There is a common misconception of internet and online marketing that it’s only for global customers. It doesn’t apply to businesses that only have local clients and customers. This thought is dead wrong, focusing on a local market changes how a site should be structured, but it should still be a featured piece of the marketing mix.
While it’s true that the world-wide web is world-wide, that doesn’t mean you can’t focus your site to appeal to your immediate geographic area that’s on the web. Think about it, many major e-commerce and online sellers already do it. Auto sites let you search by area or zip code, eBay will show you local listings if you prefer to pick items up , and small businesses featuring services to a set geographic location have successful internet campaigns.
How do you cater to your local market? First make sure your site is set up so people can see where you are located, if done properly it will help search engines do the same. Tie your site in with your other local marketing campaigns, direct mail, flyers, ads, etc. Finally SEO can make a big difference. If you are only interested in people finding you in a certain area it eliminates search engine competition. With some effort your site should be ranked first for your product or service within a set geographic area, zip code, or area code. Don’t waste the opportunity, if you’ve got a local market that you aren’t reaching through online media, start.
Everyone that works with e-stores and e-commerce has some awareness of conversion. The goal is to set the site up in a way that the highest numbers of visitors complete the sale and checkout. Unfortunately those lessons are often forgotten in other applications. Any form on a website should ultimately have an eye on what is being asked of the visitor and what do they get in return. If you want people to interact, you need to be sure it’s a fair trade.
I was recently evaluating an employment section of a website and noticed a monstrous form for people to submit a resume. Now the prospect of employment is a pretty hefty return, so many people will fill out quite a bit of information online, but one of the required fields was a social security number. In an age of increasing online scams you’d be hard pressed to get my social security number on any form, let alone one that only offers a possibility of a job interview. Guaranteed employment, maybe, possible interview, never. Since I assumed they weren’t going to hire anyone that submitted a resume I inquired why the field was necessary.
The reason: it cuts down on paperwork because the SS# goes into our applicant database and we have it on file. The question is why do you need it? Unless you intend to hire someone there is no pressing need to have their social security number on file. Efficiency is good but in this case it was causing a lack of qualified candidates to apply. Taking 2 minutes for a recruiter to type in the SS# for any applicant selected for the job is a lot easier than asking everyone that applies. It will also help convert more job searchers into job applicants. Always be aware of what you’re asking for in your web forms and make sure its not unreasonable compared to what your visitors receive in return.
The final reason that Direct Mail can be a nice supplement to email marketing is that they lend themselves to separate next steps. For example, email is great for linking back to your website or a landing page. That is a little more difficult to do through direct mail as the recipient has to type in the whole address. Printed material often suffers from email as some people don’t want the extra step of printing.
The point is that you’ll have two options to choose from in deciding what best supports the next step you want recipients to take. If you limit yourself to just doing email you might be trying to force a circle into a square hole.
Many studies have been done regarding how many times you need to communicate, or touch, prospects before they take action. In direct mail and email the median number typically comes out between 6 – 10. That can be a lot of times to interact with prospects without a plan.
Including direct mail with your email allows for a more diverse plan and decreases the risk of prospects tuning out your message. If a direct mail campaign is abandoned, then everything begins to ride on email. If the email touches stop, everything stops, and with that ends the opportunity to turn the prospect into a lead or customer.
There can certainly be too much of a good thing in online marketing. Even the best email campaign can suffer from fatigue if its provided so often to the audience that they tune it out. Sometimes the most engaged subscriber will only pay attention to a portion of your message. Direct mail can apply that extra touch in a new way. Rather than beating the campaign into the audience, it provides a subtle punch. For those times when you have an event, product, or service that you want to give a quick boost, direct mail to email subscribers can be an unexpected and fresh way to present that item.
In this case direct mail is the trick up your sleeve that lets you get an extra message to your prospects or clients without badgering them with the same old thing.
This is an aspect that my example did successfully. They made me proactively opt-in to get email rather than direct mail, however, many people don’t. In the fervor to cut marketing costs some companies have switched all communications over to email, no exceptions. I’ll ignore the obvious problem of that not being an opt-in list and go for the subtle one, who said the audience preferred email?
Sometimes email just isn’t right. I sign up for many email communications but in some cases I prefer direct mail. An example, my weekly circular ads, sure I can go online and virtually shuffle through sale ads but I like physically having it. I don’t know why, I just do. That is the case for many companies, coupons being a notable case. Some people love getting paper coupons, cutting them out, and filing them away. Somehow the effect is lost when they have to print them and then cut them out. For some reason the extra step is perceived as a major inconvenience even if the coupons are easier to find.
The other problem with pulling the rug out on the direct mail recipients is that there are still computer illiterates and functionally illiterate. Obviously this demographic depends on what the company offers. Software vendors probably don’t have this problem but many companies do, especially product and service companies that sell to the general public. Keeping direct mail alive with email campaigns allow companies to keep in touch with their clients that prefer, or need, the paper.
The most confusing benefit of direct mail that gets thrown aside when doing email is when direct mail is working. Is delivering email cheaper than direct mail? Of course and it can be a valuable way to cut costs. However, it needs to be on the prospect’s terms not ours. If the prospect is happy with the direct mail and you are tracking a gain on it, why stop doing it?
Usually the answer is we can optimize and get the best marketing return possible. While I love the thought and support the initiative, trying to bump people to email unless they proactively request it is not a one-to-one switch. Give them an opportunity to get email but don’t stop direct mail unless they want it stopped. Many times people have gotten used to direct mail and don’t have the same response to an email. In this case we are flushing away engaged prospects.
Track your results and if direct mail is working, keep doing it. It might not have as high an ROI as an email campaign but if you’re netting a profit from it, keep doing it. Like anything else, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.