All posts by Caroline

Customer service concept

Why passion delivers great customer service

iStock_000000568002Small

January madness that’s what we call it, the start of the new year heralds a run on prospective companies who feel compelled to test and benchmark their current supplier/vendor against customer service and price.

Speaking with a prospective customer about a payroll project, I didn’t hold back when I said what is it about UK companies and the month of January that compels them to undertake a review of their current supplier? Is it poor customer service?

AngerGoing to the marketplace, collecting proposals and quotes, wasting their valuable time, resources and the suppliers time not to mention time spent in gathering, collating often extensive detailed costings, background company and fiscal information.

I had to ask, ‘presumably your current supplier is coming up short on customer service, or is it something else, perhaps you’d be kind enough to elaborate for me’.

Er no, not quite it’s just that we are two years into a three year contractual relationship and we wanted to see if there is anything better or something we are not getting.

I sighed and thought, you’re kidding me right?

If the process had been documented and specified by the incumbent company in the first place the company would be secure in the knowledge that the market place had been thoroughly researched, the list had been narrowed down to a short-list of of potential providers, let’s say three.

Each one would have been invited for a discussion or even visited if the service warranted it.

The specification would have been agreed internally by the stakeholders prior to looking for suppliers so that costs submitted were accurate.

All KPI’s and deliverables would have been laid out at the point of specification making the final choice easier for the company to make comparisons with the others.

Leaving you safe in the knowledge that your final choice was the right one to deliver the service or solution for your company.

I know I’ve simplified what can often be a more detailed process into a couple of paragraphs but if the job has been done why do companies want to test what they have?

Customer service concept

What really matters to customers is customer service or is there more?

The web makes doing business transparent, companies that are in the market for a new product, service or solution are likely to have visited your website and found the information they need about your company, quality and customer service.

They may have even made some tentative inquiries in regard to the service they are looking for.

This forms part of their list of potential suppliers.

Going back to the above interaction do companies really believe they can get something better for less?

That by somehow going out and benchmarking their existing supplier they will be able to get the same service for a lot less.

What do we all want and rarely get? Great customer service.

Why, because if your decision is based solely on price and price alone then you are dead in the water except where you are restricted by a budget in which case, the price is the prevailing factor on which your decision has to be based.

If you are confident in your current supplier and know you are getting the best service then surely this cost exercise is a waste of everyone’s time.

It’s a conundrum and one that I question when I’m talking to prospective customers.

What do they think is missing?

What do they believe they aren’t getting?

Do they think they can better the service they have already assuming they’ve done their research right?

iStock_000018668499SmallDoes this imply that they may of missed a stage during the selection process or they are insecure in the knowledge that really they don’t know what they are doing or what to look out for?

As a current supplier, if you know you are delivering the best service is there any reason why you think your customer is evaluating the marketplace?

The analogy is a bit like buying a house, you may not be thinking of moving but if something gorgeous pops up on your radar and suddenly it becomes your dream home, then your perspective changes and you find yourself wanting to move.

If your company provides solutions or services then surely one of the primary objectives is to consistently deliver the best you can and seek to improve the service offering after all it’s the job of the company to make the customer aware of new innovations, updates and upgrades.

But I wonder if the reason many companies look elsewhere aside of the new year and new budgets is not because of poor customer service,  or that the solution or product is the problem but good old fashioned business to business relationships based on human interaction is actually missing.

In an age of social online interactivity it is easy for companies to hide behind customer support and use social media as the way of helping the customer by answering complaints rather than good old fashioned face to face conversation.

By contributing to the customer directly whether on the phone or in person you are making them feel more important and valued and that you genuinely care about them.

The digital world can’t provide the human touch element.

So my question to those companies wanting to benchmark their current service or solution is ‘are you wanting to change simply because you are not being loved enough or aren’t there any incentives to continue with the service?’

Aside of poor execution and delivery.

In which case ask what it is you want or are looking for so that next time when you review your current service or solution you can ask the prospective supplier can you do this for me/can you deliver this for me?

iStock_000020192818SmallOne final point it is as much the responsibility of the customer to communicate with its supplier as it is for the supplier to work with the customer, it is a two way process.

That way you ensure you are getting the best out of the relationship.

As for the aforementioned customer who contacted us wanting a detailed proposal when I asked what they weren’t getting from their current supplier, the response was we just want to make sure we are getting the right service at the right price.

I rest my case.

 

 

Happy New Year Hanging Baubles Blue Bokeh Beautiful 3D

From content personalisation to cross media marketing.

I know, I know.

This post is late by my standards and should have been published back on the 29th December. No I haven’t been caught dog napping.English Bulldog

But without boring you with the details, I’ve decided to post now, better late than never.

As has been customary for the last two years my final post of the year has always been an overview or resource tool for you or the ‘best of’ what I’ve written during the year.

By the best of I mean the posts I’ve enjoyed writing and more importantly generated feedback and good responses. But above all else I hope it provides a useful ‘go to’ for future reference.

So how did 2014 start?

iStock_000016947992Small

It seems so long ago now doesn’t it but January came in with a flourish and I talked about the importance of document security and how to manage information especially when you are on the move.

With the use of tablets and smartphones it is so much easier to read, respond and write on the move.

But how careful do you need to be?

February and March as is customary in our business focussed on P60′s every payroll department’s worse nightmare and a cumbersome task that still needs to be managed. But outsourcing the process can save time and money. Here’s how.

content marketing strategyAnd then there was no stopping me I was off onto the importance of content personalisation and customisation in just about every working document from payslips to marketing content.

Why? Simple. Because content personalisation has everything to do with print and the physical world as it has in the digital and social world.

iStock_000023869795SmallContent personalisation is key for any direct mail or content marketing piece.

Take a look at your payslip, an invoice, social media messages.

The whole point is to make your message personalised whether it’s a message for an employee or for a customer, make it personalised and relevant and get the the message across in the right way.

March covered hybrid mail – a great way to mail out a few to several thousand letters at less than the cost of a 2nd class stamp and a service which more and more people are climbing on board because there’s no set up costs and no on-going charges. Best of all you can do it all from your desktop.

It was also the time when ‘big data’ was being talked about.

It seems like an enigma but it reality it’s simply a case of having loads of complex data sets but not understanding what to do with it.

That will be the challenge certainly for the bigger organisations in 2015.

April was the month where I really drove home the view of why print needs to be part of your content media and marketing strategy and leveraging the power of print.

Why should print be part of the cross media marketing mix when it comes to marketers planning a re-brand or delivering an important message?print word in letterpress type

May continued the theme of cross media marketing and suggested ways that a print management company can help you with planning your cross media marketing strategy.

Part of that is understanding what your customer really wants.

Mobile devicesAt the start of June I was surprised at just how many of us didn’t know what BYOD meant and how many of us are now working on our own devices at work.

This has a number of ramifications for businesses not least security but how do you legislate how employees use their own devices in the workplace.

I had a lot of fun with this blog post and it really did happen to me. How easy it is for personalisation to go horribly wrong.

What does your content marketing say about you?

Social media conceptHow do we engage with customers when there are so many social media platforms and moreover where do we find our audience?

Having achieved that how do you then get your message read or heard?

I’m regularly asked, Caroline, how can we save money on our print, not just the customary business print but the processing of print like printing and mailing invoices, statements, customer letters, so I wrote a post about it.

The ice bucket challenge was a worldwide phenomenon in August, just about everyone rose to the challenge and had a bucket of ice cold water thrown over them, I was one of them.

Why did it go viral and what did the ice bucket challenge have in common with content marketing? 

Fisheye Man Getting Ice Bucket Dumped On HeadIt’s social and online which is why it went viral and the challenge for marketers is understanding how multi-channel marketing matters in a digital world and how to be successful at delivering it time and time again.

One of my favourite posts was written in November where I talked about going digital completely and giving up the use or need for paper.

People talk about the demise of print and paper but I believe whilst it’s need has changed it still forms an important part of any marketing campaign if used intelligently with QR codes and augmented reality.

My last blog post in December argued the case for businesses needing social media.

iStock_000037124348Small

Since writing that article I’ve read at least three that have argued the demise of social media, or rather we’ve become fatigued by it.

That it has probably gone as far as it can go and millenials want more instantaneous ways of receiving their content with instant gratification.

What now for 2015?

I’m starting on the NCTJ (national council of training journalists) to develop my career and skills in writing because I enjoy researching and writing on subjects that I’m interested in.

I will continue to do my very best to serve up interesting articles throughout this year and any noteworthy industry news.

Happy New Year Hanging Baubles Blue Bokeh Beautiful 3D

Until next time.

Have a very happy new year and thank you for turning up and reading.

 

 

 

 

 

iStock_000037124348Small

Why businesses need social media to keep in touch with their customers

I am still learning the intricacies of social media along with its Social media conceptambiguities whilst not forgetting that it is about being SOCIAL and not just a means of delivering a continuum of sales messages.

But where does it fit in to business and why should we be spending time doing it?

What prompted the thinking behind this post?

Last Friday at a recent print industry event I caught up with some old friends and colleagues and the one question that kept popping up and being asked of me was:

 Why do I/we need social media for our business?

Why do I/we need to be on social media?

I’m in the print business not social media?

Mobile devicesI pointed out that the print business is not all about pre-printed forms, catalogues, direct mail but is one part of the multi channel experience that customers come in contact with and I’ve talked about it in detail here and here.

But, I then backed up the above comment saying that social media is only important to you and your business if you understand the reasons why you are using it in the first place.

If you get lots of business via telesales, advertisements, referrals, yell.com and the ‘lead bank’ is full to bursting point then social media may not be what you need to do.

iStock_000037124348Small

What you need to ask is what can social media do for my business and me?

Do I need to have an online presence?

I should point out that this is not a ‘how to do’ post as I am not a seasoned expert but rather some ideas to consider when it comes to why do social media.

A company needs to be able to project a unified brand in other words show the customer more than just products services and words. But how do they do this?

It isn’t about straplines on stationery or marketing collateral or the consistency of logos across your marketing it is the way your company or brand conveys its meaningfulness across all touch points.

Every advertisement, email marketing, direct mail even chatting with a customer service representative through to the delivery of your product or service provides a great opportunity for your brand or company to deliver on its promise and demonstrate its purpose, all of which strengthen the bond between customer and your company or brand.

To answer the question that was put to me:

You need to understand where your audience is?

What social media platforms you are likely to find them on?

And how can you convey your messages so they can be found and, more importantly get noticed?

Why do you want to invest your precious time in social media and more importantly what do you hope to get out of your time being ‘social.

I put it to my colleagues that they should be asking the question how can social media add value to the business or brand?

How can being on social media provide any other benefits to your existing customers or target audience?

Social media is more than just aiming to set your company apart from its competitors.

You are telling a story that conveys the values and the company’s ethos, it’s attitude toward its customers and how it projects itself online, all of which define the organisation.

Your social media and online presence is more than just that it is an experience that you hope your customers will identify with and that requires commitment by the organisation as a whole.

If this is followed up by poor execution and delivery of the service then the brand or customer experience is negative, credibility is lost and bad experiences are spread by word of mouth.

Our customers are deluged with information from social media – news, product recommendations, opinions and no matter what line of business you are in if you want to build a buzz about your business, it’s products or services then the cheapest and quickest way of doing this is by building an online social media presence.

Every business needs some kind of marketing and promotion and every business needs new customers and social media is an additional channel to expose your business.

Every business needs repeat business and by providing your customers with the knowledge so they know what you offer reminds them where to go when they need that new widget or solution.

iStock_000034282008SmallAny business needs to market themselves to generate leads and create new business growth but when I was asked should I be doing social media my response was ‘it’s not a case of if you need or should do it, but rather how well you do it.’

To answer the question at the start of this post:

Yes, social media can add another valuable channel to your marketing strategy if it’s done the right way.

And how does that help being in the print industry?

Print can position itself at the start of a customer’s journey from the physical to the online world and so social media forms part of that brand experience.

Marketers know that print can do things that digital cannot.

Print is at the heart of brand marketing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The impact of digital on mail and email part 2

Last week’s post was about the impact digital is having on mail.

But the findings under taken by the Royal Mail show that digital hasn’t affected mail to the extent as one might of thought.

Email is great for follow ups, acknowledgements and for getting a quick response. Detailed information that requires time to read makes the printed version such as catalogues, leaflets and brochures easier than a downloadable e-version.

As digital usage has increased the merits of mail have also increased.

The best strategy is to combine mail and email, rather than working against each other they should be made to work collaboratively.

The benefits of email

  • Perfect for instant responses, confirmations, follow-ups.
  • Great for news and updates where messages require a quick glance

The benefits of mail

  • For communications that require time to read the printed version is preferred
  • Perceived as a medium of authority, people like bills and statements
  • Ideal for loyalty communications

Here’s a quick overview.

Slide1

 

 

 

The impact of digital on mail and email

Those of you who have been kind enough to show up regularly know iStock_000026350319Smallthat I have each foot in the digital and print camp.

Digital media has had a huge impact on our lives making content accessible anytime, anywhere day or night.

And yet print is still holding it’s own.

Marketing departments are realising that print and digital work in harmony to ensure audiences are targeted with their brand messages.

Consumers like to receive email and mail each have different qualities and as audiences move between online and offline, mail and email help drive the consumer toward purchasing.

In 2007 the Royal Mail commissioned some research which showed that having 1 to 1 conversations with your customer required both mail and email and should be used in conjunction with each other.

Smartphones and tablets have made us truly mobile so obtaining information on the go is easier, it also means that marketers can deliver their brand message into our inbox when we are mobile.

In a recent report conducted by the Royal Mail, a survey showed that whilst email is on the decline it still works effectively with print marketing.

I’ve taken the most relevant information from the report and created an infographic and included it in this post. It makes interesting reading.

You might think that after reading this post and viewing the infograhic below that we are more digital than mail.

But, mail is redefining and aligning itself alongside emails and the physical channels such as direct mail, leaflet drops and physical advertising are holding their own.

In my follow up post I’ll go over why print and email work well when you employ an effective multi-channel marketing strategy.

See what you think.

Slide1

 

 

Multi channel services. Should we give up paper and go digital?

It is the perennial question I’m asked.English Bulldog

Caroline, we want to give up paper what can we do?

We use shed loads of paper and we want to go paperless?

Where  do we start?

In my last two posts I discussed how to work multi channel marketing into your content delivery to develop customer engagement and help customers along the buying journey.

I’ve placed greater emphasis on multi-channel services and marketing in my earlier posts because it has to be part of an organisation’s strategy to deliver targeted buying messages to its audience or deliver transactional information in the way of a payslip, bill or statement.

How does a multi channel service work ?

Ask yourself what do you prefer paper or digital?

What are your motives for wanting to go paperless?

Is paper needed?

There are those who want to promote the continued existence of paper, whilst others spit in the face of it claiming that digital is the only way, digital or no way.

Each have their merits in the hierarchy but ask yourself this, why not use both?  News just in, you can.

iStock_000034282008SmallMulti channel utopia. Multi channel engagement with customers and employees.

In my last two posts - multi channel marketing for success and how it fits into our digital world paper forms a strategic part of multi channel engagement with the customer.

The internet has changed the way we access and view information from payslips, invoices, statements and marketing content.

We rely on the internet to access information, to seek and retrieve, we shop for our favourite brands, we listen to music and watch films.

Consumers are putting businesses under pressure to provide multi channel services for the distribution of documents in both paper and digital versions.

Consumers are dictating where and when they want to view content, on and off line. Digital media usage will be dictated largely by the consumer’s behaviour.

The growth in the use of mobile internet and social media represents a great opportunity for information to be highly relevant and specific to the reader.

At the same time paper continues to be used in businesses everyday.

Paper documentation gives the added reassurance that the document is real and authentic, it can also be used as a physical reference rather than its electronic counterpart.

Should we give up paper distribution?paper stack

Answer: No!

You can use both and that way you are not alienating customers that want paper and at the same time embracing those customers  that wish to be totally digital.

There is room for both versions to co-exist.

Instead of online documents why not supply both a printed version and a digital one?

You are giving the customer the option to choose which solution they prefer by giving them a multi channel engagement option.

Allowing your customer to make their own choice means they retain control ensuring that all your customers are left feeling valued and important.

This is known as offering a multi channel service.

The option to distribute both paper and digital content which includes marketing messages, payslips, invoices, and statements to the end user.

Whether you are delivering payslips to your employees, bills to your customers or content marketing to your prospects the ability to provide this information using a multi channel service is key to making sure the ‘customer’ experience is meaningful and relevant.

Companies that don’t provide multi channel services are disengaging their customers and employees.

We live in a multi-media world and it is a short sighted strategy whereby a company delivers information on a single platform.

Consumers are digesting information from several media channels simultaneously including paper and print.

Making information available in digital, mobile and paper format will be challenging for organisations.

In a multi-device world, the main objective is to engage with the customer.

An organisation that is responsive to customers needs and gives access to a variety of channels can differentiate itself and set itself apart from its competitors.

multichannel marketing

5 tips for multi channel marketing success

In my last blog post I talked about the importance of multi channel marketing in our digital world. multichannel marketing

Multi channel marketing interacts with the customer using a combination of indirect and direct communications channels that include social media, websites, catalogues, direct mail, phone, SMS/text, email, television and radio.

Channels can be used in combination or independently to deliver a branded message enabling the customer to take action in response to buy your product or service using their preferred channel.

Multi channel marketing and communications is about delivering information to your customers in a way that will engage them quickly, whenever and wherever they are.

With so many different channels available it gives the customer choice over the buying process.

Here are 5 things to consider when considering multi channel marketing. multichannel marketing

1. Create visibility You must be where your customers are and this means you have to provide them with the opportunity to engage on all channels, which gives them the freedom to choose what information they want and on what platform, at their convenience.

Customers today have more buying power than ever before and no matter what your brand or company marketing message says, customers have the power to decide when they want to buy and who from.

They have to be able to interact with you at all stages of the buying journey and on whatever channel suits them. So making sure your message gets seen and heard is the key to making sure you are at the front of the queue when they are ready to buy.

All sounds very easy, right?

WRONG!

There are numerous pitfalls and one of the obvious is ‘I’m going to send out a mass email and newsletter to see what happens?’ Irrelevant messaging is guaranteed to be deleted even before the strap-line is read by the recipient.

The right message delivered to the right audience is not enough.

Your message needs to be targeted, specific, personalised.

Each campaign or message has to be fine tuned across each channel so that the message isn’t distilled making it meaningful for the customer and trustworthy.

Customers need to be able to view your message, be attentive and receptive before they take action.

With so many mobile devices, smartphones and media channels, businesses must be able to develop well coordinated campaigns that use different touch points so that the customer can jump onto his preferred platform.

2. How do I know which channel(s) to use?multichannel marketing

Understanding the profile of your customer is a good starting point. Having a single view of your ideal customer then helps you identify where they are likely to hang out.

Measuring the success of the campaign is easier if you send a direct mail or email marketing campaign because the responses are directly associated with the campaign and can be measured in click throughs and responses.

However, managing a coordinated campaign across different channels is more of a challenge.

Your website analytics will show you where the customer entered the website, which landing pages and what channel they jumped onto.

But the sequence of touch points that lead to the customer taking action is not so quantifiable.

Having loads of data is great fun but knowing what to do with it is another.

Having this data on a customer database and understanding which route your customers came from i.e. email sign ups, YouTube subscribers, Twitter followers is a useful starting point.

In our case our target audiences can be found on Linkedin, limited exposure on G+ and FB and some on twitter, this makes it easier for us to talk about what we do, who for and where to target the message.

Providing email sign ups and accessibility to information on your website in the way of downloadable PDFs and newsletters is a great way to attract your audience and keep them coming back for more.

At the same time you can encourage them to join you on their social media channel of choice. multichannel marketing

3. Be consistent Maintain your consistency across all the platforms you intend to deliver your content and message that way the customer learns to associate you and your brand to the message.

From paper to digital keep it the same. I’ve been in print and communications for 25+ years and I’m still surprised when I see companies using different forms of advertising from paper to digital.

If your marketing messages are mixed it can give the wrong impression a high bounce rate on your website might indicate that your landing pages aren’t delivering what the customer was looking for.

Every digital marketing channel used must have a clearly defined objective and goal and keep in mind the end goal, what is the purpose of the campaign, what are my business objectives, who are my customers.

Having a precise set of goals will lead to a better marketing experience.

Ensure that any single campaign deployed gives the customer the same experience on all channels.

Your customers experience your brand in different ways so if they have a negative experience for example in your retail store then there is no value in having a positive online experience. So keeping it consistent and positive and treating each channel differently helps the customer experience.

4. Transform your data

Treat your raw customer data as gold dust. It can be used to deliver targeted and personalised information to your audience.

By having a data collection point and establishing where your audience hang out online (see point 2) helps you build a presence there.

Converting prospects into customers is the real end game and not about how many facebook likes, G+’s, followers, all vanity and not reality.

How many subscribed to your newsletter, read your e-books, downloaded a free trial you were offering.

Focussing on conversions, sales, sign ups and building customer relationships is key for business development.

5.  Be mobile, Be digitaliStock_000023887471Small

Following my Google seminar being mobile and being a digital business has to be part of the game plan. It’s not good enough being mobile friendly, your business has to be accessible via smartphones and easily shareable. It has to be digital.

Multi channel is not limited to goods and sales it is about developing interaction, including communication.

Customers want to consume content on different channels – email, mobile, online and print depending on the context and convenience.

It is impossible to predict which channel will be used when and so the only approach is to make your content, message, brand available on all channels.

Being a digital business and delivering your marketing efforts across multi channels is key to developing and keeping customers.

mobile commerce

Why multi-channel marketing matters in a digital world?

I was invited by one of Digital Print Management’s suppliers, to visit Google HQ in London recently to experience google’s  ‘Drive for work” which is superseding google apps for work. content personalisation

The purpose behind google’s re-positioning of this product is to make it more personal, accessible and more mobile for organisations.

There were a number of key factors that came out of the conference:-

  • This year alone it is estimated that 1.2 billion smartphones will be in worldwide use
  • Mobile video will increase exponentially
  • Mobile e-commerce is set to go even more ballistic
  • Mobile responsive websites are key to customer engagement
  • Encrypted BYOD which I’ve talked about will be ever more prevalent in the workplace

During the day I was impressed by the various presentations and videos, an american powerhouse company delivering great content.

However, there was one thing that resonated with me during the day and that was the use of the word ‘digital’. A digital business, a digital culture, a digital brand.

According to Google, digital and mobile are key to the future success of any business.

Google put forward the scenario that companies and brands should be thinking in terms of being a ‘digital’ organisation or business.

A digital business involves creating digital content using a communications strategy across all channels to excite the consumer along his/her journey to purchasing.

Organisations no longer sell goods, or services or products they are delivering meaningful digital content, subliminal messages to awaken the customer across a variety of channels as a way of planting the seed for purchase or opening the customers eyes to a problem they didn’t know they had.

marketing content

I see a communications strategy looking something like this and should comprise of the following five components. This makes it easier to decide which and how many touch points you will use to deliver your content.

  1. a creative strategy – the ideas bit
  2. a media strategy – what media – print, social, video, TV, adverts (channels and platforms)
  3. content strategy – what are you going to talk about, what are you trying to tell/sell your audience
  4. a digital strategy – how do you deliver it and where
  5. a mobile strategy – having mobile responsive websites, being able to view content across multiple devices

None of the above will be successful if used in isolation and simply calling it a “communications strategy” is too big a deal to work with.

Successful digital companies embrace new trends and innovation comes out of the need to meet and go beyond customer expectations.

These companies are successful because they no longer perceive themselves as a maker or provider of X but have repositioned themselves as a digital company.iStock_000023887471Small

An organisation able to deliver their brand, content and marketing message digitally.

In google’s words Digital brand = Digital culture = Digital success I would add at the end of that =  multi-channel/media communications.

These companies are optimising digital platforms for marketing success.

Marketing in our digital world has changed. Advertisements in the major newspapers, leaflet drops in local and national newspapers, adverts on billboards and commercials on TV were how your brand and message was delivered in the past.

Whilst the above retains it’s place in the stratosphere getting noticed by your audience is increasingly more difficult.

How do you position yourself to be in the right place at the right time in front of the right people?

In my last post  I talked about how hybrid mail along with content marketing can be used in conjunction with digital marketing to deliver your marketing efforts.

content personalisation and printUsing a multi-channel strategy combining digital services with print to communicate the same message but delivered in different ways is an effective way of staying in front of your audience.

An organization that is responsive to customer needs and provides easy access to a variety of channels can differentiate itself in an otherwise crowded field.

Organisations that do create a seamless experience and integrate different forms of technology into its marketing effort can gain customer loyalty.

We’ve become an increasingly mobile workforce, 68% of adults in the UK access the internet on the go (Office of National Statistics) the statistics would appear to stack up. Looking at DPMs analytics clearly shows that more people visit us via some form of mobile device.

In our 24/7 connected world business owners are accessing information around the clock from multiple devices and locations.

Multi-channel communications are about delivering relevant and timely information to your customers in an engaging way giving them the opportunity to interact with you and your brand. It is impossible to predict which channel will be used when so making your content available on all channels is a must.

Being able to co-ordinate a print and digital campaign simultaneously is a great way of targeting your audience with personalised communications.

In my next post 5 tips for digital multi-channel marketing success.

 

 

 

marketing

How to use hybrid mail to enhance your business.

My recent posts have talked about the importance of content, personalisation and making it relevant and then how to get the message out there. content personalisation

If you are solely an electronic user and consider mailing out letters outdated and unnecessary then this article isn’t for you.

But, if like many businesses you print and mail out a proportion of your letters, marketing content and promotional stuff then read on as this post might help you save money.

The print industry has come in for some pretty heavy criticism for not being forward thinking and innovative.

Yet one of it’s greatest innovations is hybrid mail from the standard print and mail distribution via outsourcing data to a third party and having it printed and mailed out to being able to manage your mailings straight from your desktop at a touch of a button.

In reality hybrid mail has been around since the 70s and has come to the fore in the last 3-5 years. Whilst there are many large hybrid mail providers in the UK market place, most of their services are designed for the big corporate user and don’t always have the SME in mind.

The major benefit of hybrid mail is that it reduces the time, effort and money, printing and mailing out letters from even a few, too many thousands of letters. 

iStock_000013422088Small

How does it work?

Hybrid mail uses a mix of electronic and traditional processes. Whatever documents you want to print and post there are four steps to get them delivered:-

  1. Upload the document you want to print and post
  2. Preview your pages
  3. Check your recipients
  4. Order – choose either black and white or colour print, first or second class delivery

All you need is a hybrid mail service provider who can transform your documents into secure printed and posted documents and a PC/laptop.

Hybrid works by enabling users to send individual or multiple page letters and documents created on any computer to a central print site via the internet. The letters are printed, merged with letters that the hybrid mail provider has produced for other customers that day and sorted into mailsort order ready for posting.

At the end of the day the mail is despatched via a bulk mail service supplied by the Royal Mail or one of their DSA competitors.

As with any new innovative print technology customers need to be able understand how the system works so they can then start to think about how it can be used to benefit their business.

Many companies still have an on-going requirement for mailing and posting out documents even the occasional small quantity and that is where hybrid mail lends itself very well.

How does hybrid mail add value to your business?

In my view any organisation that is printing and sending letters using a desktop printer will save time and money switching to a hybrid mail service.

Even organisations with larger in-house operations or using third party suppliers such as print and mailing houses to print their statements, invoices, customer letters, subscription renewals can save money.

 

Content marketing

Hybrid mail is a great way to get your promotional content out there backing up your online presence

Hybrid mail is not a complicated process. Unlike print and mailing services the cost is not based on the volume being mailed. Whether you send out one bespoke letter to one recipient or 500 letters to 500 recipients the unit cost is the same.

Some hybrid mail services will offer added value in the form of correcting inaccuracies in customer addresses free of charge through integration with the postal address file. [PAF]

Standardising your letterhead and corporate identity across your hard copy communications will enable you to ensure brand consistency without having to pay for re-design costs across a number of third party suppliers.

 

Some hybrid mail services allow you to set, limit and control spending at an individual user or departmental level which means you have full control over what gets mailed out and how much it costs.

One of the main advantages of hybrid mail is the reduction in your carbon footprint of each letter mailed. Letters that are printed through hybrid mail are printed on presses that are more energy efficient than a desktop printer on a per unit basis.

Bulk mailings cost less to transport and deliver across the country.

Quality, security and reliability are issues that would be users of the service may have concerns about. Most of the hybrid services run on https secure internet connections the same as the banks use and the physical print centres, where your letters are printed are ISO27001 accredited.

The reliability of hybrid mail compares just as well to a standard mailing service. Most print centres will have a validation process that monitors every letter in every mailing throughout the production cycle to ensure they can be 100% certain that each letter has been printed and mailed.

Can I use hybrid mail for multi-channel marketing?

I have emphasised the importance of personalisation when it comes to marketing your content and getting your message out there. Hybrid mail is a cost effective way of reinforcing your online brand by sending out a follow up message using direct mail.

It’s cheap, easy to set up and can fit in with your online content marketing and it’s a great way to push the same message more than once. Why not promote that event or special promotion numerous times through the mail.

The chances are you are promoting your message online many times but your audience isn’t always online and so misses it. Backing it up with a mailed promotional piece reinforces what you’ve done online.

By using both traditional and digital marketing approaches simultaneously you’re maximising the reach of your business’s message.

The more impressions or views your message can get the more effective it will be and hybrid mail should be right up there with your marketing strategy.

 

 

 

ice-bucket

What does content marketing and the ice bucket challenge have in common?

What does the ice bucket challenge have to do with content marketing, personalisation and multi-channel communications? Fisheye Man Getting Ice Bucket Dumped On Head

A lot as it turns out.

I got nominated for the ice bucket challenge on a rather windy, rainy morning on the last Bank Holiday of August but I’m not showing it here.

The challenge has delivered a formula that has made people share and talk about it all over social media. Marketing and sharing mixed with fun gone viral.

That’s when I came up with the idea for this post – content marketing, branding, talking and promoting your businesses should be fun.

If we want people to engage and ultimately buy from us we need to be able show the human and fun side of our business rather than ‘how this solution will work for your customer or how your customer can save money with this’.

In case you didn’t know…

The ice bucket challenge involves a person being nominated by a friend or colleague usually via twitter or Facebook to have a bucket of ice-cold water thrown over you.

It works like this on twitter: I nominate XXX to take part in the #icebucketchallenge in the next 48 hours then you donate to the MND association.

Pretty much the same on Facebook.

How did it start?

In the USA by founding members of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehring’s disease named after the famous baseball player who died from it. In the UK it is known as the Motor Neurone Disease Association. [www.mndassoication.org]

28 million ice bucket videos have been uploaded, commented on or ‘Liked’.

From July 29 to 28 August ALS $98.2 million in the same period they usually receive $2.7 million in donations.

The MND association receives on average £200k a week in donations but from 22-29 August it had received £2.7 million.

Macmillan has also taken advantage of the phenomenon and raised an additional £3 million from challenges. [Source: BBC News.co.uk/magazine]

content marketing and big dataWhat does the ice bucket challenge have to do with content marketing?

The whole point of the campaign is to raise awareness of a hitherto unknown disease that hadn’t got the public’s attention until now.

The fun side of the challenge has made it ‘viral’. A great marketing ploy with an injection of fun to plug a brand, in this case to raise the awareness of the disease that is ALS.

The ALS have been very effective in their marketing, taking a silly idea and making it fun and then sharing it with an audience, many of whom had no idea initially what it was all about – now they do!

How can WE make our content marketing, messages and branding fun?

Think of something unique that your audience can relate to and have fun doing it. Your targeted audience can see the humour and will appreciate your message a lot more.

Whether you sell a service, solution or product no matter how mundane make light of what it is your organisation sells or provides not by ridiculing the product or services but by making the content for your marketing fun and humorous.

For example begin a blog, direct mail or email marketing piece with: “shake it if you get excited about selling widgets…” Or clap your hands if you love industrial machinery… and use a funny image like this:

Robbery C:O fbgags.com

Knowing your audience and personalising the message is important. Providing content that is fun to read for your audience makes them remember you so the next time they need to order widgets they know who to call.

Put yourself in your customers shoes. Most of their day is like yours, too many emails, meetings and not enough time to get things done.

For example if a customer places an order rather than sending an electronic order acknowledgment/notification that says:

Dear XXX

Thank you for the recent order you placed with us.

To make sure we get your delivery right please check the order. 

You could try something like:

Dear XXX

Thanks for ordering our fab widgets.

To say thank you we are giving a 10% coupon redeemable against your next order on any of our XYZ products so don’t forget to use it.

Jan, Pete and George are in the office from xx to xx call us if you need help with any of our products. Call us if you just need an online coffee and to have a chat with.

Add a daft image like this:

Baby chasing cat C:O funny-pictures.picphotos.netHow many times do you get impersonal emails? I get so many I cant count the number that bear no relevance to our company’s services.

An email newsletter that features amazing new updates, why you must buy this XYZ before mid-night. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Often content marketing goes into length about how wonderful the services, products and solutions are by boring the reader to death and then there is the history of the company and the team who work in the company.

Companies are more interested in finding out what it is we can do to help them rather than reading about the history of the company that started in 1066 A.D.

Why not focus on the customer instead.

What are their issues, how have you’ve helped similar companies, show them what they will get if they use your services rather than selling them the proposition.

Send a handwritten postcard to say thanks, it’s personal and it’s personalised and I can speak from experience that it goes down really well.

When you treat customers like people rather than someone on the end of an email the results can be surprising.

The next time you decide on a marketing campaign or write some copy for your company’s products think ‘people’ rather than ‘prospects’ and aim to make the customer laugh.

And Finally…

Why is the ice bucket challenge so successful?

  1. It’s simple, unique and so easy to take part. There’s no long-term commitment and people have fun which is how we want to be perceived, fun to do business with and fun to work with.
  2. Although it is for a serious cause it has raised awareness of MND and people like to share their stories happy or sad. It has the human element and is therefore emotional people want to be part of it and be seen to be doing something to help the cause. When people see that your company means business but also has fun they want to be part of that too.
  3. The call to action is a bucket of water thrown over your head. It costs nothing, there’s no requirement to buy anything, no personal information has to be given over just a straightforward donation to charity.

When customers visit your website, read your blog or follow you on social media if they see you having fun doing what you do that shines through.

People then feel compelled to get involved with you and your company and that is why the ice bucket challenge has been such a great success it’s a people story, human and emotional.

[Facebook robbery image courtesy of Fbgags.com]

[Baby chasing cat courtesy of funny-pictures.picphotos.net]