Blogs. Enewsletters. Podcasts. Paid search. Customer reviews. Facebook. MySpace. You-Tube. User forums. Until recently, I thought of these things as interesting ways to supplement existing marketing.
I’ve since decided that they’re critical business insurance. It’s completely possible that in the near future, like it or not, they could be your entire business. Consider:
- For many catalogers, last year’s postage increase boosted costs by as much as 40%. More increases followed recently.
- Fuel costs and mill closings are forcing paper prices dramatically higher.
- Nearly 80% of all purchases come from new customers, signaling a huge decrease in customer loyalty.
- Spurred by environmental and privacy concerns, 15 states have introduced “do not mail” bills.
If you think that paper catalogs can’t vanish virtually overnight, remember what “do not call” legislation did to the telemarketing industry in 2003. Do you want to take that chance, or do you want to have Plan B in your back pocket?
Start Slowly, But Start. I’m not suggesting you chuck your paper catalog and go online-only tomorrow. Instead, take 10% of your budget and gain some experience and proficiency with today’s new marketing options. Here’s where most companies get the biggest bang for the buck:
- Improved web site. It’s an ever-increasing part of your business, so get the most out of it. Look for areas of improvement by surveying your customers and studying your web analytics. Use Google’s free Website Optimizer tool to scientifically test web page elements against each other.
- An e-newsletter. There is no better way to stay in front of your customers than a newsletter they enjoy receiving. To be effective, it must deliver useful information (not just self-promotion) and be published regularly (not just when you have time or want to sell something).
- Customer reviews. Customer reviews build trust and boost sales. Some 63% of consumers report they’re more likely to purchase from a site that offers product ratings and reviews. For more information, seeT he Easiest Way to Boost Conversions.
- A blog. Most businesses are only beginning to understand what a blog can do for them. It’s important enough that we’ve devoted more space to the topic in 5 Reasons to Start Blogging Now and Blogging for Business.
- Videos. Online video product demonstrations add credibility and boost conversions, in some cases by 20% or more. Likewise, a short video introduction about your company can add a beneficial humanizing touch. The videos don’t have to be slick, just clear.
- Paid search. While paid search doesn’t work for every company, it’s the backbone of many companies’ marketing programs. An astonishing number of companies do a poor job of managing their paid search programs. For some pointers, see Paid Search: A Practical Guide to Improving Results.
Your Best Insurance.This past year, I’ve watched many companies with traditional catalog businesses struggle not to lose ground.At the same time, many clients who have embraced new marketing opportunities have enjoyed profit increases of 50% or more.
The downside of expanding your marketing methods is pretty small. The upside could be huge – perhaps even the survival of your business.You choose.