Posts Tagged ‘Marketing Collateral’

Whats the deal with QR Codes?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

By now you have probably been exposed to the latest in marketing technology although you might not have been aware of what you were seeing. What am I talking about, you ask? Well, have you seen this strange black and white squares that have been popping up at the grocery store, on cutting edge marketing materials and sometimes even on TV recently? I thought so.

What are they you ask? They are known as QR Codes or Quick Response Codes. And those seemingly innocuous squares carry hidden meaning to those in-the-know and anyone with a smart phone can become part of the “in” crowd with the click of a camera shutter.

********* Warning useless digression approaching **********

To the uninitiated they are simply the next generation of bar code but to really understand how they developed and how they can help you, we need to get Mr. Peabody to fire up the Way-back Machine (and leave Sherman behind this time).

The concept behind the QR Code actually originated back in the 90’s and at that time special information was being encoded using a somewhat standard product bar codes but it required a special device called a CueCat to access the special information. This was problematic because the CueCat had to be attached to your computer to work and at that time your average home computer was somewhat less than mobile. So what did you have to do? You had to buy products (sometimes they were even used in magazine ads), bring them to your computer and make a concerted effort to find the Easter egg (if it eggisted at all). The devices were even given away in some places in order to promote the use of this new marketing technology. Needless to say, I am probably the only one left that remembers them because they were such a dismal failure. Another product of technology not being able to keep up with itself.

Fast forward to present day where everyone you meet has a smart phone that is 10x more powerful than the Gargoyle you were attaching your CueCat to back in the day (which was a Wednesday as I recall). Not only that but you would be hard pressed to find a regular cell phone that did not have a built-in camera now. Finally technology has caught up to the brilliant idea.

Digression complete, you may now return to your regularly scheduled posting

So how can you make the most of this technology that has finally come into its own? Well, as is usual with most really broad questions, it all depends. Everyone can make use of these lovely little squares of wonder, you just have to decide what you want to do. Unlike the CueCat enabled codes of the past, QR codes can reveal much more than just a URL. With a QR Code you can encode:

  1. A URL. This is the most common use. Whether for a website proper, a product micro site or a social media page you can get users looking at what you have to offer right from their phone anywhere and anytime they encounter your square of destiny.
  2. A secret message. Yep, the next generation of invisible ink is here and there are no special pens required. Send a special message for people “In the Know”, provide a special offer for those with the ability to find it or maybe pass on a special code to accessing special content about your products or services.
  3. An SMS. Yes, you heard me right. you can encode a phone number and message into your magic block so that you no longer have to say “Text 2323 to 900-555-1212” to get your special prize. People can just point and click their way to entering your contest.
  4. A Phone Number. Most smart phones are designed to turn any number that even remotely resembles a phone number into a link that can be dialed with the single click. This type of QR Code take it one step further and does not require that you even have the number. Just scan to get the number and click to connect. Now THAT is Quick Response.
  5. Your Contact Info. The easiest way to get your contact info to a prospect. They scan the code and a new contact is automatically setup with your Name, Address, Phone and Email. What could be easier. These are great for business cards. Who needs a special card scanner when a quick click with your phone does it all and allows you to call NOW, not in 3 days when you get around to scanning the card back at the office.
  6. An Email. Depending on how their phone functions, you can even queue up an email with a click that will populate the email address it is going to, the subject line and the body. The best email based contest entry vehicle even. People walking by your both at a trade show and click to enter rather than stopping to fill out a form that you might not be able to read anyway.
  7. Your Geographical Information. Map it, Baby! Can you imagine having your office location encoded so that with a click it opens up a smart phone mapping program and plants a flag at your location so that it is quick and easy for people to get to you?

So, I guess now the question becomes not “How can I use it?”, but “How Can I get my own code?”. Well, that is easy too. There are a number of places online that will allow you generate your own codes for FREE. You just put in the info you want encoded, click a button and presto your code appears ready for download in a format that can be used in print or on the web. In fact you can even find one right here. Just look at the resources menu above and click the “QR Code Generator” link – or anywhere it is linked (like here) in the body if you are super lazy.

So what are you waiting for an engraved invitation? The only limitation for using QR Codes is your own imagination. So get out there and get your own magic square now!


Building your business without getting lost in the minutia

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Every entrepreneur wants to build their business but most new businesses have to be very lean in order to get off the ground. Unfortunately for most businesses that means doing without key things that can help their business thrive but that does not have to be the case. Just because you do not have the specific skills needed for a task and you cannot afford to have a full or even part-time employee around to get the things done that you need does not mean that you have to do without. There are inexpensive options available to give you the help you need so you can focus more on the business of building your business.

Picture it, your office, now. You, focusing on meeting your clients needs while your daily office/business needs are effortlessly handled by an unseen force? It is an amazing feeling right? You, focusing on the stuff that made you want to start your own business in the first place, not a care in the world. Sound too good to be true? What could this amazing unseen force be? It is none other than your Virtual Assistant. That’s right, your heard me…Virtual. And I am not talking about The H.A.L 9000 or some scary SkyNet kind of thing that will take your data in a desperate plot to take over the world. I am talking about highly skilled professionals working from home that can remotely help your back office run at peak efficiency.

Think about it like hiring a temp from an agency but rather than getting basic computer skills and the task for providing office space and equipment, you get someone with experience doing exactly what you need done who provides their own equipment and can help you at just about any hour of the day (within reason of course). You can find VA’s with skills that run the gamut from very broad skill sets to help you take care of stuff that piles up and keeps you from getting to more important things to very narrow specializations to help you with more of a surgical focus and everything in-between.

Need someone to answer the phones so you can get out for a few hours a day unencumbered?
No problem. There are many ways in which your local business calls can be routed to a VA so they make appointments, take messages or anything else you require.

Perhaps you have great marketing ideas and have no clue hoe to implement them?
That’s not a problem either. You can find marketing writers to help with your website and other marketing content.

Does Social Networking completely elude you?
You are covered there too with social media experts who can not only get you setup with the likes of Facebook and Twitter but will also keep it updated for you to keep your presence fresh.

Bookkeeping not really your bag, baby?
You can find a VA to handle your payables and receivables to ensure that you are always in good standing with your vendors while making sure that your clients are in good standing with you.

Web Guys getting you down?
You can even find someone to make your website updates for you so you don’t have to pay outrageous maintenance costs to unscrupulous web developers.

And instead of paying for someone 25-40 hours a week, you only pay for the time you use and the rates are very reasonable. So what all can you get? The sky’s the limit. If there is a need, chances are the is a VA out the that is specializing in easing that pain.

And the list goes on. If you need it done, chances are there is someone out there with the expertise you need, ready to help.

So what are you waiting for? You can get exactly the help you need without the unnecessary overhead so have a seat at the table, tuck in and help your business grow.

How can I do an Email Newsletter, let me count the ways…

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

One of the most popular methods of building an email marketing database is through subscriptions to an email newsletter. They are a great way to connect with new potential customers but how do you get started with one? Once the decision is made, you can get things going in pretty short order, but as with most things you need a good recipe to get things just right. And the best way to ensure a tasty dish, as I may have mentioned in previous posts, is to think it through before you start. So whats to think about, right? You want to increase your email database and what you have to say is definitely monumentally important to anyone with half a brain so you should just make it happen, right? Well, not necessarily. If you take a little time to think it through before you start, you can make your first endeavor into the world of email marketing a much more successful one.

So let’s think it through a bit:

I know you want ti increase your email database, but is that the only purpose behind your need to shower unsuspecting readers with your thought-provoking prose? Think about your ultimate goal in adding to your email database. Is it to drive traffic to your website, increase sales for specific products, interest potential attendees in upcoming events or to simply a way to stay connected with your client base by informing them of what is new and happening with your company?

What type of content do you want to present? Just because you have a good idea for an article or two in the inaugural issue does not mean your newsletter will have legs. Make sure that the concept behind the newsletter is scalable enough to include as yet undetermined topics for your concept. You don’t want to develop a newsletter entirely around the “pitfalls of baking 3″ diameter apple tarts during the winter solstice” when a slightly broader topic like “3” tarts” will allow you the fluidity needed to keep your readers interested with a broader range of topics throughout the year.

How do you want your newsletter to be read? It seems like a simple enough questions but it is one that can have a great impact on how your particular brand of literary brilliance is received. There are a number of ways to format a newsletter, all of which are good, but what works best for you is entirely dependent on the content you plan to provide. The two most common types are the All-in-one and the click-through.

The all-in-one type brings all of the content of the newsletter right to your subscribers inbox. They allow the subscriber to easily digest the information for quick action.These work very well for company announcements, affiliate sales and newsletters with fewer articles or shorter content. The advantage of these is they are entirely encapsulated so they are easy to read on the go with various wireless devices.

Click through
The click-through type of newsletter is one that provides a summary of each article with a link to continue reading. This type of newsletter generally has both an email and website component It is more suited to newsletters with a great deal of technical content, a large numbers of topics or longer more in-depth articles. Although it can be more time-consuming to maintain, this type of newsletter allows for additional benefits outside of simply bolstering your email database. With this type of newsletter you are driving traffic to your website with each click and once they are finished reading your newsletter, they might decide to stick around and see what else you have to offer at that moment in time. It also allows for the possibility of both broad and targeted advertising based on topic rather than just the broad type of advertising that the all-in-one might deliver.

Now that you have done your due diligence: you know your purpose, you have a scalable idea for ongoing content and your format is set, it is time to get busy. Your next steps are to come up with a catchy title, some awesome design and a way to make it go.

Catchy title – Check! Forget the marketing angle, the brilliant name you came up with is probably the whole reason you decided to do the newsletter in the first place, right? 🙂

Awesome design – Check! You know a kick’n designer that can make that brilliant title sing. All you have to do is give him the name and the next great content vehicle is as good as done! And if you don’t think you need the next great design, that is not a problem either because there are ways of making your newsletter talk even if it in NOT one of the pretty people.

Way to make it go – Uh, oh! How do I do that? Well lucky for you this ain’t your mama’s content distribution method. There are a great many ways to give your vehicle wings and none of them require jet fuel. If you don’t have a bunch of technology black belts lying around just waiting for you to come in with your next flash to brilliance then you will want to consider using a third-party email provider to deliver your newsletter and more importantly maintain your email database.

There are an ever-increasing number of providers out there to suite this need and the one you go with depends a lot on you. Most have tools and templates for creating simple HTML newsletters (in case you do not feel the need for design ecstasy in your template) but all will help you manage your list. You can find solutions to fit anything from a large enterprise implementations that service lists in the hundreds of thousands (like YesMail, Silverpop and ExactTarget) all the way down to lists of less than a hundred. The trick is to read the features available for the cost and decide what works best for your list and mailing needs. Small businesses can easily find FREE Trials (like AWeber, VerticalResponse, and GetResponse for example) and depending on your list size and mailing requirements FREE forever (like my personal favorite MailChimp). Functionality varies from service to service but they all do a good job of helping you get your word out.

The best part of hosted services is the list maintenance. They allow you to set up your list with boning or preloaded with an existing database. From there they provide you with ways to create subscribe forms that can be used in your online marketing efforts, auto responders that can be used to carry a link to a free gift and all the while they handle any unsubscribes that come through to make sure that you stay CAN-SPAM compliant.

After the due diligence for your new newsletter us done, make sure to check out some of these email providers to see what works best for you needs:

The 5 D’s of Effective Marketing Content

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The biggest mistake that marketers make when developing their collateral materials is focusing too much on their brand and not enough on their products or services. Rather than focusing on the Who, what marketers should really be focusing on is the Why. Whether you are creating a new brochure or adding to a website, the best way to set yourself apart from the crown is with effective content.

Effective marketing materials should be constructed to persuade and inform. And as much as it pains me to say, design isn’t everything. You really need to have solid content to support your flashy graphics because once they snap out of their sense of awe and wonder about your stellar design (which they WILL experience 🙂 ), they will be ready to feast on the information your materials have to offer. If there is no substance to be had, they will leave and move on to a company that can satisfy their hunger.

The 5 D’s
In order to give yourself a fighting chance against all of the five-star competition out there you just need to ask yourself a few questions as you go through the process of developing your content:

  1. Definition – Is your product or service clearly defined and are all of the important features enumerated?
  2. Differentiation – Have you clearly stated how your product or service differs from your competitors and what specific pain it remedies?
  3. Demographics – Does your content clearly speak to your intended audience?
  4. Design – Is your content easy to read and understand and will it get your points across without confusing a layperson about your product or service?
  5. Distribution – Will the material you plan to produce be easy to distribute to your target market and be understood without interaction from a member of your sales team?

Answering these questions as you develop your materials will help your content to be more effective which will translate into more sales.

Creating Effective Marketing Collateral

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

The trick to creating truly effective marketing materials is finding the right balance between form and function. As I have stated before, content is king but great content is useless if you don’t have anyone reading it. Enter Content’s flamboyant cousin, Design. Good design can have as much of an impact on the bottom line as content because the flash of a great design, like a carnival barker, is really what brings in the crowd.

So what can you do to make sure what you are creating is both visually and substantively powerful?

The 5 C’s of powerful marketing materials

  1. Clear Headline – Think about it, you are standing in line at the grocery store, you glance over at the magazine rack and see one headline that says “Cow has Human Baby” and one next to it that says “Beige is the new Off White” which do you gravitate toward? Unless you are planning on auditioning for the next edition of Project runway, you will likely be more intrigued by the former. Although this may not be a good example of a brochure headline, it illustrates the point that the right headline can make the sale.  A clear and catchy headline can be the difference between someone stopping to read your material and moving on to the next more “off white” marketing piece in the rack. Make sure your headline is clear and catchy. Make people want to read more.
  2. Clean Layout – A good layout bolsters that great headline and helps direct your prospects eye. It leads them through the content and helps them digest the material the way you want them to. Using short paragraphs that are broken up by larger (and sometimes colorful), informative headings allows your reader to get the point even if they only have time to scan the material. Good layout maximizes the efficacy of your content.
  3. Clever Graphics – There really is something to the old adage “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”. Maximize your exposure with graphics that help to define the information you are trying to get across or at very least helps draw the reader further into the content you have worked so hard to develop. A nice graphic presentation can draw as much attention as the aforementioned “Cow has human baby” headline. Make the most of the little time you have and give those visual learners out there something to absorb. Whether you use drawings, maps, or photos as long as they help illustrate your products benefits, visuals can help tell the story when they don’t have time for the words.
  4. Call to Action – One place many marketers fall short on their materials is in the lack of an effective call to action. No matter how savvy your prospect base is, when you are marketing to them, they are sheep and you are the little pig asking them to kindly move along. Don’t be afraid to be forceful. They are looking to you for guidance so don’t disappoint. Make sure to tell them what they should do next. Click Now, Call Today or whatever is appropriate for your product or service. If you don’t tell them, how can you expect them to do what you want them to do?
  5. Contact – Don’t forget to tell them who you are. You got their attention, you have directed through the information, you have stunned them with your graphics and you told them what to do. Make sure they know who you are. Always include your branding and multiple ways to get in contact with you. You need to ensure that you don’t blow the excitement generated with your awesome graphics and brilliant prose.

Make a Memory
The bottom line for any type of marketing material is usefulness. The goal should be to create something that clients will want to hold onto. They might not be ready to purchase immediately but if you find the right balance between content and design, they will hold onto your materials (or bookmark your site) until they are ready and when that time comes you will be their first contact.

5 things to consider when creating marketing materials

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Whether you are creating a website, a brochure or a full on ad campaign there are a number of things that need to be considered before starting the process. Considerations vary depending on the type of marketing you are doing but some things stay the same.

  1. Know Your Audience. You have to know your ideal customer in order to effectively communicate with them. Putting yourself in their place will go a long way toward developing the type of relationship you want.
  2. Know Your Materials. The approach you take when putting together a particular type of marketing material or campaign will vary depending on what you are doing. The content that goes into an ad campaign is much different form that of a brochure. Make sure you have a complete understanding of the medium before you start so you can properly organize your selling points to maximize the effect on your indented audience.
  3. Know Your Audience. I can’t stress this enough. Stay away from jargon or any kind of industry specific language that may distance you from your customers. The more you know about your intended audience, the more effective your communications will be no matter what types of material you decide create.
  4. Know Yourself. Know your products and services inside and out. Be thorough in the information you give to prospects and above all make it meaningful. If the content of your brochure, ad, mailer, etc is not valuable to your target audience, your materials will quickly find their way to the recycle bin or worse, the shredder.
  5. Know Your Audience. I may have mentioned this one before but I thought I would mention it again because too many companies produce materials that are really good if you already know all there is to know about their product or service but they are not quite as meaningful if you are not in with the in-crowd. Knowing your audience well allows them to be let in on the joke and gets you one step closer to your goal…a sale.

Keeping these things in mind as you begin to develop your marketing plan will keep you on the right track and hopefully help you begin to build the types of relationships you are looking to build with your customers.

I need to create some marketing materials, but what is the best option for me?

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

When it comes to marketing materials there are a great many things you can choose from to get your message out to the masses, the most popular of which is a website, but we are talking about offline materials here. So what to create?

In order to determine the best type of collateral for you, you first need to decide the primary function of the piece. Is it something for use strictly on sales calls, is it something that you want your clients to come to on their own or are you trying to reach out to cold sales prospects? The answers to questions like these will help determine the format of your material and that format will help determine the content.

There are several types collateral materials, here are five of the most popular:

A standard brochure or leave behind as they are sometimes called are something that you would take with you on a sales call. These materials usually contain an overview of your products or services and generally summarize your sales pitch for why someone should use your company.

Point of Sale
Point of Sale materials are similar to a display advertisement (magazine type ad) and are generally used to get potential customers attention while they are standing in line or waiting for something. These materials are usually characterized by a catchy headline that draws immediate interest followed by a brief description of the product or service involved. They usually have a strong call to action driving potential customers to request more information or contact a sales representative.

Sales Support
Sales support materials in the form of individual sell sheets are very similar to your standard brochure but while your company brochure has a cross section of your entire business, your support materials will give specific details about a single product or service. these types of materials can also be used as a follow up to direct inquiries and responses from ads, or point of sale materials.

Direct Mail
Direct Mail is used when trying to connect with current or potential customers about a specific product or service. The space is usually more limited for content on these and comes in the form of a post card or other such simple communication. Direct mail can be a very powerful tool if done correctly but it generally allows for much less content so it has to count. Like the Point of Sale pieces, it needs a headline that will capture attention quickly, but in this case it has to be done before it finds its way to the trash. They must have a specific call to action and it is important that responses to this type of material be measurable. Direct mail can often expose you to a much wider audience but response rates for direct mail in general hover between two and five percent so you have to consider your potential return on Investment (ROI) before you even begin.

The last type of materials have become the most popular in recent years, Downloads. While these are technically printed materials, they also have an online component. Most often these resemble a sell sheet but since you are not specifically limited by material cost and deliverability, they are much more flexible. If you have created printed versions of any of the above materials, you should also have a downloadable version to give you additional delivery options such as through email or from your website. These materials are generally in a PDF format for the widest possible distribution. Although they are more flexible and you can create online versions of all existing printed materials, one thing to keep in mind when creating materials that are to be download only is standard computer printer limitations. Download only materials should limit bleeds (unless of course you don’t care how they will look when printed – which they will be) and the best case is to leave 1/2″ border of white around the entire document to ensure that the materials will be displayed the same on every device (by default the printable area for most printers leaves 1/4″ of white space on the top and sides of a sheet while having at least 3/8″ at the bottom for gripping the paper – some go as low as 1/8″ top and sides but the tail is usually the same).

No matter which direction your marketing takes you (and it may just be all of the above), just make sure that as you develop your materials, you gear them toward your intended audience in both style and content to ensure that they are as effective as possible for your specific marketing purpose.

I am ready to take my buisiness online…now what?

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Welcome to the new frontier. Now that you have made the decision to make the leap to the web, what is the next step?

It seems daunting. Instead of just marketing your products or services to locally or even across the country, you now have a global audience to deal with. This can present a set of problems that many small businesses are not sure they are ready to handle.

Fear not. Although Internet marketing can encompasses the world wide web, e-mail, wireless digital media,  management of digital customer data and electronic customer relationship management you can ease your way into it with just a few enhancements of existing business standards.

Just like with your existing offline marketing, branding is the most important thing you can do to differentiate your business online. Everything starts with your logo.

A well designed logo will help you stand out against your competition and help augment the position of your products or services in the global marketplace. But an identifiable mark is is only the beginning. The cornerstone of any good brand is the differentiation of your product. You need to explain to people what makes your company unique and this is when you begin to realize that when it comes to internet marketing content is king.

Once you have made your mark and identified your strengths, its time to tell people about it.

Like with the offline marketing collateral you have always used for sales support, you will want those same materials for online. But when you place them online they can now take on new and exciting forms. Not just as downloadable versions of the existing materials (although those are good), but as new interactive versions that help you truly differentiate yourself from the competition.

The most common interactive form of these materials is a website. Here you can extend your offline identity into a more complete online experience for potential customers. Instead of a flat boring experience that talks about a single product or service, you have the ability to bring your entire business right to your customers in a way that can service them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But just putting the information out there is not enough, in order for it to be useful, it needs to be seen.

Once you have your brand and online identity set up, the real work begins. Cutting through the clutter.

Stay tuned to learn different ways to enhance your online marketing efforts with topics including logos, branding, websites, search engine optimization, social networking and more.