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Blog posts in Direct marketing

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Confessions of a direct mail junkie

June 02, 2016 by Dee Blick

Confessions of a direct mail junkie{{}}I'm a direct mail junkie (please excuse the pun!). I cut my teeth on direct mail 33 years ago and since then I've generated some £10 million of sales from direct mail for businesses big and small.

Now I'm no longer the lone voice in the wilderness proclaiming the many benefits of direct mail for small businesses. Direct mail is very much the comeback kid. More of us are reaching for a pen and paper when we want to grab the attention of prospects or clients.

Why should direct mail be part of your marketing mix?

  1. It's fantastic for generating meetings with cold prospects. In the past two years, I've been running quarterly direct mailshots aimed at small businesses for one of my clients, an accountant. We've added 15% to their fee income from direct mail alone. The main call to action in the letter is to "get in touch and book a meeting at no charge".
  2. When it comes to impact, direct mail beats many marketing tools hands down. A snazzy envelope in your corporate colours; a lumpy element to add intrigue and you're pretty much guaranteed your envelope will be opened and the contents read.
  3. You can target a handful of folk or thousands in one hit. And you can increase the response to your initial mailshot by adding in a cold call, an email, a follow-up mailshot or a charming introduction on social media.
  4. It's a proactive tool that puts you in charge. You're not relying on people finding you online; you're targeting them.
  5. Despite the hike in postage costs, direct mail is still the ultimate shoestring marketing tool. Often it only takes a letter and a business card to whet the appetite of a cold prospect or encourage a client to get in touch.
  6. And, if you are planning a campaign using email, add direct mail as an additional element to build on awareness and interest.

But how can you avoid falling into the junk mail trap?

The big worry with direct mail is that your envelope and its contents are going to be chucked away without so much as a backward glance. So how do create mailshots that don't look like junk mail?

  1. Get under the skin of the audience you're targeting. What are their underlying needs? What are their present arrangements likely to be? What's happening in their world that could impact positively or negatively on their desire and ability to do business with you? Capture your thoughts. You'll need them later on when you're crafting your messages.
  2. Clean and accurate names and addresses. Squeaky clean data is at the heart of all successful direct mail campaigns. So, if you're buying a mailing list, ensure your list provider is a member of the Direct Marketing Association. Ask for a sample of 6-12 names and addresses and check their accuracy. Are you provided with a named contact? Is it the contact that you need? Ask for their mailing accuracy guarantee - it should be at least 95%. If you're planning on making telephone calls before or after your mailing, make sure the list has been cleaned on a daily basis against the Telephone Preference Scheme.
  3. Gather your compelling messages. Would a couple of client case studies convey that you're a safe, trusted and experienced pair of hands? How about a few lines of genuine unedited testimonial from delighted clients? Can you provide facts and figures to support your promises? Make a list of the top five relevant benefits you believe will encourage the person to contact you.
  4. Be clear on what you want the person to do once they've got your message. It's unrealistic to expect a cold prospect to buy on the strength of one communication alone. But, suggesting a meeting, a phone call or an email to express their initial interest are realistic calls to action.

Copyright © 2016 Dee Blick, a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and an Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book and The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for your Small Business.

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How to nail your in-store marketing in a small store

August 10, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to nail your in-store marketing in a small store{{}}Many independent retail businesses spend a significant amount of their budget on advertising to drive footfall into their store; but they miss out on potential sales because of poor store layout and a lack of in-store promotional materials.

In-store marketing has the power to turn prospects into converted customers and drive add-on sales. But where do you start?

Look in from the outside

Do you have any shop window space? Go outside your store and look in from the outside. If you were a passer-by would you be tempted to enter? Your window space is your most valuable piece of in-store advertising; think of it the same way you do your website homepage. You want to communicate your brand to passing trade; as well as using your products, a simple window cling can add colour or advertise a special offer.

Step inside

When you walk into your store, what's the first thing you see and where are your eyes drawn? Ideally your best sellers should be as near to the entrance as possible; you know these products sell well, they are a safe bet and the perfect introductory point. The entrance to your store should have a distinct space to give your customer time to orientate themselves, so position these products close to your entrance but don't over-crowd the space.

Watch and learn

Have you ever simply observed the way your customers move around your store? This can be insightful. Nine times out of ten, first time visitors are likely to pick up the first thing they see, it helps them familiarise themselves with their surroundings and your products. However this can be different dependent upon the store layout and product – take notes.

Identify opportunities

As a rule of thumb your high traffic areas tend to be the till point and fitting rooms (if you have them), so make the most of these areas. For example, if you're a clothing retailer try merchandising a wall next to the fitting room with jewellery and accessories. It will prompt your customers to consider whether they need something to match the item they plan on purchasing. At the till point customers have already made the decision to purchase an item and are in a purchasing frame of mind. This is why we tend to advertise lower value items here. Try placing a brightly coloured Dump Bin near your till point that advertises special offers.

Create a flow

No matter how small the space, you want to encourage people to move around. If you're a relatively small store you might have to use a free-flow layout. Instead of having defined aisles, the angles and corners of fixtures guide customers around your store. If space is tight you may find a free-standing display unit helpful, providing shelf space but with a relatively small footprint. You can brand these with your company logo, text and colours too.

Copyright © 2015 Mark Simpson, chairman of Simpson Group which runs the Shop4Pop website.

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Is print dead?

February 05, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Is print dead?/letterbox with a red door background{{}}With the popularity of online advertising and email as marketing channels, the low cost of delivery has made the allure of e-media powerful. But it’s leaving many marketers asking, is print dead?

We get a staggering amount of digital communication each day, and every message is easily replaced by the next tweet, email or status update.

Print, however, is tangible, high-impact and high-ROI — and it stands out in today’s increasingly cluttered online universe. Direct mail provides a tactile response that stimulates the senses, creating more positive brand associations and making the communication more memorable. And it’s impervious to spam filters.

But it’s not about abandoning one for the other. By merging the digital world with the world of print, the success of both increases.   

Print marketing: the secrets of success

In order to get the best return on your investment, your print marketing should contain these three elements: 

  1. A targeted message: You need to know your audience. It won’t matter how well-designed or creative the direct mail piece is if the message isn’t targeted and appropriate for the audience. Using the customer’s name to customise each piece of mail is a good start, but don’t stop there. Use search and purchase history to customise images based on the individual’s interests, gender, occupation, and point in the buying cycle. For instance, if you know a person has already made a purchase, follow up with a personalised piece that directly refers to her recent behavior.
  2. A compelling message: You need to understand your customer’s needs and present a compelling solution and reason to act. How does your message help your customer or prospect? It needs to be extremely clear why and how she should contact you. This correlates with the personalised message we just talked about. In any follow-up correspondence thanking the customer for her purchase, you could include an offer to refer a friend, a reminder to purchase a complementary item or flag up an upcoming sale.
  3. An interesting or interactive format: Your print piece needs to engage the customer with images and messaging that demand interaction. This can be achieved through innovative folds, personalised messaging and attention-getting post-press finishing, such as foil stamping, die cutting, embossing, UV coating, metallic inks, scratch-off and dimensional mailers. For instance, Kohl’s has had success by sending postcards with scratch-off coupons and Staples distributed a back-to-school piece that featured a die cut stapler that doubled as a coupon.

The companies that are the most successful at integrating print into their marketing mixes are masters at crafting a cohesive campaign across all marketing channels with personal, relevant materials.

Andrew Field is the ceo of

Improve your customer communication in 20 seconds using the 'find' function

September 18, 2013 by Andy Bounds

Improve your customer communication in 20 seconds using the 'find' function/computer key F Find{{}}A company recently asked me to review one of their proposals.

I quickly realised they had made the common mistake of talking too much about themselves and their proposition, and too little about its impact on the beneficiary.

So, I used the “find” function in word, and discovered that their 22-page document contained:

  • Their company name 149 times (the customer’s name appeared 5)
  • “we” 78 times; but “you” 11
  • “our” 51: “your” 7

Not customer-focused… in what was supposed to be a customer-focused document.

It took me under 20 seconds to find this out. Their response: “We’re devastated. We had no idea. We’ll never write like this again.”

And they haven’t.

How many techniques are there that can change you forever and in only 20 seconds?

What you can “find”

Here are examples of what you can search for using “find”:

  • The word “you” and the beneficiary’s name. These should appear more times than “we”/your name. It’s worth checking every document for this — your proposals, brochures, website and so on.
  • “And” and “but”. People often use these words to join two short sentences into one long one. But long sentences are harder for people to read quickly.
  • Words that you know you use a lot.

Quick improvements

If your searches uncover things you don’t like, the solutions are straight-forward:

  • Change the focus from “We do X” to “You want to achieve Y. We can help by doing X”.
  • Replace “and/but” with a full stop.
  • Use a thesaurus to find alternatives.

This is one of those tips that you might feel you don’t need. But my customer didn’t think they needed it either. And since it only takes 20 seconds to do, it’s worth trying. You never know what you’ll find.

Action point

Choose a document that is complete/near completion. Search for the words that will show you what you need to know about your content. Make the changes you need to transform its impact.

Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

Why you can't ignore split testing

August 29, 2013 by Olivia Rose

Why you can't ignore split testing/test tubes{{}}As if the process of devising an effective online marketing plan is not hard enough, small businesses also have to come up with creative approaches that will capture the attention of their target market.

Design matters — whether it’s for a website, a blog, a newsletter or a social media page. You need to use the best possible approach to ensure you get results online.

Split testing — also known as A/B testing — is a crucial part of this process. Without it, it is impossible for you to achieve an optimum online presence. If you are a small business owner and you want to effectively reach out to your consumers online, then you should use split testing to create the best online designs.

What is split testing and why is it Important?

Split testing is the process of developing multiple designs and using them alternately to determine which one is more effective. Marketers aiming for the highest possible conversion rates on their websites and blogs commonly use this practice. It can determine which design works better in selling a product, generating leads, and channelling and maintaining a website’s traffic.

Above all, it’s important because it allows business owners to learn about their market’s online behaviour and taste. Pin down which creative look, design, and approach works with your market to help you sell your products and services. Split testing is the single most effective way to find out how to get potential customers and clients to convert.

Which tools do you need for split testing?

Here are some of the most effective split testing tools that you can use for your business.

Google Website Optimizer: To optimize your site, you need to develop alternate versions of your webpage and determine which one works better. Along with a conversion URL, you need to submit these pages to Google through the Google Website Optimizer. This powerful and simple tool will help you put together an optimized site free of charge.

Split Testing Pro: This desktop-based application combines all the possible tools that you need in order to test multiple versions of your website or blog. In exchange for a low-cost monthly subscription, you will be able to run multiple versions of your online marketing platforms and determine which ones will give you the conversion rate that you need.

Optimizely: Optimizely is a web-based application that copies web pages from a given URL and substitutes different variations for the script used for each one of them. After that, users are granted access to variations through an in-browser editor. Display features can get a little messed up after the substitutions, but you will be able to use this app to come up with the best copies and scripts for conversion.

Guidelines for split testing

There are some guidelines that you should keep in mind as you use split testing to improve the conversion rate of your blog or website.

Test text vs images

Some people respond better to text, while others respond best to visual images. In the process of creating a high-conversion website or newsletter, split test text-heavy studies against image-heavy designs. Doing so will help you determine which text-to-image ratio will work best for your website.

Test single page vs multiple page opt-ins

While there are certain opt-in processes that are too complicated to squeeze into a single page, there are some that can sit perfectly in a single web page. For the best possible conversion rate, you have to find out whether a multiple-page opt in process works better for your consumers or whether they will respond best to one-page opt-in schemes.

Test product images

If you are selling a particular product, you need to determine whether adding an image will be beneficial and which product shot will do the best job in inviting potential customers to convert. Test multiple product shots and find out which one will appeal to your market best.

Split testing can be a time consuming. However, it will pay off in the end, helping you achieve the best conversion rates. The power of effective social media marketing design is phenomenal and through using split testing you can achieve the best results possible.

Olivia Rose blogs about business and uses split testing and multivariate data analysis to conduct effective online marketing.

How to use text to boost your next event

August 23, 2013 by Dan Parker

How to use text to boost your next event/mobile marketing{{}}Communication is so important for businesses to succeed. Imagine a world without order confirmations, delivery updates or any acknowledgement you even exist. We’d be forever wondering if we did actually buy those skinny-fit trousers in coral red and if they’ll even arrive tomorrow, or perhaps, next Thursday. The thing is, the better the communication, the better your customers feel about your brand.

Organising an event can be really exciting. However, it can be quite nerve-racking wondering if anyone will show or if the canapés will be delivered in time. Your company’s image can be mistakenly forgotten.

Pre-event communication can have a serious boost to attendance whilst showcasing your excellent customer service. Let me show you how SMS text messages can significantly increase your engagement, allow you to fill seats and crucially help make your event a success.

The “useful” reminder

Maximising attendance can be a real challenge for event organisers. A free event is sometimes forgotten; emails are quickly scanned or missed entirely; even an honest “don’t think I’ll bother” is often to blame.

More and more of us receive reminder messages from our dentist or a prompt prior to a hair appointment. A “useful” reminder can also demonstrate your thoughtfulness towards your customers. Sending a message with the time, venue, a Google Maps link or even the closest car park may sound simple, but is often overlooked.

But why stop there?

This communication is a perfect excuse to excite your attendees and demonstrate your business ethos before they’ve even arrived. Adding some personality or even a sneak preview to the message can really highlight your brand.

Let me show you an actual recent example:

Hey Kate. The red carpet is out! The premiere of Collaborate Cornwall 2012 is showing tomorrow at the Lighthouse Cinema, Newquay and you are on the guest list. We look forward to welcoming you from 9am-9.30am. Map to Mount Wise Car Park. The Partner to Succeed team.

Your attendees are sure to be impressed.

The follow-up message

And relax, your event is over! Time to grab a cuppa... Well, maybe just not quite yet. You probably have a ton of attendees with the thoughts of your event whizzing around their heads. This is a perfect opportunity to leave a positive image of your company. Show them you care with a willingness to listen. All this can be achieved with a simple acknowledgement follow-up. You may even get some crucial feedback for your next event — after all a quick reply by text is so easy!

Here’s the follow-up message:

Wow — what a day? We hope you found Collaborate Cornwall 2012 a useful and informative event. We’d love to get your feedback — please feel free to send your comments by replying to this message. Thanks for attending! The Partner to Succeed team.

All of this for less than the price of a few crisps and sausage rolls.

Dan Parker is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the marketing director of FireText. FireText has recently partnered with Eventbrite UK.

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