My wife watches a television show featuring an odd collection of fairy tale characters played by live actors. I've noticed that anytime a heroic character gets into a jam, they conjure a spell or produce magical dust that bails them out. When it comes to marketing their businesses, it seems many communications industry companies are hoping for a little sorcery of their own.
I've run into quite a few companies lately that seem to believe in making a magical leap from brand awareness directly to a sales call. If asked, they will tell you that this isn't the way they usually sell their product, but something makes them hold out hope of composing a charmed message that will materialize a boatload of leads. Instead of a marketing plan, many businesses settle for a scattered collection of standalone efforts. Lacking a clear objective or a defined next step, organizations are understandably disappointed with near-zero response rates. The magic doesn't happen.
Year-Round Marketing is Hard
Marketing businesses such as service providers, software, or hardware vendors is a year-round effort. Unfortunately, it isn't treated as such by a lot of companies. Every year the pressures of keeping up on postal rates and requirements, new technology, security, regulatory compliance, rising costs, and intense competition distracts them. These high-priority items keep organizations from designing and then following a comprehensive marketing plan for their companies.
Buyers go to the internet to identify vendors qualified to solve their problem. If your company doesn't have informational content available online, and can't consistently persuade prospective customers to access that content, you are not going to get a shot at their business. I'm not saying referrals, cold calls, and advertising aren't effective tools. Only that those methods are predecessors to internet research that happens regardless of how a prospect was first attracted to your company. It has probably been a long time since you signed a new customer that had not looked online for information about your business before making their decision.
Web sites with dated content or material indistinguishable from competitors do little to convince a prospect your company should be on their short list. Creating only top-of-the-funnel content won't do much to move a lead into those activities that prospects generally take before they become your customers. Sending marketing pieces out to existing leads or dormant customers once or twice a year isn't enough to make them remember you later, when they have a new challenge you could help them solve.
Yet these are the methods employed by numerous product and service providers year after year. Cue the purple smoke - maybe it will work this time.
A Simple Solution
My advice: Put together a calendar for the coming year and plan on publishing something every month. Include some items meant to make prospective customers aware of your company's services and remind past customers of the value you provide. Include deeper content to engage leads already researching document industry resources. Provide educational value, not just sales pitches. Consistency is the key. Line up some help to minimize the impact of those inevitable diversions.
I won't promise you will live happily ever after, but if you follow your plan you'll have some results. Then you can repeat or adjust, if necessary, to get the response you were hoping for. Subsequent years are even easier. You can freshen some items and reuse them. No supernatural talismans required!
Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants. He writes constantly about topics of interest to the communications industry. Visit www.printmailconsultants.com and sign up for Customer Retention NOW! - a free newsletter about attracting and nurturing leads for document industry businesses.