Feb 24, 2009 Marketing
Entanet’s position as a wholesale provider of connectivity services means we enjoy close working relationships with reseller partners of varying shapes and sizes. It has been noticed and is unsurprising given the nature of the industry, that a significant proportion of our resellers employ staff from a highly technical background and few benefit from any dedicated marketing or sales experience.
Numerous conversations on this topic have brought to our attention that many of our partners, in particular our smaller resellers, feel they lack the skills and experience needed to effectively market their business and despite a clear awareness of the importance of proactive marketing (especially in the current economic climate) many feel they don’t know where to start and are looking for guidance.
So if you fall into this category, I thought I’d share a few key pointers with you to get you started. If by the end you think I’ve missed anything important or think we need to cover a topic in more detail or if you want to share your own experiences of what works and what doesn’t, add a comment and let us know.
Ok, so before we jump into the detail a little note to remember. Don’t feel that you have to do everything and do it all at once. There will never be enough hours in the day! Instead have a read through and pick out the points that you think you could tackle and then break those down further into manageable chunks, maybe just try to implement one activity a month and see how you get on.
Tackle that literature!
Let’s get the dreaded ‘glossy’ marketing stuff out of the way first. One of the first things you should have available to a customer is some information about your products and services. Quick note to the techies amongst you – remember to keep it simple. Joe Bloggs won’t know the difference between IPStream and WBC and if you talk to him like he should then he will rapidly lose interest in you and your products.
Let me guess, you are now staring blankly at a big white page wondering where to start? Don’t panic, this happens to us all. Start by jotting down the key features of all of your products and remember to think like an end user, what might be a key feature for you might not be at the top of their priorities. Expand each section until you have a brief overview of each of the products you provide, preferably on a single sheet. From here you will find it easier to add more detail and get to the stage of having a document for each product, starting with those that are most important to your business.
Or…you could cheat! Talk to your wholesale provider and see if they have any white label documents already produced that you can add your logo and contact details to. The chances are they will have a whole department of marketing types that have already done the graft for you, especially the staring at a blank page bit. If they don’t have anything you can brand then ask them if you can ‘borrow’ some of the content they have already written for their own documents or websites. You will find it much easier to amend it to fit your audience than starting from scratch.
Ok, so one way or another you now have your new shiny documents. Now what? Well let’s not let them gather dust. If you own a retail outlet then why not get a small batch printed to have lying around the shop in prominent positions like alongside your till. Make sure you print in small batches. It may seem appealing to benefit from the discounts of bulk orders but be realistic how many are you really likely to shift before you have to update something? If you ship hardware out then why not drop a leaflet in with the order. Maybe the customer that just bought that router from you is unaware you also sell broadband.
No shop? Don’t ship orders? Don’t fear your hard work hasn’t been wasted. Convert your documents into PDFs and get them added to your website. Prospective customers can download them for additional information to take away.
And then there are all of those other places you can promote your products. What else do you send out? Think about letterhead, business cards, invoices, credit notes. Why not add a small statement to those advertising your latest offer or new service. It could be as simple as “We now sell VoIP – Visit www.xx.co.uk to find out more”.
What should you be doing with your website?
Doesn’t it feel like you’re always meaning to work on your website but can never quite get around to it because there’s just so much to do? Maybe you’re trying to tackle too much in one go. Try breaking things down into easily manageable tasks that take just 15-30mins each and tackle them one at a time. Before you know it you will have completed that gigantic, unmanageable task without realising it.
Why not start by updating the written content on your site. Information can rapidly become out of date. Review it in sections starting with the services that are most important to your business. You may find that if you have recently updated your literature you could re-use the content. Schedule to re-visit this every 3 to 6 months to ensure it is always up to date.
If your expertise lie elsewhere but you need to update the design and layout of your website enlist the help of a web designer. This shouldn’t break the bank and whilst you have them working for you make sure they include search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques and explain to you what they are. This will come in handy for Search Engine Marketing such as Google Adwords which we cover later.
If your approach is to actively engage with your customers then consider using a forum or feedback forms on your website. There are benefits and drawbacks to any interactive service such as these so perhaps you should start by asking your customers if they would find such services useful and how they would use them. If you decide to proceed ensure you are fully prepared and go into this with your eyes wide open. Forums can require a lot of management and could quickly consume all of your time. Read up on these on the Internet first.
The popularity of social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Technorati (the list goes on) is becoming more wide spread, just look at this site for example. Take a look at the top of this article just to the right of the title. You’ll see a button asking you to ‘share / save’. If you click that icon you can save a link to this article on any number of these bookmarking and recommendation sites. Go on give it a go! Consider having your web developer add a similar option to your website for your articles and press releases. If one of your readers likes an article they might just distribute it for you, which will lead to more traffic to your site and help to promote your brand.
The Press Release
You can’t avoid them, no matter how much you might want to. There is no denying it; the humble press release is an important promotional tool.
They don’t have to be lengthy or packed full of clever marketing wording to be effective they just need to be punchy and relevant to the audience of the publication. If you have a news worthy story to tell, make sure you get it told in a press release and distributed to all relevant publications (including online) to maximise coverage. If you don’t have any press contacts or don’t feel confident developing your own press releases look into the option of using a PR agency.
Alternatively, if your press release is about a joint activity e.g. your support of a local charity or your roll out of a new product from your wholesale provider, ask the other party for help. Larger organisations are more likely to have people with specific expertise and contacts so let them do the hard work for you. Don’t forget to place them on your website along with a social bookmarking option as well.
Email marketing can be a cost effective way to market to your existing customers and attract new business without being overly intrusive. If thought about carefully it can also be easily tracked and provide accurate ROI calculations.
Start with a message. What do you want to tell the recipient and what do you want them to do in response. Let’s say you are promoting a new service e.g. VoIP to your existing customers and your aim is to get them to sign up for the service via your website.
Now you need to develop your email. Choose the wording you use carefully to ensure you avoid being marked as SPAM. Avoid using ! or ‘Free’ or ‘Special Offer’, the list goes on and further tips are available online.
If you are planning to send a HTML email you are likely to need the help of a designer. Again there are some key things you should consider. For example, think about how the email will appear in the recipient’s inbox. If you received an email that appeared as a collection of boxes with red crosses in the corners would you open it? Probably not. Try to use text wherever possible to attract attention and encourage the recipient to trust the source and open the email to read more. Again there are a number of websites that provide useful hints and tips like this or a good designer should point such things out to you. And don’t forget if you are planning to send a HTML email ensure it is accompanied by a text alternative for mail clients that do not allow HTML emails. This will ensure you minimise bounce rates.
The email must contain a ‘call to action’; a clear indication of what the reader should do next. In this case this could be a link to your website where they will sign up. And don’t forget the importance of the subject line. This is usually the first thing the recipient sees and a key factor in the decision to open or delete the mail. Look online for tips on writing effective subject lines.
If you invest in an email marketing software tool you should be able to track the effectiveness of your email. Armed with useful statistics such as percentage of emails read, percentage of emails bounced, percentage of click throughs and some even provide a breakdown of who read or clicked through, you can easily assess the success of your emails and even generate a list of leads for a sales person to actively follow up.
An important consideration is to check your legal obligations before starting any email marketing campaigns. Like most marketing activities, a quick search online will point you in the right direction.
OK, so far we have covered marketing literature, websites, press releases and email campaigns. That should get you started but it’s just the beginning. Next time we will cover Search Engine Marketing (SEM) including Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and paid search advertising, Social Media Marketing and provide some advice on how to make the most of your resources. Don’t forget – if you would like to share your experience and advice, please do so by adding a comment.
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