Marketing Communications and Other Brand Communication Activities

The odd fact, is that as much as we all have been the targets of marketing communications for pretty much our entire lives, it’s but a select small percentage of the population who understand what it is and how it works. Those who have studied it, and make a living at it are called market communicators.

On the surface to the novice, it can all seem so simple. Marketing communications is simply communicating with potential clients or customers about whatever it is that you have to offer. The end goal of whatever it is that you’re communicating is to convert them from potential to actual clients and customers.

Look below the surface though and you’ll find that it has become an incredibly complex art/science and perhaps you may have already heard of subliminal advertising. This is a form of marketing communications that is done to transmit hidden messages to the public, and it can take a wide range of forms. Major corporations have been doing it for years.

Of course subliminal marketing communications is being done on the Internet as it has been on TV, and radio but one new genre of marketing communications confined exclusively to the Internet, is called mass interactive marketing communications. It’s been generating a huge buzz not only due to its effectiveness, but also because of the potential it holds.

The name interactive is the big giveaway that what it is, is actual two way interaction that allows the public to at least have the feel that they’re in actual communication with a marketer. Of course two way communications has been around ever since the first person filled his or her basket with something to sell, so in that respect it’s not a huge breakthrough.

What is a huge deal though, is that online interactive communications allows you to conduct simulated one on one communications with multitudes of people spread all over the globe, if that be the case. In fact you may have already ran across auto-responding emails and not even been aware of it. If they were professionally done that is.

Auto-responding email are a series of prewritten emails that are arranged to be sent out in a specific set order that ideally leads a person in a step by step fashion as close as possible to a sale or, “marketers end goal”. Now do keep in mind that this is nothing like spamming.

Rather well crafted auto-responding emails are produced and arranged in such as way that your recipient believes that they are “personally written” and sent. Preferably as a response to the last emails he or she sent. A four or five series of back and forth emails.

So the more one looks into marketing communications, the more fascinating it becomes, and as digital communications technology becomes more advanced, so too does this art/science. In the end though, it’s all is done for the same purpose, and that is to drive sales.

2013 Marketing Communications – Six Strategic Tips For Midsized Companies And Nonprofits

Everyone – organizations and consumers alike – continues to be wary of the ongoing negotiations in Washington associated with the fiscal cliff. It will take time to sort out the impact of what finally gets resolved, but marketers know they can’t wait any longer to determine how to aggressively promote their products and services now.

Whether you’re a business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) or nonprofit marketer, you’ve probably also been overwhelmed by the countless claims, and counter claims, about if – and how – to use all the various forms of “new” marketing tools – social media, mobile, content marketing, email and video. Some experts project the demise of email marketing as social media and video sharing grow in importance. Others stress the need for mobile marketing, while even others shout “Content is King” (first coined by Bill Gates in 1996). All will continue to be important, but these decisions, coupled with the economic environment, means that the marketer’s world is more complicated than ever.

Rather than endlessly pondering these choices, maybe this is the time to put these latest tactics into perspective, and focus on some basic marketing and marketing communications strategies for 2013.

Target Audience Knowledge Trumps Opinion

A deep, reliable and projectable understanding of your existing and potential clients, customers or donors is key to developing effective and profitable strategies and plans. And that means market research.

Marketers should fully understand the wants, needs and attitudes of their target audiences, and how these factors relate to the organization, as well as competition. Facts, not opinions.

Employ market research and monitor social media discussions and behaviors to determine what’s important to your constituents before your tactical plans are developed. In other words, “Look before you leap.”

Embrace The Changing Demographic Landscape

With nearly 315 million people in the US alone, the dramatic growth of older consumers is significant and should be recognized. Does your customer and prospect planning take them into consideration? And does your planning recognize that:

  • 21 percent of the workforce is now 55+ years of age, and they plan on working well past traditional retirement age;
  • The number of people 65 and older was 40 million in 2009 but is projected to be 60 million in 2020 (US Census Bureau);
  • While 69 percent of those aged 18 – 49 used social media, only 38 percent of those aged 50 and above use any form of social media.

Acknowledging the growth and absolute size of this huge audience in your planning presents a major opportunity. And, depending on your product or service, you might want to go through this exercise for other demographic groups – Hispanics, Asians, younger people, women, etc. Understand them and make sure you relate to their needs. In summary, “Board a trend, don’t buck it”.

Don’t Discount Traditional Media

New media offers exciting potential and will grow significantly in importance. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about “old” media. Both new and traditional media have value and both should be considered in planning your overall media mix. That means that strategically you need to fully understand their relative effectiveness, not just their efficiency.

And, would it surprise you to learn that traditional media is actually becoming “new” media for some marketers:

  • Commercial and nonprofit marketers will spend $169 billion in direct marketing, representing over half of all US advertising expenditures (DMA’s Response Rate 2012 Report);
  • There were 195 new print magazines launched in 2012 (MediaTrends.com); According to Forrester Research, while consumers discover new brands, products or services by talking to friends (80%) and online searches (79%), television advertising is a strong third (71%);
  • While the average consumer receives 14 – 15 email selling messages a day, the average household receives only 2 – 3 direct mail promotions per day (USPS);
  • Despite the record breaking political spending in 2012, national cable television advertising is still expected to grow by 11 percent, while billboard spending will increase by 5 percent and radio by 3 percent (Zenith Optima).

New versus traditional media should not dominate the discussion. Rather, how you strategically develop your media mix should be on the front burner. Above all, be “media neutral”.

Anniversary Marketing Invigorates Established Organizations

Your anniversary provides an opportunity to leverage your past strengths while communicating your vision for the future. Your history and your plans for the future can have a meaningful impact on an already nervous audience of employees, channel partners and suppliers, much less existing and potential clients, customers or donors. Galvanize them to the road ahead.

A 12 to 18 month fully integrated anniversary marketing program provides a unique opportunity to unify and focus all of your efforts across your constituents. And a 35th anniversary can be as impactful as a 50th or 75th. Just don’t make the mistake of merely adding an anniversary logo to your messaging, or just having a celebratory party. Your message will fall on deaf ears.

Get Better As You Get Bigger

With market turbulence over the past few years, some in the C-Suite question the ability of marketing to profitably drive the organization to new heights. Lack of understanding or lack of trust may be an issue. Maybe it’s time for unbiased, fresh eyes to conduct a marketing communications audit.

This type of audit can provide an apolitical evaluation of your program as a whole, as well as how each marketing communication tactic does or does not meet established objectives. Recommendations from this audit can help everyone understand where improvement is needed, what’s registering with your constituents (internally as well as externally), what subjects and benefits should be stressed and, importantly, provide the organization with an integrated roadmap of how, when and where your messaging should be delivered.

The audit should give you the tools to maximize your marketing communications ROI before significant dollars are committed. Trust and confidence should follow.

Round Out Your Marketing Team

There will be many challenges facing marketers in 2013 and beyond. And, chief among them will be having a dedicated, smart, apolitical team, developing, creating and analyzing marketing communications strategies, tactics and plans to meet the uncertainties ahead.

A lot of smart thinking has already gone into developing the disciplines you need but, like most midsized companies and nonprofits, you may be understaffed and underfunded. Consider partnering with established, media neutral, senior level marketing communications consultants to help your team formulate, refine and implement your programs. Be sure they have extensive experience across brands and industries, as well as a willingness to “tell it like it is” so candor will flourish.

Most probably 2013 and the near future will present marketers with a very rocky road to travel. Hopefully, some of these tips will help, but as Mark Twain once said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”.

The Art of the Business Web Marketing Email List

As a business owner marketing your business, brand, product and/or service, you know that you need to reach out to targeted individuals on the web. This means that you must seek out and target your business web marketing materials towards those people who might find an interest in what you do. If yours is a company that manufactures wheelchairs, you will obviously want to market your materials to people who require the use of such equipment, or the families of people who do. What if you could gather an entire group of targeted individuals into one area so that you could market to them over and over? That is exactly that business web marketing list building is all about. If you can gather your own list of highly-targeted prospects and customers, your job becomes ten times easier. You no longer have to seek out like-minded individuals, you’ll have them right where you want them: on your subscriber list. Let’s take a look at the art of building a business web marketing email list and how to leverage that list for maximum return.

Email Platforms

You could manage a business web marketing list all on your own, but why when there are many platforms available to you that make the task easy? A few examples of email marketing platforms that are popular with the business to consumer and business to business Internet marketing crowd like include:

  • AWeber
  • GetResponse
  • Constant Contact
  • Mail Chimp

Each platform comes with its own features, price points and extras, but it really doesn’t matter which platform you choose. Each one, regardless if it’s paid or free, will allow you to:

  • Create an opt-in form that you can place on your website or blog
  • Import email addresses that you gather from other means
  • Pre-program email messages (autoresponders) to go out at specific times, such as a Thank You autoresponder that goes out the moment someone opts into your list
  • Test emails that will give you the data you need to improve your campaigns and conversions

These are just some of the features you will receive with most business web marketing email platforms. The more advanced the platform and the higher the cost of packages, the more features you’ll earn.

Email Marketing on the Web for Any Small Business

Once you have selected the ideal business web marketing email platform, you next need to set it up. Most platforms will allow you to tailor your emails so that they can look and feel anyway you wish. For right now, we will focus on plain text emails.

Opting-In

Find the area on the platform you chose that dedicated to form creation. Your opt-in form will go on your website or blog and will allow your subscribers to enter their personal information, usually a name and email address. Some marketers also like to gather phone numbers, especially if they are simultaneously running a mobile or SMS business web marketing campaign.

At any rate, you will want to create your opt-in form so that it matches your website exactly. The closer you get the colors and design of your site to match your opt-in form, the higher your conversions will be.

Free Offer

Most people hate to receive tons of emails. For that reason, most people are very apprehensive to give out their personal information, including their email address. Your job as a business web marketing expert is to entice the click.

Write a short report or get someone to write it for you explaining to your audience how to complete a task, solve one of their goals or anything else they might find useful. If your site provides tips for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, for instance, you might write a report titled, “Ten Ways to Avoid Submission that All BJJ Practitioners Should Know,” or something to that effect. Make sure your audience will be interested in the information and make sure the information found inside can’t be found elsewhere online.

If you do have to rehash information found online, put your own spin on it and make it as unique and as valuable as possible for your audience.

Get Creative with Your Business Web Marketing

Once your opt-in form is completed, start sending targeted traffic to the page that is hosting the form, or to multiple pages if you happen to be testing your form. Write articles, spread the news on social networks, blog about your subject and toss in a call-to-action mentioning your free offer, and engage in any traffic-building that will help you build your list with targeted prospects.

Don’t just gather email addresses and contact information from your opt-in list, however. The business of marketing requires you to think outside of the box. Every time you do business with a customer, ask for an email address. Host a local event and place a fish bowl near the entrance where participants can drop in their business cards or come up with your own ideas.

You Have a Business Web Marketing List: Now What?

Once you start building a list, you will want to populate your business web marketing email platform with autoresponders to go out at specific times.

The Business of Marketing With Email: Crafting the Autoresponder

Your first autoresponder should go out when your subscribers opt-in. Most platforms have pre-programmed messages that go out when the subscriber first hits submit after entering their info and then again when they finally confirm their email thanking them for subscribing. You can customize these if you want to and it is recommended that you do.

When crafting business web marketing autoresponders, try to be conversational, edgy, catchy and informative. The rule of autoresponders is no fluff or boring material. People are too busy and their attention spans far too short to put up with lengthy autoresponders that don’t say anything.

The following autoresponder schedule should work for any business to customer or business to business Internet marketing campaign.

  • Autoresponder 1: Please confirm your email address.
  • Autoresponder 2: Thank you for subscribing. You will also want to explain to your subscribers that you will never spam them, trade or sell their personal information or abuse their info in any way. You will also want to explain to your subscribers that you will be sending emails daily, weekly, monthly or whatever schedule you plan to keep. Let your subscribers know what to expect and they’ll remain your subscribers for far longer.
  • Autoresponder 3-8: Take your subscribers through a five-part e-course. Really, you’re just pre-programming five tips, one in each email. Let your subscribers know that they are getting something special and that your tips cannot be found anywhere else. Do not sell during the five part e-course. This is merely for information, to help your subscribers reach their goals and it also positions you as the expert in your field.
  • Autoresponder 9-10: This is when you will want to recommend that product you’ve been dying to sell. It could be your own or an affiliate product. Now that you’ve positioned yourself as the go-to person in your field, let them know that the product or service is one-of-a-kind and it will help them reach their goals. Obviously the product or service had better be good and worth the money if you hope to retain your business web marketing list subscribers.

From then on, you should alternate between selling and tip-giving. Always give more advice, help, tips, updates, news and other relevant information more than you sell. Do not annoy your list subscribers or they will unsubscribe and bail on you.

The business of marketing with email lists isn’t difficult, but it does take patience and know-how. Once you establish yourself as the leader in your niche, your subscribers will be proud to be subscribed and they’ll follow any links you provide as they strive to reach their goals.

If you are selling your own product or service or you’re an affiliate marketer selling someone else’s products or services, an email list is always the way to go.