Practicing List Hygiene to Better Reach Your Audience

list hygiene cartoon

 

Are you interested in the best possible return on investment in your direct marketing efforts? Start by cleaning up your contact lists.

Keeping Contacts Connected

In the marketing realm, there have never been more ways to connect with your audience. Tested methods like direct mail and email campaigns are still holding their own. An integral part of these campaigns are your recipients. Sending direct mail and marketing emails can bring a lot of attention to your organization or business. But this will only work if you are reaching and connecting with your intended audience. If you aren’t taking the time to maintain your contact lists, the success of your campaigns could be in jeopardy.

To make your message as effective as it can be, you’ll want to practice list hygiene. It’s impossible to ensure that every email or piece of mail you send out will reach the person you intend. However, practicing list hygiene is an effective way to improve delivery rates so that you are reaching as much of your audience as possible.

If you’re using a multi-channel marketing approach, you’ll have a direct mail list and an email list to keep updated. Both can benefit positively from list hygiene.

Direct Mail List Maintenance

Direct mail campaigns are an effective marketing tool, even in our increasingly digital age. In addition to giving recipients a feeling of personal connection with your business, direct mail pieces are opened by 70 to 80 percent of recipients, even when they consider it to be junk mail. That represents a big opportunity for your business to connect with potential customers.

In order to get the highest possible response from your direct mail campaign, you want to ensure that the names and addresses you have on file are current. Annually, 1.3 billion articles of mail fail to reach the intended recipient. Every piece that is returned to you costs an average of $3 to reprocess and resend. That can really add up if your list isn’t up to date.

Incorporating list hygiene practices can be a way for your business to save money. Improving deliverability of your mail reduces the number of returned mail pieces. You must either pay to resend these once you have the correct address information, or put them down as lost revenue if the information cannot be found. If you’re environmentally minded, sending mail that you know will be delivered means saving resources. You’ll be printing fewer mail pieces and fewer will return to you unopened.

Here at Paw Print & Mail, two practices we use to ensure the success of our direct mail services are the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) and NCOA (National Change of Address).

CASS Certification is a software which standardizes addresses in your database so that everything is spelled and formatted correctly. It will also remove any addresses that lack information or are likely to have an issue being delivered. According to PitneyBowes, there are errors that could impact deliverability on 23.5 percent of mail. You’ll want to thoroughly check the addresses on your list.

NCOA connects your mailing list with a USPS database, so that your list will have the most current address information. 40 million Americans will change their address every year. So, keeping up to date with a program like NCOA is essential to ensure what you send will be delivered to your intended recipient.

Email List Maintenance

With email, there are no added postage and processing fees as with returned direct mail. However, there is always a risk that your marketing emails will bounce back. Like postal addresses, email addresses change as new accounts are created and old addresses abandoned.

A bounce can happen for a number of reasons. Hard bounces are due to the recipient blocking your emails, deleting their email address, or sending to a domain or address that no longer exists. Or it could be a soft bounce, caused by a full inbox or trouble with the size of your message. If you’re getting a bounce, you should delete those emails from your list. And if you’re finding a group of subscribers that never open or interact with your emails, consider taking them off the list too. Not only is including them ineffective. It also has a negative impact on your email metrics, such as open and delivery rates.

You can also make sure you are mailing to an actual person. Generic company or organization emails are not as likely to interact with your content as email addresses that belong to a specific individual.

But, wait! Before you take out a large chunk of your email list, there are a few things you can do to try to keep these contacts in your audience.

Re-engage

Send out emails specifically to re-engage inactive members of your audience. Such an email could contain options to keep receiving emails from you, to change the type of emails they prefer to receive, or to unsubscribe entirely. Even if many choose to unsubscribe, it’s worth taking the time to respectfully reach out in this way, as there is always a chance recipients want to stay aligned with your brand.

Email Confirmation

Give your mailing list a second chance to opt-in to your emails. You could include a special offer in the email to pique interest. Having recipients confirm that their email is correct and they are interested strengthens your contact list.

Segment Your List

Try segmenting your lists into sections that will receive different content based on their interests and affiliations. Send a survey to subscribers, asking what content they are interested in receiving from you. Sending relevant information increases the likelihood of your emails being read and interacted with.

The unsubscribe button is an important part of any email campaign. You hope everyone will want to receive what you’re sending them. But, this is rarely the case. If you include the option to unsubscribe, it’s important to follow through. Emails can help build positive associations with your brand. Sending emails to a user that has unsubscribed can be detrimental, generating negative feelings about your practices.

You can use a third-party service like those for direct mail to help make email list maintenance easier. Such systems can automatically filter out addresses that are incorrect or always bounce, monitor your metrics, and schedule different kinds of campaigns.

The success of list maintenance lies in being proactive with your strategies. Find ways to make your list more efficient and effective, rather than being reactive, struggling to revamp your campaigns with a stale and outdated contact list. Consistently following good list hygiene practices will increase the effectiveness of your campaigns and make connecting with your audience more fruitful.

Do Your Company Colors Match Your Personality?

Brand colors on cork boardMaking an Impression

When you buy a new car, sweater, or sofa, you consider a number of factors: durability, comfort, ease of use. These are, of course, important qualities. But the initial appeal of the product, what draws you to it, may depend on one thing—the color.

So when evaluating and strategizing your company branding, how does color play into the mix?

Items like sofas and sweaters have the advantage of coming in multiple colors. If you don’t like one, there may be another that fits your needs. But when it comes to your company’s brand, there can only be one color combination to consider—the one with the best chance of making a good first impression.

And that impression is almost instantaneous. You may not realize it, but you’ve made up your mind about a product in 90 seconds or less from your first interaction with it. In that unconscious moment, your assessment is based 60 to 90 percent on color alone.

Studies show that 93 percent of consumers consider visual appearance of a logo and other branded materials before deciding whether or not to purchase. No matter how compelling your company’s services may be, or how well they are performed, your brand is only as strong as its presentation.

It is critical, then, to make a strong first impression. Color can be an impactful way to do so.

But Which Colors?

There are many theories about the emotions different colors evoke. However, the guidelines of color association are imprecise. An important reason for this is personal preference. People prefer certain colors over others and associate different things with the same color. Any meaning a color may have comes in infinite variations. Thus, choosing the color yellow for your brand will not automatically make consumers associate your brand with happiness.

This is not to say that color does not have an effect on how your brand is marketed. Rather than attempting to have the color of your logo speak for itself in terms of meaning, make sure that the color is appropriate for your brand.

What does this mean? Essentially, you want the color of your logo to represent your brand’s personality. The context of personality is necessary to make color choice important –otherwise, you could use any color.

Content creator network Dashburst found that 80 percent of clients believe color is the primary way to recognize a brand. A common example is Apple, which uses white as its main color. White can represent simplicity and cleanliness, and Apple is aligned with that. Their products are promoted as easy to use with a simple appearance, focusing on clean lines and a basic design. Apple is such a well-known company that the color of the product alone can trigger an immediate association.

Color Speaks to Your Customers

Consumers generally see white as an appropriate color for Apple’s brand. That feeling of appropriateness is important. Choosing a color that a majority of people favor is not as important as choosing a color that customers believe appropriately reflects your brand and what it represents. Though one study found that blue is the favored color of 1/3 of women and over 1/2 of men, blue should not necessarily be used in every logo or advertisement.

By this logic, even an unpopular color can be used to sell a product or brand well if it fits the product. Brown was only the favorite color of 3 percent of participants in the color survey. But it can be used effectively if it is aligned with what the brand does. If you are a woodworker or own a gardening company, shades of brown would be perfectly appropriate to include in your advertising, as it is representative of what you do.

Sometimes it is less about individual colors and more about color schemes. Similar base and background colors with a contrasting accent color help to accentuate the importance of the information presented in the accent color. If your background colors are mostly whites and grays, using red or green in small amounts will direct customers to those parts of your advertisement or website that you most want them to see.

Which Pulls Better, A or B?

It is also important to test different color schemes when you can. Track how those different campaigns compare to see what resonates best with your audience. In the Button Color Test, the website of Performable created two pages that looked the same, except for the color of the “Get Started Now” button. On one page, the button was green to align with the accent color scheme. On the second page, the button was red, the only place that color was used on the page.

The result? There was a 21 percent higher conversion rate with the red button page over the green button page. Many sites have such a button, whether it reads “Join Today” or “Donate Now.” You don’t want anyone viewing your site to have to search for these links. Having a color scheme that flows throughout the site and a high-contrast button can make aligning with your brand easy.

Other Color Considerations

Want to design a brand-new logo or re-evaluate your existing logo? Here are some additional nuances to consider before you release your brand to the world.

  • Know your competition. If your logo looks a lot like Company X’s, consumers may be confused. Making your brand colors different from your main competitors will help your company to differentiate itself.
  • Keep culture in mind. Different countries and cultures have associations with colors that can vary widely. Color association is imprecise. But, there are some colors that have culturally been assigned to certain things. (Think red and green at Christmastime.) If you’re going to market your brand globally, make sure you know your audience. Consider how the logo may need to be adapted or changed in different areas to avoid cultural gaffes.
  • Men like shades, while women prefer tints. Depending on which gender you are marketing towards, you may want to try using colors more appealing to that gender.

Using color is only effective if you choose the right color, one that fits with what you want your brand to say to the world. Ensuring the appropriateness of the color you choose can increase your potential of making a positive and lasting impression on your intended audience.

Whether you have an established color scheme or are looking to start fresh, contact Paw Print & Mail for all your printing needs.

Online Reviews – 50 revealing stats for your business

online-reviews-business-strategy

So you’re eager and ready buy that new range for your kitchen. Or hire a photographer for your wedding. Or you’re in the market for a new SUV. Or want to know where the best Thai food in town is. If you’re like most people, what’s one of the steps you take before plunking down your hard-earned cash?

Read a review

As a consumer, when looking to buy something your decision is most likely influenced by reading reviews, especially as the price tag rises.  EBay was one of the pioneers to implement an online review-based transaction process that turned out to be brilliant yet simple, and the foundation to their sustainability after all these years. Maintaining a positive review score encourages the buyer to give preference to those that rate high, while motivating the seller to do what’s necessary to please the buyer and earn a positive review. Simple, efficient, and generally very reliable.

How often do we see and hear the word value or phrase delivering value when reading or discussing what makes a business successful, success that’s not differentiated solely on price. It’s easy for a seller to “say” they deliver value, because it’s one of the right things to say when in front of a potential customer, but it’s quite another to actually deliver value, which can be measured in so many different ways. What’s perceived as value to one may not be considered value to another. In today’s marketplace, where the customer possesses virtually all the power, especially in an online marketplace, identifying and delivering value to a wide array of customers can be tricky and perplexing.

Enter the review

Customer reviews are the great equalizer in the marketplace. For the buyer they build confidence in the purchase decision, provide peer feedback data, and move them along the buying cycle. For the seller, reviews help get inside the customers’ head, they can (should) cause a business to level-up their game, and they can help to define what value means to the customer. Reviews can also result in a learning, if not humbling, experience.

About five years ago I was introduced to a simple and easy to use automated online survey service for Paw Print & Mail made available to me through one of my trade groups. The service, provided by Survey Advantage, has turned out to be one of the most valuable tools I’ve ever implemented over my 26 years in business. Not only has this tool influenced my sales and marketing efforts, but also my customer service standards; which in turn comes back around to influence sales. Do good work, earn good reviews, and build more sales. Repeat, then repeat again, and again. I call it the circle of business life!

But if you choose to solicit reviews, be prepared for a little surprise, if not disappointment, now and then. Sorry to break the news but life isn’t perfect and sooner or later, no matter how hard you try to please, a sour review will come along. Maybe you really screwed up an order, or maybe it’s not a screw up at all but a miscommunication or perception that has influenced the bad review; but that’s the checks-and-balance part of the equation and the part that makes you better, if you care and pay attention.

The key to handling a poor review is to respond immediately, clearly understand the nature of the complaint, ask what it would take to fix the problem, then do the right thing.

Reviews keep sellers honest and on their A-game when done well and implemented as part of a strategic marketing plan. Great for SEO ranking too!

Looking to grow and generate more leads for your business? Take a look at the following statistics to better understand the full potential of making and managing reviews for your business or organization.

50 stats that show the importance of online reviews

  1. 92% of consumers now read online reviews vs. 88% in 2014
  2. 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just one to three reviews vs. 29% in 2014
  3. Star rating is the number one factor used by consumers to judge a business
  4. 44% say a review must be written within one month to be relevant.This highlights the importance of recency in reviews!
  5. 68% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more vs. 72% in 2014
  6. 43% of consumers search a business by reviews at least one time per month vs. 38% in 2014
  7. 60% of consumers have searched a business at least six times per year vs. 56% in 2014
  8. There has been a considerable decrease in those that “never” search for a local business online, down from 22% to 9%, and an increase in those that search for a local business every day, up from 7% to 14%
  9. 73% have read online reviews on a desktop
  10. 29% have read reviews on a tablet
  11. 33% believe all local businesses should have websites designed for mobile vs. 25% in 2013
  12. 61% are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile optimized site
  13. 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading one to three reviews, vs. 29% in 2014
  14. 73% of consumers form an opinion by reading up to six reviews ,vs. 64% in 2014
  15. 88% of consumers form an opinion by reading up to ten reviews vs. 84% in 2014. This means it’s important to have a large body of reviews, as customers are reading more reviews now than in all years past.
  16. Only 12% are prepared to read more than 10 reviews vs. 16% in 2014
  17. 26% of consumers say it’s important that a local business responds to its reviews
  18. Only 14% of consumers would consider using a business with a one or two star rating
  19. 57% of consumers would use a business with a three star rating
  20. 94% of consumers would use a business with a four star rating
  21. 51% of consumers will select a local business if it has positive reviews
  22. 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, vs. 83% in 2014
  23. 48% will visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews
  24. 23% will visit the business premises directly after reading positive reviews
  25. 9% of consumers will phone a business after reading positive reviews
  26. 95% of consumers suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see bad scores
  27. Reliability (27%), expertise (21%) and professionalism (18%) remain the most important attributes to consumers
  28. More consumers are interested in “good value” than before, while less are concerned about the “expertise” of a business
  29. Word of mouth is still the most popular method of recommendation for consumers despite a 2% drop year over year
  30. On average, a consumer will look at over 10 information sources before making a purchase
  31. Over half of young people aged 18 to 34 say they trust online reviews more than the opinions of friends and family
  32. 88% of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchase decision
  33. Consumers who read reviews on a smartphone are 127% more likely to buy than those who read reviews on desktops
  34. Reviews are especially important for local searches as they influence up to 10% of the ranking
  35. Only reviews from friends and family are trusted more than online reviews. Reviews from experts and celebrity endorsements are less trusted than online reviews
  36. 30% of consumers assume online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews
  37. The three online platforms dedicated to reviews with the most global traffic are: yelp, tripadvisor, foursquare
  38. 58% of consumers said they have recently (within the past five years) began leaving more and more online reviews based upon customer service
  39. 100% of customers who make over $150,000 annually claim to leave reviews when it comes to a poor customer service experience
  40. Reviews of 50 or more, per product can mean a 4.6% increase in conversion rates
  41. 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews
  42. 105% customers are more likely to purchase while visiting, when site visitors interact with both reviews and customer questions and answers, and spend 11% more than visitors who don’t interact
  43. Reviews produce an average of 18% uplift in sales
  44. 64% of consumers would read online reviews when purchasing technology items
  45. 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores
  46. Between one and three bad online reviews would be enough to deter the majority (67%) of shoppers from purchasing a product or service
  47. 86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews
  48. Number of reviews posted every minute by Yelp users is 26,380
  49. If a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers returns back to your business
  50. 38% have read online reviews on mobile internet vs 24% on a mobile app

All stats sourced from 

BrightLocal,  Business2community,  Bazaarvoice,  webrepublic,  reprevive,  Econsultancy, business2community, Reevoo and Social Media Today.

Direct Mail Newsletters – worth sending (again)

Direct-Mail-is-PersonalI met with one of my nonprofit clients today for our annual first quarter review of the fundraising production services we performed for this organization in 2016, and also to get an idea of the results of their fundraising efforts.

The Executive Director announced with much pride and a big smile that 2016 was a very successful year for their fundraising efforts; generously exceeding the goal they set at the beginning of the year! Music to my ears!

What’s the secret sauce?

When asked what they attributed to their success, her response was being in front of their constituency on a regular basis. For the past four years, in addition to the various digital marketing channels they employ, this organization committed to printing and mailing 3-4 newsletter-style publications per year to tell their stories and engage with their clients and donors.

Slow and steady wins the race

Similarly, two of my longest running for-profit clients in Paw Prints’ 26 years so far, continue to print and mail their monthly newsletters without fail; for the past 20+ years and running.

Why do these and other organizations and businesses elect to print and mail a newsletter instead of relying solely on email? Because direct mail works for their business model and client base.

While good for some, is a direct mail newsletter right for your business or organization? Like many marketing strategies, the answer is it depends. It depends on who your ideal client/donor is.

Describe your target audience?

  • What are the demographics of your target audience? Criteria such as: age, income, education, occupation, lifestyle, client buying/donor giving history
  • What is your product or service? Small or low-priced consumer item? Large ticket item? Discretionary income item?
  • What is the lifetime value of a client?
  • Do you sell a value-added product or service, or a commodity?
  • Is the product space you’re in subject to constant and/or rapid change? Or subject to nuanced consistency?
  • What percentage of your revenue is derived from what percentage of your client base?

Looking at these criteria:

  • If you derive 80% of your revenue from 20% of your clients/donors
  • If you sell a high-value product or service
  • If the lifetime value of acquiring and retaining a client is relatively high
  • If your offering or organizational mission is somehow unique, technical, progressive, personalized, and subject to changes in the marketplace
  • If 80% of your target audience fits within a content-engaged demographic profile
  • If your target audience is engaged with the story you have to tell

… Then adding a direct mail newsletter to your marketing or fundraising mix is something to consider. Yes, you can handle all this with an email newsletter, and you should, but including a printed and mailed newsletter as part of a multi-channel approach is arguably a most effective strategy.

Quick reads for busy people

I’m a sucker for good content on the internet; for all the things I’m interested in and wish to accomplish in my personal and professional life. And, there is no lack of amazing content on every conceivable subject from smart people all over the globe.

So I subscribe, and subscribe again, and subscribe some more thinking that “it’s only a short read” and that I’ll get to every one of them. But reality and practicality is a different story! Even my most relevant and desirable eNewsletters get readily deleted when I’m crunched with work and projects – which is pretty much most of the time. When I’m staring at a constantly replenished list of emails in my inbox every day, I find my delete button gets quite a workout. Herein lies the bane of email marketing’s existence – along with overzealous spam filters.

People spend 30 minutes reading their mail

If a potential customer spends a few minutes on your website, that’s considered a good amount of time. What if we told you that they spend 10x more time with their mail?

According to the USPS, Americans spend an average of 30 minutes reading their mail on any given occasion. When it comes to magazines, they spend 45 minutes turning the pages.

Email newsletters are inexpensive to publish but increasingly challenging to be read. With a direct mail newsletter, the recipient has to physically lay their hands and eyes on the piece before deciding to read it or not, typically initiated with a quick “skim” of the content. With a captive and relevant design and headlines in place, the benefit of a physical piece is that it can be saved to be read at the recipient’s discretion and time-frame, away from the competition, clutter and chatter of all our digital media.

Physical mail leaves an imprint in the brain

Millward Brown, a research agency, found that physical media left a “deeper footprint” in the brain than digital media did. If people can touch and see a piece of direct mail, they’re likely to be more engaged with it.

A printed newsletter is tactile, triggering more of the 5 senses: touch, sight, and sometimes even smell (ink on paper is classic) that email simply can’t evoke. eNewsletters do the have the advantage of including links, videos, social network connections, etc., which is what makes email so powerful, but on its own, is easily lost or discarded.

People feel that direct mail is more personal than the internet

There’s something about receiving an email that can feel impersonal. It can take a long time for images to load, or they won’t load at all. With so many messages coming into your inbox, it’s hard to feel like any of them are special.

Direct mail, on the other hand, feels personal. According to USPS, 69% of people feel that mail is more personal than the internet. You’re receiving something tangible–like a ‘thank you’ card vs. a ‘thank you’ email.

Today’s digital print technology is impressive in its ability to personalize a document using variable data printing (VDP) applications. Here at Paw Print & Mail, we’ve employed sophisticated levels of VDP for many years, from simple mail-merge to personal URLs (PURLs) that integrate print and digital automation into a campaign that arguably rivals any multi-channel campaign.

Roughly 66% of people have bought something because of direct mail

According to the Direct Mail Association (DMA), nearly two-thirds of people have bought something because of a direct mail piece. Additionally, 70% of customers have re-started a relationship because of direct mail.

So what’s the justification and value proposition for considering direct mail for your newsletter marketing? I’ll bring it back to my nonprofit client’s comment at the beginning of this article… being in front of your constituency on a regular basis. The more ways and the more often you can share your brand and value proposition in a creative and relevant manner to your target audience, the more leads you will generate, deals you’ll convert, and money you will raise. Period. Slow and steady wins the race.

Care to talk more about your particular needs and challenges? Contact us at Paw Print & Mail for a chat.

Being Face-to-Face With Your Customers

Truism #1 – the more things change the more they stay the same

You’ve probably come across this truism at one time or another. I have found this phrase to be true on many occasions, which I suppose is what makes a truism, a truism.

Specifically here, this truism refers to a circling back to the fundamental practice of person-to-person sales and marketing. That is, growing your business or nonprofit organization by getting in front of your customers or donors by putting people first and making the relationship the central theme of your efforts; all day, every day.

Pretty obvious right? But in reality, how many sales and fundraising professionals are consistently in front of their customers or donors?And make no mistake, whether a for-profit customer or a nonprofit donor, both are considered a customer because in either case you are selling something – your product, service, or mission – to somebody for money, time, or both.

Whether you’re a B2B business, a nonprofit organization relying on donations, or a B2C business that sells bigger ticket items or only occasional purchases, your success relies on a higher level of engagement with your customer when compared to more consumer-based businesses where the one with the biggest ad budget and lowest prices usually lead.

More accurately, you live or die by how you view and respect the customer; because at the end of the day, the customer is in charge. With more ways to solve problems and vendor options to fix them than ever before, the customer is in the driver’s seat when deciding who to buy from – whether from you or your competitor.

Though dated, I recall this 1990 United Airlines TV ad that speaks to this very topic and is as true today as it was then. Take a look…

Truism #2 – Everything old is new again

While it’s foreign to imagine a time without our digital channels, before there was email, social media, and text messaging, and even before faxing and television, by-and-large, people did business face-to-face; a channel that require the buyer and the seller to be in the same space together telling stories, asking questions, sharing ideas, handling objections, negotiating, and ultimately shaking hands. In direct selling, the relationship is integral and unavoidable, whether positive or negative, and remains to this day, the most effective way to grow your sales, your business, or your brand in a meaningful and sustainable manner.

And you know, or should know, that if you aren’t in your customers’ space, somebody else is or will be. It’s just a matter of time; and in that space and time, your customer will gather information, draw their conclusions, and make their decision. Being the first one they think of is a by-product of making this the year of your customer.

And when you spend dedicated and interested time with your customers, you come to know more about them and their needs. When you can do this at a level that even anticipates their needs and makes their job so much easier as a result, not only do you get the sale, but you build upon the lifetime value of a customer or donor. It’s magical.

It takes effort, but it’s magical.

To this point, check out the following 2016 SalesForce Research data from their Second Annual State of Sales report:

Pulling from the immutable 80/20 Rule, to the 20% that comprise the sales and fundraising leaders in any given sector, they know the importance of the customer connection and are in front of their key customers on a regular business. But for the other 80%, personal contact with key customers tends to be less consistent because it’s so easy to become distracted – by technology, by time management, by the next shiny thing that appears in front of us, by trying the proverbial silver bullet, and by simply becoming complacent.

The leaders in sales, fundraising, and any other occupation – the 20 percenters – attain their success by always focusing on the fundamentals; doing the basic and often boring things that, when consistently applied and repeated over time, yield the desired results. And that thing is focusing on the customer in personal and meaningful ways.

So, I’m not advocating dropping your email marketing or blogging or the social media posts you use to build your brand and awareness, but reminding you (as I do for myself) that everyone else is doing some or all of these things too, because it’s convenient and current with the times. But those who make the extra effort to be in front of their customers this year, will the 20 percenters at end.

4 Content Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

Paw-Print-and-Mail-lead-generationThe future of marketing is all about content. Consumers want to see exactly what your business has to offer and how it can benefit their lives in a real way.

But what, exactly, does content marketing mean? Literally speaking, content marketing can be defined as a strategic marketing approach which focuses on creating consistent content materials to drive customer and lead generation.

So how can your business get involved with content marketing? Here are four big ideas to get you started.

1. Start a blog
Without a doubt, my Paw Print & Mail blog is my most prolific lead generation machine. Every published blog article adds a new page to my website which increases the number of pages indexed by the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. This strengthens my website’s SEO (search engine optimization) which helps Paw Print & Mail rank higher and more readily when people search for the types of products and services I sell.

But, simply publishing articles isn’t enough, the articles must be written with the reader in mind – providing content of value that informs and helps solve problems. A consistent and well-written blog hosted by your small business or nonprofit organization builds your online authority in your field of expertise and gives you the opportunity to relate to both clients and potential customers at the same time.

A blog is an excellent opportunity for your business to show clients its relatability. Write about topics such as how your product or service can improve lives, testimonials about people you’ve served or why your business is a better option than competition. You can even get personal and write about daily news topics or expert tips from your field.

By far the biggest challenge of adopting a blog as a marketing strategy is consistently devoting the time necessary for it to be effective. If you can arrange it, dedicate an employee to posting one blog article a week through your website, then share the article via your business’ social media accounts or email marketing.

2. Give a guided tour
Your small business can also utilize technology to record and share a guided tour of your facilities, complete with employee interviews and surprise interactions. Some consumers may feel uncertain about working with a business if they don’t know what’s “behind the curtain,” so make them feel comfortable by opening up with approachable content.

Record a video while touring your facilities and show clients the inner-workings of your business. Afterwards, you can share this video as part of your content marketing plan. Customers will feel engaged and attended-to, while also gaining a sense of trust for your small business.

3. Host a webinar
Right alongside a guided video tour is a webinar. While these may sound difficult, they offer a huge opportunity for potential customers to see your business and its expertise in the field. Develop a webinar on instructing clients how to use a specific product or service, offer hands-on training and real-life examples.

The most important part of hosting a webinar is offering real value to people. If consumers feel like your business has something important to offer them, the webinar will be more successful and generate more leads. Once you’ve given the webinar a try, see about making it a weekly or even monthly part of your business’s marketing strategy.

4. Develop a (blank) of the week
If your business is active on social media, create a content marketing strategy based on what you post. One easy method is developing a (blank) of the week… product, service, employee, board member, you name it. This type of content marketing allows consumers to get to know your business better and gives them something to look forward to every week.

One specific example is promoting a Question of the Week. Allow customers to write in via email, social media or snail mail with questions for your business, then answer them every week. This shows your organization’s transparency and eagerness to work with clients on a personal and relatable level.

When it comes to content marketing for your small business, jump on board with these main ideas. The more content you provide, the more involved your customers will feel, and your lead generation will skyrocket. So give it a try, and give it some content.

Key Components of Successful Marketing Videos

marketing-video-statisticWhen it comes to marketing, staying current on the latest trends has a vital impact on successful lead generation. Whether it involves a new social media app, a trending topic or an online marketing campaign, a business grows when it stays up-to-date.

Video marketing continues to grow exponentially for online in particular. There are more video posts online now than ever before, and video shares are only expected to increase. If your business wants to stay current on the latest marketing trends, put video to good use.

Interested in getting started? Check out these five key components of how to make a strategic video script which will set your marketing campaign apart and boost lead generation.

1. Get ‘Em Hooked
Like most aspects of marketing, the initial hook of a video script should catch viewers’ attention and draw them in. Let the audience know you are talking to them specifically by addressing them directly. Identify the target audience and brainstorm how you would want to be addressed from their perspective. By giving your video script a strong, attention-grabbing intro, it will draw viewers and set the tone for the rest of a successful marketing video.

2. Connect Emotionally
After hooking the viewer’s attention, establish a personal connection with them. An emotional connection makes viewers feel your company cares for them and the community, thus encouraging them to take immediate action after viewing. As human beings, strong feelings impact our decisions, logic and mindsets; your business can take advantage by connecting with consumers on a deep personal level.

3. Tell a Story
Once you’ve grabbed the viewer’s interest and connected with them, get down to the point. Every successful video marketing campaign should tell a story—the company’s story, the service’s story and benefits or a customer’s story. Use the time to expand and go in-depth on the narrative’s focal points. The goal should be to gain the viewer’s trust and empathy, but take time to give details surrounding the story and lead viewers into the next big point.

4. Share Your Values
When you’ve established a story basis, the time has come to drop a value bomb for viewers. This is the most important part of a marketing video and should be restrained to one short, concise sentence. Until this point, the entire video should be leading up to this moment. The value statement is the main takeaway viewers should get. Keep it values-driven, short and powerful to gain viewers’ attention and make them remember your product or service.

After your business has established its value statement, wrap up with an influential outro. The goal of a video close involves viewers doing something after watching—a call to action. Depending upon the video’s focus, the call to action could be centered on buying a specific product, trying a service or just stopping in to take a look. Be sure to include information for a website, social media or any upcoming events.

Video marketing is a current and useful option to take advantage of for your business. A strong video script consists of five key components, each one with a specific purpose, working together to produce a video and generate successful leads.

By utilizing these component strategies, your company can create engaging, successful marketing videos, which will help promote your product or service. Try it out and see how your business grows.

Put the “why” in your marketing

In a 2009 TED Talk, leadership expert Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”

Do you know your company’s “why”? (Hint: It’s not to make money). Think about the core purpose of your business, and then think about how you market your products or services. Are they aligned? As Sinek has found by studying successful companies like Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Patagonia, having loyal customers is all about attracting the people who share your fundamental beliefs.

In each of these companies, and other similarly focused companies and organizations, leadership has flipped the typical business model upside down. Instead of leading a company’s marketing with the “what” of the company – the products and services they sell – followed by the “how” a company does what it does, companies that enjoy the strongest brand loyalty, which tends to translate into profit, lead with clarity on “why” they are in business and “why” they do what they do.

Ideally every product, service, and cause should exist to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Who would buy it or why do it, otherwise? What’s a positive difference? That depends on a person’s need; from making someone smile, to saving someone’s life and everything in between. At the end of the day, the “why” is your most powerful value proposition and not your product.

Your “why” sets you and your business or organization apart from your competition. Your “why” resonates and imprints on your customers’ psyche and emotions which helps shield your “what” from competing solely on price.

It’s your “why” that gets people talking about you and spreading your brand.

Once you are clear on your “why”, share it with your customers and your staff, and sprinkle it into all your marketing efforts. While you may have the best product or service on the market, sharing your “why” will help potential customers understand how working with you will benefit them.

Curious to hear more about what Sinek had to say? Join the over 27 million other viewers and watch his TED talk here.

Sinek-TED-Talk

Top 7 Ways to Grow your Business on a Small Marketing Budget

Paw-Print-Mail-MarketingI don’t know what it’s like in your business or organization, but here at Paw Print & Mail, summertime is our slower season. The pace will pick up soon as people come off vacations, schools ramp back up, and businesses and nonprofits in general return to the mindset and realization that “as the 4th quarter approaches, it’s time for that final drive downfield to end the year with a score!”

Quite often, the first thing to go when times get slow or get tough, is the marketing budget. But that’s a mistake as marketing your business or organization is essential, especially during the slow times and tough times, to maintain brand awareness and being “top-of-mind” when your customers are ready to buy.

Try these seven low or no-cost tips to create a “buzz” and generate leads when your marketing budget is small.

Social Media. Devote time to setting up or improving your Social Media footprint. It requires little in terms of financial investment but does require a time commitment in providing high-value content and frequent updates.

So, what’s “high-value content”? This depends on who your customers are and what products or services they sell or provide; but some of the most valuable and high-ROI content you can generate is simply paying attention to what’s happening in your customers’ worlds and promoting them.

The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sound of their name, including their business name. By simply devoting 30 minutes a day or every other day towards seeking and finding tidbits of information on your clients’ world, and posting a “shout out” on your Social Media site to mention their event, storewide sale, awards, accomplishments, and achievements, to express thanks for the project you and your team just completed for them, or kudos to them for how well they took care of you as their customer – goes a long ways towards building goodwill and strengthening your relationships.

Public Relations. Getting PR for your business does not require paying a PR firm. Check out local journalist gatherings or contact media directly. Get to know your contacts and help them learn about your business and how you provide value to your clients. Come up with your own questions and answers to make their jobs easier too.

Network. Expanding your circle of professional contacts can help drum up more business. Consider bartering your services for services you need but do not have adequate skills to perform.

Another effective form of networking is to invite your clients’ out for a cup of coffee. Asking a client or prospect to lunch can sometimes feel like too much too soon depending on where you are in the sales and marketing “dating” process, whereas a coffee visit is a more casual outreach towards building client relationship. If this sounds more palatable, give it a try; who isn’t game for a coffee break on some of those more hectic days?

Increase Your Community Involvement. Being involved in your community, whether on a nonprofit board, as an organizer or participant in fundraising or civic events, as an advocate or ambassador for an organization, by donating your products or services to a local charity, or on some level that finds you working with others towards a common goal or cause, can result in building your personal and professional brand, and social capital.

The key point here is to be involved for the love and benefit of the cause and not for self-promotion. By doing so, not only will you meet new people to strike up new relationships while making a positive difference, but the exposure and involvement can be good for business as a side benefit as well!

Try Direct Mail. Direct mail has been producing solid returns for years. If you haven’t sent a mailed piece to your list in a while, it might be time to consider sending a campaign via mail to help support what you are doing online as well.

To optimize your direct mail budget, thoughtfully construct your mailing list to include true target audience recipients to avoid wasting printing and postage dollars on mailing to those who are less likely to buy what you sell. At Paw Print & Mail, we’re experts at direct mail marketing and helping our clients optimize their mailing dollars.

Ask for referrals. This often overlooked function feeds off the most powerful form of marketing there is – word of mouth – to produce faster results than most any other type of approach.

Testimonials. Similar to referrals, ask your clients for testimonials and begin adding them as positive reinforcement content on your website, brochures, direct mailings, and Social Media sites.

At Paw Print & Mail, we contract with online survey specialist, Survey Advantage, to collect post-sale customer satisfaction data that we then post on our Paw Print & Mail Reviews page to not only inform visitors, but to optimize our SEO strength.

So you see, when you focus on “relationship”, it doesn’t necessarily take a large advertising and marketing budget to pull together some very powerful, organic, meaningful, and sustainable tactics to get your business or organization through the slow times, and beyond.

Lead generation and brand building with a printed Newsletter

Hanson Doremus NewsletterTalk about consistency and discipline, Hanson & Doremus Investment Management in Burlington, Vermont has not missed publishing and mailing their monthly investment newsletter Thoughts to their clients and key prospects since 1995. I know this because Paw Print & Mail has had the privilege of being their printing company since that time.

When asked why founder Eric Hanson persists mailing his newsletter all these years, particularly in a digital age, he knows there’s no substitute for disseminating the valuable work that goes into producing such a document, while reinforcing his brand, than putting it right in someone’s hands. Says Hanson, “It’s far too easy for people to pass over or delete an email in a crowded inbox. We still believe in mail because it’s tactile, it has shelf life, and because mail has become more unique and impressionable than email. We make the digital version available on our website, but the printed version gets more readership.”

A newsletter is a cost-effective medium for building and maintaining regular contact with customers and prospects. In its 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends study, the Content Marketing Institute found that 78 percent of respondents used newsletters. Research firm Nielsen Norman Group asked respondents how they preferred to receive company updates, and 90 percent cited newsletters, compared to 10 percent for social media.

Developing a newsletter program with a solid audience will prove to be a very important marketing asset for the duration of your company. Think about how on any given website you only have a few seconds to capture the attention of a visitor before they are potentially gone forever.

Developing a strategy to attract new customers and retaining existing clients is crucial to successful marketing. Maintaining a company blog is a great way to get your personal message out to many viewers. But a blog is a passive effort, meaning a user must navigate to it in order to get the message. Transforming a passive blog into a pro-active newsletter program is a logical ancillary step.

Build Awareness:
Publishing a newsletter gives you the opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of your company and its products and services. Customers and prospects may have a limited perspective of what your company can offer if they only view your advertisements or receive promotional email. Newsletter content builds a broader picture. To encourage readers to find out more, add a call-to-action to encourage action and include links to more detailed information on your website.

Demonstrate your Expertise:
A newsletter can demonstrate your expertise and build confidence in your company as a potential supplier. Marketing consultancy PR20/20 notes that newsletter content that provides valuable information to customers and prospects helps to establish a company as an industry leader. To establish leadership, include articles that cover important issues in your market sector or share information on industry research. Provide details of any conferences where your company is making a presentation.

Promote your Business or Organization:
You can use newsletters to promote products and services or launch new products. Including information on special offers helps reinforce the effect of your advertising and promotional campaigns. Running special offers exclusive to readers enhances the value to the newsletter. You can integrate newsletter content with other elements of a new product launch by including announcements and articles related to the product.

Connect with Your Clients and Prospects:
Issuing newsletters at regular intervals – weekly, monthly or quarterly – helps you maintain contact with customers and prospects between purchases or sales calls. If you face a decision-making process that is long and complex, for example, you can use newsletters to communicate with all decision makers throughout the process. If customers buy your products or services infrequently, you can maintain contact between purchases so you build a strong relationship before the next sales opportunity.

Expand your Marketing Footprint:
Newsletters can help you increase the coverage of your target audience. By placing information about the newsletter on your website, you can capture contact details of new prospects by asking visitors to subscribe. Issuing newsletters by email to all of your customers and prospects is a low-cost method of communication, leaving more in your market budget for advertising or other promotional activities. Newsletters are therefore an extremely valuable marketing tool used by ourselves as well as by our customers. If you don’t have a newsletter, here are twelve reasons you should:

1. To increase awareness. Your newsletter should give enough information to create awareness about what you are offering your customers. People should get a good idea of how it would be to deal with you, or to buy your products, so that when they leave, they will feel compelled to find out more.

2. Position your brand. You should create the best first impression about your products or services on your newsletter. Customers tend to use your marketing and communication tools to form an impression of your business. Newsletters are an extremely strong marketing tool to differentiate businesses from one another.

3. To get more business from current clients. A newsletter is an effective way to let clients know about your other services and show them how they can benefit from those services, without being “pushy”.

4. To get repeat business from former clients. People who used your services or bought your products once will purchase again–when they’re ready. A newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with them until they are.

5. To educate prospects. A newsletter that provides prospective clients with valuable information helps them make better decisions, allows you to demonstrate your expertise, and provides a mechanism for staying in touch with them until they are ready to hire you.

6. To generate word-of-mouth referrals. Newsletters have pass-along value. A good newsletter will be shared with an average of three other people, even more online.

7. To build your contact list. You can offer visitors to your website a subscription to your newsletter in return for providing their email (and other contact information). When speaking or networking, you can offer to send your newsletter to people who provide you with their business card.

8. To establish expertise and credibility. Your writing helps prospects, publishers, reporters, meeting planners, and referral sources see you as the expert you are.

9. To provide content for, and traffic to, your web site. Your newsletter can drive traffic to your website or blog. Your newsletter content can be re-used as content on your web site or blog, generating additional traffic from search engines and social media.

10. To shorten the sales process. People who respond to your newsletter are better informed about what you do and pre-sold on your ability to do it, in contrast to people who come to you via advertising.

11. To serve as a networking tool. Your newsletter is a tool to reach out to other professionals. You can interview them for an article, conduct a survey, ask them to write an article, or ask permission to put them on your mailing list.

12. To add value to your services. A newsletter can provide an added benefit for clients. Give clients “subscriptions” or added value to current services or discounts on products. Put a price tag on the newsletter but send it free to current clients.
A newsletter requires an investment of time, and possibly some capital, but the return on that investment can be substantial. If you want to grow your business, a newsletter is one of the most highly leveraged marketing activities you can do.

Since 1990, Paw Print & Mail has been the reliable and expert source for printing and mailing newsletters, nonprofit appeal campaigns, and B2B printed communications of all kinds for hundreds of businesses and organizations. Read our reviews or contact us to plan or produce your next project.