“If You Build It,” They Won’t Necessarily Come…2/3

Collateral Marketing Materials

Now that your website is up, you can now turn to putting together some marketing materials. Using your logo, set up and print business cards with your website, e-mail and other contact information on them. You’ll also need to set up letterhead, but more and more businesses are using Word documents and color laser printers to print letters as needed. You will also need to print envelopes; however, considering the difficulty some laser printers have with printing envelopes, you may consider purchasing envelopes. Use an online printer such as Vistaprint or PrintPlace. You should also consider putting together a brochure at this point. You can place it on your site as a PDF download, e-mail it and use it during your initial marketing programs. You may also want to consider purchasing presentation folders. These are good to use when providing proposals and other information to prospective clients or to provide to clients to hold your information in.

Contacts

One of the first steps you want to take when starting a business is to pull your relevant contact information together. In fact, many entrepreneurs begin collecting contact information about prospective clients and customers long before they go out on their own. You’ll need to do some research to determine the best system for you. Will Microsoft Outlook and Access be sufficient to create your databases when used in conjunction with an e-mail program such as Constant Contact or StreamSend? Will you use your Point of Sale software? Do you need an online system such as Salesforce.com? The contacts you have made are likely going to be your first customers or clients and your best referral sources. You want to create an easy system from which to mail, fax, e-mail, and engage them. Especially for those engaged in a business to business (B2B) field, you’ll need to consider what types of databases and e-mail lists you want to purchase and how you will work with that information.

 

Social Media

Which social media platforms are best for you? Key in on the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As a rule of thumb, if you are a retailer or have a business that provides services that anyone can use, then make Facebook your first priority. If you are primarily involved in B2B or provide professional services relying on referrals, then start with LinkedIn. Twitter can be very effective for restaurants and retailers to communicate microblogs to followers and to re-distribute e-newsletters to wider audiences. Upload your contacts with LinkedIn to invite others to connect with you and use the search function on Facebook to make friends and on Twitter to follow others, who will often then follow you.

 

Press Release on Business Launch and Grand Opening

Once you open your doors and are ready to do business and have built your online presence with your website, blog and social media, it’s time to do a press release announcing your new business. The press release should draw upon your branding strategy, describe its uniqueness and the customer needs it seeks to address. It should be targeted to business reporters, trade publications, local newspapers and online sites that allow you to post press releases, such as PRLog. The release should be optimized with keywords linking back to your website and your domain included. As the release gets published online, this will help to build backlinks, usually with sites with high authority, helping to build page ranking. If you have a retail establishment, restaurant or sizable space in an office building, consider a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony. It is often better for restaurants to be open for a period of time, at least a month or two, so that staff can be adequately trained and the kinks worked out before sending out a press release and holding a grand opening, as these will also often invite reviews which you will want to score well on. Use a PR firm or a service such as Marketwire to distribute your release.

 

Low-Cost Initial Marketing Strategies

You are now doing business. To this point, depending on how much your website cost and whether you had a grand opening, you probably spent between $5,000 and $10,000 on marketing. Now it’s time to be proactive and start getting the word out. For new businesses especially, you want to go after the lowest hanging fruit, bringing the greatest return on your investment at first.
Look at your contacts and prospect lists that you may have pulled together or purchased. Start by sending an introductory letter with your brochure or another direct mail piece to your contacts and prospects. You can do the same using e-mail and include links to your website and a link to download the brochure. By using an e-mail program such as StreamSend, you’ll be able to track who opened and clicked through to your site, or downloaded your brochure. You’ll be able to use this information to prioritize follow up.

After your introductory mail and e-mail has been sent out, you’ll want to regularly communicate via e-mail using e-newsletters. Use the content you develop to update your website and communicate via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Consider purchasing additional contact lists or using Chamber of Commerce, published association and other prospect lists. Continue to track your click-through activity and develop materials to send to prospects. For professionals, consider making follow-up phone calls, e-mails or further engage using social media. Unfortunately, not everyone will get your e-mails or open them. Consider supplementing e-mails with regular direct mail or newsletters to your current customers and prospects.

At this point, you are probably also doing some traditional networking at appropriate venues that put you in front of prospective customers. For this, it is often more effective to go to their events, conferences, etc. in your targets rather than general chamber or other public events. Consider taking tables at conferences and sponsoring lectures. You may also want to develop a lecture or webinar for your prospective clients. Some professionals require continuing education. Look into whether your lecture can get accreditation. You may even be able to charge for attendance.

If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come: Part 1

If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come: Part 3

“If You Build It,” They Won’t Necessarily Come…3/3

Implementing an Advertising Strategy

You are doing everything low cost that you are supposed to do. However, it may not be enough. It may be time to start advertising. For all forms of advertising, it is helpful to ask these questions when developing an advertising campaign:
• Who are our current customers or clients?• What percentage of our customers/clients lives within a certain geographic areas?
• What percentage of our customers/clients falls into our various business areas?
• What is their age range?
• Are they male or female?
• Where do most of our current clients come from?
o Do they come from ads?
o Do they come from referrals?
o Do they come from street traffic?
o Do they come from the web?
• Who is our targeted audiences?
• Who should be our customers/clients but aren’t?
• How much money do we have to spend?
• What form(s) of advertising are our targets most likely to be exposed to?

Once you answered these questions, here are some strategic considerations
If your customers or clients come primarily from referrals, then consider:
• Trade publications
• Direct marketing to membership lists
• Participation in professional organizations and their events.

If your clients come from a wide geographic area, then consider TV or radio advertising. If from a narrower geographic area, then consider local newspaper advertising, direct mail, D-Cards, ad word and social media advertising.

One of the best places to start advertising is on the Web. Use Google AdWords and other search engines to create an advertising campaign at a budget level you are comfortable with. Create landing pages corresponding with your ads that include a method, such as downloadable content or a coupon, to collect e-mail addresses. Set this form to dump the contact information into your e-mail distribution program. You can set up triggers to provide automatic follow-up to these new prospects and begin to send them your regular e-mails and e-newsletters.
If you are in the restaurant or retail business, you may also consider advertising on Facebook to build more contacts. Like Google AdWords, Facebook ads only require the advertiser to pay for the number of times an ad is clicked-through. (On Facebook, you can pay for impressions or clicks. However, we recommend only paying for click-throughs.) In order to purchase Facebook ads, your organization must have a Facebook business page, which is different than a personal page and is entitled to different privileges, while operating under different limitations. It is crucial to familiarize yourself or your dedicated staff member with Facebook’s terms of use so that you are not found to have violated the terms, which could result in your page being taken down and your email address banned from the site.

You may also want to consider “take over” e-mails or prominent ads on other organizations’ e-mail blasts that link to your landing pages. While these are more expensive than ad word campaigns, they more closely target your audience and provide faster results.

OK, we’ve done the web-based lower cost advertising; it may also make sense to engage in some targeted traditional advertising. Here are some strategies tailored for your business type:

Retail

• D-Cards, front page advertising in local Pennysavers and advertising papers. It is better to have a less frequent, more prominent ad.
• Direct mail to your demographic group in your geographic proximity. You may be able to send the same pieces to your current customers.
• Print advertising in specialty publications specific for your demographic, as well as web-based display advertising on sites that provide significant traffic and can show click-through statistics for other advertisers.
• Prominent ads in daily newspapers in sections read by your targeted audience. It’s better to have a less frequent, more prominent ad in a daily newspaper. The dailies still get better results than weekly or monthly publications that have low readership.
• TV – While requiring a bigger budget, we have found TV to still be one of the most cost-effective advertising vehicles, over newspapers, magazines and radio.
• Radio – Most radio stations have gift certificate programs, providing trade opportunities. Consider radio to help promote a grand opening event.

Restaurants

• Use D-Cards, front covers and other prominent ads in shopper publications.
• Advertise to your demographic in Facebook.
• Constantly work to build your local contact list, collect comment cards, business cards, e-mails. Send out weekly specials. Use “take-over” e-mails and consider prominent ads in other’s e-mails.
• Put a high priority on press releases and be sure to register with all the online restaurant directories.
• If you can limit your target audiences more closely, then consider direct mail.
• Send catering and lunch specials information to local businesses. Consider going door to door with cookies and coupons or gift certificates to bring in the local business community.

 

Professionals

• As described above, professionals should concentrate on referral sources, B2B direct mail and e-mail, and follow up based on click-through activity, along with traditional and social media networking.
• Professionals should put a high priority on article writing and using this content to publish in trade publications, mail to prospects and include in e-mails. Use this content to engage others in forums and on blogs.
• If you are a professional that services the general public, then consider specialty publications and television advertising. If you serve a smaller geographic area, then consider D-Cards and other prominent local advertising.

If You Built It, They Won’t Necessarily Come: Part 1

If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come: Part 2