I think sometimes, we marketers make the mistake of putting too much emphasis on how a direct mail piece will look, rather than taking the time to execute a well thought out campaign. It is so easy to get excited about the size, graphics, and the color choices, that we fail to think about whom our target audience is, and what information of value can we give them, or what void or problem can our product solve.
As the marketing manager at Red Wing Software, a great emphasis is given to whom the message is being created for, i.e. existing customers, attendees for a trade show, or perhaps new prospects. Even though our graphic designer and I create the copy and design, input and ideas for the campaign can come from many different sources within our company. The sales team, technical support, development, and admin, all help us to pinpoint the right message.
For instance, when we created our new Fund Accounting Software, many months of research went into whom the right target audience would be, and what solutions would our software have that would be of value to municipalities and nonprofits. When it came to municipalities, we determined our software would be a great fit for small to mid-sized cities and towns. The goal of our first campaign was twofold, introduce our fund accounting software, and introduce our company itself. Thus our tagline “Big City Bang for Small Town Bucks” was born. We used this as our campaign slogan, it spoke to what our software was a good fit for, and our logo helped brand our company. You can click here to see an example of our first direct mail piece. To this day, this tagline is used on all of our direct mail pieces for fund accounting, as seen here in our 2011 campaign.
An important aspect for all successful direct mail campaigns is to have a good mailing list. Many companies buy lists for their prospecting or they create lists in-house using prospects or leads that have come in. When we prospect to a new market, we become members of the targeted groups associations, for instance, if we are prospecting small to mid-size municipalities in a certain state, we might join their League of Cities, and advertise in their publication, mail to their membership base, attend their trade show, etc. By taking the time to understand who our audience is, and what message of value we have for them, helps us to have a more successful direct mail campaign.
I recently ran across a blog that had great information for anyone who calls tech support for assistance. It doesn’t matter if you’re calling for help on your accounting software, your computer or your cable tv, the posted information can help you get your assistance in a quick and friendly way.
Thank you to librarianinblack.net for the great reminders on how we can all get better technical support. http://librarianinblack.typepad.com/librarianinblack/2007/07/5-ways-to-get-g.html
5 Ways to Get Good Tech Support
As someone who has both given and received copious amounts of tech support, I thought I could offer a few pointers on what works and what doesn't. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment!
- Don't be afraid or sheepish to ask for help. If I got a nickel for every time someone came to me asking for help saying "This is a stupid question," or "I'm sorry to ask you this, but...", well, I'd be rather wealthy. This is what the tech support people are there for! It's their job. You can certainly be nice to them, but don't be afraid to straight-out ask for help.
- Ask for help right away. Instead of plugging away for hours to try to figure out a problem, go ahead and tap their expertise early. The earlier you get to them, the less frustrated you will be and the more likely that you will have a pleasant interaction.
- Explain what you are trying to do when something went wrong and then what happened--exactly. Please don't give the whole story about where you are trying to go with your project and why you are trying to do what you're doing, and why you hate this particular program... If you can list the exact steps that took you to the problem point and then what happened, including any error messages you saw and screenshots, that will help the tech support person help you.
- Keep your goal in mind. Remember your goal is to get good tech support and to get your problem solved. So many tech support people get burned out. They're dealing with problems all day, never anything nice or a "wow this works great!" Remember that the tech support people are not the ones who built the product that is annoying you; they are the ones who are trying to help you. They want to help you. Remembering that, it will serve you well to say thank you when the solution is solved, and to be pleasant to the person during the interaction.
- Don't turn your emergency into someone else's. This goes out beyond tech report, but it also applies here. When we find ourselves in an emergency, or we left something to the last minute, we become crazed. As a result, we infect others around us with our craziness. If you infect tech support with your panic, you will not only get worse service, you will probably become "that guy" -- the person that the tech support people avoid in every possible way. You don't want to be "that guy," so calm down, get the help you need, and continue solving your emergency.
When calling about help with software issues, there are a few additional things to keep in mind…
- Start with a reboot of your pc before you call support. They are machines and machines have fluky days too. Sometimes just simply rebooting (Shutdown or Restart) can correct the problem.
- If you receive an error, write it down or take a print screen of it. And if you can, note exactly what key strokes or actions were processed right before the error was displayed.
- Take a minute to think about what has changed on the computer recently? Did the operating system do an automatic update? Was a new printer or other hardware installed? Were any software updates installed (for the software having problems and others; sometimes an update to something like virus protection software can affect other programs installed on the same pc).
Ah, the 80/20 rule. I am sure that at some point in your business or personal life, you have heard of it. Also known as the “Pareto Principle”, this rule says that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. We do use this rule here at Red Wing Software within our software products. When applied to product inventory, the rule says that 80% of your sales are from 20% of your inventory items. Knowing which items of the 20% are garnering the most sales can be crucial to growing your profits. That's where ABC analysis can come in handy. An ABC analysis within your accounting program can show you which items are most profitable. Our accounting software offers ABC analysis, which is an excellent tool for businesses.
But all science and math aside, have you ever noticed that the 80/20 rule can also apply to real life? As I think of my life, I can think of a few examples of where this rule might apply. For instance, about 80% of my free time is spent watching hockey and transporting my son to games. Yet when I originally signed him up, I would have thought it to be much less time consuming. My son’s hockey really only constitutes about 20% of the ways I love to spend my free time. Therefore, my surprisingly full and hockey-packed free time fits with the 80/20 rule!
What are some examples of the 80/20 rule in your life? Answers need not be serious or technical.
I can still remember when the only way of reaching out to someone was by phone or mail, or in person. I know that many of you can too, even though the children in our lives are baffled when we tell them we had to actually just figure out plans ahead of time, talk in person, and sometimes, just wing it because we didn’t have a cell phone to call anybody. Of course, now there are cell phones, texting, e-mail, instant messaging, Facebook, and so many more ways of reaching people! Here are some unconventional (and also not too painful) ways to take advantage of today’s technology to stay in touch with your customers.
E-mail a useful document
You can find an unbelievable amount of information on the internet for free, including case studies, white papers, marketing tips, research information, instructional videos and much more! The next time you find something that could be useful to one of your customers, send them that document via e-mail. It only takes a few minutes to send, and your customer will appreciate the fact that you thought of them!
Invite them to connect.
Some of you are probably thinking, “This is not an unconventional way of communicating—it’s the norm.” But for some people, connecting via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter is uncharted territory. A great place for a business to start connecting with customers on the internet is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a network of business professionals and is a place where you can learn all about your customers (if they are members), meet new contacts, join industry groups, answer business related questions, and much more. It’s completely free, too. Visit www.linkedin.com to learn more. In fact, I’d love to be your first connection! Click here to see my profile and invite me to be your connection.
Invite them to a trade show.
You are likely in an industry similar to your customer, so why not invite them to come along to the next trade show? If you are an exhibitor, some trade shows will pass out free passes for you to hand out to your customers. Take advantage of this, and provide your customers added value by letting them get in the doors for free. By the way, click here to view the Red Wing Software trade show calendar. If you are a customer interested in attending, we may be able to help. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line of TRADE SHOW to learn more. Please include your customer name.