

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Fear of the Unknown

As an organization that started life as a small printing company in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, there came a time when we had to decide to remain a printing company or expand our services. Any changes that came prior to that were easy as they all related directly to printing.

When the internet appeared, we began to see a negative effect and could only imagine the future impact. So, we decided to change. The change has been fun, exciting, challenging and scary all at the same time. While our new business model encompasses communications via many different channels, print is still a large portion of our business. It wasn’t always easy and we’ve certainly learned some lessons.

This journey made me question the validity of the statement – “People hate change”. Do they really, or is it possible that it’s just a fear of the unknown?

I don’t think that most people hate change. After all, in our personal lives we have change constantly. We grow up, we get married, we get a job/lose a job/get a new job, we gain weight/lose weight, we get divorced, we have children, children grow up – I’m sure you can see the pattern. Change is always occurring and much of it is expected and welcomed. So, I think it’s more about fear of the unknown. So, how can you combat that?

I start by sitting down and developing a lists of pros and cons related to the proposed change. If the pros outweigh the cons, move forward to the next step, which is asking this question.  Will this decision put me out of business or kill me, if it’s the wrong decision? It’s always important to look at the downside. What if this doesn’t work? What if it does work? Can I survive if the worst case scenario happens? What are the real risks? How will I deal with them if they occur?

Once you decide the risk is worth it and survivable, develop your plan of attack. How will this change happen? When will it happen? Is it one monumental step, or a series of steps? Who will it impact? Do they have the knowledge to deal with the change?

Lots of questions that you’re going to want to have answers for. Now, the hard part – communicating it. This is probably the most important part for an organization. You want to engage your staff, have them contribute their skills and expertise, be on board and excited about the change. This is where the fear of the unknown comes in. Before you take the first step, make sure your employees understand:

  • What the change is.
  • Why the change needs to happen.
  • How it will occur.
  • What internal changes will need to happen.
  • How will it impact their day-to-day work.
  • What is the risk of changing/not changing.
  • How can they provide input.
  • What the rewards of success will be.

People want to follow a good leader. That good leader needs to have a vision, strategies and tactics that they can effectively communicate. People need to have trust that their leader is moral and ethical and will make sound decisions for the good of the organization. If you take as much of the unknown out of the change, it will be easier for all concerned.

And, it’s not just about communicating this at the beginning of the process. It’s about regular updates via in-person meetings, written communications, conference calls or any other method of getting progress reports or snags out to your team.

Change – it does a body good!

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Direct Mail Works!

As we all know, Google, eBay and Yahoo are all online organizations. As such, you would expect their marketing communications to be 100% focused on email, pay-per-click, banner ads or other online techniques. But, guess what? They all use direct mail in their marketing efforts.

Why are these successful online organizations using direct mail? Because it works!

While we all love our smartphones, QR codes, social media and email, we also love receiving relevant and personalized mail. In fact, for business communication, it has been reported that 69% of us prefer direct mail, as compared to 28% preferring email.

While email is an excellent tool for customer retention, direct mail is the most effective tool for customer acquisition. So, why not integrate email with direct mail to both attract and retain clients?

In fact, none of our marketing efforts should rely on a single marketing channel. Research shows that customers who interact with you over multiple channels will:

  • Buy more
  • Buy more often
  • Generate more profit

These are great reasons to integrate your marketing efforts!

If you use direct mail effectively it can be:

  • Persuasive
  • Personal
  • Powerful

Direct mail allows for an infinite variety of messaging, creative and strategies to be sent to an infinite number of targets. But, sending the same message or offer to all of your targets is not likely to get you the results you want. You will find that the most effective direct mail is that which is personalized and relevant.

To insure your mail pieces are relevant, use what you know about your target. Things such as:

  • Industry vertical
  • Past purchases
  • Income level
  • Gender
  • Geographic location

Of course, this list could be endless. So, focus on the data that you have that is relevant to what you are offering. For example: If you sell appliances, it would be logical to market your washing machines to your targets, EXCEPT if they had just bought a washer. Then the logical offer might be for a dryer instead. Don’t insult your customers by marketing to them what they’ve recently purchased.

A personal example would be from a department store. Based upon the fact that I use my department store credit card whenever I purchase, because of the discounts available, they know exactly what I’ve purchased in the past. If they’re paying attention, they’ll notice that I never buy men’s clothing or housewares. I do, however, purchase lots of children’s clothing, women’s clothing and accessories – and I can do a lot of damage in the shoe department.

So, why would they spend large amounts of money mailing weekly 16 page circulars to me? Over half of those 16 pages are for products I never purchase. Why not mail me an 8 page circular featuring the types of items I’ve purchased in the past? This could help them cut their printing and mailing costs, as well as sending the message that they really do know me and are trying to cater to my needs. That would be relevant AND personalized!

For many years, I have received beautiful postcards from lawn care companies, expensive gardening catalogs, brochures from a pool company and flyers from roofing companies. The problem with all of these mailings is that I live in a condominium. I have never purchased, and never will purchase, lawn care, roofing, gardening materials or swimming pools. And, I’m betting that every other condo owner in my complex gets the same mailings. This is obviously a great example of being irrelevant and wasting lots of marketing dollars!

So, while you’re making your marketing plans for 2014, focus on sending personalized and relevant offers to your current clients and prospects. We can help you put your marketing ideas in motion! For an article on targeted direct mail and other helpful tools, visit our Resource Center!

 

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Marketing To The Different Generations

Generational Marketing is defined as marketing strategies and tactics that are designed to appeal to market segments defined by the generational groups. Those groups are:

  1. G.I. Generation (Pre-Depression) – 1900-1924
  2. Silent Generation (Depression) – 1925-1945
  3. Baby Boomers – 1946-1964
  4. Generation X – 1965-1979
  5. Generation Y (Millennials) – 1980-2000
  6. Generation Z (Generation 911, iGen) – 2001-present

The different generations have differences in:

  • Values
  • Communication styles
  • Concerns
  • Preferred marketing channels
  • Products and services they are interested in

By tailoring your messages and using the appropriate channels, specifically to the generations you are target, you will see benefits, such as:

  1. Ease of building relationships
  2. Gaining of trust
  3. Increased return on investment, as it’s easier to close business

The generation into which you were born, has great influence:

  • Who you are
  • What you value
  • What your beliefs are
  • Your life skills
  • What you prefer to buy

However, there are other factors that can also have an impact on generational characteristics. The Hartman Group states, “Pure generational marketing is delusional if it assumes a generation will be homogeneous in outlook or behavior.” They feel there are broader influences that affect a generation and that historical influence actually wans after the age of 10. Other factors they feel should be considered are:

  • Economic level of your parents (wealth or poverty)
  • Race
  • Small town vs. big city residence
  • Republican or Democrat
  • The part of the country you were raised
  • Single or two-parent home

Obviously, those factors do play a part, but we are all affected by the generation into which we were born. Those in the GI and Silent Generations were affected by World War I, World War II and the Korean War. They did not have the luxury of electrical conveniences like telephones, radios, refrigerators or lights. They faced health threats such as polio and smallpox, while at the same time witnessed medical miracles as they aged.

The Boomers witnessed social movements for civil rights, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination and Woodstock. They also became the generation that symbolized time poverty, as many of them are workaholics and are sandwiched between taking care of children and taking care of parents.

Generation X was the latchkey generation and were raised to be very independent as both parents were in the workforce. They also grew up with AIDS, divorce, drug addiction and recessions.

Generation Y (Millennials) – think of community, affluence and technology. They tend to be civic-minded and ecologically aware, but grew up with the OJ Simpson trial, Columbine shootings, Gulf War and corporate greed. This generation, more than the others, craves peer recognition and acceptance.

Generation Z (Generation 911 or iGen) is the first generation to be born entirely in the internet era. Their involvement with digital technology at an early age has made them generally resistant to advertising. They are over protected because of Amber alerts, kidnappings, school shootings and terrorism, and have a strong sense of right and wrong.

So you can see that each generation has its differences and because of that will require a different marketing focus to be truly successful. Use segmentation to target your message appropriately. And, try to use words and phrases that can span the generations, such as:

  • Flexibility
  • Fun
  • Health
  • Happiness
  • Career success

Your marketing goal is to generate loyalty within your target base. To help you do that, generational marketing can help you to appeal to each generation’s specific attitudes, values, beliefs and marketing preferences. For those marketers who understand the value in segmentation, they will likely generate more business and build a more loyal client base.

When you’re ready to put your generational marketing ideas in motion, give Multi-Craft a call. Visit our Resource Center for webinars and articles that can help you in your marketing efforts.

You can read an interesting article on the dilemma Las Vegas finds itself in and how they are considering generational marketing to solve it.

Resources: Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, “Marketing to the Generations”; “Multi-Generational Marketing: Descriptions, Characteristics, Lifestyles and Attitudes” by Kaylene C. Williams and Robert A. Page of Southern Connecticut State University and Alfred R. Petrosky and Edward H. Hernandez of California State University.

 

 

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