Question: As a contractor in the cooling/heating trade, how do you feel about our company and services being marketed to retail customers via the Internet versus direct mail?

Answer: You know, as much time as I spend on the Internet, I’ve yet to see a webpage install a furnace. I’ve never seen a letter change an air filter, nor heard a radio ad that would tune an a/c. And now that my smart-aleck tirade is over (almost)…

Media versus Message

Please know that I am a fan of virtually every media — within reason — but please don’t ever mistake media for message. If you can get your message across by parading half-nude on the interstate while painted blue, go for it. I tend to think the attention you get will have you put in a room where officials will continually question your childhood, but you will gain attention.

Adams Hudson
Adams Hudson

The media’s job is to deliver the message by first getting attention; after that, it’s your job to keep the attention long enough to get the sale. (And by ‘sale’ I mean, phone call, appointment, Web hit, image boost, referral, whatever.)

The Internet is a medium, just like mail, radio, newspapers, Yellow Pages, and newsletters. The Internet is part of a team of media players, each with specific roles, all required.

An email campaign is a big loser, just like a postal mail campaign is a big loser, if you get the market and message wrong. Marketers like me now resort to cleverer subject lines and shorter, more alluring messages to get people out of the email and onto the website as quickly as humanly possible. (Again, we’re out to get attention first, then have you read the message.)

Sure, the Internet does have the innate ability to go worldwide, but unless you’re running service calls in Tanzania, that doesn’t matter much. It can be changed instantly, multiplied (scaled, as they say) at virtually zero up-front cost as opposed to numbers of letters sent.

Yet this benefit’s mass attractiveness has nearly nullified the gain. In other words, say thank you to the spam world for saturating the inboxes of your customers to the point of near blindness. So, to get better results, people email more, further diluting the specialness and potentially spoiling their credibility in the process.

No, I’m not dogging email alone. Give me a little time and I’ll dog radio, newspaper, and direct mail. They’re all fabulous; they’re all flawed. But think not that the Internet is the end-all savior of marketing. It is a medium.

Now, your website is indeed a representative of your store, your story, and the starry-eyed reasons you were called to serve. It can and should become a virtual walking, talking company rep; advocate; detractor (more in a second); salesperson; scheduler; and referral generator.

There is not another single medium that can accomplish as much as a solid website. (I’ve just invested $27,800 in ours, so I need to make sure I believe this or I’m considering that ‘half-naked painted blue’ option.) Your website is of immense value and importance in the media mix. A rotten or nonexistent page screams, “Behind the times, resistant to change, stuck in the ‘gonna get to it’ abyss.”

A fantastic one, with customer-centered (instead of company-centered) information, education, and ultimately persuasive passion is your 24-hours-a-day salesperson who never asks for a raise.

In fact, I could say that about any of your media-driven messages. It’s just that your website has far more customer freedom, with virtually unlimited time and space to involve your customer.

So, let’s marry our media. Repeat: “I, website, take thee, direct mail to be my lawfully persuasive partner, to support the company in sales promotions …” You get the point.

Make your direct mail sell and introduce your website. Plus, make sure your website sells and introduces your direct mail. “Sign up here to get special offers by mail and email.” “Click here to receive our four-color newsletter full of customer-only messages and benefits.” Get it? We point Yellow Pages’ customers to websites all the time (but never vice versa for the obvious reason) in an effort to deepen the message.

If you’ll make your media a team instead of solo players, they’ll all play — and work — much better together.

Publication date: 12/16/2013 

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