Reprinted from Strategies newsletter, 1st Quarter © March 2000 by First Marketing, 3300 Gateway Drive, Pompano Beach, FL 33069.

Maximize recall and response: Focus on the right mix of media and messages

You can successfully communicate with your customer in a myriad of ways — from print and online collateral to personalized e-mail. However, one critical component in any communications program is integration. Your marketing must be consistent throughout your media channels, and should reflect your corporate brand identity. Integrated programs are proven to deliver both high recall and multimessage impact well beyond the results of a single-focus communication.

Professional print communications

The most common method of customer outreach is direct mail. This includes recurring newsletters or magazines, as well as opportunity-based postcards, brochures and other materials.

Recurring newsletters or magazines give companies the opportunity to cultivate good customer relations through cost-effective multimessage vehicles. You can maintain regular contact with customers, provide product information, establish your company as an expert in its field, and encourage future purchases — all in an affordable format. To be successful, these publications must provide customers with relevant news and value-added information on at least a quarterly basis to establish readership and recall.

Opportunity-based direct mail is a proven way to achieve a singular objective, such as new product trial. Pharmaceutical leaders such as Schering-Plough, Glaxo-Wellcome and Hoescht Marion Roussel rely on direct mail to motivate immediate action. Schering recently delivered a successful Claritin campaign that kept customers looking for the next piece in the mail. It began with a postcard reminder about prescription refills. Next, customers were sent a package containing an informative brochure with tips, recipes and a list of fall activities; an insert from an allergy foundation and a coupon. A recurring newsletter provides additional opportunities to motivate customers.

The power of online communications

The Internet is another powerful resource for helping customers learn more about your products or services. Travel, health, finance and automotive are among the most researched topics. Because the Web is always accessible, it can serve both ongoing and opportunity-based goals. Drive customers to your Web site via direct-mail promotions, then keep them there with interesting, timely content. Important information and articles can be archived on your site so that customers can search for topics — this helps ensure repeat visits.

Many Web sites fall flat because they lack content that keeps customers coming back. Keep site information fresh and up-to-date. Add new interactive tools regularly to draw visitors back and increase the length of time they are on your site. Remember to test the effectiveness of your campaign after implementation. Use Web tracking software and brief online questionnaires to see what tools or content made the greatest impact on your customers. Also, request feedback from your best customers on what sites they frequently visit — establish links to those sites from your Web site and vice versa.

E-mail and fax broadcast programs

Sending e-mail messages to customers on relevant current topics has become an effective communications tool. Your customers can receive regular e-mail messages from you — with a link back to your Web site in the message. The content in the e-mail must be value-added information on a subject of interest or importance to the customer. It can include a special offer. This provides you an opportunity to stay in the customer’s mind not only for your product or service but also as an information source. E-mail messages have been effectively used in the travel, retail, financial, telecom, cable, health and fitness industries.

With privacy being such an issue, it is important to ensure that your mail campaign follows a few general guidelines. Always solicit customer input and provide directions to unsubscribe in each message. When combined with a customer database, an e-mail campaign can become personalized and powerful, providing customers with unique offers and customized information.

Fax broadcast messages to multiple individuals are another effective way to communicate time-sensitive information or offers to your customers. This is popular in technology, cable, wireless and health industries. You can fax a weekly or daily calendar to your customers. Radio stations have used this method for their loyal listeners and sold advertising as a means to fund the program. The recipients value it because they receive discounts and details on new contests.

Trade associations, event planners and other business-to-business marketers utilize fax broadcasts as a means to announce upcoming meetings or events in their industries. Fax broadcasts have also been used heavily in the hospitality industry. Daily specials and offers are faxed to loyal customers. Your faxes can refer to direct mail pieces and your Web site, reinforcing your messages.

Integration = Motivation

These are just some of the methods for connecting with your customers. In the same way you purchase advertising to maximize exposures, plan your customer communications to achieve greater cumulative impact. By ensuring your overall content, look and style are brand consistent and integrated, you can develop customer relationships that last.

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