We're starting to see a glimmer, a whisper, a suggestion of recovery, and that means that we should start growing our businesses by concentrating on marketing to create sales opportunities now and build momentum for a slingshot effect on sales during the recovery.
Unfortunately, many resellers do not do a lot of marketing or marketing communications in good times, much less during tougher times. They tend to get it confused with sales and the sales process. As we all know, successful sales conclude with a purchase. The objective of marketing and marketing communications is to create the leads -- to foster an environment where sales can eventually be closed.
Many new MarCom tools have emerged over the last few years but the older methods are still important and some of the more hands-on approaches have even become more effective in today's environment.
Memberships and community involvement: For locally oriented resellers, Chambers of Commerce, business associations and country clubs are foundations social marketing. Participation in local tradeshows can also be a worthwhile investment. Certainly your customers' business associations present the opportunity for you to meet prospects with similar needs. It makes sense in good times and bad to keep up your memberships and actively participate in face-to-face meetings and social events.
Direct mail and telemarketing: Direct mail and telemarketing have largely been supplanted by e-mail and social media, but they still have their place for non-technical prospects and when sending a gift or an eye-catching mailer.
Web sites: Of course, your Web site is a prime marketing tool. It presents a comprehensive overview of your product and service offerings. Your site should be attractive, accurate and, most of all, work reliably -- after all, it reflects your business culture and commitment to quality. The site should be updated frequently with news and promotions to keep it fresh. In order to fully maximize your site's effectiveness (presentation, content, flow and Search Engine Optimization [SEO]), it may make sense to hire a professional designer and copywriter.
Customer testimonials: Testimonials are powerful. They can be featured on your Web site and used in the sales process to demonstrate how you have already solved the types of problems that your prospects may be experiencing. Testimonials prove the value of our products and services.
Public relations: This generally refers to press releases and announcements, but there are also opportunities for articles that you write on issues to demonstrate your expertise. Perhaps your local newspaper or an association newsletter is interested in starting a technology or troubleshooting advice column -- you can become the resident expert. Every press release and article gives you greater exposure, increases links to your Web site and provides sales tools that demonstrate your expertise giving you a competitive advantage.
As mentioned above, email campaigns have all but replaced direct mail. The challenge is to break through all of the unsolicited mail that people receive in their inboxes. It starts with innovative ways to generate an email subscriber list. A contest, offering a free evaluation or interesting white paper can be helpful. To get people reading your emails, create a compelling headline (that won't trip a spam filter) and concise, well-written copy. As with any MarCom piece, it should have a clear call to action that is easy for recipients to understand and respond to. There are services to help with these campaigns. Constant Contact (http://www.constantcontact.com
), for instance, can handle the distribution and reporting for you and can help you design your campaigns.
Social media: This is a growing phenomenon. For a discussion on social media, click here to see my recent column.
Surveys, contests and giveaways: This is great way to get peoples' attention. They can give you valuable contact information and some insight into prospects' interests. The key is to have a compelling offer that is easy to fulfill and doesn't require a large time investment.
Digital signage: Speaking of digital signage, and given my commitment to the technology, you can also use digital signage to promote your company, products and services. You can set up a display in your office lobby, at the local Chamber of Commerce or even a public venue, such as a shopping mall. You can take the digital sign to business expos to showcase your offerings. You can also insert a digital signage frame on your Web site to keep it fresh all the time.
There are many other MarCom tools at you disposal. All you have to do is explore the possibilities and select the ones that are most relevant to your business model and market.
Mike Strand is founder and CEO of StrandVision LLC, an Internet-based subscription digital signage service that is distributed through resellers. Previously, Mike founded StrandWare, a barcode software and AIDC company. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.