One challenge every business in our industry (and, for all industries) faces is finding the right blend of marketing strategies to promote their business.
A lot has changed in our years in this business, not the least of which is the way we market our products and services. When we first opened our doors there was no internet, online marketing, or social media. Marketing was primarily through print advertising, participation in trade shows, and word of mouth.
I’m a founding member of a national trade industry association; we meet three times a year and share best practices. One of the topics we discuss is marketing: what works, as well as what doesn’t. Let me share a few ideas for what seems to work, marketing-wise, in our industry.
Collateral: We still use it! Almost every company has collateral materials; years ago, they took the form of full-color brochures. What works best for us is a modification of that original version; individual “sell sheets” within a pocket folder, so as to allow for greater flexibility in offerings. We might include a description of a new product or two, an explanation of MPS or other service, some basic background about our company, and testimonials. With the single insert sheets we can mix and match depending on the occasion. We also see value of having PDF versions for easy distribution via email.
Community involvement: We have identified several key community causes worthy of support and became involved in these causes in a meaningful way, typically in the form of a supporting partner. One is our regional Chamber of Commerce, which is involved in a number of regional issues for the betterment and advancement of business and life in the region. The other is our affiliation with a large regional healthcare facility, where we are a contributing partner to its ongoing fundraising efforts. In each case, we do what we do because we believe it is the right thing to do. However, being involved in a community organization or two, whether it’s the ones we choose, or Rotary, can lead to a great opportunity to meet and network with some of the region’s business leaders.
Workshops: One great way to get in front of prospective customers is to host lunch and learn sessions, where a business provides information on topics such as managed print services (MPS). We have found that providing useful information to business owners is a great way to meet prospective customers.
Online marketing: Converting newsletters from print to online is an efficient way to spread the word to clients and prospects. We find a mixture of industry news, news about our company, and a client profile is a good blend and keeps the reader interest high. We also are big proponents of using LinkedIn and the website to keep the word out and our name relevant in the search engines.
Public relations: We have run a fairly consistent PR effort for a number of years with the goal of boosting our brand recognition through local and trade media, and also for the chance to showcase our firm’s expertise through the placement of “thought leadership” pieces in local and regional business media. As a part of this effort, it’s worth looking for competitions to enter, often sponsored by Chambers of media. These are opportunities to recognize business leaders for everything from “Fastest Growing Business” to “40 under 40” or “Reader’s Choice.” These are additionally great ways to further boost a business’s credibility and standing.
Every company has to determine what forms of marketing work best. There are many available. If you don’t belong to a trade association, it may be worth talking with a friendly competitor or someone with industry knowledge to see what works for them too.