By Richard Rutigliano, PriMedia, Inc.
For the September edition of Oil & Energy, I submitted an article titled “Neo-Traditional Marketing: How digital media has helped revitalize print publishing and marketing.” To surmise, that article discussed the cross-pollination of newsletters, e-newsletters, blogs, social media, and white papers — how each of these assets can complement and build upon one another in today’s combined print-digital marketing campaigns.
That article, judging by the response, resonated with many of you. So, for this year-ending issue of O&E, I thought I’d revisit the topic, by looking at some ways a neo-traditional marketing campaign can effectively connect with two popular targets: new and lost customers. Before I get into it, please note that newsletters, blogs and the rest of the aforementioned assets remain vital pieces of the energy marketer’s toolkit, and that all of these can be used in concert with your new- and lost-customer marketing campaigns.
That being said, without further ado, here are five (other) critical components of a neo-traditional marketing campaign.
#1) The Offer
When targeting lost customers, it’s great to mention how your company has evolved, the new products and services you’ve added since they left, changes in management — all of that is on the table — but will it close the deal? In and of itself, the answer is probably no. A lost customer will most likely say, “That’s all well and good, but what’s in it for me?”
The same goes for many potential new customers. Residents who’ve just moved into your area or who recently left a competing service provider are obvious targets for new-customer marketing. However, the Northeast remains a crowded market for fuel dealers, and if your potential customers are at all discerning about whom they let into their homes, they’ll probably recognize that they have the upper hand here. They can choose to go with you, or they can choose from one of the other guys, so once again, “What’s in it for me?”
That’s why I rank the offer as the single most critical component of any marketing campaign, neo-traditional or otherwise, that targets new or lost customers. The offer is the incentive that pushes potential customers over the edge of temptation. It pre-empts their inevitable what’s-in-it-for-me mindset so that they’re all but sold on your company before they even sign up for anything.
Now then, let me just affirm for my more skeptical readers that getting to this point does not — I repeat, does not — require giving away your profit margin. It does, however, require bringing together your managers and your marketing partner to run the numbers and find out what kind of offer will resonate most with your prospects without threatening your bottom line.
Data analytics can really come in handy here, because in true neo-traditional form, they’ll help show you which of those old-favorite promos will provide the perfect fit for your new and lost customers, as well as for smaller subsets of these audiences. This will allow you to hone your campaign at the micro level, making it more personal for your potential customers and more sensible for your profit margins.
By now, you might be thinking, “All this from a simple 100-gallons-free offer?” It could be, yes, but it could be that something entirely outside of the fuel delivery sphere will work best. Maybe it’s a free or discounted service plan, or maybe it’s a free trip to some winter wonderland. It could even be an offer that’s already on the table for your existing customer base, but that your new and lost customers haven’t heard about yet.
Many of our clients have leveraged the Upgrade & Save Energy Efficiency and Safety Rebate Program for their customer offers, and I would encourage any full-service Oilheat dealer whose state association participates in Upgrade & Save and who’s looking to increase equipment sales to market this program to new and lost customers. Because the National Oilheat Research Alliance funds the Upgrade & Save rebate, it’s essentially a multi-hundred-dollar offer that you can use to promote equipment installations without subtracting a single cent from your sales margin.
Of course, there’s nothing that says you can’t go with an all-of-the-above approach incorporating multiple offers into your pitch and allowing the potential customer to choose the one that’s most attractive to them. And that leads right into numbers two, three, and four on my list, all of which deal directly with the vehicles that drive your offers to new and lost customers.
#2) The Mail
Yes, the mail. Believe it or not, millennial consumers aren’t just picky — they’re also thrifty. The same way that e-newsletters have helped breathe new life into printed newsletters, digital coupons have helped resurrect coupon clipping. According to an infographic released by Syracuse University, 96% of millennials use coupons. And while the internet continues to be the fastest growing coupon medium, direct mail coupon redemption is also growing, at a rate of 69% per year.
This being the case, new-customer marketing campaigns provide an ample opportunity to refresh your old coupon mailers, with some millennial-friendly imagery and typeface. Graphics and copy might seem like afterthoughts when you’re dealing with coupons, but the truth is that these details can make the difference between discarded and redeemed offers.
Millennials only spend an average of three minutes searching for coupons online, so imagine how quickly they’ll pass over your printed coupon if it doesn’t catch their attention right away! The mailer needs to be every bit as attractive as the offer is tempting. Otherwise, it’ll end up in the trash instead of back in your hands where you want it.
When attempting to rekindle relationships with lost customers, it’s always a good idea to approach them carefully. Whether your message is one of reconciliation or reinvention, it needs to be communicated familiarly and sincerely, so letters and postcards are ideal for this kind of outreach.
Pictures and words aren’t the only factors to consider for your direct mail materials. You also need to think about the mailer itself. Is it going to take the form of a postcard or a coupon booklet, an envelope stuffed with a letter and coupons, or maybe even a complete product catalogue?
Again, review all of this with your department managers and your marketing team. It could be that your old coupon mailer was ahead of its time and only needs to have the expiration date changed, or it could be time for a completely reimagined brand portfolio. In either case, you’ve most likely collected some invaluable data about customer acquisitions, retention, and losses since your last coupon was mailed, and your marketing partners can help you glean from those numbers a smarter and more successful direct mail strategy to put to use this time around.
They can also help you flesh out a larger theme from that original offer, turning a simple postcard or coupon mailer into a full-on campaign, with the legs to carry over from one season to the next.
#3) The Media
Remember in September when I said reports of print’s death were greatly exaggerated? Well, the same could be said for radio. According to Nielsen, radio reaches about 90% of millennials in a given week. And that number climbs to 92% for millennials who are starting a family, i.e. new customers.
On the other hand, if your lost customers are middle-aged or seniors, there’s an even better chance that they’re tuning in on any given day. Nielsen ranks the top three network radio audiences as persons 45-54, 55-64 and 35-44, i.e. probably the majority of your customers.
Radio advertising continues to provide a reliable route to local consumers so long as you have a strong media buyer on your side. It takes research skills to find the radio stations and time slots that best connect with your audience, and negotiating skills to secure the best possible rate for your ad budget.
Your marketing partner should be able help you with media buying, planning and development. The goal here is to leverage the offer and tone of your direct mail materials to write a script that stays on message, planting earworms in your listeners’ daily commutes like a song that gets stuck in your head.
But how do you do that in 15 or 30 seconds? This, to my ears at least, is where a neo-traditional marketing strategy really shines. Integrating the kind of messaging you’d find in social media posts into a radio script can yield some amazing results when it’s done subtly and tastefully.
It comes down to knowing who your new and lost customers are, cutting across the airwaves, and refining your call to action so that it will stick in listeners’ memories. An 800 number probably isn’t going to cut it anymore. And service company website URLs are usually just the name of the company followed by a dot com or dot net — not much help there either (unless your company has a very memorable name). So, to really stick out in your listeners’ minds after they’ve taken their keys out of the ignition, you need something more. You need…
#4) The Landing
A landing page with a punchy URL and built-in Google Analytics is about as critical to today’s new- and lost-customer marketing campaigns as the offer is, because it’s the landing page that ties all of the aforementioned components together and converts your potential prospect into a solid lead. Before we get to that point, though, let’s look at some of the different qualities that make for a successful landing page.
URL: As I hinted above, a landing page designed specifically for new and lost customers needs to have a memorable URL, one that jumps out from text and reads well on radio. One common tactic is to pick a URL that contains a call to action, e.g. goprimedia.com. You might also look for URLs that tie directly into your brand identity or the core messaging of your campaign. In new- and lost-customer marketing campaigns with a neo-traditional slant, the URL and the brand are virtually inextricable, so you’ll probably have settled on a landing page URL close to the start of the project.
Presentation: The landing page provides you an excellent opportunity to showcase not only your offers but also your company. If you want your old customers to see you in a new light, you need to show them something new. At the same time, if you want your new neighbors to get the feeling they can depend on your company, you need to show them something familiar. Restating the campaign offers is a great starting point, but build on that with some solid introductory copy, a fresh layout, and perhaps a few customer reviews. Your landing page should look and work well on desktops, laptops and any mobile device, so work with a developer who specializes in responsive web design.
Analytics: In boxing, they have a saying … “it all starts with the jab.” Well, a landing page without built-in Google Analytics is like a boxer without a jab; it might have some connecting power, but it lacks the setup required to win, adapt and get better over time. A Google Analytics-certified developer can show you where your landing page visitors are coming from, when they’re arriving, how long they’re staying, what they’re clicking, and even who they are to an extent (demographics, interests, etc.). This data will help you refine your campaigns. And in a close fight with competitors, that information can help you get the decision, if not an early knockout victory.
Finally, we arrive at the conversion. Now, it’s important to note that in Google Analytics’ terms, a conversion can be any number of pre-determined actions: clicking a link, watching a video, staying on the page for a long enough stretch, and so on. These metrics all help, but the most important conversion — the one that most directly affects your business — is the one that turns the site visitor into a lead. It’s a quick, simple contact form, which, when submitted, triggers a follow-up on your end.
This brings us to the fifth and final component of your campaign.
#5) The Tracker
When rolling out offers via direct mailers, radio advertisements, landing pages and other vehicles, it’s completely impractical, if not utterly impossible, to track your leads the old-fashioned way. If the campaign works, leads are going to be coming in from all angles: landing page conversions, phone calls (possibly to multiple numbers), and perhaps main website and social media contacts as well.
And since, in this case, you’re targeting both new and lost customers, you’re going to want to be able to know immediately who’s who. You wouldn’t have your sales team talk to a lost customer over the phone in the exact same way they would talk to a new customer. That’s why it’s critical to have a lead-tracking platform like LeadPro, which is compatible with any back-office software that can export account information.
Again, this should be done before the campaign is launched. That way, when lead information starts coming in from landing page conversions, you can cross-reference it with what’s already in your system. In this regard, the lead-tracking platform brings your campaign full circle, as the data contained therein can and should be used at the outset to determine whom you’re targeting and with what kinds of offers. The leads and data can also be leveraged for future marketing campaigns, making for easier upsells. The cycle continues, and the bottom line grows. What’s old is new again.
Offers, mailers, media buyers, web developers and lead trackers … PriMedia has it all, plus the experience, expertise and versatility to build a neo-traditional marketing campaign that connects with both new and lost customers. Let us bounce some ideas around and see what sticks. For a consultation, call 800-796-3342 or contact us online.