Save money on marketing

Thomas Jefferson was one of our most innovative presidents. On a recent tour on Monticello, I was able learn more about his constant tinkering and inventing to make his home more comfortable, save time and money, and produce more at harvest time. His home is featured on the back of the nickel. Since my clients are always interested in saving money, I thought you’d be interested in some cost saving ideas related to producing marketing materials. It might put more nickels in your pocket.

Before you embark on a marketing project, consider how you can save money by finding many purposes for your efforts. When customers are looking for ways to save money on marketing, we take action by finding multiple uses for the messages, materials and graphic images.

For example, one of my clients creates graphic email messages to go out from the association promoting members’ services. To help members with their budgets and as an added value of membership, the association shares the graphic art file through a private portal. That way, those who are part of the group can modify the eblast by adding their own logo and information. Some of the members use the text from the message and customize it to more prominently promote their own firms when sending it out to their own contact lists. This saves members the cost of writing and designing the message.

To take the project a step further, the association then turns the email into a pdf flyer that can be inserted into mailings or used as an attachment on individual emails. The flyer graphics are similar to the eblast; this cohesive look reinforces the brand. This is another cost saving measure as it does not take the designer very much time to use similar graphics on the flyer.

When you are implementing your communication tactics, you should think about ways your efforts can be repurposed for multiple uses to save money on your marketing budget. You can make very nickel count.

If you interview a client you may be able to get:

  • Testimonials to use on brochures or tradeshow displays
  • Content for a blog post
  • Information for an article in your newsletter
  • An announcement in a press release

If you take photos at an event, you can use them:

  • In social media posts
  • On your website
  • In ads or billboards

If you produce postcards, use them to:

  • Mail out to your contact list
  • Hand out at a tradeshow
  • Package in a gift basket with promotional items

Planning ahead and thinking creatively can help you get the most out of your marketing budget and leave more nickels jingling in your pocket.

What should you include in your brochure?

Although websites are now the most common way to describe what your company does for your customers, there is still a place for brochures in your bouquet of marketing tactics.

Produce an attractive brochure for your business and you can use it in the following ways:

  • Hand them out at tradeshows
  • Leave it behind after a sales call
  • Send the brochure as an introduction
  • Include it with follow-up materials

Working in the Sacramento region, people frequently ask me what information should be included in a brochure. It is much more than just a pretty blossom that shows off what your company does. An effective brochure may plant the seed of a long term business relationship that will generate profits for many years to come.

An effective brochure should make it easy for a prospective customer to learn what you do best to help your clients. In addition to giving your organization credibility, it should spur the reader to action, confident that your company is ideally suited to meet their needs. Just a beautiful flower begs you to lean over to sample the scent, your brochure should entice people to learn more about the benefits of doing business with you.

Some of the key components of a brochure include:

  1. An attention grabbing headline, enticing the reader to open the brochure and learn more
  2. Your logo on the front and back
  3. Your website and contact information, usually on the back
  4. An introductory statement that summarizes your primary way of serving your customers
  5. At least three benefits that your clients enjoy as a result of working with your firm
  6. Testimonials from satisfied customers demonstrating the results your company achieved for them
  7. More detailed summary of your main services
  8. Subheads that give the reader an idea what the detailed section will include
  9. Photos or graphics that help the reader understand what you do
  10. Data, facts or other results to support your marketing claims and to induce readers to take action
  11. White space makes it easier for prospects to digest your message because it provides a visual break and prevents you from putting in so much text in that reader becomes fatigued

At Marketing Action, Inc. we are often asked to write a brochure as a first project. It is a great way to get started working with a marketing consultant. The exercise of thinking from a customer’s perspective, identifying unique benefits and explaining what the company does often becomes the cornerstone of future marketing tactics.

Additionally, when you are busy running a business, you have so much knowledge, that it is difficult to boil it down to a few key points in a brochure. That is where the marketing consultant can help hone down masses of content into a few key benefit statements.

Use a professional designer to create the graphics and layout for your brochure. The visual appeal is just as important as the words you use to describe your business.

Quality paper and printing are the last steps in creating a brochure that represents your business. A professional graphic designer is essential to providing high resolution artwork that meets the printers’ specifications. Ensure that the final product is a brochure that you can be proud to hand out by working with professionals who are experienced in producing exceptional brochures.

In nature, beautiful flowers attract bees so that the species can be propagated. In marketing, an attractive brochure can be a credible introduction that may bloom into a long-term profitable business partnership. (The flower photo was taken in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California.)

Photos Step up Marketing Impact

Now more than ever before it is important to take photos to enhance your promotion efforts. As a consultant, I am frequently asked, “What are some of the low cost ways to improve a company’s marketing efforts?” Both snap shots taken from your phone and professional photographs have a role in increasing the impact of your communication efforts.

Your Twitter and Facebook posts will be more interesting if you include a photo. Approximately 65% of your viewers are visual learners so photos enhance their experience when looking at your materials. Adding an image makes your efforts a lot more eye-catching than text alone. When you are limited to a few words, the picture can also help tell your story.

For social media and blog posts, a photo taken with your phone is a fast and easy way to capture what is happening. After taking a few photos while attending an event, you can send them on-the-spot to your social media accounts. The photo not only captures attention, it may persuade people go a step further and click on a link to read more.

You should invest in hiring a professional photographer to collect visually appealing, high resolution photos that you can use as the main banners on your website and in your brochures. Quality photography is a must when images are enlarged on tradeshow displays and billboards. If you arrange to have photos taken, your images will be unique and reflect your branding.

If you don’t have the budget for a professional photographer, there are many low cost options to access stock images that you can purchase as you need them or pay a monthly fee to download images regularly for your materials. Be sure that you are getting royalty free images. Avoid the temptation to use images that you find online because you do not have permission to use them.

When you use photos in your blog posts and on your website, remember to rename the photos to better explain what the photo features rather than the number automatically supplied by your camera. You can also add alternative text or Alt Txt to your photo that is a more detailed description. This makes it easier for people with disabilities identify the image and can also help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Carry your camera with you or use the camera on your phone to capture interesting images that you may use in the future to boost the effectiveness of your marketing action.

Tips to Start a Business Services Newsletter

If you are thinking about starting a newsletter to promote your business services, consider these tips to take marketing action:

  1. Plan on producing a quarterly newsletter. This gives you some flexibility in the dates for distribution.
  2. Focus on how your clients are using your services and benefiting.
  3. Keep it short – one or two pages.
  4. Include photos and remember to take your camera to events and client meetings.
  5. Ask your clients for testimonials to include in the articles.
  6. Use a professional designer to make it eye catching.
  7. Keep a running list of story ideas.
  8. Post your newsletter on your web site.

To see an example of a business services newsletter, look at the College of the Sequoias Training and Development Summer 2012 newsletter. This California community college produced the newsletter to promote customized employer training and business services to manufacturers through the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies.

Your customers can tip the marketing balance in your favor

One of my suppliers in Roseville, CA recently asked me to speak with prospects who were considering using the firm’s services. Marketing Action has been working with the company for years, as well as other similar firms, and felt I could give an objective view.

When I’m considering working with a new business partner in the Sacramento region for printing, promotional items, web site design and other marketing services, I like to check references so I was more than willing to “give back” by sharing my experiences.

What did they ask?

  • How long I’d worked with the company
  • What type of marketing projects we’d partnered on
  • Was I satisfied with the quality of work
  • What it was like to work with the project team
  • What one thing could be improved
  • Would I recommend them to others

Happily, the company was successful in securing the new account. Evidently talking with me and other satisfied clients sealed the deal after the firm had met all the other qualifications.

If you ask customers to share their experience with prospects, don’t forget to say thanks. I was surprised and delighted to not only get thanks but a restaurant gift certificate as well. And, remember that keeping your existing customers happy could be your best marketing tool. Your satisfied customers may be your best sales force.

Marketing action plan for tradeshows

If you are planning to particpate in a tradeshow, start your marketing planning by asking yourself these questions:

  • Date of event
  • Audience – # people, who they are
  • Atmosphere of this conference and typical displays
  • Purpose of attending
  • Expected outcome
  • What has and has not worked when you attended this or similiar events in the past?
  • If you are updating your display, are there events where you may use this same display because of a similiar audience and purpose?
  • What else will attract an audience – movie on TV, demonstrations?
  • Do you want promotional giveaways?
  • What are your plans to invite clients and prospects to stop by your booth?
  • How will you collect attendees’ contact info – from conference organizers or with a drawing at your booth?
  • What follow-up do you have planned with those who visit the tradeshow?
  • Are there opportunities to provide door prizes that are announced?
  • Can you give an educational presentation?
  • How will you prepare staff who are working the booth?
  • What coordination is required with conference group about electricity, union rules for bringing in booth, timing and set up requirements?

Are competitive hawks stealing your clients?

There was a huge hawk sitting at the end of my driveway in Loomis with a chicken at its feet. Of course, I didn’t have my camera in the car so you can barely see the bird in flight in this picture. I didn’t see it happen but I can only imagine the chicken was unsuspecting as the raptor swooped down from the sky. Are you being hunted by the competition?

In this economy, it is more important than ever to guard your customers by providing excellent service, anticipating needs and regularly checking in to identify potential problems. When you aren’t looking, other vendors are promising better service at a lower cost.

What can you do to protect yourself from competitive hawks? Take marketing action:

  • Ask your clients what one thing you could do to improve the service you provide.
  • Proactively provide new ideas and bring trends that may impact their businesses to their attention.
  • Promote your clients to your associates to help their businesses grow.
  • Express your appreciation for the trust your customers place in you.
  • Invite clients to educational forums as your guest to expand their knowledge.
  • Bring customers to professional association meetings or other networking groups.
  • Get to know your clients and provide referrals and information related to their personal interests.

Don’t let competitive hawks ruffle your feathers by attempting to steal your chickens. With solid relationships that respond to your clients’ needs, they’ll be safe to lay eggs for years to come.

Referrals can grow your business

Most successful businesses grow from the referrals of satisfied customers or business associates.

If you go out of your way to solve a customer’s problem, treat a client with kindness or help your friends’ businesses, they will remember your efforts. And, they may consider making referrals to your company.

It starts with you. Look for opportunities to be helpful. For instance, a client recently had a computer problem and I suggested an IT expert who I know. A company was looking for customized employee training, and I introduced Sierra College Training & Development.

And when you receive a referral or other kind gesture, show your appreciation. I’ve just discovered a great tool to make personalized printed cards using my own photos for thank you notes. The card can even be sent with an enclosed gift card.

When you genuinely communicate your appreciation and give referrals freely, your business and your friends’ businesses will grow, just like my pumpkin.