E-mail Marketing

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The term event planner conjures up images of someone who micro-manages the flowers, cake, band, and myriad of other details for a wedding. Or the swat team that stages major corporate sales meetings and user group extravaganzas with elaborate video, music, pyrotechnics for senior execs who secretly long to be rockstars.
Lately, however, more and more of our clients have been discovering events of a less intimidating nature and scale as an under-appreciated marketing method. Some thoughtful planning and new tools provide ways to interact with existing customers and new prospects in settings that lead logically to sales.

Museums like The National Constitution Center are great places to hold corporate events.

Museums like The National Constitution Center are great places to hold corporate events.

When you have new facilities or processes to show off, it only makes sense to hold an open house and invite interested parties, including the press. But sometimes an outside location is part of the attraction. Earlier this year, systems integrator Time and Parking Controls held a knowledge seminar for area parking companies at the National Constitution Center, giving attenders advance access to the exhibits prior to lunch, an afternoon of guest speakers on PCI compliance, new high-tech parking technologies, and energy-saving opportunities. ROI isn’t always instant, but if the presentation content is worthwhile, the participants will remember and likely reward you for inviting them.
You don’t need to make your event a teachable moment either. Sometimes a fun evening out is a great customer appreciation method. Companies who can afford suites or luxury boxes at the stadiums understand this and budget for it. However, these opportunities are worthwhile whenever and wherever they occur. World Café Live is a terrific venue for corporate outings, built around live music (although they have other quiet space and catering for more traditional events). Next year, they’ll be opening a great second venue in Wilmington. The historic Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville does lots of film and entertainment events, but recently renovated a more intimate community room for smaller gatherings.

Eventbrite is a terrific web-based tool for e-marketing your event.

Eventbrite is a terrific web-based tool for e-marketing your event.

If you’re going to hold an event, you may as well avail yourself of new tools for making it a success. Later this month, one of our PR clients, the Quietmind Foundation, is hosting an international Alzheimer’s researcher and inventor for two days of presentations. We have them using EventBrite.com to handle promotion and RSVPs. Eventbrite gives you a web-based dashboard for easy e-mail invitations mailing and tracking with printable coded PDF tickets.

Webinars are a great way to reach audiences in real time, in multiple=

Finally, the next best thing to being there in person is the under-appreciated webinar, especially if your customer base is global and technical. Last month, we worked with a great team at Advanced Materials and Processes magazine to help materials testing systems maker Tinius Olsen present an overview of extensometry technologies and an introduction to its new multi-camera video-based system. By conference call, web linkage, and PowerPoint, Tinius Olsen was able to reach a well-targeted technical audience in multiple time zones for just an hour of everyone’s time.
The next time someone at your company asks how you’re going to improve sales, quote the great Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, who’d retort, “Hey, let’s put on a show!”

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College Marketing Materials: From Here To Infinity

College Marketing Materials: From Here To Infinity

We had a new business meeting this week with the marketing director of a local college. That meeting was about continuing ed, but it prompted me to visit a shopping bag I had kept in the corner of my office after my son headed to campus last fall. The bag was a collection point for all the undergraduate marketing materials he’d received over the course of junior through senior year of high school, from colleges large and small, near and far, looking to fill their freshman class. Hundreds of suitors, who all knew that only one would ultimately be chosen. The Miss America pageant and the nickel slots in Atlantic City offer better odds.
I took the occasion to review many of these postcards, direct mail letters, multi-panel mailers, view books, and other forms of solicitation. Most were also replicated in e-mail form and some with personal web pages (PURLs). It was an incredible example of target marketing run amuck. The deluge began some time after my son’s data was entered online for the taking of the SATs. Multiply him by the number of college-bound students in every high school across the country and you start to get a sense of the crazy business model of higher ed admissions. The goal is to fill as many seats as possible, with the best and brightest you can attract. You have them, hopefully, for three additional years. But every fall, it’s musical chairs all over again.
I was struck by how many images and messages blurred together from one institution to another. All were professionally crafted. Only a few stood out as remotely unique. Campuses and ivy covered buildings look like they were shot for National Geographic. Students are shown with blissful expressions of living in a better place (Brigadoon? Away from home?). Each is chosen by central casting to fill a diversity rainbow and for their Ralph Lauren model looks. Touch football games are big. So is the promise of study abroad programs. Slogans with the words future, career, imagine, and vision abound. There were quite a few mailings with “green” sustainability themes. Given the small forest shown here spread across our conference room table, I got a chuckle out of that conceit.
With so many choices, how do kids and families sort them all out? Everyone has their own criteria and methods. But once the short (hopefully, short) list is arrived at, the campus visits become all important and from each school’s perspective, a minefield. At one top name school, the campus tour guide was completely drowned out by the sounds of construction jackhammers a short distance away. At another, much time was spent (unsuccessfully) silencing the alarm on the front door of a student dorm we were touring. At yet another, prospective students were asked to share something about themselves with others in the room; the problem was that the room was an auditorium full of people, most of whom were pressed for time and were there specifically to learn about that college, not about other prospective freshmen.
The effectiveness of presentations is paramount when you get hundreds of guests into an auditorium. Many that we attended were rambling snooze-fests. Some were technology challenged. And a few were very, very compelling. A really well-done video can compensate for too many speeches from too many campus representatives. Even the Q and A should be carefully prepared for, not with pat answers but thoughtful ones that represent the consistent voice of the institution.
There aren’t any easy answers to college branding and marketing. The processes and messages in place at most schools are well thought out, but often derivative of competing institutions. Really hammering home what is unique about your campus and its offerings is critical. When you throw in the challenges of ever-rising tuition and room and board costs, an especially tight global economy, and competition from more and more online education options, something has to give (and I don’t mean the alumni).

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Email Marketing On The Radio

What is wearying about the current economic mess is how often a particular marketing means is oversold like an all-purpose tonic from the back of a medicine wagon. I picked up a bank’s business publication outside a supermarket branch and saw a whole article devoted to how to “Stretch Your Marketing Dollars with E-Mail Marketing.” My first reaction was shouldn’t a bank’s business publication be about banking? As a marketer, I don’t appreciate seeing banks offering advice, however well-intentioned, that gets into my arena.

Then, I read the opening to the bank’s e-mail marketing article:
“Whenever business slows, marketing budgets often are prime targets for owners and managers looking to slash spending. While it may be necessary to cut marketing costs during a downturn to protect your cash flow, it’s absolutely essential to find ways to continue to reach your customer base to market your business and generate revenue.”

How very inspirational. Especially at a time that banks are not doing enough lending to help small businesses during the downturn. Let’s remind companies that they might consider gutting their marketing budgets, so that all that is left are funds for e-mail marketing. Brilliant business strategy.

That is not to say that e-mail marketing isn’t useful, flexible, memorable (when properly executed), and highly measurable. However, it is just one tool in the marketing toolbox and an increasingly overused one. As a result, we are all dealing with newsletter fatigue, information overload, spam filtering challenges, and a much bigger problem — brand underexposure.

Too many single-minded, single-tool zealots are pushing their solo solution to the exclusion of other, perhaps more expensive but also more effective methods of creating awareness, buzz, and sales. I am really tired of hearing about the waste of traditional media, the death of print, the end of marketing as we know it.

I rest my case with Constant Contact, the best-known purveyor of e-mail marketing software. Why are they the best-known purveyor of e-mail marketing software? Because they market the hell out of themselves. Occasionally, I get a Constant Contact e-mailing encouraging me to sign up for their service. But I get the same from Lyris, Bronto, and a whole slew of others. The reason I know Constant Contact top of mind is because of their widely-run radio advertising campaign used to sell Constant Contact e-mail marketing as the most effective way to reach prospects and customers. Rich irony anyone?

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