Feb. 23 2007 04:29 PM

    You may have the greatest service, staff and offerings of any mailing company in the country, but you will remain a "legend in your own mind" unless you bring the knowledge of your services to the attention of the marketplace. If you want to gain new customers and maintain your current customers, your services information should be shared across multiple platforms, using a myriad of communication methods. Whether your marketing/advertising is subtle or aggressive, local or national, hardcopy or electronic, institutional or service specific, there is a very large body of systematic techniques for you to utilize in the development of your company's standard operation procedure of marketing.

     

    Make Footprints

    My first cardinal rule of marketing is to "make footprints." In order to do that, you must NOT follow in someone else's footsteps. You must go where no one else in your marketplace has gone before. Why? Because imitation is the highest form of flattery. If one of your competitors has already used a concept or image in their advertising, why would you want to copy them and give credibility to their work? Your company would come away being labeled as a copy cat, incapable of coming up with an original idea of your own and relegated to second best. You will confuse your customers and prospects because they are seeing the same theme coming from multiple companies in the same marketplace. And worst of all, you have unwittingly advanced your competitors' marketing efforts.  

     

    Many years ago, I was working on the development of a new concept to advertise a new product feature for the company where I was employed. My marketing staff agreed that the best image (graphic or photo) to convey the message of the product was that of a Swiss army knife because it was a universally recognized tool that was multi-faceted just like our new product! Our next step was to scour other mailing industry publications to see if any other companies in our industry had already used the image in their ads. It didn't take long to discover that one of our closest competitors had beaten us out. This next step was critical (and painful) the Swiss army knife concept was immediately dismissed and taken off the table of consideration. We searched for other images and finally settled on a construction tool belt which held many tools. Not as good as the knife image but an effective image nonetheless. By refusing to follow behind someone else, we maintained our public perception of originality in our advertising. Truth be told, we gave a silent tip of the hat to our competitor for a battle they had won. We would have given them public kudos if we had copied their work.

     

    Consistency of Image

    My next cardinal rule is consistency of image. Marketing aficionados would call that branding or building your brand or brand recognition, but it is simply staying on message. Your marketing concepts cannot have the equivalent of the attention span of a gnat and be successful in building a presence in your marketplace. Any information that is associated with your company should be consistently used across any advertising platforms. Your logo, address, phone number, etc. should appear using the same colors, type styles and data. Don't confuse your prospects or customers by having a different logo for your web advertising than '
    what they may see in your print advertising or a different 800 number in ads. Develop one and stick with it for a period of years, not months or weeks. Respect your customers by allowing them to recognize your company wherever they may be looking to find you. Consistency, in itself, is a gift that keeps on giving.
    Imagine what your logo will look like when it is stitched on a shirt pocket, baseball cap or silk-screened on a pen. If it isn't readily readable back to the drawing board.

     

    Advertising Avenues

    You can use the Internet to market your services without placing expensive banner ads. If you have a website, make sure you have carefully considered "key words" that will bring search engines to your homepage. And if your company provides mailing services, has a website which lists your contact information it may not be the best idea to use "Snail Mail" as the heading for your mailing address.

     

    Place ads in publications that belong to associations where you hold a membership. The advertising is typically less expensive than national publications and the distribution list is focused on others in your industry. Even if you predominantly do business locally, your presence in this type of publication with a national mailing list makes a statement for very little money.

    Join your local USPS Postal Customer Council and be listed on the membership roster. Once again, no membership fees, but a presence as a mailing company. Also, most PCCs have a local or regional vendor show, and it is another marketing venue that is much less expensive than national shows like the National Postal Forum or Graph Expo.

     

    Place ads in the product or service guides for industry publications like Mailing Systems Technology. These publications have a long "shelf life" since they are published annually or semi-annually, and your marketing dollar goes much further. Also, take advantage of the opportunity that is afforded you to profile your company and your services.

     

    Conduct tours of your facility for your local Boy/Girl/Cub Scouts. You don't have to have a big facility to be impressive to these young minds. Simply show them how a postage meter or an inserter works or how an inkjet addresser applies an address and a barcode. The youngsters and their families are members of your community and the efforts of your company will be appreciated. This is an outward show of community involvement and a nicely subtle form of marketing. Additionally, you will be surprised at the sense of pride employees derive from this seemingly insignificant effort.

     

    Take your community involvement a step further and establish an intern program for your local high school students. One possibility is to look for any technical institutions that provide '
    industrial career training. You may find a part-time addition to your workforce and, possibly, a future full-time employee. Send a little notice to your local business newspaper announcing your intern program. Once again, marketing does not have to be the primary focus of your effort; however, a positive marketing experience will be the end result. Don't forget to check with your accountant, tax advisor or your HR department to see if your city/county/state has any programs that would provide you with a financial incentive like an educational grant that could be utilized by other company members for new skill training/education. Better yet, a tax break.

     

    In staying with your company and your community, launch a scholarship program for a deserving individual. The mailing industry is an ever-evolving entity, and those of us who participate in it are part of one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world. There is always something new and always something changing in this $900 billion a year industry. Yet, we are unable to attract graduates of any institutions of higher learning. No student is exclaiming, "When I graduate, I'm going to work in the mailing industry!"  A scholarship does not have to be large, but it should be awarded on a regular basis, and you should make sure that announcements are made to employees, customers and your community. You could get much more marketing mileage out of a $250 award than you might get out of a $2,500 advertisement. And your efforts will softly and slowly elevate the image of the mailer. 

     

    Speaking of those $2,500 ads print advertising plays an integral role in most marketing programs. Pricing can range from dollars for "classifieds" to tens of thousands for full-color cover ads in publications with a national circulation. Look closely at publication packages (media kits); check for circulation verification; review publication content for both articles and advertisements before making a decision. Once you have decided on a publication, place multiple ads over an extended period of time. Placing one large ad for big bucks one time only is the equivalent of opening the window and fertilizing your lawn with your money. When it comes to display advertising,  once is not enough. Your customers and prospects have got to see you again and again before you will make an effective impression. Carefully determine what your budget will bear; set your course and stay the course.

     

    Here are some ballpark figures that you can use to guide your marketing decision making:

  • Allocate 10% of revenue for general (maintenance) marketing. If you spend 10% or less, a year-end review will typically show that you maintained your current market position with sales remaining relatively flat.

     

  • Allocate 30% of revenue for aggressive marketing. If you pump that kind of money into promotion, your year-end sales figures will undoubtedly show a significant, upward trend line.

     

    Few companies can maintain that kind of spending for multiple years in a row; however, for those companies looking to make a statement, establish a presence; "bury" a competitor-type aggressive marketing will enable you to accomplish that feat. Spending can be reduced once your goal is reached and your company will enter a plateau mode where it will function until new marketing efforts are undertaken.

     

    Myriad of Methods

    The marketing arena for mailing services is filled with a myriad of methods, paths, vehicles, forums, formats and venues. Their associated costs run the gambit from astronomical to absolutely free. Pick one. Pick some. Pick them all but get busy today! The sooner you do, the sooner you will see results and revenues.

     

    Mary Ann Bennett is President and CEO of The Bennett Group. Call 877-743-3379, email maryann@the-bennett-group.com or you can visit www.the-bennett-group.com.  

     

     

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