Marketing experts agree: the basis for developing new business, whether new work from an existing customer or the first job from a prospect, is to communicate with them. Experts also agree that the more different kinds of communication tools a business or organization uses, the more efficient the outreach and the more likely it is to successfully reach the person targeted. Relying on only one or two methods to make contact is risky when the person you want to reach has voice mail and the “delete” command to avoid phone calls and e-mail, and may not participate in all forms of social media. To help you improve your chances of having a successful communication, we offer six ways to contact customers and prospects.
#1: Direct mail is alive and working well
It was true yesterday and is true today: direct mail works. According to the Direct Mail Association (DMA) Factbook for 2013, 65% of consumers of all ages have made a purchase as a result of direct mail, and the response rate for direct mail continues to be higher than for electronic mail. Some reasons for this outcome are:
• There is less competition for reader attention in the mailbox than the inbox. First class mail reached its peak volume in 2001 and has been declining ever since. This means fewer mail pieces overall being delivered to homes and businesses, making a direct mail marketing piece more visible. Conversely, the volume of e-mail continues its rise.
• E-mail can be blocked, labeled as spam, or deleted without opening. If the e-mail message is never delivered or read, it is useless. In contrast, a direct mail piece can be designed so it doesn’t require opening, thereby automatically exposing the reader to the message.
• E-mail has replaced direct mail as a source of annoyance. As early as 2006, a survey conducted by the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication found that most people regarded spam as more intrusive and irritating than direct mail.
#2: Phone calls because people still like to talk
Phone calls -- not telemarketing, but a person-to-person call – is still an effective way to reach a customer or initiate contact with a prospect. On the telephone, voice tone adds another dimension to the words, conveying more than the words alone. In his 1967 study Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels, Dr. Albert Mehrabian found that voice tone and spoken words together account for 42% of effective communication.
Certain communications, particularly those that are sensitive or confidential, are best handled with a phone call and the two-way interchange it enables. Finally, some matters can be handled more quickly with a phone call than with e-mail or texting.
#3: Social media to bring them to you
Social media can be a leading traffic generator to your web site. Without social media, a business’s inbound traffic is limited to customers who are already familiar with it or prospects that used the right key words in a search engine. By adding social media profiles and sharing content from your web site – blog posts, videos, etc. – you give the audience a reason to click through to your site and begin engagement.
Social media can be used as a customer service platform and a forum to interact with customers. It is a powerful tool for customers to promote a brand they like (though it can also be a way for customers to discipline a business for real or perceived poor customer service).
Chris Reitermann, Ogilvy & Mather CEO for China, reminds marketers that they don’t have to use all social platforms. Instead, use a main platform and build around that, then expand to two or three where you can dominate.
Facebook provides a place for customers and prospects to interact with the business and so is often the first social media profile a business develops. Keep it regularly active by making important announcements, answering questions, or issuing reminders.
Twitter is for quick, frequent updates about your business and is a place to engage with individual customers by answering questions and providing product support. YouTube is a useful way to provide instructional videos or explanations, and from it a business can easily post the video to Facebook or Twitter.
#4: Printed newsletters have intrinsic value
Because it is more expensive and difficult to produce than an e-mail letter, a printed newsletter has a greater intrinsic value. It also arrives with all graphics and photographs in place and without distortion or editing by browsers. Digital printing has brought the price of printing a newsletter – especially printing one in full color – to within the budget of most businesses.
A printed newsletter is very versatile. Mail it to customers, use it as a leave-behind on prospect sales calls, place it in your reception area and use it at trade shows. A printed newsletter will get multiple views from your customers during its shelf life of 30 to 90 days, and may even be archived by your customer in a folder or binder.
#5: Live events take you to where they are
If done wisely, participating in a live event like a trade show or vendor fair can be a way to generate leads and promote brand awareness. Look for smaller shows that are vertical, or are aimed at a specific industry that represents your target audience. A trade show allows a business to reach more prospects in less time than it would take to make individual sales calls.
Another benefit of trade shows is providing the opportunity to visit with current customers and nurture the relationship. Whereas it may be difficult to get face-to-face time with a busy customer in his or her office, at a trade show there are fewer demands on the customer’s time.
There is also a residual benefit from trade show participation. According to data from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 87% of attendees will pass along some of the information they obtained at the show, and 64% will tell at least six other people about it.
#6: E-mail to establish you as an expert
Sending an e-mail newsletter regularly can establish your business as an expert in its field. Unlike a printed newsletter, an e-mail newsletter should be short (i.e., a few hundred words), provide relevant content that shares insights on a single topic and be accompanied by a visual. Use an e-mail delivery service with an opt-out feature (like Constant Contact or MailChimp) to be sure you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
Content written for an e-mail newsletter can be used in other ways. Upload a copy to a section of your web site. Post it as a link to your social media channels. Collect issues on the same topic together and publish as an e-book that can be downloaded for free from your web site.
Communication is a multi-faced activity
Communicating regularly with customers and prospects through multiple channels establishes the basis for an ongoing relationship. Informative, relevant content is the key to attracting and keeping readers. We can help you format content into a printed newsletter and a direct mail campaign. For more information on our communication services, contact us today at 781-337-0002.