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8 Things to Consider when Creating Online and Offline Marketing Materials

by Liz Hester, Staples® Contributing Writer

When you think about all of the online and offline marketing options available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of assets you need. The good news is you don’t have to spend your entire budget just on getting the word out.

Here are 8 things you should consider if you want a more effective marketing program, and some tips for making them happen.

#1 Goals

What are you trying to do with your marketing? Be specific. “If you don’t stop to think about your actual goals, you won’t accomplish anything,” says Melissa Breau, content marketing strategist at Content Marketing That Converts in Raleigh, NC. For example, branding your company as a thought leader requires a different tactic, channel or voice than, say, selling clothing for young women.

Take Action: Write down what you’re trying to accomplish so you don’t waste time on things that aren’t working.

#2 Consistent Branding

Whether you’re using offline marketing materials like business cards, brochures, custom banners, posters or print ads, or online options like Web sites, digital ads and email newsletters, you’ll get maximum effectiveness if you deploy a consistent look, tone, voice, logo and fonts across all channels.

Take Action: If you can afford one, hire a designer to create a creative, cohesive and consistent look for your brand. Or visit a Staples® Copy & Print location.

#3 Strong Partnerships

Look for opportunities to piggyback on other business owners’ efforts. Lily Starling, owner of Downtown Davis Massage and Wellness in Davis, CA, collaborates with the owners of a nearby running shoe store. “If they can immediately refer their clients with a pulled hamstring to the best massage therapist in town, that adds value for them,” she says. Another example: A bridal shop owner may establish referral agreements with local venues, florists and caterers, or exchange digital or print ads or newsletter sponsorships.

Take Action: Extend your marketing reach by partnering with complementary businesses, or businesses offering a different service to the same clientele as yours.

#4 A Marketing List

Communicating with customers and prospects the way they want to hear from you is crucial for maximum marketing and budget efficiency. Ask customers wherever you come in contact with them to sign up for your mailing list (at the register or the reception desk, at events, on the phone, on your Web site and social media pages, and so on).

Take Action: Familiarize yourself with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which says, among other things, that you can’t email customers without their permission. Make sure that if you ask people for their email address, you’re telling them what you plan to do with it.

#5 Email Marketing Program

The low cost and ability of email marketing to target customers makes it a great tool for reaching them with relevant information. Use the list you’ve collected and offer what your customers want: tips for solving problems, seasonal information (tax time, summer vacation), or special deals, discounts and coupons. For example, a bakery may send an in-store promotion code along with a recipe. Some business owners have multiple email types, such as deals, updates and how-to information.

Take Action: Include a clear call to action that tells recipients what to do next — “come by,” “click here,” etc. — and encourage social sharing.

#6 Blog

A blog is an effective way to give customers and prospects useful information while building brand awareness through search engine optimization (SEO). Jayme Pretzloff, online marketing director for Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, MN, created an “Ask Amy” blog to provide advice, tips and comments on jewelry and trends to subscribers. “Always mixing it up is key because you don’t want your readers to get bored,” he says. Avoid being overly self-promotional, and use your blog posts to fuel your email marketing and social media efforts.

Take Action: Before you start your own blog, get your feet wet by offering to pen a guest post or article for a complementary blog or newsletter.

#7 Marketing Management System

Having contacts, social media posts, email newsletters, press releases and analytics in one place saves time and makes it easier to create consistent marketing, according to Nick Waterhouse, CEO and president of Santa Monica, CA–based earphone retailer AirBuds. Powerful but pricey software options are available from Vocus and Infusionsoft; less expensive solutions for active social media users include HootSuite and Buffer.

Take Action: Identify opportunities to automate and manage online marketing activities so you can spend more time running your business.

#8 A Way to Monitor Customer Feedback

Customers are increasingly broadcasting their opinions online, both good and bad. Monitoring social media chatter allows you to keep track of it all and respond when necessary. By quickly offering a free massage to a customer who complained online, masseuse Starling changed the bad review into a positive one about her customer service. Search social sites regularly for mentions of you or your company.

Take Action: Use tools like Trackur and HootSuite — they are specifically designed to monitor and analyze social media mentions of your business.

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