September 29, 2009

8 Ways to Market Without Money

Today I will touch on eight ways that a business of any size can market itself, without a huge financial outlay. We use many of these methods at 1300 Web Pro, and also assist customers in implementing some of them.

  1. Sponsor community groups and events
  2. Hold an open house
  3. Promotional items
  4. Improve your signage
  5. Share your database
  6. Networking groups
  7. Direct mail
  8. Add value to help the customer win


SPONSOR COMMUNITY GROUPS AND EVENTS

Not-for-profit organisations are the lifeblood of our communities. They provide schools for our children, organised sport, and look after the sick. These organisations all benefit from local businesses that are prepared to reach out and assist them.

On the flip side, community sponsorship is an excellent way to market one’s business. “Actions speak louder than words,” as they say.

Have a think about your social life – the sports you play, the groups your children are in, and think about how you might be able to sponsor the group.

In many cases, cash sponsorship is not the only option. Sponsorship in the form of contra (the goods or services one produces) can be used by a community group, if not directly perhaps as a raffle prize or something similar. Of course one can also donate time.

When presenting an offer of sponsorship, always be sure to ask for specific recognition in return, for example a listing on the groups website or permission to put up a banner at their next meeting or event (see signage, below).


HOLD AN OPEN HOUSE

Having an open house for clients, friends, and prospects is always excellent value for a business. People always appreciate being invited to an event with free beer!

The style and extravagance of an event aren’t really that important. If you are a home business, consider hosting a golf day or using a function room. In July, for example, 1300 Web Pro had a pancake breakfast in the parking lot at our offices to celebrate one year of serving Toowoomba, which was something a little different and a lot of fun. We combined it with community sponsorship by inviting Endeavour to join us in putting on the event.

Remember to invite your best customers and introduce them to prospects you are trying to get over the line. There is nothing live a “live” testimonial.


PROMOTIONAL ITEMS

Anyone who has visited our office will no doubt have walked away with a 1300 Web Pro bag full of goodies. We have giant pens, rulers, stubby coolers, and even little plastic containers with Redskins and Fantails that we made up and stuck our logo on.

These items are not terribly expensive, and one batch tends to last a fairly long time.

A customer of ours, Berlex Promotional in Toowoomba, has a great website filled with promotional item ideas.


IMPROVE YOUR SIGNAGE

This one is easy – take a look at a building’s exterior, any areas inside a building that customers visit, and company vehicles, and there will be a way to improve signage.

Remember, the design and content of a sign is as important (if not more) as the size.

In addition to increasing brand recognition around down, having a lot of great signage increases the professional appearance of the business. Consumers that see a business that is proud of its brand will have more trust in the business.


SHARE YOUR DATABASE

Whilst your customer’s privacy must always be a number one concern, consider how other businesses might benefit from marketing to your customers.

The best way to ensure a successful outcome when sharing your database is to:

  1. Ensure the customer is getting some sort of exclusive offer that they would not normally be entitled to. This way the customer is getting something of value rather than just being spammed with marketing material.
  2. Send out marketing pieces on behalf of the partner company, rather than simply supplying the partner company with a list. By sending out the marketing piece, the piece can be vetted. A customer will be more likely to listen to a company that they are already purchasing from, so it benefits the partner company also.

I have been speaking mostly about “sharing your database” with others. The marketing benefit to you is either because your customer gets something of value and appreciates it, or because you have access to the partner’s database in exchange (or both).


NETWORKING GROUPS

There are many networking groups out there. For example, three of the ones we attend are Women on the Move, BNI Toowoomba and the USQ Corporate Club.

Networking groups all vary in size, cost, commitment, and format. The best thing to do is try as many different groups as possible and find what works for you.

For example, some might find BNI to be too high a commitment and too formal, while others might find the task of introducing themselves to strangers at a Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce function daunting.


DIRECT MAIL

As our e-mail inboxes become more cluttered, direct (postal) mail campaigns are still very worthwhile. At 1300 Web Pro, we use direct mail to contact prospects and to keep in touch with existing clients.

Needless to say, the most important thing in a direct mail campaign is the mail piece itself. Be sure to spend plenty of time on the letter, postcard, or whatever it may be. Keep it brief, and be sure to run spell check!

Personally I avoid window envelopes and always put a “real” stamp (as opposed to franking or using a postage paid envelope) to make the piece more personal, and always use mail merge to produce personalised letters.

Direct mail can perform very well for a business marketing to its existing client base. We recently helped a solicitor with a direct mail campaign to clients that had wills more than five years old. The mail piece basically said, “remember to see us if your circumstances have changed.” They had an excellent result.

We use Send Out Cards a great deal, which is a web based direct mail program that allows you to send customised postcards and greeting cards, even one at a time.


ADD VALUE TO HELP THE CUSTOMER WIN

Simply put, by seeing how your product or service is commonly used you will know some hints, tips, and best practices. Share these with your customers! Help your customers get the most from their purchase.

Coca Cola have been doing this for years. Coke commonly provides a big red refrigerator to shops and takeaways so those businesses can keep the product chilled and well positioned.

On a smaller scale, at 1300 Web Pro, we often assist customers with ideas for website content, and ways to promote their websites. Both of these things increase traffic to our customers’ sites, therefore increasing our customers’ sales, and therefore making 1300 Web Pro look pretty good in our customers’ eyes.


WRAP UP

Hopefully you came across a few ideas in here to implement in your business. I purposely excluded Internet based ideas, for a bit of variety. Of course, websites and e-mail marketing are two other items that could well have appeared on this list.

Please continue to contribute topics and provide feedback on these blog articles. You can now publically comment on The 1300 Web Pro blog website.

Have a great week!

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 25, 2009

1300 Web Pro article in "The Chronicle"

The Chronicle included an article on 1300 Web Pro in today's edition.

Click the below thumbnail to view in full size:



James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 22, 2009

Secrets to a successful e-mail broadcast

Business people with successful websites are usually doing one thing very well: content.

Ensure that the content on your website is not purely sales material, and adds value for the person taking the time to read.

Everyone who owns a business is an expert at something (hopefully). For 1300 Web Pro it is websites, for Aden Lawyers it is law, for The Motor Shoppe it is vehicles, for Between Two Rocks it is wine, and so on and so forth.

If a customer visits our 1300 Web Pro blog on a regular basis, they will both learn from the free expertise we put out every week, and will hopefully feel more comfortable in using and recommending our business since we seem to know a lot about websites. This opportunity exists for any business when writing about whatever it is they are an expert in.

So, we have established that content is important.

Each week when I hit "Publish Post" on my blog, I immediately go out and tell people that there is something new to read. I do this by posting on Facebook, on Twitter, and via an e-mail broadcast. All three of these methods is intended to reach a different target audience. The method I use to target business people is the e-mail broadcast.

A successful e-mail broadcast is a very effective marketing tool. Open your inbox, and you are likely to see examples of this. Whether it be "Daily Dealers" for the shoppers, "Cinebuzz" for the moviegoers, or "Harvard Business Publishing" for me, we all have e-mail broadcasts we receive regularly and pay attention to.

Here are a few tips to keep readership up:
  1. Use a "double opt-in" subscription system. Basically this is a "are you really, really, really sure?" process. Most e-mail broadcast systems will have this. There is no point in sending your message to someone who doesn't want to hear it.
  2. Use a e-mail broadcast system. Don't just send e-mails from Outlook. Subscribe to a service like gCast, MailChimp, CampaignMonitor, Constant Contact, or Attain Response. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the most important two are to facilitate "opt-outs" (people wanting to leave your list) and so that you don't accidentally CC: your entire customer list to each other. We have had a law firm and (last night) a financial services business do this, which compromises privacy and is unprofessional. These applications also provide statistics, which is useful.
  3. E-mail at a consistent day and time. Whether you send your e-mails daily, weekly, or monthly, keep it consistent.
  4. Ask your subscribers what they want. Incidentally, e-mail me if you have a topic you would like to hear from me about in a future blog post!
  5. Minimise the hard sell. Send information people will enjoy and find useful.
  6. Use images sparingly. Most e-mail programs block images these days, at least until the reader clicks a button to allow them. Make sure that the content is visible even when the images are blocked.
  7. Make it easy for someone who receives the e-mail as a forward to subscribe. It's word of mouth marketing.
  8. Include the information in the e-mail. Don't send a link to your blog, send the actual text.
If you want any more information on e-mail marketing, please give us a ring on 1300 932 776 or send us an e-mail through our website.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 15, 2009

Beware of "Domain Slamming"

Approximately once a month, we have a customer who falls prey to domain renewal scams. The most common one comes from a company called Domain Registry of America.


Be warned that most legitimate domain registrars do not go to the expense of posting out invoices in the mail. However there are lots of scam companies that send you a “renewal invoice” which is actually a transfer authorisation in disguise (or more simply put, a scam).

Once you pay, they take over your domain and potentially cause problems for you such as:
  • Charging above market rates for renewing your domain
  • Changing the "DNS entries" (information on how to find your web and e-mail servers) causing website and e-mail outages
There are a number of companies doing this, but the most popular one is Domain Registry of America. This company's entry in Wikipedia outlines their deceptiveness.

The term used to describe this scam is "domain slamming":

"Domain slamming is a form of scam in which an internet service provider (ISP) or domain name registrar attempts to trick customers of different companies into switching from their existing ISP/registrar to the scamming ISP/registrar, under the pretense that the customer is simply renewing their subscription to their old ISP/registrar."

More about "Domain Slamming" at Wikipedia.

Whilst domains can be "rescued" from these registrars, it often take a great deal of time, and sometimes a great deal of money.

It is important to know who your domain registrar is, and only pay attention to e-mails from them. In the case of 1300 Web Pro customers, if we registered or manage your domain name, we are your registrant and any notices will come by e-mail from NGE or 1300 Web Pro.

If a site owner ever has any doubt as to whether a renewal notice is from their legitimate registrar, the safest thing to do is to contact your web hosting company as they will generally be able to assist. For 1300 Web Pro customers, even if we did not register the domain we can help you determine who the correct person to see for domain renewals is.

Here is a sample scam "invoice":


James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 10, 2009

Simple eBusiness to increase website enquiries

Every website we create at 1300 Web Pro resides within a Content Management System – a system that allows the site owner to quickly and easily edit the site’s content through a web interface.

One of the types of content a site owner can create in the Content Management System is a Contact Form. Basically, the site owner defines a number of fields and the visitor is then invited to answer them. The result is sent via e-mail to the site owner.

In every site, this function is used to create a “Contact Us” form. The standard type, with fields such as Name, E-mail Address, and Message.

On some sites however, when creating the initial content, we create an additional form, for instance to:

In these cases, the form doesn’t actually insert the customer into the reservation system or contact database. Again, the site owner is simply sent an e-mail that they will follow up as necessary.

eBusiness is a term used to describe a website that performs some function to the business, as opposed to being purely an information resource for your customers.

eBusiness implementations need not be complex. Of course Qantas’ real time online booking system and Ticketek’s online box office are examples of eBusiness, but so to is the “Request a dentist appointment” contact form.

In a “request an appointment” example, it is not even necessary to allow the customer to dictate the desired time. The form may read:


There is no doubt that eBusiness websites generate more leads for a company than an informational form with a traditional “Contact Us” form. Clients of 1300 Web Pro that have some form of eBusiness receive more enquiries through their website then clients who do not.

I believe the reasons for this are very simple:

  1. You are giving people a reason to contact you. A “Contact Us” form is fine if they want to ask a question, but most people would not think to use that form to request, say, a room booking.
  2. People are spontaneous. This is why TV shopping infomercials have the “call now and receive a bonus” offers. Striking while the iron is hot is most likely to achieve results.
  3. Site visitors can submit the form after hours. Even if the site owner needs to ring or e-mail for confirmation or payment, the ball is out of the visitor’s court.
  4. Fence sitters will respond to a specific call to action where they otherwise may have retreated.

Remember that, for our customers at least, there is no cost to have an eBusiness form on their website. They can simply log into the Content Management System and create one.

A final note on eBusiness is that it should not be limited to the sales process or the customer side of business processes. eBusiness may mean a private area for staff to read procedures, resellers to file return requests, or collecting customer feedback.

Every business should evaluate how a simple eBusiness contact form could benefit their business. If you need a hand, give one of our website consultants a ring on 1300 932 776 (that’s 1300 Web Pro) and we’ll see if we can come up with some eBusiness strategies for your business!

For more information, visit Electronic Business at Wikipedia.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro