Advertising budgets for many SMEs are a tricky issue. Managing your spending and still getting a good return on investment is a difficult balancing act. Print, radio and online ads can deliver fantastic results, however the price of purchasing advertising space can be prohibitive to many SMEs. Therefore, if you simply want to deliver a straightforward message to your customers in a relatively inexpensive way then a direct marketing campaign is well worth considering, especially if you harness the power of email and text messages.
Below are some hints to help you establish an email or text direct marketing campaign that can lift the sales activity of your small business:
- Understand direct marketing
- Target your campaign
- Don't be pushy
- Get the most out of your database
- Follow up your initial efforts
- Set yourself goals and measure your progress
Put simply, direct marketing is marketing that goes straight to the customer or potential customer without using an intermediary such as a newspaper, television or radio station. While direct marketing campaigns have for decades relied on flyers, letterboxing, telemarketing and direct mail, the digital age has made an enormous impact on the practice.
By being able to contact potential consumers no matter where they are and what they are doing, email and text messaging has made direct marketing a lot more targeted and removed much of the expense associated with it.
As well as it being favourable to you the sender, younger people increasingly prefer to be contacted via email and text. Recent research has shown that young people aged 18 to 24 years have over double the preference for contact by SMS text, compared with other age groups.
Just as flyers and brochures that are stuffed into letter boxes are widely considered junk mail, electronic mail that appears to be indiscriminately sent is also unlikely to receive much attention. In order to get the right message to the right people you need to know that they might be interested in purchasing a good or service from your business.
For businesses with a website, a great way of turning website traffic into sales is to offer visitors who register their details special privileges such as access to sales before the general public or regular discounts. If you do not have website, ask your customers in store whether they would like to be notified either through email or text when sales are on or new products available. This way you build up a marketing list of people that you know are interested in what your small business offers and avoid wasting time and money advertising to people that aren't.
Before embarking on an email and text direct marketing campaign you need to think carefully about how often you contact people. A barrage of emails or texts will only annoy your customers and potential customers and may drive them away from your business altogether, meaning lost sales. You also need to consider that if people are no longer interested in receiving direct marketing messages from your business they need to be able to easily opt out.
Once you have started to build up a database of people that have expressed interest in your business, make the most of it. Rather than simply recording a name and an email address/phone number, try and keep track of what your customers bought and when they purchased it. This will obviously be harder for some businesses than others but by keeping track of sales details your business will be in stronger position to further customise your marketing at later dates.
For example, if you find a customer regularly buys a product and you happen to have a surplus in stock you could contact that customer and offer them a reduced price to help you offload the product.
On average we are exposed to 3,000 advertising messages per day, so it understandable that messages often go straight in one ear and out the other. The best way to ensure that you direct marketing campaign receives some traction with your target audience is to follow up your initial message. An initial email notifying the start of a sale might be followed up with another email closer to the finish date reminding your customers not to miss out. Again, think carefully about how often you make contact with your target audience so as not to become intrusive.
Like all marketing efforts you need to be able to measure the success/failure of a direct marketing campaign. If you spend time and money sending emails to promote a sale, at the end of it you need to know if your efforts increased your profits. Therefore before embarking on a campaign, work out what you realistically can achieve so you have sound expectations.
The internet has introduced a range of new ways to contact existing customers and reach new ones. With email and text messaging campaigns being relatively inexpensive to run, think about embracing it the next time your small business runs a direct marketing campaign.