Tuesday, June 30, 2009

E-Newsletters -Flexible, Current and Shareable

Communicating with customers has always been an important part of a good marketing mix. In the past, direct mail (post cards, letters, etc.) was an expensive and sometimes "hit or miss" effort. E-communications involves sending communications to your customers via their e-mail address. You can reach all of your customers quickly and easily (or send different messages to different segments of your customers), receive statistics on who is reading your information, and have your clients share your communications with other potential customers. With the cost savings and "go green" movement, you'll find that you are spending less on paper and postage, and more on quality and frequency. So how do you get started?

  • Start by collecting email addresses ASAP. Whether it's by phone, when signing a receipt, browsing the store, prospecting or collecting other specific contact information - always ask for an e-mail address. It's also a good idea to have a sign-up box on your website.
  • Decide what items you would like to include in your e-newsletter. Do you have frequent sales? An upcoming event? Selling a new product? Did you win an award? Do you provide expertise on a certain subject? All of these are great ideas for inclusion in an e-newsletter communication.
  • Decide upon frequency. How often do you want to reach your customers? How often do you think they want to hear from you? I go back the good old lesson of planning ahead. How often do you want to touch your customer and even more importantly how much time do you have to prepare your content? Layout a calendar by month adding in which times are most important that you to communicate with your customers.
  • Find an e-mail service. If you Google e-newsletters, you'll see many different applications and they are all very similar. These companies offer good template based tools for you to enter in your information, graphics and company specific messaging.

Just like any "first", your first e-mail is a big deal! I have helped clients get their first communications off the ground and taught them how to "take it from there". I also have clients that I work on their communications consistently so they have time to focus on their business.

I guarantee that your competitors have moved or are moving in this direction - so now is the time to get your e-communications going!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Partnering with Non-Profits Can Be Good for Your Business

With the current state of the economy, many businesses are challenged to do more with less. But if you think that stinks, try being a non-profit that relies on the financial contributions of donors - many wells have dried up. Yet, working together may be exactly what a non-profit and your business needs for a little feel-good social responsibility.

First, choose a non-profit company that is close to your heart or your business. Find something that complements your interests (animals, children, family matters, etc.) or connects with your business (a construction company helping Habitat for Humanity). Find something you can feel good about partnering with for a long time and that has established roots in your community.

Second, decide how you can help. Call the agency and explain that you want to be a good corporate citizen. Do have a storefront where you host a fundraiser? Can you volunteer some of your inventory? Does your staff have certain talents or gifts to share? Find out what the organization might need and brainstorm together on how you can help.

Third, share the good news. Include what your doing on your website, share a press release with the media, and use tools like Facebook, Twitter and newsletters. Do not be shy on how you are making a difference in the world. Buyers often seek like-minded companies (thus the craze of everyone going green!)

Helping a non-profit can be win-win. They get the help they desperately need and their message is shared through your network of friends, family, customers and partners. And in kind, your business gets some good PR and you can feel great about doing the right thing!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I don't have time for Twitter!

Like most business owners - I'M BUSY! Busy helping my clients, busy taking care of my family, just busy busy busy! I hear this from everyone - so I know I am not alone. Yet, those clients and friends with desires to grow their business are missing out on a free (OK, time is like money) no money down opportunity to connect with potential clients, customers, referral sources, experts in their field, etc. - the possibilities are endless. And I think that's exactly what people are afraid of - it's just too intimidating and not as specific as what they are used to doing with a brochure, mailing or handshake. Perhaps they think they are "above" the need to start grass-roots or afraid they will have to make a huge time commitment. Think of how long it takes to go to a no-guarantee-that-it's-going-to-generate-leads-expo or networking event. What if you could exchange your business card electronically, to thousands of potential __(insert your desired individual or audience here) __?

Take just a few minutes a day (set a timer if you need to) to get started on ONE social networking effort - Twitter, Facebook, or a Blog. Once you start you'll see that the power of connecting with like minds (or not so like minds) makes good business sense. If you need help kick starting your efforts, there are many sources on the web or I can help you get started. But remember, this should be just one part of your overall marketing plan :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why Marketing Plans Don't Sell

Do you have a marketing plan? Does anyone even know what a marketing plan is? It's not nearly as sexy as exclaiming "Check out my Facebook Page!" and "Follow me on Twitter!" So, now what's the PLAN with that Facebook page and Twitter handle?

When I tell people that marketing plans are what I start with, I often feel like the CPA of the marketing world - asking clients to dot their "i"s and cross their "t"s. But creating a marketing plan leads you to ask yourself - who am I selling to, how am I going to reach them, how much money do I have to spend and when do I expect to execute my grand plans to reach these people? Sounds much more exciting to create that Facebook page, right?

So if we work together - we can start with something glamorous - but I'll ask you 50 questions about how that fits into your bigger picture. I love all the new e-techniques - and use and recommend them, but don't get lost in the madness. Make sure you have a calendar of prioritized marketing activities, a budget, and a plan for making sure you get it all done!