Clever, But Risky, Marketing Tactics
From Stitches' State of the Industry 2010
By Shane Dale
Here are three marketing strategies that can pay off in a big way.
- Freebies. John Resnick, co-owner of Boston-based Proforma Printing and Promotion (asi/300094), sent out an HTML e-newsletter to his clients in the fourth quarter of 2008. “We did a sales promotion where we pitched a free iPod Touch with any order over $2,500,” he says.
The good: “We bought the iPods at a group rate, so for $2,500 in revenue, we’re only giving away $50,” Resnick says. “For our clients, it really helped build loyalty. They got something in return for their business – it wasn’t a one-way street.”The bad: If your budget allows for only one freebie per client, and the client has more than one buyer, this kind of promotion could backfire.
- Radio advertising. “Radio is making a big resurgence,” says Scott Gingold, owner of Confidential Counselor. “People spend a lot of time in their cars, so radio ads are a good investment for advertisers.”
The good: Jenni Cox, co-founder of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals, says reaching your target market makes radio ads worth every penny. “And it doesn’t have to be during drive time to be effective,” she says. For example, local radio stations do field promotions all the time. “They do county fairs and carnivals,” Gingold says. “They’ll say, ‘Come down and see WXYZ at the grand opening of Tom’s Meat Market,’ and they give away promotional items for their station. Get them to buy from you.”
The bad: “One of the mistakes small businesses make in radio is they put their ego before their business,” Gingold says. “You need to focus on the ad’s message and what you’re offering to the client – not the fact that you’re on the radio. Does the offer compel people to call you?”
- Gambling. Resnick’s company did a poker-chip marketing campaign. He says, “The chips were like a business card, with our company logo, an 800 number, my e-mail address and a marketing message: ‘Proforma’s a sure bet; don’t take a chance on your promotional needs.’ ”
The good: “We landed two clients and ended up doing full-blown poker nights for their client events,” Resnick says. “I actually had a relationship with World Series of Poker Champion Chris Moneymaker, and we brought him in for both of them. We invested less than $500 in the chips, and in turn got about $60,000 in business. The ROI was unbelievable.”
The bad: This kind of promotion could rub some people the wrong way. “We have a lot of financial services clients, and gambling is kind of a no-no,” Resnick says. “We did receive some pushback.”
Larry Powell, owner of Hilliard, OH-based Powell Prints, discounts decorated shirts if his customer lets him include his company logo on the garment in addition to their logo. He prints his logo in an unobtrusive location, such as the sleeve, and the result is that there are thousands of shirts in the marketplace with the Powell Prints logo.
Blast Your Message Out
An e-blast is a short e-mail that contains a message, some images and a call to action, and is delivered to a large audience all at once. The cost per e-mail is extremely low, much lower than that of direct mail. But unfortunately, the open rate is pretty low, as well, averaging around 15% to 20%; if you send your e-blast to 100 people, only 15 to 20 of them will actually open the e-mail.
The reason for this is twofold. First of all, most of us are so deluged with e-mail messages that we automatically delete unsolicited messages. On top of that, spam filters work overtime to divert anything that might be remotely unwanted. One thing you can do to increase your chances of getting past spam filters is to avoid words that trigger them, including: free, click here, call now, information you requested and 50% off. Though every filter is different and most don’t publish a list of such words, there are sources online that provide words and phrases to avoid. Simply do a Google search for “words that trigger spam filters” to get a list of helpful sites. Consider using a third-party service for your e-mail blasts.
Market Your Business on a Budget
The best way for businesses on a tight budget to drive client enthusiasm is through word-of-mouth, according to Steve Freeman, owner of Qdigitizing.com (asi/700501). “For people who are good at it, the best marketing plan on a budget is to network, network, network,” he says. “You need to go to a chamber of commerce meeting and work the room.”
For companies that already have a handful of clients, Ron Muzechuk, owner of Dayton, OH-based Proforma CNR Marketing (asi/300094), says marketing additional products to those companies may be more effective than marketing your goods to untapped territory. “It’s a lot easier marketing to 20 people we know than a shotgun approach,” he says. “We know their business and their market.”
Muzechuk also enjoys free publicity through industry publications and local magazines, which allows him to share his expertise with potential clients. “There are some B-to-B magazines that our local newspaper publishes,” he says. “We’ve gotten to know their beat reporter, so they’ll call us for quotes.” Muzechuk has also written full-length articles for trade magazines. “It doesn’t cost us anything,” he says.
Another absolutely free marketing method that Muzechuk enjoys is frequent e-mail signature updates. Instead of just listing his name, title and phone number in his signature, he uses that space to provide prospective clients with information on sales or upcoming events. “We’re constantly updating that,” he says. “I’ll be changing it soon to say something like, ‘It’s not too soon to start thinking about your golf outings.’ You’re marketing yourself even when you’re sending an e-mail to somebody. It’s amazing how many people notice that stuff.”
E-newsletters can be useful marketing tools, if done the right way. First, you’ve got to figure out what content your readers want; for example, if you’re heavy in apparel sales, send out information prior to each seasonal change with new apparel and decoration ideas. Another great application is to show off complementary items that go with your main product and services line. So if you’re an embroiderer and just added sublimation, let your customer base know about all the new items you can decorate, such as plaques, awards, poly-performance apparel and promotional items.
To ensure people read your newsletter, keep articles short and image-heavy. Encourage your customers to sign up voluntarily for your newsletter rather than just dumping their contact information into an e-blast database. Unsolicited e-mails can get reported as spam. Because of this, don’t engage in any large-scale e-communications using your company e-mail, as it could get your entire domain blacklisted; consider a third-party service for this task. Also, deliver your e-newsletter in an HTML format rather than as a PDF – HTML is search-engine friendly; an attachment isn’t.
Looking for a totally new approach to an e-newsletter? Film your message about new products or trends as a video and post it on YouTube. (Get more tips for creating a video on page 47). – Jimmy Lamb
Many decorators use a third-party service to handle their e-communications to minimize the chances of getting inadvertently blacklisted and to gain access to various tools for creating and managing e-blasts and e-newsletters. Vertical Response (www.verticalresponse.com) and Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) are two of the most well-known third-party e-communication companies in the industry. Both allow you to maintain a customer e-mail database on their sites and offer templates and layouts for creating e-blasts and newsletters on your own, for a fee of course. They both offer flat-rate monthly pricing or pay-as-you-go options.
Brett Michaels, owner of Pennsylvania-based Stitch By Stitch, recently added digital transfers and sublimation to his embroidery business, so he throws in non-apparel promotional products imprinted with his customer’s logo on every garment order he fulfills. “Customers get to see other products we offer, and it usually results in a follow-up order of promo products,” he says. “I pay a small cost to sublimate a plaque, mouse pad or coaster, but the results have been pretty profitable. The key is to include a product that appeals to each specific customer.”