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Best of 2012: March

Continuing our look at some of the most memorable articles of this year, here’s a selection from back in March.

1. “QR Codes” (those little squares of binary data) have been eagerly taken up by lots of marketing people over the past year, but the general consensus is that – as a sales tool – they’ve been a big flop. They might be a good way for marketers to read data, but not to provide it. You know that something in marketing hasn’t worked when people start to make fun of it, and there are plenty of examples of QR Code silliness going around the social media networks every day now.

2. Most people won’t type in the URL of an internal page on your website. So how can you get them straight there from a print promotion? One suggestion is to send them to the home page, but to highlight the offer there with a flash, so it’s the first thing visitors see. An alternative is to set up a new domain which redirects straight to the page on your site. You can register a domain with any number of domain registration companies for less than £10 for two years, and set up a redirect simply by filling in a field. It takes just seconds.

3. Many companies will use a freelance technical writer or an editorially-focused “PR company” to create articles for them, but most are used on an ad-hoc basis and given specific tasks. This is a missed opportunity. Instead, use them as “brand journalists”, and give them a regular target (such as a monthly article, or a twice-weekly blog update, or whatever), without limiting them to specific writing tasks which you come up with. Many of the freelance writers out there are former magazine editors, who have been trained to start with a blank sheet every month and to go and find the most interesting stuff out there to fill it. They’re very good at that. Is the person who writes content for you really embedded in your market (including legislation, your competition, etc)?

4. Don’t send emails to 20 people thinking: “I know 19 of them won’t even look at it, but it’s not cost me anything”. Think: “I’ve just sent something unwanted to as many as 19 people, and some of them might now associate my company with irritating them”. And don’t think: “I haven’t sent emails out for a few months, let’s try that for something to do”. Think: “Why don’t I send out a regular, expected email to people who’ve actually agreed specifically to receive it and who I actually stand a chance of getting into a sales conversation with?”

5. When you send out promotional emails, how much time do you spend on the subject line? I’m willing to bet it’s not enough. In the past, I’ve agonised for hours over the artwork for the envelope on a postal mailshot, yet it’s easy to just spend ten seconds on the online equivalent of the envelope: the subject line.

6. Many people think that getting to the top of the natural Google listings is everything. And they have a point. But never forget that any of your competitors can buy the space above your top result any time they wish. Putting your own ad there is a very sensible – and affordable – defensive move.

My quote of the month for March: “It’s amusing that one of the longest-lived rock bands ever is called Status Quo. Of course they’re still with us; it says so on the packet. But while the masters of the riff will eventually call it a day, the status quo will always be there as your biggest competitor in sales. So what can marketing do to help sales overcome a prospect’s fear of change?”

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