You can extend the programme into a full-blown club – newsletters, exclusive special offers (great for shifting slow-moving stock), discounts on related products or services (it’s generally easy to find other suppliers willing to give your club members a 10 or 20 percent discount in return for capturing the buyer’s details for their own database), seminars and other get-togethers.
so that you can recite it in your sleep but not seem as though you’re delivering a canned presentation. When people say "So, what do you do?" the question they’re really asking is “How do you make money” – but actually saying that is regarded as impolite.
So your elevator pitch should answer the unspoken question, but in such a way that (a) identifies the problems you solve or the benefits you can offer: and (b) implies that your business is very successful because it’s so good at those problems and benefits.
(try Xara Screenmaker 3D, from http://www.xara.com/products/screenmaker3d/) and give it away to customers, prospects, anyone who visits your website … anyone at all. All those PCs suddenly become advertising billboards for your business. Screenmaker is recommended because it’s cheap, very easy to use, and good fun; it also produces pretty good screensavers from your text and/or images (logos, photographs, drawings).
Instead of handing out a parcel of brochures and your business card, give your prospects and customers all they need on a single disc. And it doesn’t have to be a conventional CD-ROM; you can get neat half-size mini-discs, and ‘business card’ CDs which are rectangular but still fit into a standard CD drive. Both have enough storage space to fit at least 30MB of content, which is probably quite enough for your whole website and/or lots of product information.
Search engine marketing has become a specialisation that commands fairly high prices and cannot guarantee success. SE ‘optimisation’ involves tweaking your website so that it’s more likely to appear early on in the list of results when someone enters a relevant keyword, but that’s as far as it goes.
In fact most websites (especially B2B) get a minority of visitors from search engines and directories. Rather than spending time and money on a programme of promoting to them and buying keywords, you might be better to concentrate on your own mailing list and making sure that any other marketing materials reference your website – sign-written vans, business cards, promotional flyers, Christmas cards, promotional gifts and so on.
In any case, there’s quite a lot that you (or your webmaster) can do without calling in the expensive pros. Here’s the shortlist:
- Use the META tags – for keywords, title and description. All these should emphasise three or four key concepts using words that you also repeat in the text and the headings on the page.
- Make sure you’re listed in all the relevant free directories. The operative word is ‘relevant’ – don’t submit your website to every free directory, or you’ll be bombarded with junk mail and solicitations to buy further services. Once you’ve identified the best ones, you might think it’s worth taking the inevitable offer of paid-for fast-tracking to get your listing in there sooner.
- Most visitors go to commercial websites for information, not for entertainment. Good web design starts with (a) easy, obvious navigation and (b) relevant, easy-to-use content. Avoid jarring colours and idiosyncratic typefaces, avoid over-elaborate grammar and any humour unless it’s been thoroughly tested, include ‘click for more information’ rather than over-long pages scrolling down to infinity.
- Refresh your website regularly. Give the punters a reason for returning: more information, new products, downloadable freebies, competitions. Redesign it thoroughly once a year. And tell everyone on your mailing list about all major updates (and most minor ones too).
- Choose the right names for your website. That’s right – more than one name, with the separate domains all redirecting visitors to your main site. Many businesses will have a slogan or catchphrase: many will he known by contractions, abbreviations or initials: most are prone to at least some misspelling. Get domain names for as many of the possibilities as you can – domain names registration is so cheap right now that you might as well cover all the bases.
For each name, set up a separate page that almost immediately takes your visitor to your main website. With judicious use of the right keywords in the web page’s test and its HTML META tags, this will greatly improve your chances of appearing on Google and other search engines when someone enters the relevant search-for term. Why? Because Google gives a lot of weight to ‘site popularity’, the number of web pages that link to yours. The more links to your site, the higher you’ll be in the results list.
Marketing should major on benefits rather than features, meaning what you can do for your customer rather than how you do it. So use case studies and testimonials to prove your point. Ideally you need real clients – use a photograph and direct quotes to prove they exist – but a start-up could get by with some hypothetical situations (but make it clear that this is just an artist’s impression).
Customer stories are good B2B website material; use clickable links for specifications and other non-chatty material. You can also produce them as single-sheet case studies and include them in brochures – but make sure they’re both relevant and up-to-date.
People who use email expect a speedy response, and providing one is a simple marketing technique that supports lots of good messages – we’re alert, responsive, aware of customer concerns, professional, up-to-date and so on.
If you can’t reply to incoming email within an hour or so, use an automated system to provide an instant response of some kind.
This could be a simple “Thanks, we’ll get back to you as soon as possible”. But if you’ve organized your email addresses correctly, a more targeted response should be possible: so incoming mail addressed to email@example.com could elicit an automated response that includes a PDF document containing product details or an appropriate website link.
You can do quite a lot with Outlook rules, or check out some of the autoresponder packages on offer.
, a couple of lines at the bottom of message which will identify you and your company. Make sure every email carries one (including replies to incoming message) and make sure everyone in your organisation uses the same signature format.
The signature shouldn’t be too long, but it should give two or three alternative ways to contact you and your company: and it could include a marketing message of some kind – “Sale now on” or “Winner of the Best Company Prize 2004”.
is among the simplest and least expensive options in budget marketing. An email doesn’t carry the materials and overhead costs of a paper mailshot. You (probably) don’t need the expensive and risky element of visual design.
You know almost immediately whether the address is ‘live’ – still active, spelled correctly – and you can ask for a read receipt to indicate whether your target has received the message. And you stand a good chance of getting an immediate response, since the easiest time to click on Reply or a link to a web page is while you’re actually reading the mail.
This doesn’t mean that all email marketing is inherently good, however:
- For a start it is indelibly associated with spam – unwanted and unrequested junk mail. Make sure that the people on your list actually want (and preferably are expecting) the material you’re sending them. There are laws about this now, though they are depressingly feeble.
- The “From" and “Subject” lines are crucial in e-mail marketing. The recipient must recognize the sender – company name or brand are good options if your own name will mean nothing. And the Subject is what will persuade them to read on, so put real effort into finding the right words.
- People don't read emails, they skim them. You still need good copywriting in an e-newsletter or a sales letter, but if possible you should also clickable links or buttons for instant access to key online areas.
- Always include an Unsubscribe option in your message, but you may as well make sure that people know what they’re missing when they do unsubscribe. Clicking the Unsubscribe button should take them to a web page which asks them to confirm their decision. Anyhow, they might not want to unsubscribe from everything -- they might want your occasional product updates but not the regular newsletter.