Is Social Networking an Effective Marketing Medium?

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I was recently asked to contribute an article to a local business publication. One of the suggestions was an article on the utilization of social networking as part of the marketing mix for small businesses. My first reaction was, “not my thing.”

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly use social networking sites (specifically Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) within my overall marketing mix. I think that these types of sites have a place and a certain role in almost any company’s marketing plan.

My problem is with those people who believe that social networking is the only marketing medium they need in order to be successful. Some of these people spend hours every week, or hours every day, doing nothing more than updating their profiles, looking for friends/connections and tweeting about something (or nothing). I’ve worked with some of these social networking addicts as clients. They’ve sworn up and down that their efforts have been very successful for them.

Sad to say, though, not one of my clients who thought they were running a successful marketing campaign solely through social networking was actually seeing any business. They considered their growing base of friends, contacts and followers to be a metric of success. If their marketing objective was to have a certain number of people in what I call their fan base, then, yes they were successful. If, however, the goal was to increase their customer base and revenues, then not one of them could point to a sale that had been generated from their fan base, unless it was from someone who was already a customer!

Now  I am sure that there are those few who have landed a great sale or client through their social networking efforts and nothing more. For the majority of us, however, social networking should be just one arm of a multi-pronged, comprehensive, integrated marketing campaign that further establishes our brand and allows us to get our message out to a greater number of people.

My greatest success from the three social networking sites I am on? Increased hits to my website (and three resultant sales) due to higher SEO rankings caused by mentions of and linkbacks to my company.

Branding Yourself for Profit

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I just got back from a family trip to Disneyland and, as always, I am in awe of Disney’s ability to brand itself so well that people are lining up at the cash registers to buy their promotional products! What, you didn’t realize that every time you buy a Disney-branded item (whether it’s a souvenir from one of their theme parks, a character, a movie, or their cruise line) that you have just spent your hard-earned money to buy something that other companies give you for free? Talk about the magic of Disney!

Now this is not to say that every company out there will be able to, or deserves, that kind of loyalty and brand recognition; but, when a branded product sells because of the imprint then you know that their marketing is a success. In addition to Disney, Coca-Cola has proven successful at this. To some extent, even stores like Abercrombie have done this – after all, what exactly is decorative about just having the name Abercrombie printed across the front of a shirt – but there is a certain caché in owning and wearing such a shirt.

Many large, and even some smaller companies, have adopted promotional products to give and/or sell to their employees. This helps create corporate identity, employee loyalty and can even raise morale.

Of course, nothing speaks to branding success like people waiting 15 minutes or more in a line after midnight to purchase a Disneyland branded shirt, mug, or key chain! Although it may not be in every business’ grasp, every business owner/manager should strive to achieve the loyalty that this type of behavior shows from both customers and employees.

Turning down business – good marketing or not?

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I had a potential client approach me this week enquiring about a door-to-door flyer delivery service. I had told him in a previous conversation that Lev Promotions has offered this service to our clients in the past, but it is not something we do on a regular basis. When he called me yesterday to find out what our rates are to delivery door hangers for his house painting company, I had several questions ready for him, but I never got past the first one: “Do you just need us to deliver door hangers that have already been produced, or are you looking for someone to help you creating them and then deliver them?” The answer was that they already had the door hangers and just needed them delivered. I said, “Thank you for the opportunity, but, this is not our area of expertise and I will recommend that you find a company that specializes in flyer delivery.”

Why would I turn down this piece of business? After all, it is money in the bank with very little effort on my part. Because I know that putting flyers or door hangers on people’s front doors, driveways, or windshields is not an effective way to market their business. It is no more effective than a mass mailing (with an average response rate of 1 – 2% – that’s response, not closure). In fact, it is more often less effective because people are irritated by these pieces of paper left for them to pick up and dispose of.  In all good conscience as a marketing consultant, I cannot advise or assist a client with a marketing program that I know is not effective.  If I were to take this business, I would turn Lev Promotions into a commodities provider, rather than a solutions source.

That’s not to say that it couldn’t be made effective, but that was not to be my role in this particular instance. If it had, their promotional piece would probably look different (I didn’t actually see it) and their distribution method would certainly play out differently. The ultimate results should be a greater response rate with a higher sales closure rate. That’s what my clients pay me for!

Marketing Planning – Saving Money and Making Money

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As I am sending out my second round of self-promotions for 2010, it strikes me that I can never stress enough how important advance planning is to a successful marketing campaign. Not only does it allow for a complete, well-thought out plan with the opportunity for proper execution and follow-through, but, sometimes, it even allows for monetary savings.

Case in point, this second quarter self-promotion is a calendar, Post-It® Note Pad (yes the actual Post-It Note® brand) and a mini notepad. How did sending out a 2011 calendar in May save me money? Because the majority of stock design imprinted calendars are available at a lower price through the end of June. Prices go up in July as demand begins to increase. By September, many calendar styles are even low on stock or completely unavailable. By planning my calendar promotion in May, I’ve saved my company money and given my clients the opportunity to save money as well.

Are your marketing efforts costing you extra money because they are not planned out in advance, but just thrown together at the last minute? Maybe they’re not only costing you additional money in expenses, but also costing you in lost revenues because they look unplanned and, perhaps, even unprofessional. Planning ahead can save you money and make you money.