To determine the best way to reach your customer base with a sales-marketing message, you really need to know how your targets respond to various types of media -- and messages.
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• There are no hard and fast rules. A marketing outreach to restaurant customers is different from one to potential law firm customers, and there are differences between casual and fine dining prospects, and potential business law and estate planning clients.
• If you haven't done so already, get customer, and prospect, email addresses. How? Ask. A fish bowl with business cards works in some situations; an exchange of cards at a luncheon works in others. Generally don't waste time buying a commercial email list.
• Use social media carefully. Are your customers on Facebook? Is LinkedIn a better option? Does Twitter matter? If you're uncertain, ask your customers-prospects what social media they use.
A study from the Pew Research Center, a multifaceted and actually nonpartisan source of interesting information based in Washington, D.C., has some starting information:
• Two-thirds of Internet users are on one social media site or another.
• Facebook dominates. Of those who use a social networking site, two-thirds use Facebook. In contrast, 16 percent use Twitter; 15 percent Pinterest; 13 percent Instagram, and six percent use Tumblr. By age, far more Internet users under 50 are on social media sites, but one-third of those 65 or older are social networkers.
More women than men admit to using social network sites, but the difference isn't that big: 71 percent of female Internet users, 62 percent of males.
There is more demographic information in the Pew study, published in February, but this is good to start.
• For whatever reason, LinkedIn doesn't seem to be a part of the research -- perhaps because LinkedIn is perceived to be a business, rather than social, site.
LinkedIn can be a good place for basic research on an individual prospect. If you're not on LinkedIn, at least look at the site -- particularly if you discover that many of your customers are there.
• Plain ol' email still works, especially with a short and simple selling message. A free dessert offer to customers who bring a friend will get new people into a restaurant.
• Depending on your business, don't give up on traditional direct mail (though use your own list). Door hangers can work. The same is true of traditional print advertising. If the demographics work and you get enough opportunities in return, sponsorships can be very effective.
• Convene a breakfast meeting that includes your best customers, or senior staff or outside advisers. Ask for their ideas about the best way to reach sales prospects.
• Rethink the message. Is low price how you want customers to perceive your business? What about high quality? Great service? A good discussion might point you in a new direction.
• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com
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