Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Yes, we all have those days where we just want to be miserable, and being continuously told to ‘smile’ by an annoying colleague certainly doesn’t help. But, much as we hate to admit it at the time, they may have a point.
Happiness is conducive to an effective working environment, both internally and externally. ‘A smile goes along way’ so the saying goes, and that applies to every step of the sales process. If you’re finding that clients can’t get away quick enough, it may be time to take a look in the mirror and start working on that grin.
Research has shown that smiling can have a positive effect on personal and business success. If a salesperson smiles at you, you are more likely to stay in a store longer and buy something. If you can’t decide on a purchase, a smile from a seller can reassure you and complete the sale. Even unconsciously, a smile can have a lasting impact on you. In an issue of MIND magazine, researchers at Duke University discovered that we remember a person’s face better if that person is smiling. Which is why no matter how much our feet hurt on the last day of an exhibition, you’ll always find the Whichlist.com team beaming.
Smiling and laughing is contagious. Whilst a moody person can bring you down, a smile from someone can instantly make you feel happier. And it’s hard not to like somebody that makes you feel good. Professor Sigal Barsade has done copious research into emotional contagion between people, insisting that people can infect others with their personal mood, sometimes without either party realising. (There is even some evidence to suggest that negative feelings may have played some part in bringing about the country’s current economic climate.) Knowing that your personal mood can be responsible for how others feel means it is not only crucial to smile at customers, but also important to give off positive vibes to the rest of your colleagues. A happy team is usually a more productive one.
And don’t keep your smile just for face to face meetings; it can have a significant impact on your phone manner too. A smile doesn’t have to be seen, it can be heard through the tone of your voice. Try it on your next phone call and you may be surprised how much difference it can make to the way the other person responds.
Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Today I’ve been thinking about calendars; promotional calendars to be precise. Yes, it may only be August, but if Selfridges can open a Christmas shop, I can start contemplating New Year gifts.
Promotional gifts are a great way to reward your customers for their loyalty, and to get your company some free advertising. There are hundreds of gifts to choose from, ranging from pens through to key rings, mugs and even personalised books. However, I’m currently favouring the calendar as the gift of choice.
The key to a great promotional gift is something that will be of use to your clients, will be displayed in a prime location in their office and has maximum staying power. One of the benefits of a calendar is that they have universal appeal, they provide a useful service, particularly in a busy office, and you know they’ll be kept all year. (Just in time for you to send out another one.) And, unlike smaller items like pens or mugs, they rarely get lost or broken.
You can choose from desktop calendars or large wall planners – there is a shape and size to fit every company’s style and budget. And, due to the large surface area of the calendar, there is plenty of space to do some serious brand promotion. A clearly displayed logo on every page will be enough to ensure that your clients remember your name all year. If you’re using a different image for each month, there’s the option of using photos of your product, or your sales team, or anything that is personal to your company and will help to develop the relationship between you and your recipient.
Whatever item you choose to put out there bearing your company’s name, it is a representative of your organisation. It’s crucial that the values of your company are reflected in it. If you’re a company concerned with environmental health, it makes sense to produce a calendar made from recycled paper. The quality of your gift is also vital. Whilst budget is an important factor, sending out a cheap looking product won’t do your brand any favours – it certainly won’t build an impression of professionalism or value.
It is important to remember who your key customers are and tailor the tone and style of your calendar to them. If you’re sending to high-flying corporate types with designer indulgences, a toilet humour theme is perhaps not for them.
We all know that marketing isn’t about constantly reaching out to new prospects; it’s about developing relationships and maintaining them too. No, a calendar can’t do that all by itself, but it is a step in the right direction. So, maybe that’s something Whichlist.com will send out this year. All I’ve got to do is decide which month I want to be!
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
The black cloud may have lifted, but there’s a long way to go before the economic balance is restored. So, it’s no surprise that some companies are using vouchers and special offers to entice customers to their website or venue.
Popular websites such as Moneysavingexpert.com, Vouchercodes.co.uk, and the many others floating around in cyber space, seem to have bred over the last few years. Nowadays, it’s the norm to choose which restaurant you go to based on the vouchers available. There is almost a guilt attached to paying full price for anything when there are so many offers on the market all ready for the taking. However, whilst bagging a bargain is great for the consumer, how great is it for your business?
Vouchers, discounts, special offers – they all have the power to increase foot fall and bring a new range of clientele to your books. There is an opportunity for businesses, by offering savings, to reach consumers who wouldn’t normally have access to their products or services – bringing longer term benefits in addition to short term profits. The trial may be all that a consumer needs to be persuaded that the quality of what they receive, or their enjoyment of it, is worthy of the higher price tag. In this instance, the consumer may continue to buy from the company even when the offer has expired.
Research recently undertaken by online agency fast.MAP on behalf of Promotional Marketing magazine supports this idea, showing how discounts can entice people over from competitors’ brands. A whopping 76% of the people asked, said that they’d try an alternative to their usual brand if they were given a coupon of 40p or more on a purchase of £2. 28% of these went on to say that after being tempted to use another brand they have remained loyal to this brand because they preferred it.
It is common sense to take heed of the population’s financial situation and respond to it. After all, Pizza Express has been running a two for one offer throughout the recession and it seems to have been a great success. However, it is important to acknowledge the possible consequences of such long term offers. What happens when they finally come to an end? Will the regular customers continue to eat at full price, or will they simply drift away? After all, who wants to pay full price for something you’ve been having for half price for over two years?
There is a real risk of devaluing your product/service if you aren’t careful with your use of offers. Will reaching new clientele be at the expense of losing your existing one? What if people become immune to your offer, do you then reduce it further? It takes a careful balancing act to reap the benefits of your offer, without paying the price.
We’re told that the best things in life are free. That’s all well and good for the consumer, but not so much for the struggling business owner who needs to make a profit. The key to maintaining the value of your product is to ensure that any discount you give is earned. If your customers don’t have to do anything to get their voucher, they won’t value it. Whether it’s asking them to subscribe to your newsletter, or giving discounts to people who spend over a certain amount of money, there are ways to make sure you protect your brand’s reputation.
Don’t overlook the positives of using offers and vouchers to draw customers in. A coherent strategy needs to be put in place to monitor their effectiveness and long term consequences, but that doesn’t undermine their potential in the work place. Research commissioned by Valassis, a leading coupon service provider, at the end of 2009, shows that there has been a 28% increase in the number of consumers looking for a promotional offer in the last twelve months alone.
Monday, June 7th, 2010
I recently read a news story about a two year old girl who had caught a 20lb fish with her Barbie fishing rod. Amidst a whole hoard of professional fishermen and expensive equipment, the toddler with her toy rod and worm for bait, reeled in the catch of the weekend – a 30 inch Muskie. I’d like to bet that nobody had marked her out as competition or considered a Barbie rod a vital piece of equipment, and yet the result was clear. A perfect example as to why you should always keep an open mind.
Whilst logic can be relied on to determine many things, there are some things that will ultimately defy it – and never more so than with human behaviour. Analysing facts and figures can help to some extent, but ultimately there is no way to know what somebody is going to do or how somebody is going to respond without testing. It’s a crucial lesson to learn regarding your company’s marketing.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to marketing. There are a million tasks to do every day and it can be difficult to find time to overhaul your current marketing strategy – particularly when it is working fine. However, why should we be content with ‘fine’, when with a little bit of time and effort that ‘fine’ could be turned into ‘remarkable’?
As technology advances and your customers change, it’s crucial to ensure that your marketing is still relevant. If you’ve never branched out to email marketing, how do you know that it won’t make a positive impact on your sales? Without ever experimenting with different direct mail inserts, or promoting your products through SMS, how can you be sure that it won’t produce better response rates? Keeping an open mind about potential marketing opportunities is vital if you want your company to continue to progress. After all, you never know what might happen. Perhaps you’ll make a great catch too.
Thursday, April 1st, 2010
Sometimes it seems that lowering your delivery rate is the route to greater success…
We’ve all heard the rules a million times before: don’t use spam words such as ‘FREE’ or ‘BULK’, don’t write entire words in capitals, be careful of including symbols such as ‘!’ or ‘£’. Those pesky spam filters are on the war path and we have quickly learnt the ways and means needed to get our precious emails out of the spam file and into the inbox.
But, is there ever a time when these rules don’t apply?
Let’s face it, if your email has so much as a whiff of ‘spam’ about it, it’s likely to be whisked off and left to rot at the bottom of someone’s spam folder. So, why risk it?
The problem is, both the delivery rate and the open rate of your campaign are important. This can cause a conflict of interest – after all, what if the very headline that is likely to increase your open rate is also the one that will set off the spam filters? And which one should take precedence?
Research has shown that specific subject lines produce, on average, a higher click through rate than those that are more generic. People tend to respond to clarity, so ‘£20 off ticket prices’ is likely to achieve better results than a subject line which simply promises ‘money off’. But the real question is – will the first subject line increase the open rate enough to warrant any decrease that may be had in the delivery rate due to the use of symbols?
The only way to find the answer is through testing, as various factors will affect the results such as the target market, subject line, and product. However, it’s worth finding out. Delivery rate is the first figure that most people look at in their campaign report, yet in isolation it means nothing. The number of people that receive your email is only important in relation to the improved open rate that usually comes as a result. Therefore, if there’s a chance of increasing your open rate, it definitely warrants some investigation.
Monday, March 29th, 2010
So you want to target a select market with a specific offer in order to incite a set response – surely the same rules apply no matter what your channel of communication?
Yes, I know many of you long time email marketers are probably jumping up and down right now, asking, ‘How can you be serious?’ But, many people are still approaching email marketing in the same way as they approached their direct mail campaigns.
Naturally, there are certain principles that remain the same (e.g. careful targeting, personalisation, calls to action), but there are many differences too. These need to be identified and responded to if you are to fulfil the true potential of your e-marketing campaign.
So, let’s start from the top…
Getting your emails delivered. Direct mail, or ‘snail mail’ as it is often referred to, may take a day or two to get there, but most of the time (forgetting about all the postal strikes last year) your mail is delivered. Unfortunately, there’s a little more skill involved with getting your emails delivered.
Due to the increase of spam filters, the content of your emails and how you send them has a huge impact on whether or not they arrive in your recipients’ inboxes. Trying to send mass emails out using your regular Outlook account, particularly if you’re using the CC field for the names of your recipients, can cause you delivery problems. As can sending your campaign from a server with a reputation for spamming. Using spam-like words such as ‘Free’ or writing subject lines in capitals with one too many exclamation marks, all can affect the number of emails that pass through the filters. Not forgetting the heavy rate of bounce backs and changed addresses, which are often changed more regularly than residencies. It can seem a bit of a minefield if you don’t know, and adhere to, the basic rules of email marketing.
On the up side, emails are delivered almost instantaneously; much more useful for last minute offers and breaking news than the old snail mail.
Another point to remember is that emails are much easier to unsubscribe to than direct mail. Recipients are only one click away from opting out of your updates/offers/newsletter. So, it’s more important than ever to make sure that what you send out is relevant to your target group. At first glance it may seem that this is a huge disadvantage of email marketing, but if people are opting out it is highlighting that there is something wrong with either your targeting, or your email content. Identifying a problem and rectifying it could actually help you to reach a higher response rate in the long run.
Along the same point, bombarding your customers/prospects with direct mail isn’t perhaps the most effective method, but it causes significantly less damage than bombarding people with emails. Not only will you cause people to opt out (we have just identified how easy that is), but if continuous emails are sent to large groups of the same people, there’s a chance you will be branded a spammer and your emails won’t get delivered, or worse, your account suspended.
Designing emails as against direct mail, has both its benefits and its downfalls. On a positive note, emails can be a lot easier to design, even if you don’t understand html. If like many e-marketers you use a professional e-marketing system, chances are that you will have free access to some email templates. These can be customised simply by changing colours, inserting your own text and uploading your own images, and takes minimal time and effort. Particularly cost effective when you think about the paper and printing costs of a direct mail campaign.
However, unlike a direct mail design, what you see when you design the email isn’t necessarily what will confront your receivers. If you’re designing an email campaign you need to be aware of how your email will look in different email service providers – the best method of this is through testing. It is also necessary to be aware that some of your recipients may view your email through a preview pane. Again, it is crucial that you design with this in mind.
If you think it’s looking like email marketing is more effort than it’s worth, you couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are aware of how email marketing works and abide by the guidelines, there are many benefits to be had that you won’t get using direct mail.
As with most things in this life, there are pros and cons to most things, and so a varied diet will usually bring about the best results. Direct mail and email marketing can happily work together as part of your marketing mix. Identify the benefits of each, apply them wisely, and sit back and wait for the results to come in.
Friday, March 26th, 2010
Why follow ups are so important…
Over recent years, society has become obsessed with getting immediate results. Most of us demand it as a basic right, expecting to get anything we want, whenever we want it. In many ways, this expectation has helped us to create a faster, more efficient society which can provide for such demands. However, not everything can be delivered here and now – some results take time. This is especially true of marketing. So many companies sabotage their marketing through impatience. If a campaign doesn’t produce results instantaneously, we write it off. Unfortunately, this is the way to a whole heap of failed campaigns.
Not once, not twice, but three times; this is the average number of times a prospect will be contacted before they respond. Selling takes time, as does building up an awareness of your brand. If your company name isn’t readily familiar to your potential customers, expect it to take a while for you to develop a relationship between you and them.
Following up your initial mailing with another letter, an email, or even a phone call, can significantly increase the response rate of your marketing. Some companies have seen between a 25% to 50% improvement on their initial response. Why – because even those who intended to respond initially have probably forgotten. Contacting your prospects again and reinforcing your message, along with a strong call to action, helps your message to stand out amongst the zillions of others and gives people another chance to reply.
So, next time you’re doing your marketing plan, make sure that you factor in follow ups. It’s all about keeping up a consistent contact with your market (without bombarding them), and reminding them about who you are, where they can contact you, and what you can do to help.
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
December’s only just started and already Christmas is in full swing. Shops are playing Silent Night on repeat, six foot inflatable Rudolph’s are standing in front gardens and the Christmas crowds are already forming a six mile tail back on the M1 – you’d be forgiven for wishing that Christmas was over.
Of course, that would mean waving goodbye to all of the business opportunities that the festive season brings.
Show Your Customers That You Care
…after all, isn’t Christmas all about spreading love and festive cheer? It can be as simple as sending a Christmas card – anything to show your customers that you value them.
It’s not often that people are given something without being expected to do something in return. Most of the time that you contact your customers you want something – a phone call to remind them that you need payment; a letter promoting your newest product range and asking them to buy; a quick email to remind them to act fast because your sale ends soon. But a Christmas card doesn’t require them to do anything. Yes, you hope that it will show them that you care. Yes, you hope that it will earn you some brownie points. Importantly though, none of that takes any effort from their side.
And, if that still hasn’t convinced you to send out company Christmas cards, consider the advertising opportunity. Think how much it would cost to buy a few centimetres of advertising space in the middle of your customers’ desk. And not just on one of your customer’s desk, but hundreds of them, thousands even. Get your Christmas cards out and you could have your company name sat right in front of your customers from now through to the New Year. That kind of advertising is invaluable.
Consider Going Green
Alternatively, why not send out e-cards? It may not offer the same advertising opportunity, but it costs a lot less. Forget the expensive print work, the cost of materials and the price of postage, sending an e-card is an inexpensive way to show your customers that you value them. And, as people become increasingly concerned about the wellbeing of the planet, being eco-friendly can create a welcome impression whilst helping your company do its bit for the world.
The Value of Novelty
The holidays are all about giving, so why stop at Christmas cards? There are certain benefits to be found in giving personalised novelty gifts to your customers. What about a Christmas bauble, complete with your company name across the front in glitter? It might seem slightly tacky but then again, tacky isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to Christmas decor. Besides, having an ongoing presence on the Christmas tree throughout the holidays takes some beating.
Alternatively, what about a wind up Santa? A Christmas stocking? Or perhaps some individually wrapped Christmas puddings? Just make sure that whatever you send, you personalise it with your company’s name.
Receiving a gift, however small, makes people feel good. Getting people to associate your company with the feel good factor is something which will benefit you for a long time to come.
Give a Helping Hand
Most people are on a mad spending spree over Christmas, despite setting a budget that they swore they would stick to. So, any special offers or vouchers are always welcomed with open arms. Reward your customers for their loyalty with a bit of help when they need it and you’ll not only increase sales now, but your customers will remember your generosity in the future too.
Remember, if you are going to repeatedly contact your customers with special offers and advice over the holiday season, it may be in your interest to warn them. Tell people what they can expect from you. Too much unexpected contact can make your customers opt out of your newsletter/offers, particularly if they think that you’re taking on a new aggressive approach to your marketing. Explaining to customers that you will be contacting them with exclusive offers at regular intervals over the Christmas period will help to prepare them and hopefully reassure them that you won’t be bombarding them forever.
Remember, whatever type of marketing you do this Christmas, make it count!
Happy Holidays from all of us at Whichlist.com!
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Answer the Customer’s Question: What’s In It For Me?
Why do we buy anything? People buy products and services that fulfil a need – that benefit them in some way. For example, a man may buy a large saw, not because he wants a saw but because he wants to cut down the large tree in his garden. The brochure tells him that the blade has been strengthened. The man doesn’t care about this. He just wants to know that the blade won’t break half way through cutting the tree.
It may seem that there is only a slight difference between a feature (the strengthened blade) and a benefit (the tree is cut down quickly and easily), but it is one which can make a large impact on your profit.
Selling the benefits of your product shows your prospective customers how it can improve their life/business etc. It’s your job to ensure they instantly know why they should buy, and your website, brochure and any other sales copy should reinforce this. Don’t leave it up to your potential customer to join the dots. In the brief moments you have their attention you need to be certain that they know exactly what your product is offering them. Remember, selling should be all about your customer, not your product. The first question your prospect will ask is: What’s in it for me? It’s your job to answer them.
Match Prospects to Benefits
Do we know enough about every prospect to say how our product will specifically benefit them? Not always – but there are ways to narrow down which benefits are likely to be of interest to particular sections of businesses or consumers. With the help of targeted b2b and b2c data, it is possible to identify and address the specific needs of individual market groups. Direct marketing gives you the opportunity to segregate your prospects into groups based on age, gender, interests, occupation etc, so that your marketing can tell the right people about the right benefits to them. E.g. A large plasma TV can be sold to the male market as the ultimate companion for a die-hard football fan, highlighting the surround sound and the screen size which makes a person feel as though you’re at the match. To your female market the TV can be sold as the essential tool for a girl’s night in. (Show me a female who isn’t going to be impressed by a larger than life sized Johnny Depp on their screen!) The better you target benefits to your customers, the more powerful your marketing will become.
Any sales copy should instantly tell your prospects what’s in it for them, making it clear what problem it will solve and how it will change their life. But, it’s also persuasive to show them what the absence of this product will mean for them. Fear can be a great motivator in buying decisions. Anti-wrinkle products are proficient in this tactic.
Benefits… Benefits… Benefits?
Companies often make the mistake of focusing on their achievements or harping on about their mission statement – whilst these are strong supporting features of a brand, they alone won’t sell your product. You can move on to describe the features later, but the key benefits should be at the forefront of your sales copy. It’s worth reminding yourself of the difference between features and benefits at the start and end of writing your copy. Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with fancy language and huge claims, rather than sticking to the most important factor – identifying the prospects’ needs and selling the solution.
Monday, August 24th, 2009
Hello… and welcome to the first ever Whichlist.com blog – a place where you can keep up to date with direct marketing news, get expert advice on how to manage your campaigns and find out insider tips on winning new customers and increasing sales (something which every company is interested in!).
To get started we have already added three articles which we hope will kick start your next campaign successfully. So get reading, and keep a look out for our next blog post within the next few days…
From The Whichlist.com Team