In my last article, I began a discussion on a “back-to-basics” marketing approach. Making sure that you and your team are really good at the blocking and tackling is far more productive than sitting around and trying to come up with a clever marketing approach. Technology has certainly brought us different ways to communicate messages, but the fundamentals still apply. Technology has also brought more sizzle to marketing messages and has sped up their delivery but it really has not done a lot to make a bad message good.
In the 1990s, there were several copier dealers that thought they could fool the marketplace by advertising “Free Copiers.” They figured that a gimmicky approach would generate leads. Once the call came in, they would at the very last be vendors of consideration, and with a slick salesperson doing some pencil selling and some quick explaining, they might get the deal. Great new marketing strategy? No. In fact, it is one of the oldest and most basic strategies in the history of marketing. Less than a year ago, I received a free Gillette razor in the mail. I liked it, so now I pay $18.50 for an eight-pack of replacement blades.
Many of the Free Copier ads showed up as e-mail blasts or fax blasts, which was thought to be a brilliant use of technology by some. Both mediums are highly targetable and extremely intrusive, which is both good and bad. Telemarketing and direct mail are also highly targetable, but you can refuse a telephone call or throw away and envelope before opening it. You can do the same with e-mails and faxes, but not before glancing at it to confirm it is junk or spam. It is almost like when you were a kid and another kid said, Made you look….”
So why did some office technology dealers find success with this strategy even though the message insulted prospects’ intelligence and the delivery intruded on their space? Because they used the basic marketing principles. They kept the message simple, used the greatest word in advertising – free – to get attention and created the perception that they were the best value in the market without advertising price. The ones I saw also adhered to the basics in delivering the message because they were done with frequency and consistency. Every Monday morning, I would walk in and there would be several fax blast advertising Free Copiers. Same message, same medium, same time. Basic marketing at its best.
Most of my clients do not want to be pioneers and I don’t blame them. Pioneers had a much higher attrition rate crossing the United States than we do today, regardless of the transportation method. “What’s working well for your clients?” or “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel” are statements I hear very often from clients, especially the new ones. A more recent example of the pioneer spirit was the dot-com industry. It also served as an example by reminding us there are no shortcuts.
Those who have used the Internet to enhance existing channels of distribution have a much better chance of success. Those who tried to change channels of distribution failed, except for a few like Amazon.com, and that is only because they were one of the first and spent hundreds of millions of dollars on radio campaigns. A number of the later entries were banking on their Web sites producing advertising revenue, assuming that intrusive pop-ups, banner ads, etc., combined with all the database information collected, would provide instantaneous advertising success. It didn’t happen, because much like e-mail and fax blasts discussed earlier, the ads are not only intrusive, but annoying. Plus users have conditioned themselves to focus and the content and tune out the advertising message.
The Internet will play a huge role in the marketing of your business, but not as an advertising vehicle. Most of my readers have a website, but it is probably something you have been telling yourself you will get around to upgrading (when you have the time and money) before the competition does.
Yellow Pages advertising for office technology dealers has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Yellow Pages was valuable when prospects didn’t know one dealer or manufacturer from another. Now that the industry is more mature, prospects know the players from their advertising, word of mouth or personal experience. They may still look in the copier section but it is only to find your telephone number, not to judge the viability of your company.
The Internet is where prospect now “let their fingers do the walking” to search for information and vendors. It will not be long before they expect to purchase low-ticket items using the technology at their fingertips. You need to spend time figuring out how to get prospects/customers to your site, then make sure they stay there. It is just like inviting them to your office for an in-house demo or to put your best foot forward and give them the impression that you are a first-class operation that has it entire act together.
Yellow Pages salespeople used to tell smaller dealers that a full-page ad was their chance to out do the “big guys” for an entire year. A classy, informative website can achieve the same result. Do not forget a basic marketing principle that less is more. Just because you are paying someone does not mean you have to cram information all over your home page. The beauty of a website is it is almost limitless in providing information. Make it easy to navigate and use your marketing savvy to attract prospects to certain pages.
Good, effective advertising does not require a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, just good old-fashioned execution. Think of your advertising as the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s. Everyone knew the power sweep was coming, but the Packers’ execution was so good they could not be stopped. Don’t worry about your competitors’ advertising. Just concern yourself with your own execution and they cannot stop you.
by Ian Crockett, President of Orange Label Art + Advertising