Marketing

3 Business Tips Straight From The World Cup

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Have you caught World Cup fever?

As enthusiasm grows for the sport, more and more people are tuning in to the tournament, drafting their favorite players in fantasy leagues, and, of course, cheering for their teams. One thing I've noticed as I've watched---football (the other kind) has a lot in common with successful business practices. These three business tips stick out to me:

1. Goals matter.

This one’s pretty obvious in soccer, isn’t it? But how much attention do you pay to your business goals? If you’re not setting goals and measuring your levels of success against them, you might just be wasting your time---and money. Not sure where to start? Sit down with your staff and create goals for yourself, your employees, and your company that are SMART:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Actionable

  • Results-focused, and

  • Time-bound

Once you’ve clearly and concisely set goals, follow through on them. Make sure you revisit them annually to make sure you’re on track, and don’t be afraid to adjust your goals when necessary.

2. Listen to the coach.

As the owner or manager of your company, this may sound a little funny to you---after all, aren’t you in charge? Exactly! You’re the coach, which means you are responsible for coming up with a game plan, conditioning, training, and ultimately, executing a win.

In December, the U.S. Mens Soccer Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinnsman had this to say about his team: “We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet. For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament." Sounds pretty harsh, right? This article contends that that Jurgen’s brand of coaching is exactly what the team needs.

“Through this sort of harsh realism, Klinsmann is asserting his belief that the U.S. must significantly change the way it produces soccer players. He wants the team to develop a coherent national style of play that will be employed at every level” so that 9-year-olds play the same way the national team plays. He wants teenagers to join professional teams when they're 18 instead of going to college, like they do in Europe. He wants to proactively identify and recruit dual nationals.”

How does that relate to business? It means everything starts with you. Despite what Klinsmann said about his own team, he obviously believes they have the potential and capacity to win on a big scale. Whether you’re frankly pragmatic, like Klinsmann, or more optimistic, the tone and expectations you set for your team will direct your success or failure (yet another reason we think it’s imperative to set goals from the top down).

3. Have a backup plan.

When USMNT defender John Brooks scored the winning goal in the United States’ game against Ghana, being a “backup” didn’t matter. Brooks actually became the first U.S. MNT substitute to score a goal in a FIFA World Cup, but what really mattered was that, in the 86th minute, Brooks’ goal was on target. Clenching a win against Ghana secured the U.S. team a win.

Like Brooks’ last-minute goal, a backup in business can come out of nowhere and help your business win big, too. With call tracking, you can have a backup always there to help you track calls across the U.S. without having to deal with your phone company.

Here’s how it works: When you advertise, we partner with you to give you local or toll-free numbers, depending on your needs. Whether you choose 800 or vanity numbers, you can use  your numbers on specific campaigns to see how the results stack up against each other. That information can help you determine which media work best for you, what time of day your ads are most successful, and more. (P.S. Not sure if you need a local or toll free number? Here's an article that can help.)

With call tracking, you won’t have to scratch your head wondering how your advertising campaigns are doing (and why they are or are not wins for your company). If you think that sounds good, but want even more insight into customer phone calls, we can record each call, too, so you can review them to help your team close more business.

So, whether you have been a diehard fan for years or are just dipping your toes into the world of (the other) football, enjoy the tournament! And then, take these tips back to the office and see what a difference they will make for your team. 

Managing Interns Without Losing Your Mind? Yes, You Can!

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Ah, sweet summertime.

Sleeping in late. Watching ice cream melt and drip into sticky puddles on the floor. Long lunches followed by lazy afternoons. Unbridled laughter and exuberant chatter as friends recount stories of those hot summer nights.

And that’s just in your office.

Let’s face it---adults feel the same way about summertime as they did as kids: it's a season of “taking it easy.” And that feeling doesn’t get left at the door when they come to work. But, as a small business owner, you know you can’t afford to slack off (and neither can your employees). Here are six ways you can make sure your office productivity doesn’t take a leap off the high dive when summer begins.

1. Plan Beforehand

The first step in successfully managing interns and summer hires is to prepare for them. Game plan exactly what you want the next three (or however many) months to look like and what you hope to gain from the hire or hires. Think about what you want them to learn from you. It’s important to put some thought in to this and then write it down so you don’t waste time (yours and theirs) and money.

2. Make Your Expectations Known

As soon as your new employees arrive, tell them exactly what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. And this is important: be clear in stating your goals for their time with you as well as your company’s policies.

One article calls this setting the stage: let your interns know how their performance will be evaluated, how they will be paid, and who they can go to with concerns.

Giving clear instructions won’t just set the tone for the rest of the time these employees will be with you, it can also save you the money and hassle of dealing staffing changes and retention issues.

3. Give Them A Project They Own

Of course, it’s not fair to dog interns and summer hires if you’re not giving them anything to do. They are eager to show they can help, and you might be surprised at how insightful their fresh perspectives are in solving problems, identifying weaknesses, and improving strengths. The tasks you assign them don’t have to be important, necessarily, as much as purposeful. Do you have any less urgent, yet purposeful, tasks on your desk that you never get to? If so, consider delegating these tasks!

4. Guide Them

The other angle? Interns are with you to learn how the real world works---and how they can work in it. Giving them a few projects that matter will show them what it’s really like when someone depends on you to do a job well without giving you cardiac arrest if they make a mistake (and they will!). You’re in a unique (and pretty awesome) position to show someone who has no experience what the “real world” is all about, so take pride in it.

  • Institute an open-door policy: let them know from the beginning that the more questions they ask, the more they’ll learn, and that’s why you’re there.

  • Take time to give feedback.

  • Be honest when it comes to giving recommendations.

5. Guarantee Your Peace of Mind When You’re Not Around

One summer in college, I worked with someone who refused to answer the phone. Every time it rang, this employee either walked away or picked up the phone and set it back down---hanging up on probably hundreds of potential customers in the short time I worked there.

I’m not sure how our supervisor found out this was going on, but I do know it took months. I imagine thinking about the potential lost profit made my boss ill. Temporary and summer employees are a golden example of how a tool like call recording can make a huge difference in your business. If my boss had known about call tracking and recording, she wouldn’t have had to wait months to find out about the dozens of callers who never got through (she’d be alerted almost immediately that there was a pattern of dropping calls). And instead of having to let go of a teary-eyed employee who didn’t know how to do a job (and who just hung up the calls), she could have used recording phone conversations as a training tool, not only for that employee, but for all future employees (to make sure the situation never happened again)!

6. Have Fun, Too

Managing interns and summer hires is a lot of work, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Not only do you get to help form someone’s first work experience (a huge life event!), but you can potentially gain an exceptional member of your team. Enjoy the experience, and then stay in touch with those who go above and beyond; use the training ground you provided for your benefit (not your competitiors’!).

With these tips, you’ll not only gain an outstanding employee, you’ll improve your company---and be on the way to becoming one of the businesses every potential employee wants to be a part of. Let us help you get there.

P.S. What’s the best (or worst!) summer job you’ve ever had?

6 Reasons Your Business Should Be Using Instagram

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If you think Instagram is only for sharing photos of cute babies, average-looking food, and a selfie (or 12), think again. With the right strategy, the photo-sharing platform can work for your business. Here are six quick reasons your business should be using Instagram.

1. You can show your products in a new light (er, filter).

This is the most obvious reason to use Instagram. By sharing through a visual medium, you’ll give your current and potential customers a look at your products in a new way. Get creative. For example, if you’re a car dealership, share photos of your in-stock vehicles---exterior, interior, cool features, even pictures of the vehicles “in action.” As your inventory changes, so, too can the pictures you post. And don’t worry if you’re not a professional photographer---Instagram makes it easy to have cool images with just a push of a button.

2. Your audience already likes---and loves---Instagram.

Instagram is on track to pass Twitter users later this year, making it one of Facebook’s best purchases ever. With 60 million new photos posted daily, and 58 percent of users checking for new content at least once a day, it’d be a mistake to overlook Instagram as something that is just a trend.

3. You can give your customers behind-the-scenes access to your company.

Don’t limit your pictures to “showcases.” Let your followers get a glimpse of your team and your company’s culture through behind-the-scenes photos of the group of people who are bringing them awesome products (and content). Not sure who should post? Why not everyone? For example, once a week, you could pick a different employee to share a “day in the life” through the lens of his or her job. Don’t limit it only to work-related things---let your employees’ personalities shine, and give your customers a glimpse of just how awesome your team is.

4. Hashtag #engagement.

One of the hallmarks of Instagram is just how easy it is to connect with users through hashtags. A hashtag is the pound symbol (#) followed by a word or phrase with no spaces that users can tag photos with. Once a photo has a hashtag, it’s made into a link that shows you all of the images under that hashtag. Here’s an example: Chick-fil-A took a picture of a cup of sweet tea on a golf course and hash-tagged #masters in honor of the Masters Tournament. That’s pretty brilliant, huh? Now, whenever anyone clicks on any #masters tags (there are potentially millions of them!), they can see Chick-fil-A branding. And because Instagram is a free platform, this doesn’t cost you a thing.

5. Locations and user shout-outs bring your customers to you.

Another awesome thing about using Instagram for business? Your customers become your brand advocates through location and @user tags. Instagram lets you pinpoint user locations in images, so anytime you click on a location, you can see all of the users who have “insta-ed” there. Similarly, users can use the @ symbol to tag other users to connect to each other.

In the car dealership example above, consider what this could do for your business. If you asked your customer (who uses Instagram) if he or she could post a photo at your car dealership (using locations) and tag you in it, you could gain exposure from all of his or her followers. With that customers permission, you could regram (repost their picture from your account), too, and give the picture a creative hashtag unique to your dealership (or even the dealership name). Now imagine doing this with all of your customers. Sounds pretty awesome, right?!

6. You can get a business edge (for free!).

Here’s the “so, what?” to using Instagram for your business; it’s free, it's fun, and it’s also measurable. To find out if your Instagram marketing is actually driving leads, you can include a call-tracking number or a unique website in the “about” of your account or within image captions. That way, you’ll know it’s both fun and productive to market your company! Based on the analytics, you can choose to post more of the type of photo---product photos, maybe, or behind-the-scenes shots---that your followers seem to engage with. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity!

Tell us, how do you use Instagram for your business?

How Do You Make Your Customers Say "Spoice"?

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SPOICE! SPOICE! SPOICE!

OK, I'll admit---I’m enamored with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. And when U.S. Snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold of the 2014 competition, his proclamation of “SPOICE!” resonated with me. Mostly because I had no idea what it meant.

In case you’re wondering, too, here’s the (un)official definition: Spoice, which rhymes with voice, is

“An exclamation of gratitude toward life (Urban Dictionary), or, a particularly high compliment to be paid to someone. “Her last name’s ever. First name Spoiciest.” @sagekotsenburg

What if you could translate the “spoice” of life to your customer interactions? Would you, pardon the pun, jump at the chance? Of course you would! Well, it’s easier than you think, and it starts with call recording.

Call recording gives you insight you can't get any other way.

It's the direct link to details about your customers, your employees, and your marketing campaigns that could potentially boost profits---and, conversely, going without it could cost you.

Call recording tells you about your employees,

so you can keep an eye on quality and liability issues. With call recording, you can easily recall the correct card numbers, account information, or price quotes given; that way, you can correct any data discrepancies as soon as they come up. Your business benefits as light is shed on specific ways you can improve how you train and evaluate employees, scripts, and your sales methods. With call recording, you can simply and precisely target and measure the success of individual advertising campaigns as well as your overall marketing strategy.

Call recording is a low-cost solution with valuable benefits.

Instead of throwing away dollars to purchase systems that still make you do the work to figure out what your customers are actually saying, call recording gives you complete, direct access to exactly what you want to know in real time. You don't have to hire a bunch of people to organize and archive your data, either. It's done for you---you don't have to train yourself (or an employee) to maintain a complex system. The low cost of recording your calls far outweighs the perceived lack-of-cost of trying to monitor your employees yourself or, even worse, not at all.

Call recording gives you insight about how well you serve your customers.

Ultimately, all of the benefits come down to this one. If you want to know what your customers really think, record your calls. You will find out the good, the bad and the ugly, and then, acting on what you know will help you close more business. Delighted customers become loyal customers---the kind who finish a transaction and know they will choose you next time, even if a new shop opens down the block offering lower prices.

When you're ready to record your incoming calls, it's easy to get set up. The process is outlined here, and we can help you with any questions you have about getting started with low cost call recording. It's a win-win---for you and your customers.

So really, with call recording, both you and your customers will be able to keep it spoice-y!

7 Deadly Sins Of Email Marketing Campaigns

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How often do you spend more than three seconds glancing at each of the emails in your inbox? For me, after I’ve scanned and made mental notes of the important personal- or work-related correspondence, I ruthlessly “move to trash” almost all of the other emails I’ve received, sentencing them to an eternal purgatory in cyberspace.

Yet, research shows "89 percent of marketers consider email important to achieving their business goals.” It takes something remarkable to catch most people’s attention and get us to open, read and then act on an email campaign. As I scanned through my spam and trash folders, I noticed seven deadly sins most of these email campaigns committed. Here are seven sure ways to commit cardinal email marketing sins, and the steps you can take to avoid them.

1. Send out too many emails.

We’ll call this one a toss-up between envy; gluttony, over-indulgence to the point of waste; and lust, defined in part as an intense desire for money, wealth, food, fame or power. In this case, a marketer’s intense desire to tell his customers about something he thinks they will love---and purchase---grows into a barrage of emails sent all day and night. If a reader’s not expecting multiple emails per day, seven days a week, he or she is going to be annoyed. Don’t let that unsubscribe button tempt a potential customer! Instead, be transparent about how often you’re going to contact your customers from the get-go. While there’s no magic number that will guarantee the perfect reach, take time to research what your audience expects and wants. Which leads us to the second deadly sin of email campaigns...

2. Don’t treat people like people.

What we want to avoid here is the pitfall of pride, or the failure to acknowledge others. Don’t treat your audience like text-reading machines. Delight them with your understanding of their wants. Knowing your audience is a key component to successful email campaigns, so for the purposes of our example, we’ll think about pride in the sense that we have to understand what the customer wants, not what we think they want.

Did you know that 40 percent of people say they enjoy receiving marketing emails from their favorite brands? Or that 77 percent of consumers prefer marketing communications through email? Those statistics are proof that treating people like people and giving them the information they want in entertaining, engaging ways, leads to success.

Even not-so-good news presented in a thoughtful manner can boost your return in email marketing. Just recently, one of my favorite home design retailers found itself in a situation that required a massive recall of merchandise due to claims of plagiarism from one of its suppliers. I happened to preorder some of the items that were recalled, and I was pretty disappointed to find out my order would be cancelled. In the email I received, the situation was clearly explained and cancelled orders adequately apologized for. Additionally, the company went above and beyond, linking to its blog, where it provided a longer explanation of the situation and why it chose to respond the way it did. I was impressed by the brevity of the email, which got to the point, paired with the link to the company’s blog, which gave customers the option to find out as much as they wanted to know. Despite being disappointed by not getting the product I wanted, I ended up browsing the website again (and actually making another purchase!). That's good email marketing despite a tough situation!

3. and 4. Write a boring subject line and yawn-inducing copy.

Check out this statistic: 64 percent of people say they open an email because of its subject line. That means almost two-thirds of your readers are making their decisions based on the first hundred-or-so characters they see. Your subject line is not the place to get lazy (sloth). Work hard here, and you give your email campaign one of the best advantages it can have.

Here are some tips about designing a well-performing subject line:

Once you’ve crafted an awesome subject line, be innovative in your email body copy. Make sure it’s aligned with the subject, and use appropriate visuals to highlight the content. And keep your copy succinct.

5. Forget to focus on your call to action.

Customers don’t want to click delete wondering “what’s the point?”. Give them a suggestion of how they should respond, and create a sense of urgency. Here are some suggestions for drawing focus to your call-to-action:

  • Design it to stand out from the rest of the body copy.

  • Use action-oriented language (verbs like “get” and “claim,” for example).

  • Reiterate the call-to-action in case it’s missed the first time your potential customer scans through.

  • Engage, but don’t alienate. This article cautions not to let your call-to-action morph into pushiness.

6. Make it impossible to unsubscribe.

Does it surprise you that one of the deadly sins I’m comparing this to is anger? Probably not! If you’ve spent any amount of time searching for that tiny button, only to be forced to click through four separate screens before receiving a message that may or may not confirm you’ve successfully unsubscribed, you get it. Don’t get greedy and pass that frustration on to your potential customers.

Though we don’t want any our audience to unsubscribe, it’s required. Use the unsubscribe button as a learning experience.

  • Provide more than one subscription option. Maybe the reader wants your emails, just not as frequently. Maybe they’re only interested in one type of email you’re sending. Don’t let a potential customer quit cold turkey because they couldn’t just subscribe to fewer emails.

  • When appropriate, show your reader you’re sad they’re leaving. Tell them they’re valuable to you, and you want them to remain subscribed.

  • Ask for feedback. Find out what on your website or in your business is not working for your target audience so you can make changes if needed.

7. Forget to say thanks.

Say thank you to your audience. Whether that’s a literal “thanks!” or an incentive for responding to a survey, an sincere attempt at showing appreciation is one small, but important, detail that separates you from everyone else.

Now that you know what not to do, and have some options for what to try instead, you’re almost ready to press send. Just make sure you are tracking what’s working and what needs to be adjusted in your email marketing campaigns. You can even get a specific call tracking number to see if your campaign is generating a great response. Good luck, and keep on testing!

Now you tell us: what’s the best email campaign you’ve been seen lately?

Should You Run A Newspaper Ad?

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What's black and white and read all over? The answer is, of course, the newspaper.

But when was the last time you really read all over the newspaper? And for how many people is the paper still a part of their day?

The answers to these questions, I think, aren’t black and white, but there are a few ways to identify whether print is still a good buy for your business’ marketing mix.

Newspaper advertising isn’t all black and white

Ask almost anyone on the street about the state of newspapers, and they will probably say something along the lines of “It’s not doing too well” or even “Newspapers are dead.” This conventional wisdom has been backed up somewhat by the stories we see about newspaper journalism’s continued struggle to make a profit, shrinking newsroomspapers shutting their doors after decades (and in some cases, centuries, of business), and the rise of the internet.

That sounds pretty scary if you are thinking about running a newspaper ad. In fact, you may be tempted to stop reading here! But hold on, because it’s not all bad news for newspaper advertisers.

In fact, once you read past the headlines, there are some convincing facts that point in the direction of newspaper advertising, like this one from Nielson, which says that “respondents rate newspapers (in print and on the internet) as the most effective advertising source among various media” and this one, which says that “of all media, newspaper readers are the most highly engaged with the content and advertising newspaper readers are highly engaged."

Small business owners should take note of this survey, too: "when looking at advertising effectiveness directly, with such metrics as “usually notice ads”, “likely to purchase” or “best place for Black Friday shopping,” print newspapers came in at 41 percent, above radio’s 34 percent and the Internet or TV/TV online, which had 33 percent and 32 percent, respectively.”

Here's more:

  • 86 % of consumers used media to help plan shopping or make purchasing decisions in the past 7 days.

  • Newspapers ranked first as a source by 59% of adults, followed by in store displays, direct mail, television, magazines, e-mail, radio and search.

  • 80% of newspaper readers report looking at advertising when reading the paper.

  • 41% of adults report that newspapers are the media most used to check out ads; more than all electronic media combined (internet, television, catalogs, magazines and radio). Shoppers rate newspapers first of all media for: Bringing sales to attention; Most valuable for planning shopping; Most believable and trust worthy; Look forward to this type of ad; Prefer for receiving advertising information.

  • 82% of readers used a preprinted insert in the past 30 days. On average, adults keep inserts 4.4 days. Uses include 59% to compare prices, 55% to compare one circular to another, 52% saved until visiting the store, 43% showed it to a spouse, friend or family member, 43% to make an unplanned purchase, 42% took it to the store with them.

  • Even if they don’t read the newspaper, consumers want to know what’s inside. 36% of adults who said they had not read a newspaper in the past week, used a newspaper during that same week to check sales in local stores (19% ), clip a coupon (15%), and check movie listings (10%).

I think Adam Burnham sums up the data about advertising in newspapers well (emphasis mine):

"Readers of newspapers pay for the advertising. I apologise to all of my content peers, but we charge a premium price for the Sunday edition because it is filled with advertising. And people pay that premium price so they can see everything that is on sale in the market. This is a developed behaviour that is not going anywhere.  So when I say newspapers have a future, I can think of no stronger argument than this. And if you disagree, ask some of the big box retailers that tried moving away from Sunday inserts. That move didn’t last long."

So, should you run a newspaper ad?

Now that you’ve seen the pros and cons of running a newspaper ad, it’s up to you to find out if newspaper ads have to potential to be successful for you.

According to this article, newspaper advertising is more successful when it is hyper-localized, and according to this article from Entrepreneur.com, targeted to people who are in the market to buy immediately.

Pay attention to your target audience, and don’t let your biases get in the way of the research.

One small business owner, in a discussion about the value of running a newspaper ad, said it this way:

Avoid one of the biggest marketing mistakes, which is assuming that your tastes and preferences and habits are those of your target market. What you do or don't do has no impact on what your target market does or doesn't do.

I think she’s right. Whether you read the paper at 7 a.m. every morning or haven’t read page one in years, your habits don’t matter. It only matters what your target audience will do. It’s up to you to determine if putting an ad in the newspaper has a high chance of success, so make sure you do your research.

If you’ve decided that you should run a newspaper ad, make sure it has the best opportunity to work for you. Here are a few things to pay special attention to:

  • Ad placement: As much as you can, make sure your product or service is being featured in a place where your target audience will be reading. Don’t stick your travel agency’s ad in the real estate section or tree-trimming service with the local restaurant menu page. Talk to your newspaper representative if you are concerned your ad isn’t in the right place!

  • Ad design: One of the most common reasons newspaper ads fail, according to this article, is that they get lost in the paper. “Small businesses tend to run small ads with mediocre copy and no illustrative materials, such as photographs or art."

  • Integrate a coupon or incentive: 21 percent of readers say the main reason they subscribe to a local newspaper is for the coupons! That means one out of five of your potential customers want to buy a paper only because they think you’ll reward them for doing so. So do it, and add a unique call tracking number to see your results (which we’ll talk more about now!).

Now, track your ads.

After you’ve done all of the hard work that goes in to planning and implementing an ad, you can’t afford not to track the results. In the quote from the small business owner above, she goes on to say that “small business people often don’t take the time to measure ad results. Without measuring results, they have no sound basis for improving their creativity, their copy, their offers, or even their choice of media.”

I completely agree with her! After all, you want to make sure it’s been worth it! You can do this easily by adding a call tracking number or website address that’s unique to your ad, which will show you per call and click exactly how effective your newspaper ad has been.

Then, you’ll be able to use the analytics to determine if you should run a newspaper ad again or if you should invest your advertising resources elsewhere.

Now that you’ve read a little bit more about our take on newspaper advertising, we want your feedback! If you’ve chosen to run a newspaper ad, how has your experience been?

10 Creative Advertising Ideas For A Tight Budget

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I recently visited a new local shop I’d been eager to visit since finding out about it through a web search. I knew the store had just opened, and I was really impressed with its selection and how helpful the owners, a mother-daughter duo, were. As I was paying for my purchase, the owner asked me how I’d heard of her shop, and I told her I’d found it online. “Really?” she said, “I just don’t think all that online stuff is going to make that much of a difference, but my daughter said we need to put it out there, so she took care of it. I honestly don’t see what the value is.”

Cue brakes screeching.

Right about then, her daughter chimed in. She said something along these lines: “Mom, how many of the people we’ve talked to have said they’ve found us the exact same way? You can’t say it’s not working. It obviously is.”

They asked me a few more questions about where exactly I saw the promotion for the store. As we wrapped up our conversation, the daughter wrapped up my purchase, stuck in a business card and a flyer with information about an upcoming sale and told me to look for them on several social media sites she actively uses.

Neither woman asked me for my opinion, but if she had, I would have echoed exactly what the daughter said. It is imperative for small business to advertise, not only online, but in as many ways as you can afford to.

In fact, you can't afford not to advertise!

Tom Egelhoff says it this way:

“If there is one mistake small town businesses make more often than any other it's, "What ever is left over, we'll use for advertising. Marketing and advertising is an investment, not an expense. I know it sure seems like an expense to me when I'm writing the check, but trust me it's not. Without enough money put aside for advertising your sales can go down and you suddenly have less and less for promotion."

So, if the idea of sinking a chunk of change in to advertising makes you queasy, relax. There are many methods to effectively advertise on a limited budget as well as tools to measure advertising effectiveness. You can spend a reasonable amount with success, and make sure your advertising budget is doing its job well.

10 Low-Cost, Creative Advertising Ideas

  1. Use the internet! I wanted to tell the shopkeeper whom I spoke with that 85 percent of her potential customers use the internet to find local businesses. She was willing to write all of those potential customers off, but she (and you!) can’t afford to miss out on them! It’s not as costly or as complicated as you may think to utilize this powerful resource. Set up online accounts on your local business directories, and encourage your customers to leave reviews, and you've done your business a major service in just a few steps.

  2. Create a website. Your website should (at least) have your phone number and email address, and, if you own a retail shop, the address of your storefront. Ensure potential customers know exactly where they can find you.

  3. Use social media and location-based services. Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and 4Square are all free methods of advertising, and your business doesn’t have to be on every platform. Using just a few of these outlets well can make a difference. In the next three years, more than 179 million people are predicted to use these outlets in North America alone. That’s a lot of potential customers!

  4. Advertise on Google.

  5. Volunteer! Get involved in your community, and position your company in a positive light to those closest to you by showing that you care. You’ll build trust in your brand, you may see that word-of-mouth marketing and referrals increase your business with minimal cash investment. Lead a clean-up day at a local park, or visit a local school and see if there are any ways you can share your time and talents with the students there.

  6. Participate in or donate to local charities. Sponsor a fun run or community event and wear your company T-shirt so attendees can associate you, their friendly neighbor, with the good your business is doing.

  7. Teach a class on business in general or something related to your specific skills. Many community centers, libraries, churches and colleges offer one- or two-session classes that you may be interested in leading. You’ll be able to network with those interested in and involved with your business community, and you’ll be perfectly positioned to share your own successes. You may even learn a few things from your students!

  8. Find out if direct mail is right for you, and if so, use it! According to one IBM study, "selling time can be reduced from 9.3 to 1.3 total hours with direct mail advertising. A Sales and Marketing Executives International Study showed salespeople went from eight orders per 100 cold calls to 38 orders per 100 when direct mail was used." And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

  9. Utilize business cards. They're a small-but-mighty tool you probably already have!

  10. Send out press releases to your local newspaper when your business does something new and innovative or exceptional. Keep your content fresh and your headlines catchy, and your local news outlets may do your advertising for you.

Think of this list as a best-of-the-best list of the hundreds of creative advertising ideas on a tight budget. After you implement these ideas, you’ll want to prove their success. Scrutinize their effectiveness by adding a call tracking number to every ad and piece of collateral you hand out or publicize, and then take that information and invest more in the ways that were successful so you can continue to grow your business. Don’t be afraid to try methods you’re unfamiliar with; they may bring in more leads than you expected!

Now it’s your turn. Which of these methods sound most appealing to you? Let us know about the success you’ve had with low-cost, creative advertising ideas!

3 Mistakes You Don't Want To Make In Your Radio Advertising

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I never listen to the radio. At least, that's what I thought when I started writing this.

Then, I started researching facts and figures. And after getting over the astonishment when I read that 93% of people age 12 and older listen to the radio every week, I realized I'm probably exposed to radio more than I think. I started remembering car rides and trips to the grocery store. And then I thought about all the radio ads that I could recall. And I realized, Wow, radio is a part of my life and I didn't even know it!

Radio is just about the most accessible media source out there. You don't have to pay for it. You just have to be able to pick up a signal. So, I guess it's no surprise that so many people are listening in.

So, what does all that mean when it comes to advertising? Check out these facts and figures from the Radio Advertising Bureau.

  • Consumers spend 22% of their total media time with radio.

  • 84% of drivers cite radio as their primary in-car entertainment device.

  • Radio retains more than 93% of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks.

The statistics make it seem like it's a worthy marketing channel. My opinion? It absolutely is... as long as you don't make these mistakes.

1. Marketing to "whoever's listening."

One of the biggest mistakes you could possibly make in radio advertising is not thinking about your target audience. Putting a commercial together and scheduling it at the cheapest times available won't get you anywhere.

It's crucial that you think about who you're marketing to and when they'll be listening. Entrepreneur.com has some great tips for pinpointing your audience.

Write a one-sentence target audience profile based on the demographics of your prospects. This should include their age, gender, where they live and other factors, such as household income. Then share this information with the sales reps from the stations you're considering. They'll tell you what percentage of their stations' listeners match these demographics and at what times of the day or during which programming you'll reach your best prospects.

Once you've decided who you're marketing to, create your spot with that target audience profile in mind.

  • What would entertain them?
  • What would grab their attention?
  • What background music should you choose?
  • What gender and what age should the script-reader/actors be?

All of those questions are directly related to your potential customers, so make sure you aren't choosing what to do based on your own preferences. Maybe even polling some people in your target audience would help you figure out your answers.

2. Repeating your call to action over and over... and over (and over) again.

While it could be argued that repeating your phone number or website address helps listeners remember the information, it tends to do more harm than good. (It's actually kind of annoying.)

In his article, Seven Tips For Radio Advertising Success, Paul Suggett makes a good point.

If someone you don't like comes up to you in a bar and gives you their phone number a dozen times, will you call it? On the other hand, if someone is funny, charming, beautiful, or a combination of all three, and they give you their number just once, will you call? Of course. This is about creating interest. Grab their attention, make them want to know more...

Worry less about the call to action, and more about the "meat" of your radio spot. Emphasize your brand and it's benefits. If you succeed in winning the listener over with your "charm," they'll take the necessary action to follow up with your request. In fact, 28.1% of radio listeners initiate online searches based on something they've heard on the radio. (That's a pretty big number, considering that some radio listeners can't even search online until hours later!)

3. Not utilizing some form of analytics to tell you whether or not your ads are working.

If you don't have a call tracking number, or a website address unique to your radio ads, you won't have any idea how your radio marketing is performing. That means you won't know what it's costing you per lead or per click, you won't know whether or not it's worth it to keep running the ads, and most importantly, you won't be able to sleep at night–because you just don't know!

Analytics are your best friend when it comes to spending your advertising money. You can even go so far as to put specific call tracking numbers or website addresses on different ads at different times of the day, so you know which ads perform better. The possibilities really are endless.

So, what's been your experience with radio? What's working for you? What's not? We want to know! Leave us a comment below.

5 Email Marketing Tips: The Composition Of A Victorious Campaign

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How many marketing emails do you get in a day? 10? 20? More? I guess the real question is: how many do you actually read? I know I skim through the titles and if something catches my eye, I might read one... maybe two. Then I delete the rest without a second thought. Being in marketing, it's sad for me to think about all the hard work that's just going straight into cyberspace trash. And when I think about it that way, I feel extremely cold-hearted for not giving most of the emails a "chance."

It makes me wonder... would I cold-heartedly delete your marketing email? Would you cold-heartedly delete your marketing email?

Here's a reality check: Cold-heartedness has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with whether what you're sending is actually worth reading.

These five email marketing tips can help steer you in the right direction and make your campaign a victorious one.

1. Give your reader something valuable. Don't send to sell... send to educate, entertain, or inspire.

This starts with a change in mentality. Based on your business, either educating, entertaining or inspiring will all take you a lot further with your customers or clients than a straight-sell. In fact, the folks at HubSpot say you should balance the content of your newsletter to be 90% educational and 10% promotional. Offering information of value (for free) to your reader will build rapport and credibility.

Christine Comaford of businessweek.com says this:

Sales is about building rapport, not breaking it. When you sell or pitch, you're often breaking rapport because the prospect may be skeptical; no one wants to be "sold." When you educate, you are building rapport. Your credibility is increased significantly when you begin meetings with data that is of value to the prospect. Launch all your meetings by teaching your prospect something or by offering data that establishes that you've done your homework.

Think about it from a personal perspective. Do you want to be "pitched" over and over again? No way. Those are the emails that get really annoying; the ones we unsubscribe from. Even if the sender is a business where you frequently shop, it becomes monotonous to see an email in your inbox everyday telling you to "buy, buy, buy."

For example, I have a favorite home decor store. I want to be subscribed to their email list because I'm a big fan. But (I'm not exaggerating), every single day I get an email with a sales pitch. The thing is, I do want to know about their sales. But I'm seriously contemplating opting out, because I'm just not sure if I can stand it anymore.

What would their email content look like in a perfect world? What would I love getting in my inbox? (Not just: what would I tolerate?) I really, really wish they would send me something to educate or inspire me! One of my hobbies is decorating my home, so tips, before and after room makeovers, inspirational design... I would be reading (and enjoying) those emails every single day. In that circumstance, I'm happy and so are they. Not only are they keeping their name in front of me, but I become much more loyal to them as well. (And much more likely to follow that link to their latest collection.)

2. Only send if you have something to say.

Don't send an email every week just because you think you need to have a "weekly newsletter." If you don't have any new content (or anything interesting to share), just forego the email. Sending "just to send" will ruin the credibility you've established in step #1. Readers can tell when you're faking it. They aren't stupid.

(Speaking of that...)

3. Keep it simple, stupid.

"Great advice... hurts my feelings every time." (As Dwight Schrute would say.)

You're only going to capture your reader's attention for a few seconds. So, make sure that's all it takes for them to get to the meat of why you're sending your email in the first place. Everything about your email should be "skimmable." This goes for both design and copy.

Design

There are tons and tons of promotional email templates out there. (MailChimp has more than you could ever need.) Just make sure you don't go overboard on your design. The more sections and graphics you add to your email, the longer you're asking your reader to look at it, and the more confusing it could become. Just make sure you know where you want the reader's eye to hit first, second, and so forth, and then choose your template accordingly.

"Keeping it simple" will mean different things for different companies, so make sure you decide what your purpose is before determining your layout.

Some advice that spans all companies, though, is making sure that your call to action (whatever it may be) is clearly defined. This article describes the "squint test." If you can squint at the email you're creating and your "call to action" (maybe a link, button or phone number) stands out, then you're good to go. If you squint and it blurs into the rest of the email, then you should reevaluate.

Copy

Instead of writing long paragraphs, or verbose sentences, try to keep everything brief.

Here's some great advice I heard once. Write out your "long" version and get out everything you want to say. Then, pretend like you have to explain that same thing to someone in 150 words or less. It may take a little longer, but it helps you organize your thoughts, which makes it easier to write that shorter email copy.

4. Create an enticing subject line.

If you get everything right, but this wrong, I hate to say it, but all your hard work will have been in vain. Creating an enticing subject line is just as important as everything else. It acts as gateway between the reader and your content. Your marketing email can't be a success if no one opens it!

You might think you need to get your creative juices going, but actually, clarity is more important than creativity. This research firm did a study comparing "clear" titles (explanatory) and "creative" titles (catchy and clever). The "clear" titles got more clicks and social likes by a long shot!

For example, that same research firm walked through creating a subject line for a business's grand opening event.

A subject line shouldn’t give away all of the information inside. Instead, it should clearly explain what that information is about.

For example, if a tea shop were celebrating a new location’s grand opening, its email’s subject line wouldn’t read, “Tea Party at 4 p.m., 9/12/12 at 8 Main St.”

That’s not clarity, it’s throwing itself at readers.

And, it wouldn’t read, “The Mad Hatter on Main.” That’s creative, but it doesn’t tell subscribers what they’ll find inside at all.

Instead, it might read, “Your Invitation to Our Grand Opening Tea Party.”

See the difference? Here are 10 Awesome Headlines that Drive Traffic and Attract Readers from Jeff Bullas to get you started on your quest to that perfect subject line.

5. Know your analytics and always keep testing.

There are all kinds of ways to track opens, clicks and statistics about your email campaigns. Any email marketing service provider can help you with those. You can even get a specific call tracking number for your campaign to see if it's generating the response you want. Just make sure you're always evaluating and reevaluating what you're sending and the response it's getting. Then you can make sure you're always putting your best effort into the areas that work.

What things have you discovered that have made your email marketing campaigns successful?

Should You Advertise In The Yellow Pages?

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My family recently moved to a town in the rural Midwest. The first time I’d ever been to this town was our moving day, and I knew exactly two other people in town: my husband and toddler. After a thousand-mile trip, we were ready to settle in and enjoy our first meal in our new home: a box of pizza. I didn’t know any of the pizza places, and certainly not how to contact them, so I grabbed my phone and did what I always did: searched the web. To my surprise, and for the first time in my life, Google failed me. The only results were from the city 30 miles away.

Then, I remembered the yellow phone book our landlord left in the kitchen. I opened it up, determined not to let my small family starve, and saw multiple pizza places listed in the Yellow Pages. I sighed, relieved to know we might make it through our first day and thankful for the pizza on its way.

That was actually the first time I had used the Yellow Pages. But since we’ve been here, I have thumbed through the pages dozens of times to find out contact information for our local bakery, to compare quotes at our appliance repair shops, and on one sub-zero night last winter when my husband was out of town, to ask an HVAC repair man how to re-light our pilot light.

The Main Advantage

According to this article, my story is common among consumers making ready-to-buy decisions, especially in non-urban areas.

"It's the true local, local buying decision resource," said Ken Clark, YP Talk publisher. "When you get into tier two and tier three markets with smaller towns, you may not even get a mobile signal, so print Yellow Pages is still an ingrained way of life."

The Yellow Pages have the distinct advantage of being delivered to everyone in a community, guaranteeing your ad reaches its target audience. They’ve been used successfully to advertise restaurants (like in the story I shared above), medical services, legal services and repair and maintenance shops. The scope of Yellow Page advertising has also grown from the traditional phone book-only to offerings including digital and direct mail advertising options and limited call-tracking features.

Admittedly, I only used Yellow Pages a few times since my family moved. Once I became familiar with my new home, I didn’t need the book as much. I’m still much more likely to search the web than I am to pull out the phone book, and it seems I’m not alone. Research across all markets shows that Yellow Page advertising effectiveness isn’t black and white.

A Few Perceived Drawbacks

Many business owners (76 percent according to Yelp) think yellow page phone books are irrelevant and can’t help their business.

Yellow Page advertising is expensive! Making your ad stand by increasing ad size, or hiring someone to design the ad, for example, compounds that cost.

Many business owners don’t want to publish in a printed phone book when they can spend less marketing online and, in many cases, yield better results. Research shows that most consumers do an internet search first (80 percent of the time) when compared to looking through the Yellow Pages.

Pay-per-call advertising isn't as great as it sounds. As I mentioned earlier, Yellow Pages offers pay-per-call advertising, which sounds good, until you take a closer look. With this service, customers are assigned a call tracking number and pay on a per-call basis, usually between $15-20 per call, if the call lasts longer than 12 seconds, which Yellow Pages considers a substantial lead. The drawbacks are pretty obvious: can you really count any 12-second call as a lead? The only way you'd know is if you were able to record the calls to see what those customers were actually saying, which assigned call tracking numbers from Yellow Pages don’t allow. But consider this: if you were to advertise normally in the Yellow Pages and get your own call tracking number specifically for that purpose, it’d be much easier to identify if your Yellow Page ads were successful, because you'd know both how many people were calling your specific number and you’d be able to go back and listen to those calls to determine if they were new customers or not.

You’re stuck with your Yellow Page ad for a year. Because it is a printed book, you can’t change your ad, or remove it altogether, if any component changes. Similarly, if your ad isn’t generating the leads you expected, you can’t stop advertising and reallocate that part of your budget.

So, should you?

Ultimately, deciding if you should advertise in the yellow pages comes down to strategy. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the Yellow Page advertising question.

If you’re in a market like mine, Yellow Pages could be successful for you. If you do decide to advertise in the Yellow Pages, using a unique call tracking number can help you determine whether your Yellow Page ad is actually working for your business and allow you to adjust your marketing plan accordingly (instead of paying more for a service that will actually cost you more and give you less information!).

Or, maybe, according to research you’ve done on your target market, you’ve found you’re better off utilizing a different marketing mix. And that’s great, too, if it’s growing your business!

Have you advertised in the Yellow Pages? What has your experience been?

What Is A Call Tracking Number & Why Should I Care?

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Would you mail a valuable package without a tracking number? I know I wouldn't. If I can know where it is, when it's going to get there, (and, if I sold something on eBay, when I can get my money), I'm willing to fork out a few extra cents for the tracking option. All those details are valuable to me. They put me at ease and help me plan for the future. So, let's switch gears a little... what about your advertising dollars? Are they valuable?

Of course they are.

Then I guess the real question is, why wouldn't you track those dollars to see where they're going?

So, what is a call tracking number?

Simply put? A "call tracking number" is a unique local or toll-free phone number that you can use to help you determine the return on investment (ROI) that you're getting from your advertising. It forwards to your regular business phone number, so when people call they're getting your business on the other end.

Here's an example.

Dr. Clean

Dr. Clean is a dentist who's planning to put advertisements for his dental practice on the radio, in the local newspaper and on television. He's a really smart guy, which means he knows he doesn't want to waste money on useless ads. So he buys three different phone numbers (that all forward to his office phone) to use as call tracking numbers for the ads: one for the radio spot, one for the newspaper ad, and one for the television commercial.

After a few weeks of advertising through all three venues, he checks to see which phone numbers have been called the most. Turns out, the phone numbers he put on the newspaper and television ads haven't been getting many calls, which means it's not really worth the money he's using to advertise there. However, the phone number on the radio spots is getting a ton of calls! Now that he knows that information, Dr. Clean decides to pull his newspaper and television ads, and put all his advertising money into radio spots.

But his call tracking efforts definitely aren't over. Now Dr. Clean wants to know what the best time is for his radio spots to play: early morning, lunchtime, or late at night. So he uses three different phone numbers in three different radio spots to test that out.

And the story continues.

Back To Real Life: Why You Should Care

Dr. Clean knows his stuff. He understands the number one reason he should care about call tracking numbers: it keeps you from wasting your hard-earned money on advertising that's not working.

That's the genius of call tracking: it allows you to refine your advertising, so you know each and every one of your dollars is being spent effectively.

And it doesn't stop with radio, tv and newspaper ads. You can use call tracking numbers on anything... even online.

Especially online.

Jeff Bullas, well-known Social Media Marketing Blogger, Strategist & Speaker, says that the often forgotten ingredient in measuring your content marketing online is a call tracking tool.

Call tracking tools enable you to include unique trackable phone numbers in your downloadable and printed content, videos, trade show presentations, emails, ads, and direct mail blasts to measure the calls they generate. Even if a lead visits your web site before calling you, call tracking tools can still tell you how that caller found your site and the web page or blog posts they called from.

The possibilities really are endless.

Start knowing exactly what makes your phone ring.

Don't have a call tracking number yet? TeleCapture can help you with that. You can get started in less than 60 seconds.

Get Your Number Right Now >

Direct Mail Marketing - Flushing Money Down The Toilet?

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Is Direct Mail Marketing Effective Or Is It A Colossal Waste?

"I sent out a boatload of postcards, and you know what? I only got 3 or 4 calls. What a !@#$%^* waste! Direct mail marketing is a rip-off."

I heard my real estate friend utter these words with obvious frustration about his latest direct mail advertising campaign. (Yeah, I'm pretty intuitive about stuff like that.) He just wasted a ton of money for nothing. That's about the worst feeling in the world if you own your own business.

My friend's not the only one feeling a little disillusioned with direct mail. I've heard similar stories from plenty of other business owners and the tune all sounds the same. Sent out a bajillion postcards, and nada, and so on and so on.

From just this sampling of my personal experiences, you might conclude that direct mail marketing simply doesn't work in 2013.

The Lowly Dodo Bird - Image by Daniel Eskridge (danieleskridge.com)

But, if direct mail advertising has gone the way of the Dodo bird, then why do I keep getting direct mail from huge, incredibly successful companies every week offering me some pretty wonderful stuff? Are the big boys just so loaded with cash that they can afford to flush it down the toilet? Do they succeed just by the sheer repetition of their brand?

Of course, there are the expected players in the direct mail marketing game, Land's End sends me their catalogs, Capital One wants me to get their special credit card, the local Chinese place wants to give me free chicken fried rice on Thursdays, and so forth, but I got a piece the other day that took me by surprise. It wasn't the design, or the offer that startled me. It was the company that sent me the little white envelope.

Google.

Google uses direct mail.

Wait a minute. If a tech-only company like Google, with the vast powers of the internet at its disposal is using direct mail, maybe we should take a second and peek behind the curtain a little and see what's going on.

As it turns out, about 9 out of 10 companies surveyed in 2012 rank direct mail marketing as their number one marketing channel (hat tip). Read that again. Nine out of ten! Companies like Disneyland, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Google, are all spending considerable effort on their direct mail advertising campaigns (more). In fact, United States advertisers like these guys spend an average of $167 per person on direct mail. Yes, my list is comprised of huge companies with plenty of money to burn, but they are also profit-driven companies. If a marketing tactic doesn't benefit the bottom line, it's thrown out the window.

Here's what they know: compared to all other marketing efforts, their direct mail campaigns have the highest rate of gaining new customers. According to one survey of companies, direct mail reportedly accounted for gaining 1 in every 3 new clients, dwarfing the runner-up, email, and blowing away the much-loved channel of search engine marketing.

Let that sink in for just a second.

Far from the mantras you may have heard that "print is dead," direct mail seems quite alive and well. Surprised?

How effective is direct mail, then?

DM News reports that in 2012 the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4 percent for both B2B and B2C mailings, which actually surprised them a little as well. Now, let me clarify a few things. As far as I can tell, based on the wording, this result is for direct mail of all kinds, some of which gets pretty creative. This isn't just the ubiquitous postcard, or the spammy "Open to see what you've won" kind of stuff. I'm guessing there are sweet boxes, packages, and genius type stuff, that most of us simply aren't going to be able to replicate. Also, this measures responses. At this point, we're not discussing the actual "conversion rate" of turning a prospect into a customer. Still. That's nothing to sneeze at.

Let's talk possibilities.

What if you could manage just a 2 percent response rate for your direct mail marketing campaign? Would you feel like you're flushing money down the toilet then?

Let's walk through the costs and returns of a small-ish direct mail campaign. In terms of cost, we need to determine how much you'll spend to get one customer. That's called Acquisition Cost.

I wanted to make this exercise as close to real numbers as possible, so I did my pricing at PostCardMania.com. (Of course, these numbers can vary widely, so don't send me hate mail if my numbers are off a little.)

Let's say you decide to do a mailing of 2,500 large format postcards (6" x 8").

Large Format Postcard - Direct Mail Marketing

You'll need to purchase a list from a data company, ballpark it at $100. The prices vary depending on the kind of data you need.

Then, your postcards will cost $600 to print them, about $625 to mail them, and $125 for address printing (unless you're a masochist and want to put all the labels on by hand),

Your total is about $1,650. So, for 2,500 cards, your cost per unit is $.66.

So, how many customers can you get?

If you can generate a 2% response rate, that means that you'll hear from 50 people from your direct mail efforts.

If you close the deal with 60% of them, that means 30 new customers for your business. So, you spent $1,650 to get 30 customers.

Your Acquisition Cost per customer is $55 each.

Schweww. You tired of math yet? No, I didn't think so. As a business owner, you are acutely aware that you have to do the math if you're going to succeed.

So, let's see if we're making good use of our advertising dollars.

At first, you may think that $55 per customer is way too much money to spend on a customer. And I guess it is, if you're selling a $2 product that your customer will only buy once. That's why we need to do one more set of calculations to figure out how much one customer is worth to you.

Let's call this the Lifetime Value of a Customer.

In a nutshell, to calculate the lifetime value of a customer, start with the average amount of a purchase.

Let's keep it simple and say that you're selling one product for $50.

Further, let's pretend that on average a customer will purchase from you twice each year.

At this point, you could calculate how much value your customer has per year, so all we need to do is dip into your books and make a rough determination of how many years your customers continue to do business with you. For our example, let's say the average is about 5 years.

That means that your the lifetime value of your customer is $100 x 5 years = $500. (I like round numbers like that).

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So, let's recap. You spent $55 per customer, and a customer is worth $500 to your business. Just divide your lifetime value of a customer by your acquisition cost and you've got your return.

ROI On Direct Mail Marketing

You've made 909% return on your investment. Not bad at all. Spending $1,650 on your direct mail campaign will bring $15,000 worth of business over the next 5 years.

Direct mail clearly works in this scenario!

Now, before you rush out and start direct mailing every living thing, let's talk about a few strategies that will help you make this response rate a reality.

1. Define your audience.

Spend time figuring out who you need to talk to. Don't settle for a shotgun approach. That's what led my friend to his awful response rate. He simply didn't define his audience clearly. Once you have your audience defined, work with a list data company to create the right list for talking to that audience. Be willing to spend more for a highly targeted list.

2. Match your offer to your audience.

If you're going to spend money to talk to your audience, make sure you're saying something that they need to hear in order to respond. In other words, if you're going to make an offer that they need to respond to, make sure it's something they want. I know that seems pretty obvious, but it's surprising how often that basic element is overlooked.

Be sure to make an offer that's actually special, and not something lame. It's important that your offer have a deadline as well, so your customers won't set it aside with good intentions of calling you later.

3. Provide multiple ways to respond.

Not everyone responds the same way to an offer. Give your customers several ways to follow up with you.

Create a special landing page on your website, and give it a unique 800 call tracking number, or even a local number. Create a special video that helps further the connection with your future customer and put it on the landing page, along with a contact form and that custom tracking number. That way, you can tell who's coming from which direct mail piece.

Give them a way to mail something in for those who love the mail.

And, of course, make sure you have a unique call tracking number that is a part of the main call to action on your direct mail piece.

4. Test small.

Here's one of the beautiful things about direct mail advertising. You can test a smaller demographic, and see how different messages work. You can send different messages to subsets of your main list. Then, once you've determined the winner, you can go all out with your larger mailing. That's working smart!

5. Track everything.

I hinted at this in point #3, but it's imperative that you track what you're doing with direct mail marketing. Grab a phone call tracking number and then look at the analytics to see which campaign messages worked better than others. If you're going to use landing pages, make sure you create a separate tracking number for your landing pages.

6. Think long-term.

Many of us are looking for "one-hit wonders" that magically deliver customers to us. While direct mail does seem to offer some nice rewards, the best marketing happens consistently. Consider multiple mailings to the same list over a period of time, building on the message you've created.

So, you've done everything you need to generate a great response rate. You won, right?

Well, actually, no. You still have one final task of converting those responses into customers.

That's where it's critical to train those who are answering the phone to get this part right. Your sales team will be the first human interaction those potential customers have with your business, so make sure they know what to do. One powerful way to make sure they're handling this all-important role well is to make sure your recording your sales calls, so you can review each call as needed to see how things were handled.

With all of that wrapped up, you have a successful, effective direct mail campaign on your  hands. Now, get out there and git 'er done!

What are some stories that you can share about how direct mail has worked for you?