Identifying Marketing Technology Needs (part 3)
Part 3 of a 4-part series on identifying technology needs; see part 1 and part 2.
Automaker Henry Ford supposedly once said, “I know that 50 percent of my advertising dollars are wasted. I just don’t know which half.” To this day, marketing is one of those fuzzy topics that you can make as simple or as sophisticated as you want.
Simple is good: for no more than a couple of thousand dollars, you can license your domain name, print up a brochure, replicate the information on a static web site, and you’re done. Your ongoing costs involve the Web hosting fees and the time it takes to check the e-mail from the site. “It’s not a large investment,” notes Tom Miller, Managing Partner of Chandler, Ariz.-based Endeavor Innovation Partners, a consulting firm for start-ups. “Ten years ago it might have cost $100K to get a professionally designed web site built.”
But if you want to invest more time and money, you can build a sophisticated solution layer by layer, in a way that isn’t overwhelming. You can not only market your business, but you can incrementally get extensive electronic feedback regarding what’s successful and what isn’t; how you can improve your products; and, in short, be more responsive to your customers. Think of it – you can be smarter about your marketing dollars than Henry Ford was.
Web site. You may only need something that tells customers what you offer, where to find you, when you’re open, and how you differentiate yourself from your competitors. You can find web site designers from Boston to Bangalore, and your hosting provider can be your local telecom company or a third-party service.
If you want to be let customers order products through your site, e-commerce adds a slight layer of complexity that requires some extra security measures and cost, but it’s not astronomical by any means. By giving customers that option, you can save money on staff who would take orders over the phone or through the mail.
E-mail Marketing. This requires pulling together a mailing list of clients. You can send out notices of sales and special promotions to bring people in, but the most effective marketing offers something of value in return for business – whether simple tips on plumbing, planting, home care, you name it.
But because the marketing is electronic, you can more easily track the responses. Say you want to find out what kind of products or deals bring in the most customers; you can divide up your mailing list and send different offers to different groups. Try a few tests like this over the course of a few months, and you’ll have a real good sense of what triggers results. There are a half-dozen e-mail campaign management tools available, from companies such as Campaign Monitor, eGain, ClickSquared, and others.
CRM. The next level of sophistication involves what’s known as CRM, or customer relationship management. These applications, available on a hosted basis from companies such as Salesforce or SugarCRM or on an on-premise basis from Microsoft, can help you track what your customers bought, what they returned, how fast they paid, and most important (assuming your tracking the right metrics), how profitable they are.
For instance, you may have customers who spends a lot of money with you, but limit their purchases to commodity items with little markup. Other customers may spend less, but actually represent more profit to your bottom line. A CRM application, populated with the proper data, can show you that. It can also give you a more holistic view of your customer. For instance, if a customer is 60 days behind on invoicing, you don’t want your sales team offering them more products on credit.
The last layer of sophistication helps you derive even more information about your customers and what they’re looking for. You can configure CRM or other applications to keep track of customer-support questions and returns. Consider the possibilities: what if you could find out what confuses people about your products and make them easier to use? What if you could track what dissatisfies them about your product or service?
By keeping track of this information, you can feed it back into your product development cycle and create a virtuous circle of insight. That’s the best kind of marketing, because it serves both your business and your customers through constant improvement.
- Tags: technology
About the Author
Silicon Valley-based freelancer Howard Baldwin has written about business and technology since 1987. For a variety of corporate clients, large and small, he writes case studies, newsletters, Web site copy, blogs, white papers, and other communications material. Send questions and comments to him through LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/howard-baldwin/0/1a8/267, or check out his work at http://www.mediabistro.com/HowardBaldwin.