How To Clean Mailing Lists

    Clean Your List so Profits Don’t go Down the Drain.

    It’s no secret that direct mail marketing is making a surge back from the “I’m only doing email marketing” days! More specifically, and to answer a big question you may face, direct mail marketing using postcards is far more profitable for small business owners when compared to using letters and envelopes.

    According to a report published by the Direct Marketing Association in 2013, around 24% of the consumers responded to offers through postcards compared to only a meager 5% response through envelopes.

    The report also reveals that around 52% of consumers read postcards, while only 30% of the consumers read envelopes.

    However, before you can even attempt to experience these types of results, you MUST clean your mailing list so it’s accurate and up to date.

    You wouldn’t want your valuable message to “fall on deaf ears,” would you?

    Here are some easy tips you can do before the New Year so your list is ready for 2016!

    Contact Validation Tools and Verification Databases

    You have quite a few options when it comes to validating in-house maintained contact lists. Of note are validation tools developed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) like the CASS certification tool (Coding Accuracy Support System). USPS also owns a contact database in the form of the National Change of Address Database (NCOA). This database contains the latest updated addresses of people who have moved to a different location within United States.

    The CASS Certification Tool

    The CASS certification tool is of great help with respect to checking the accuracy of contact addresses in a contact list. Before actually giving it to the mailing service provider, you can verify whether the different portions of the address are in the correct format by making use of USPS CASS certification tool.

    This tool checks whether the address is actually valid and deliverable. This ensures the correct delivery of postcards to the intended and verified address and saves a lot of wasted money!

    CASS also performs the validation by comparing addresses with the standard format and points out those addresses that are not in correct format. When detected, it can correct improper formatted addresses. This tool also identifies duplicate contact address records and merges them into a single record.

    The National Change of Address Database (NCOA)

    The USPS continuously updates contact address information whenever contacts move to a different region within the country, and this is updated in the NCOA. Access to this database is only available through licensed direct mail vendors who have the necessary licensing from the USPS to perform checks against the NCOA database.

    While our mailing process already included a CASS certification process when your postcards are mailed, it is always beneficial to clean your list prior to ordering to ensure the best response while avoiding wasted marketing dollars.

    Need help with your list? We can help.

    Simply contact us at 877-222-6010 or at okiam@prospectsplus.com and we’ll get your list cleaned up ASAP!

      When to Send Direct Mail

      Whether you’re a local lawn care business or a multinational corporation, postcard marketing is a great way to get loyal customers to try out what your business has to offer. First time customers are one thing, but to keep a steady stream of those first time customers and to keep them coming back, you’ve got to have establish consistency and repetition.

      How Often Should You Mail Something?

      To stay top of mind with your client base the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) recommends a mailing frequency of every 21 days. Most top companies stick relatively closely to that – usually every 30-45 days to ensure three things:

      • Their customers know they’re still in business
      • Their “irresistible offer” for the month is spelled out for them
      • They’re promoting their brand, driving offline traffic online and staying connected

      They do this first by knowing their customers well enough to know which offers most appeal to their specific customer type. In other words, they do their homework first! Then the wisest develop a multi-layered approach to their marketing and develop a well thought out postcard campaign that not only allows them to stay in touch but also has the ability to build on itself, create a sense of urgency and even help them develop a following. The most effective campaigns actually have your customers calling YOU if they feel like they’ve missed a mailing!

      How Much Is Too Much?

      How do you stay in touch consistently without becoming a nuisance? That’s a question we get asked a lot! Becoming a nuisance is pretty hard to do through the mail. You’ve got to know your customer and depending on your service or product, use your best judgment. Put yourself in their shoes. If you’re an automotive repair shop and you’re giving a five dollar discount on oil changes, it would be smart to send out another postcard in about three months when the next oil change is due. Even in the lawn care business, can’t mow the grass in the snow, but you could give an excellent deal on snow removal. You got to use your creativity. Keep your content and your offer relevant and timely!

      Follow The Leaders

      Using your postcards as coupons is another great idea. You can send out postcards once a month to customers and if they start bringing them in you know you’ve got a winning campaign. Look at the success of the Bed, Bath and Beyond postcard campaign. I know people who stockpile those postcards, and can’t wait until they see that familiar blue and white card in the mail so they can shop at one of their favorite housewares stores! If that strategy works for a multi-million dollar company who already did all the research, why wouldn’t it work for you? It’s when they start coming in without them is when you got to decide what to change on your postcards. Once you’ve mastered the message, frequency and target audience that works best for your customers and your business, you can tweak things here and there to continuously make it better and deliver fresh ideas to your customer base!

      Set It And Forget It!

      How cool would it be if you could set up all your direct mail marketing on autopilot? I mean, plan it once, the designs, the messages, the target market, the frequency and hit GO! This does exist! Automated birthday marketing, automated new mover mailings, life event trigger mailings…all exist. Even automated launch platforms. These systems are designed to set it up once, understand the optimum frequency for your mailings and launch on your behalf while you focus on doing what you do best.

      The subject of appropriate frequency is truly a subjective topic. What works for some may not work for others. We simply recommend testing. Testing frequency, testing offers, testing messaging.

      ProspectsPLUS.com custom campaign division, Opportunity Knocks, can help. Wishing you success for the rest of this month and we look forward to being your direct mail resource you can count on in 2016!

      Call us anytime at 877-222-6010 or visit online at www.prospectsplus.com/pei or for automated or custom campaigns visit www.opknockcards.com

        Sticky Postcard Marketing

        4 Easy Tips To Stay Committed

        As a business owner, there are probably plenty of times when at the end of the day, you feel farther behind than when the day first started. You’ve likely had days when an emergency has unexpectedly popped up and completely railroaded the progress you were making on a major project. And while you hate to admit it, chances are that you feel like you’re being pulled in too many directions all at once. As a result, your marketing efforts end up on a never-ending “to-do” list and continue to be shuffled down the ladder in terms of priority over things like meetings and payroll.

        At the end of the day, however, you know that sales is the lifeblood of your business and that marketing fuels sales. So how can you effectively launch – and stick to – a marketing campaign when you already feel like you’re stretched too thin as it is?

        Here’s a few tips to help…

        TIP 1: Set Realistic Expectations

        Most marketing campaigns don’t produce instantaneous results so it’s important to remember that launching a marketing campaign today most likely isn’t going to result in an influx of sales in the immediate 12 or 24 hours post-launch.

        As they say, patience is a virtue and this is especially true when it comes to the results your marketing campaigns generate. When planning out your marketing campaign, it’s important to have some idea regarding the potential ROI that will be generated. It’s equally important to be realistic with this number.

        TIP 2: Stay Committed

        It’s easy to abandon your marketing efforts if you’re not seeing the results you were expecting. This is one of the most common mistakes that business owners make. Just because a campaign isn’t delivering the results you were seeking doesn’t mean that it’s a complete dud or that your industry just isn’t “good” for marketing, however.

        If your marketing efforts are falling a little short, it’s time to re-evaluate. Perhaps you need to revise your messaging. Perhaps social media marketing isn’t great for reaching your target market, but Postcard Marketing is. There’s no set science to marketing so it’s important to stay committed to your efforts, as well as understand that tweaks may be needed along the way to improve the results of such efforts.

        Embrace technology and use it to your advantage. Just be strategic in what you decide to use, as well as how you will be using it.

        TIP 3: Monitor Your Results

        There are several metrics you should be tracking on a regular basis to see if your marketing strategy is one point. Key metrics may include:

        • Daily number of visits to your website
        • Total number of leads generated
        • Cost per response or lead
        • Number of inbound phone calls
        • Close rates

        And obviously the most important metric is the amount of revenue generated from your marketing efforts. It’s important to keep your thumb on the pulse of your marketing efforts since this information will help you determine whether your marketing strategy is working. If it is, you’ll find it to be a very motivating experience. If you discover that your strategy isn’t working as well as you had anticipated, depending on how you view the situation, it too can be a motivating experience since it’ll often times incite a sense of urgency in making the changes necessary to obtain a better ROI.

        TIP 4: Modify Your Strategy Based On Results

        If things aren’t going as well with your marketing campaign as you would like, don’t be afraid to make changes. Sometimes a minor change – like modifying your call-to-action or tweaking a few lines of copy – can increase revenue by up to 20%. Trying something fresh and new in your marketing efforts just may be the ticket to driving home better results. At the end of the day, if you’re not satisfied with your results, the worst thing you can do is nothing. We use this strategy often with our Postcard Marketing Campaigns.

        By embracing the 4 tips outlined above, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors, most who are probably struggling to launch a successful marketing campaign that is sustainable for the long haul.  Creating a marketing campaign doesn’t have to become an overly cumbersome, time-consuming process.  Neither does staying committed to it.

        We can help. We live, eat and breathe this stuff! December is the time to do this.

        Call 877-222-6010 today and we’ll take as much time as you need to map out an effective marketing plan that fits your budget and meets your objective.

          Postcards and Social Media

          If you’re like most small business owners, you’ve probably heard more than one self-proclaimed marketing guru state the following:

          1. Postcard marketing is dead.
          2. There’s too much “noise” on social media for your message to be heard, let alone for it to be effective.

          The issue here is that these statements couldn’t be farther from the truth. Don’t believe us?

          Here’s some food for thought. Recent studies indicate that:

          • Over 52% of all consumers read postcards
          • 92% of all businesses have increased exposure through social media marketing
          • 80% of businesses have experienced an increase in overall website traffic as a result of social media

          Now, let’s take this one step further.  If both postcard marketing and social media marketing are effective individually, what happens when you combine them into one power-packed, integrated marketing campaign?

          The answer: RESULTS

          When used properly, postcards can be extremely effective offline AND online marketing tools.   After all, they can’t be flagged for spam, don’t require an extensive SEO strategy to be successful and will often end up on someone’s refrigerator if your message is memorable or your offer is compelling enough.

          Here’s how you can up the ante across the board so that you’re obtaining maximum ROI on your business’s marketing efforts both in print AND the digital space.

          1. Add Social Media Buttons to Your Postcards

          While social media buttons work best online (since your customers and prospects can simply click on them and immediately be transferred to your company’s social media profiles), you shouldn’t discredit their effectiveness in driving social engagement in the offline world too.  Chances are you’ve seen Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram logos in print ads, as well as plastered on billboards and heck, probably even on the sides of buses.  There’s a reason for this.  It works.  So why not apply this same principle to postcards too?  It’s one of the simplest ways to generate interest in your business’ online social media presence.

          1. Provide Exclusive Offers on Postcards

          The most effective postcards offer real value.  The easiest way to deliver perceived value to the end reader of your postcard is by delivering special offers and exclusive discounts that can only be obtained if someone engages with your business on social media.   By doing so, you’ll give people a reason to interact with your social media pages.  If you want to take this one step further, make it easy for people to share your promotion on social media as well.  And if you REALLY want to drive engagement, you might consider hosting some sort of contest, where entries are only accepted once someone has shared something about your business on your desired social media platform of choice.

          1. Bridge the Offline and Online Gap with Custom URLs and QR Codes

          The KISS principle of design, developed by the U.S. Navy in 1960, is still alive and well – even over 50 years later!  Embracing this principle is more important than ever when trying to strategically link your offline and online marketing efforts.   After all, do you really think that people receiving your postcard are going to successfully this type the URL https://www.facebook.com/This-Is-The-Page-With-The-Longest-URL-In-The-World-WOW-Its-Really-Very-Long-220173687842 into their web browsers?

          There’s a higher probability that 10 of them will win a million dollars – today – than this happening.  If you’re going to print URL’s on your postcards, keep them as short as possible.  The less people have to type, the better.  If possible, use QR codes.  Instead of typing something into a web browser, your readers can easily scan the QR code with a smartphone app and be taken straight to your social media page.

          It’s fast, simple, and more important, it’s FREE.

          It’s no secret that postcard marketing can build credibility for your business in your local community, especially since most people feel that a company with the budget to undertake print marketing campaigns is more legitimate than one that doesn’t.  When you couple this with the immense marketing power social media offers, it’s a dominant combination that’s undeniably successful.

          If you’re ready to kick-start your postcard marketing efforts, check out our website or better yet, give us a jingle today at 866-319-7109.

          Sources:


           
           

            Holiday Postcards

            Ready or not, the holiday season is here.  Take advantage by using holiday cards stay top of mind with your customers or send holiday greetings with special offers to attract new customer. This strategy is highly effective, but before you start, make sure you read these seven holiday card marketing tips.holiday-cards

            1. Be Clear and Concise.  Even when you’re sending holiday postcards, you can use the reverse side to deliver a great message or offer.  If you are sending to both your customer list and to new prospects, consider altering the message slightly. Make it personal and heart-felt, with a note of thanks for allowing you the opportunity to serve them as customers.
            2. Dual Purpose.  Are you having a holiday customer event?  Charitable program?  Offering a holiday special? Thanksgiving Holiday Card
              Include that information on the card along with her holiday greeting.
            3. Don’t Sell.The holidays aren’t the time for salesy messages.  The holidays are about connecting with people on a deeper level.  Keep it light and friendly.
            4. Not Just Christmas.  Almost all businesses send Christmas cards.  Be different…remember there are several other holidays around this time. Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Valentine’s, Easter and beyond. There’s always something to celebrate with your customers.
            5. Have Fun.  People do business after they feel a connection.  Have some fun with pictures or opt for a
              photo card rather than a more traditional card.
              Be creative and show your company’s personality.Holiday Postcards
            6. Remember Everyone.  You know all those mailing lists you’ve been collecting throughout the year…remember everyone’s important (and a potential customer!)
            7. Don’t Be Late.  Send your holiday cards out at LEAST two weeks in advance of the holiday every month — oh…and if you’re a procrastinator…mail them first class as opposed to standard-class to ensure timely delivery…it’s a difference of about 10 days or so.

            Here’s to a great holiday season ahead!  We’re even going to make that a little easier on your budget!

            From now until January 5th, send any holiday postcard, photo card, or calendar card and SAVE 15% off your order excluding postage!

            Use these money saving promo codes to get your discount! 

            HOL15S – standard size, mailed First-Class
            HOL15J – jumbo size, mailed First-Class
            HOL15P – panoramic size, mailed First-Class
            HOL15JSC – jumbo size, mailed Standard-Class
            HOL15PSC – panoramic size, mailed Standard-Class
            HOL15SH – any size, shipped to you
            HOL15M – any size, magnetic stock
            HOL15PDF – any size, PDF Download

            Need help?  We’re here for you!  Call our team at 877.222.6010 today. We’ll help get your holidays started and save you money at the same time! Have a great one!  

              Postcard Marketing Fundamentals

              Did you know that postcards are the most likely mail piece to be read in your stack of mail?

              USPS states that 52.5% of consumers say that they read postcard marketing pieces. 46% say they respond favorably to repeated postcard mailings from the same company and are more likely to do business with those companies. Postcard marketing works, and one of the many useful tools in the postcard marketing toolkit is the reminder postcard. But starting with a blank canvas can be somewhat daunting.  We are here to help.

              Include the Basics

              Let’s start simple.   When building a postcard template, you should always include the basic information of your business. Essentials include:

              • Who you are
              • What you do
              • What are you offering
              • How your offer helps someone
              • Special Call to Action Promo
              • Expiration date
              • Contact Info

              This gives your potential customers everything they need to know so they can decide if they want to do business and how to contact you.  But make sure all of this information is easy to locate and is in a font that is clearly legible and large enough to be easily seen. I know…basic…but if I didn’t tell you and you missed it, I would feel terrible!

              Brand Imaging

              A unified brand image should be presented on the postcard. The postcard is another opportunity for you to define your brand image, specifically, the services you offer. Try to use a color scheme that helps convey your message. The postcard helps to build your brand, but also serves your customer or client needs, so make sure it leaves a positive impression.  Keep things, clean and simple and use high quality images when possible to convey a message.  You know the ole’ saying…an image is worth a thousand words. (BTW…a postcard doesn’t have room for thousand words)

              Welcoming Language…AKA “Tone”

              Use welcoming and inviting language in your postcard. Certain words have the power to appeal, but others can turn people away. Choose words carefully to convey your message in a fashion that is concise, yet still gives the recipient a warm and familiar feel.  A “Friendly Tone.”

              Capture the Reader’s Attention

              As I mentioned above, your postcard only has a limited amount of space to capture the readers attention. There are several ways to capture attention:

              • Clever tagline
              • Pleasant images
              • Extravagant colors
              • Special offer
              • Client testimonials

              Proofread for Accuracy

              I had to through this in.  I know…obvious…but check and recheck your work before you start Confirm the information is up to date and that you haven’t made any typos. These types of mistakes can detract from the professionalism of your business.

               Use High Quality Materials

              “Perception is Reality”…if your postcard looks cheap…customers think you’re not willing to make the investment in your company.  Make the extra investment to create a good quality product. Go with a good quality card stock as a way to convey that you offer a high quality service. Thicker card stock, a premium high gloss UV coating on one side – these make a positive impression that can help set you apart from the competition. Your business will be perceived as more professional when you present a more professional image.

              At www.prospectsplus.com/pei you can build your perfect postcard using our extensive industry specific image gallery and over 50 postcard templates.

              If you get stuck or want to chat about a potential strategy give us a jingle at 888-222-6010.

                Direct Mail Landing Pages

                Tips for Creating Highly Effective Landing Pages and Conversion Forms

                As a small business owner, we’re sure one of the first items on your start-up list was a spectacular website.  After all, If people can’t find you on the web, you might as well not be in business.

                But as technology has improved and consumer’s attention spans have regressed with the insatiable appetite for immediate gratification, “Landing Pages” have become almost a necessary for every business.

                A Landing page is any web page that a visitor can arrive at or “land” on. However, when discussing landing pages within the realm of marketing and advertising, it’s more common to refer to a landing page as being a standalone web page distinct from your main website that has been designed for a single focused objective.

                To make ROI soar, many businesses are combining the strengths of postcard marketing and online marketing so that the benefit accrued by one channel can be used to improve the effectiveness of the other. By designing highly effective landing pages, your direct mail marketing will be more likely to convert into paying customers.

                Here are three quick tips to increase the power of your landing pages.

                1.) Place the Conversion Form in Top Half of the Page

                The conversion form should be located above the fold in the landing page. This will enable leads to instantly view the offer provided in the conversion form. If the conversion form is placed in the lower section of the landing page, leads have to scroll down to have a look at the offer form. Some leads might not even scroll down and leave the landing page without seeing the offer form.

                2.) Include Only the Optimum Number of Form Fields

                The conversion form should only contain an optimum number of text fields. Sufficient care should be taken to design such text fields. When conversion forms carry a number of secondary text fields that are not actually needed for data collection, leads may very well abandon filling up the form and quit the landing page altogether. If possible, secondary or optional fields should be provided in the form of check boxes and radio buttons, or removed altogether.

                3.) Use an Uniform Call to Action Text

                Campaign managers need to have their call to action text sprinkled across the different sections of the conversion form and wider site. It is also more effective to use the same or similar text for each call to action button and heading, reiterating exactly what the customer will get when they complete the form. Conversion forms should be simple and straight to the point, and easy for anyone to understand.

                By using these techniques, campaign managers can see a dramatic increase in lead response rates.

                Need help implementing this technique?  Give us a jingle at 888-222-6010.  We’ll talk about your campaign then see how to implement an easy but effective landing page.

                  Direct Mail Success

                  Predictive modeling can boost your bottom line by allowing you to assign every customer a specialized customer category based in a specialized model – predicting the likelihood of the customer to take certain action. This may sound really hard, but in reality, it’s not. Stay with me…more on that later. Promise!

                  Creating the Model

                  There are four steps required in creating a predictive model, which determines the probability of certain events based on a target. Variable factors, which are the building blocks of your predictive model, include information like customer age, favorite color, how often they purchase, how many times they’ve frequented your business in the last year, for example. Let’s suppose you wanted to predict the likelihood of a customer visiting your store 5 times in the next 12 months, here’s how you’d proceed:

                  1. Prepare Your Data

                  Good data preparation is key. Data may be broken down into categories, such as:

                  • Demographics: age, gender, income, or marital status.
                  • Financial variables: income, or property ownership.
                  • Geographic variables: zip code, region, climate.
                  • Psychographic segmentation: lifestyle, personality values.
                  • Behavioral segmentation: brand loyalty, benefits sought, ready-to-buy stage.
                  • Past business history: total amount of previous purchases, responsiveness to marketing campaigns, returns.

                  Once categories are determined, data can be pulled from a database, where it will be organized and formatted.

                  2. Set Your Target

                  Your target, in this scenario, is customers who will visit your store five times in the next twelve months.

                  3. Determine the Most Important Variable Factors

                  Depending on the software you use to create your predictive model, you may have to use your judgment to determine the most important variables, or the software may tell you. Some software even gives you both options; it will tell you what it likes, but allow the variables to be tweaked.

                  4. Create the Model

                  Predictive modeling software measures the importance of the variables and creates a model. As you fill in the variables, the model calculates the probability of certain events occurring, such as which customers, with the greatest probability, may return to your store 5 times in the next year.

                  Ways to Use Modeling in Your Business

                  Modeling can be used in a variety of ways to boost your business. Let’s take a look at some examples:

                  • Retention efforts: Because retention efforts can be costly, ideally, you want to spend that money where it will be most effective. A predictive model can determine probability of retention and that helps you avoid spending money retaining those who were already staying anyway and instead direct those resources at those likely to leave.
                  • Choosing content: You may choose to offer 50 different promotions on your website, and predictive modeling can help you determine which customers are likely to respond to which offers, based on browsing history and past behavior.
                  • A/B tests: When A is stronger and B is weaker, we gravitate toward always using A, but some customers may be more likely to respond to B. Predictive modeling can help you know who’s most likely to respond to A or B, so you can keep both types of customers happy.
                  • Using survey data: Surveys can gauge your customer’s level of interest in something. A predictive model can look at survey data and determine targets, then show you who your best prospects are.

                  The Good News…It’s All Done For You!

                  Nielsen Media Company has created a product called Prizm Code Data that has already done all the work described above. They even went a step further by naming them with really cool descriptions. Then we took the time to research each category and make category recommendations based on your industry.

                  Check it out Here :

                  So if you want to power up your response, cut down on waste and watch the pre-qualified leads come rolling in, get started today using Nielsen Prizm Codes on your next mailing.

                  If you need help deciding which data best fits your objectives, give us a call at 888-222-6010.

                  Some would say we’re sorta data geeks!

                    Direct Mail Secrets

                    Postcard marketing is still one of the most effective and overlooked ways to get new customers to discover the details of your business.

                    It’s affordable, targeted and mercilessly immune to email spam filters! Top that with the fact that today’s economic climate has consumers eager for good news and good deals in their mailbox – and you have a recipe for success.

                    If you’re ready to dive into the direct mail marketing waters, take heed to avoid the four most overlooked and underused elements of postcard marketing victory.

                    1.  Don’t discount the list: Your prospect list is the most important part of your marketing equation. In the old days, companies would mail to entire cities in the hopes that a small fraction would raise their hand and say, “Hey that’s me!”

                    Today, savvy entrepreneurs and business owners know that to get the most from their marketing dollars, they have to research first and mail later. A little time on the front end of the marketing equation can literally save thousands in lost marketing dollars on the back end by NOT mailing to those who in all probability would not purchase or benefit from your product or service.

                    Take a look at your best customers. You know the ones that always buy, are always ready to give feedback and better still, first in line to send referrals your way. What are they like? What age are they? Where do they live? Figure that out and tap into today’s extraordinary ability to data mine for more consumers that fit that same “customer profile” and you’ve got the makings of a truly targeted list.

                    2.  Capture their attention from the start.  You’ve got a minute tops to grab the reader’s attention.       What’s your headline? What’s most important to that “perfect customer” we talked about in step one? Draw them in out of the chute if you hope to take them from headline to offer to dialing the phone or visiting your site.

                    3.  Make them an “offer they can’t refuse.” Sure, it’s a great line from an unforgettable movie, but it’s also the heart of what will cause people to act – or not. This is the time and space to make an offer that will not only get their attention but again, have them raising their hands to say, “Hey, I want that!”

                    4  Track it. If you can’t track your marketing in today’s data driven world, don’t do it. With the advent of QR codes and tracking phone numbers there is no reason to stay in the dark wondering what works and what doesn’t. In this era of ever-changing technology, having the ability to track your success and failures (we learn from those too) is one of the greatest hidden secrets marketing experts deploy every day.

                    So get out there. Start investing in yourself and your business with what still works – only better with the aid of technology, postcard templates and groundbreaking tools.

                    Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Sharing new and innovative ways to increase your customer base and grow your business is what we do.

                    Call us today at 877-222-6010 or visit our site online at www.prospectsplus.com/pei

                     

                     

                      For many businesses, it can be tempting to think of marketing as an operational cost, just part of the cost of doing business.

                      In reality, marketing is an investment in your business – money you put back in to the business to help it strengthen and grow.

                      Businesses often struggle with the best way to determine their annual marketing budgets. There’s no simple formula, but there are guidelines that smart business people can follow to help ensure they budget wisely and appropriately for their marketing needs.

                      Basics for Sound Investing

                      It is common for businesses to base their marketing budget on the previous years’ sales numbers and then increase or decrease their marketing budget accordingly.  Be careful…there’s a real danger in that. The danger lay in a company spending what they want to spend on marketing, rather than what they should spend on marketing, and that gap can be the difference between status quo and growth.

                      The marketing investment must reflect three basics:

                      1. Reliance on solid data
                      2. Sound marketing strategies
                      3. Clearly defined goals.

                      Staying on Point

                      Businesses should review their marketing plan no less than once a year to ensure they stay on target. A comprehensive review requires asking some questions:

                      1. Have your target markets changed?
                      2. How has the competitive field changed?
                      3. Should we develop new marketing goals?
                      4. What are the strategies we need to implement to achieve these goals?

                      What was effective 10 years ago, 5 years ago and or even last year may not be what positions us for success today and into the future. Once you’ve answered these critical questions, then proceed to determining what current goals will cost, and whether your business can afford it.

                      Measuring Success

                      One advantage of thinking of marketing as an investment rather than a cost is that we understand investment often brings reward. Once you’ve made your decisions about how much you can invest and how to invest, then it’s time to measure that investment for return. Every postcard marketing campaign, sales promotion, and sales strategy should be generating revenue for your business. For example, if postcard marketing has a new customer acquisition rate of around 4%…are you finding your postcard marketing campaigns more or less successful?  If you fail to evaluate the return on your investment, how will you know if what you’re doing is truly effective?

                      There are rarely simply answers to nearly any question in business, but the answers are easier to find if you begin with asking the right questions. Sometimes you have to change how you’re thinking about the costs related to business and realize that what you put into it is what you get back out of it, and that’s not as easy as a simple number on a balance sheet.