Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Targeted Marketing Can Save Your Business

A few nights ago I was watching 'Minority Report' with Tom Cruise on Cinemax. There was a scene in the movie when Tom's character was walking through this futuristic mall and as he walked by various retail stores, these state-of-the-art eye scanners would move over his corneas and a personalized, digital marketing message was produced for only him to see/hear. These promotional messages not only addressed him by his first name, but apparently included his interests (as the scanner had access to archive information stored in his mind of past purchase patterns, consumer behavior, and more).

Sound hokey? It's not all that far off from what actually can be done today with personalized marketing (also known as one-to-one or targeted marketing).

Personalized marketing is more than just including someone's name in a subject line or salutation of a message. It's actually having some consumer knowledge albeit demographic, geographic and psychographic ('DGP') data about the person then crafting targeted promotional messages to suit certain data points. If you have the ability to collect even deeper data, such as purchase behavior, even more power to you.Some also call this type of marketing 'database marketing' or 'data mining', as you're mining and refining your in-house list.

In a nutshell it's leveraging the data you have and simply the art of crafting a specific, targeted message to a person or group of like-minded people. And studies have shown that this type of marketing skyrockets open and conversion rates.

Now, there is one important caveat to successful personalized marketing or database marketing efforts ... that's having a robust email interface that collects and stores consumer/client/prospect activity down to the user level and also can group them into 'buckets'. Those buckets could be categorized by DGP data points, website activity or purchase behavior.

For most small businesses, who tend to use the likes of MailChimp, Constant Contact, and similar cost-effective email marketing companies, that level of tracking is simply not offered.The email marketing companies that do offer such robust systems often have tiered pricing based on email volume (usually large scale), and even then, those rates are usually too steep for the start-up entrepreneur or home-based business.

So what's a small business owner to do?

The answer is quite simple (and affordable): Conduct periodic surveys, approximately one to two times a year, of your own list then store and group the data. Once that data is stored you can create universal 'buckets' of important group interests then send targeted messages to those groups of people.

This can be done even using cost-effective email marketing services, such as Constant Contact, and the help of Survey Monkey, to collect the data.Survey Monkey is a free survey service, but if you want the detailed level of data that needs to be tied down the user level (by email address), then you have to pay a nominal monthly or annual fee. But trust me, it's worth it.

You can easily set up your questions (I suggest 20 max) and have multiple choice or fill ins. I suggest multiple choice as it saves the user time. Most users want to complete a survey in a few minutes. So carefully think out your questions and answer options. Make sure to throw in your standard DGP questions as well as some competitor and interest related questions.

For example, let's say you have a list that has a combination of copywriters, marketers, and business opportunity folks. The copywriters may only care about things related to promotions and creative development. The marketers might only respond to messages that pertain to direct response and Web marketing. And your biz-op subscribers may only care about things related to entrepreneurship or home based businesses. Not segmenting your lists means you're alienating 66% of your list each time you send a promotion. That's huge! Talk about leaving money on the table.

However, if you're speaking to each group about their own specific interests, you're now engaged with 100% of that list group each time you send a promo, thereby boosting open and conversion rates. You're also likely to see a reduction in attrition as well, since people will be getting targeted messages.

Test this out for yourself. See the tremendous difference targeting your promotional efforts makes. Then, if you see hard results of improved open and conversion rates, try the same for your editorial (ezine) messages. This will increase bonding and reduce opt outs. It may also improved your viral marketing (forward-2-friend), as readers are going to be so pleased you're 'speaking' directly to them about they're interests.

Both of these tactics may be a little extra work, but it will also ensure no money is left on the table.Your survey results will not only prove useful in your personalized marketing messages, but can also be used as market research, product development, and even potential joint ventures and media buys.

To help entice your list to taking the survey, consider offering an exciting, immediate, easy to fulfill offer as well as compelling subject line in your email message for the survey itself.If you have buyers and non-buyers (i.e. clients and prospects), make sure you survey each list separately.

Not finding the time to survey your list is really doing a dis-service to your clients and subscribers as well as your business. 1) You're not really knowing and engaging with your audience as best as you could - and this will affect product development, promotional and editorial efforts; and 2) You're not reaching a level of maximized sales capacity.

So before you start wondering why your subscribers aren't buying, or why open rates are low, or why you're getting increased unsubscribes ... ask yourself when was the last time you surveyed your list?If it's NEVER, then you're long overdue.
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