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Taste For Success

Reaching Customers

As the modern world refuses to let the print industry stand still, Catherine Carter looks at how social-media, direct-marketing, and CRM software can grow profits and extend social reach

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Shout it loud

For many, Dean Smith, group enterprise sales director of Banner Managed Communication (@banner_mc), sums up their approach to Twitter and other social media channels when he says: “Our initial reason for joining Twitter was that we sensed the potential of social media to connect with our key audiences in ways that our competitors weren’t doing. Twitter looked to be one of the more intriguing social networks.”

(Above and below) Dean Smith, group enterprise sales director at Banner Managed Communication (@banner_mc), explains that using events to hang a Twitter campaign around, and then following up via direct mail has been a successful combination for the company

They are avenues that can be utilised to generate interest in a business and its services. And it is ‘interest’ that is the crucial word because return-on-investment (ROI) is much more challenging to assess. The return on time, and therefore indirect cost, spent on building these online activities is harder to put a figure on than more conventional ROI assessment of increased productivity and bottom line contribution from a new piece of kit.

Facebook has 24 million Britons logging on daily, while Twitter has 15 million monthly users, and this social platform should still be looked at as more of a tool that creates return on engagement or return on influence. While not as transparent a contribution to the business as ROI, these have a critical role in brand awareness and recognition, as well as winning new and repeat work. Conversion rates, according to Dave Chaffey at Smart insights, are led by AOL search 4.48 percent, with Google at 1.71 percent, Facebook at 1.08 percent, and Pinterest at 0.36 percent, Twitter 0.22 percent, and LinkedIn at 0.04 per cent.

Return on engagement

After early experimentation Smith says he has a much clearer view of Twitter’s strategic role: “Events are an important part of our marketing mix and we use Twitter to increase the ROI, for example by connecting with people we haven’t been able to meet face-to-face for whatever reason and also in extending conversations beyond the two or three days of an event.”

He continues: “We’ve recently started using Twitter for recruitment and it’s become an absolutely essential element of our PR strategy with 90 percent plus of our media contacts now active on the network. After a relatively slow start we’ve seen very tangible results over the past couple of years. We have 7,500 followers, so naturally this has become one of the most effective ways for us to amplify our news and website content, which in return drives substantial volumes of traffic to our website every month.

O Factoid: For the B2B sector Marketing Sherpa reports the most successful conversion rate is in media and publishing and professional or financial services with both registering 10 per cent. O

“This in turn has a positive SEO effect of course. The thing we especially love about Twitter, and social media in general, is how easy it is to track and measure results.”

Swindon-based Minuteman Press (@MMPSwindon) has found Twitter to be a valuable resource in sharing information. James Beckwith, managing director, joined the social network just before opening the business’s doors last August: “Primarily I use it to post articles and pieces of information that I find informative and interesting,” he says, adding:  “When I first started I used it mainly for special offers, but we only received one customer in two ‘campaigns’. We still post specials, but not very often.”

As for the results, he explains: “We are rising in organic search. Also, we have grown our followers based on my informative tweets. We routinely run week-long free business card offers or post about a monthly special we are running. We are still fairly young as a business so we are still finding our feet with social media. We will also be running direct mail campaigns this year.”

Optichrome has found that a combined marketing approach harnessing social media, customer relationship management systems, and print marketing reaps impressive rewards

Natalie Stephens, group managing director of Optichrome (@OptichromeLtd), adds: “Social media is another route to market and it enables us to share what we are doing with customers, prospects, and suppliers, and helps with overall communication.”

It is about presence, being a part of the conversation and elevating our position

The company uses Twitter alongside a Facebook page and its new website to get in front of a wider demographic of customers, but Stephens explains that these platforms need a proper follow-up system: “We are continually striving to improve our social media presence as it helps us to market our brand and improve our visibility. We want to remain at the forefront of our customers’ minds when they are looking for a service or a product and Twitter, Facebook, and direct mail help us to do that. I like Twitter as it enables us to share our news and our ideas in a brief and informal way, which can then be backed up with direct mail, phone calls, and meetings.”

Getting social media right is no easy matter, there are numerous factors that can influence the success of using it as a marketing platform. Chief among these is being able to build a high-quality following

Based in Woking, alongside the busy railway line to London, the company ran a short campaign recently using a number of the marketing vehicles: “We printed a huge banner that we attached to our building,” explains Stephens, adding: “As soon as it went up we also put it on Twitter and Facebook, and monitored the visitors to our new website. We had 250 new visitors to our site in the first two days and the number of visitors from Woking and London increased by 50 percent.”
Integrated opportunities

The effectiveness of this type of combined approach highlighted by Stephens is why Banner Managed Communication also offers direct marketing as part of its business portfolio for clients such as Allianz Global, TalkTalk, Hastings Direct, and a number of other big name brands.

Smith states: “We mix online and offline. For example we may go to an event and use Twitter extensively. But post event follow up will be with a memorable printed direct mail piece, so when we subsequently call, the prospect will remember who we are. We recently wanted to re-engage lapsed product customers and sent a personalised direct mail postcard to incentivise them to go and order online. The important component in any communication is to ensure the ‘call to action’ is clear.”

The operation is also focusing on ways to increase personalisation, configuration, and relevance for each customer and that is part of the reason it moved to SugarCRM in 2011.

“In order to increase personalisation and relevance our customer relationship management system (CRM) has custom fields so we can segment on a range of different criteria,” comments Smith.

He continues: “This helps cross and up-sell to existing customers and new prospects we can nurture by ‘keeping in touch’ until they are ‘ready to buy’. CRM enables our sales force to work effectively targeting the hottest business prospects, based on meaningful data.”

Minuteman Press also uses CRM software to engage with customers, but this is generally to e-mail thank yous to new customers. Beckwith explains: “We can see contact details, spend patterns, etc. and leverage this information for direct marketing campaigns as well as customer loyalty recognition projects. We will use the data to target existing customers to grow their contribution to our business and acquire and influence new customers. We then carry on this momentum with marketing campaigns and materials, even rebranding exercises. We are currently looking into specific vertical e-mail campaigns.”

(Above and below) James Beckwith, the managing director of Minuteman Press, counsels that using Twitter to just post special offers does not garner results. Instead, a long-term strategy to grow your followers must first be implemented through posting interesting and engaging material

Another strong advocate of combing in-house data management, social media, and physical mail campaigns is Healeys Print Group (@healeysprint), which is in the process of changing its management information system (MIS) to Optimus, partly to improve sales and marketing communication, but also to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of its telemarketing services.

There are, however, still occasions when a more direct approach is the best option says managing director Phil Dodd. As a key example of this, it supported a major capital investment into a Kodak NexPress with the production of a limited edition casebound book that highlighted the print results the new digital colour press is capable of.

“We sent it to new customers and prospects,” explains Dodd, who adds: “Being a B2 printer it is sometimes hard to start the conversation but inside a year the digital side has doubled and last month was the best month we have ever had.”

Banner Managed Communication’s Smith weighs in on the value of this approach to reaching out to customers: “Integrated marketing is the Holy Grail.  One activity feeds another, online to offline back to online. Growth comes from being able to track both your activity and your customers and prospects response whether through CRM, Twitter or website visits.”

Integrated marketing is the Holy Grail. One activity feeds another, online to offline back to online 

Indeed, it seems that while many in the wider world have decried the future of print, focusing just on social media and online platforms as the Holy Grail of marketing, there is a much more complex and rich story that needs to be told. It is rather an approach that combines a comprehensive social media policy that is both driven by good data and is able to capture it, combined with physical print campaigns, which will give your business the traction it needs to shout loud and facilitate a sustained expansion.

Making social media engaging

Ben Hanvey, director of sales and marketing, Giraffe Social Media (@GiraffeSM) shares his top tips on how to effectively reach out to customers new and old online.

Ben Hanvey, director of sales and marketing, Giraffe Social Media

Set your social media standards and, if possible, create a social media policy
Set a clear social media policy, general acceptance and rules regarding any social posting. Knowing ‘intuitively’ what to and what not to post as well as the general tone and direction of the accounts you are representing is paramount. How do you hit a target if you can’t see what you’re aiming at?

Include the people that matter to you the most from the start.
When we first start thinking about social media and how best to use it, we tend to think about generating new business first and encouraging engagement second. It can be a slow process. Friends and likes do not necessarily mean engagement. One way to really accelerate your campaign is to offer your social policies, advice and guidance to your staff and partners and invite them to join you online. Extending the reach of your networks and challenging yourselves to capture more new business is a must and this is a massive step in the right direction.

Identify, reach out to and regularly engage with key industry influencers
It always pays to build some bridges and develop an influencer plan. Identify relevant blogs, forums and individuals within your industry, research their social presence and identify where you can add the most relevance and value.

Never buy likes, follows or attempt to ‘cheat’ the system
Cheaters never prosper and that is never truer than it is online. The algorithms are numerous, technology is smart and the penalties are extremely severe. Most importantly, real people can see straight through it.

Market yourself, create great content, share it and encourage discussion
Success in social is all about creating great content, working hard to generate some excitement around your brand and extending your overall brand reach. Creating great content generates great site visibility which in turn translates to traffic and growth. There are no shortcuts, so be original and spend money on marketing yourself, championing your brand and increasing your visibility. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, social media and content provides the perfect opportunity to solve a problem and boost search engine optimisation at the same time. 

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