Attention Printers, Lettershops, Ad Agencies: Here’s How To Stick Your Toe into Inbound Marketing

Clock tickingI get rants, fairly often, from traditional marketers who finally hear the clock ticking on their old business models and realize they need to “get into” Inbound Marketing or risk having their client base decimated by modern marketers.

Printers, lettershops, ad agencies–these are all industries that thrived in the 70s, 80s and 90s, but have seen demand for their service diminish with the advent of social marketing. Fifteen years into this “online marketing,” thing, the “clock ticking” is more like a ticking bomb threatening to blow up these “middle man” service companies.

The good news is inbound marketing is not hard to master. But the mindset is. If you’re a 20-something in the prime of your career, you already think “inbound.” But if you’re a 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-something business owner and haven’t yet grasped the inbound nuance, chances are you’re facing a hard slog on the road to “getting it.”

The rants I get usually have to do with things like, “we spent all this money on marketing and we didn’t get a single response!” Or “I want to work with you but since I’ve wasted so much money on advertising and marketing that hasn’t worked, you need to work with me on a pay for performance basis.”

I understand the frustration. I really do. It’s like not being part of the cool kid crowd, even though you really, really want to. So to all my fellow traditional marketers, here is my holiday gift to you. I was once where you are now. You can reinvent yourself! That’s what we marketers do! Here’s my answer to my last ranter on how to do it.

In the early 80s I owned a “Val Pak”-like franchise. In the early 90s I became a list broker and “was talked into” starting a lettershop and DM agency to go along with it. In the early 2000s, I was president of the DMA in STL and landed a $1mm client with…wait for it…an auto warranty company. In 2003, on the cusp of being busted by the Feds, they pulled that business away from me and went “in house.” Fortunately, that was my wake up call to get out of the mailing business or I would’ve likely stayed in that biz for another 10 years.

In 2004 I went to an internet marketing conference, held by visionary Ken McCarthy, and felt as though I’d entered a parallel universe. All these geeky nerdy guys were starting websites and working round the clock from home with their Red Bulls and making a ton of money. I had no idea what they were doing, but I wanted in. I had 22 employees, a Xerox Docutech and a roomful of mailing equipment–and no big clients anymore. It was an easy decision to shut that down.

We used Act! for our own business, so we got our DP guy (OMG, haven’t used that term in forever) certified and I migrated my DM knowledge to email marketing, which was a brand new thing. Swiftpage came out in 2005 and we became their #1 cheerleader (and still are). We’ve had to reinvent ourselves every 18 months since then. I feel your pain.

If you were not along for the “internet marketing” ride from the beginning, it would be impossible to know who to trust along the way. It really was the wild west. Now it’s much more buttoned up, but also harder to make millions. The truth is, I see the pendulum swinging back the other way again, and good marketing is still direct response, IMHO.

Therefore, here’s what I recommend for you, and I’m happy to give you this advice for free. It is the ONLY thing that will work for you immediately and doesn’t cost you anything. Everything else only works if you use PPC to generate leads and then have a great, solid, follow up marketing plan, which you don’t, it sounds like to me.

1. Forget your entire 6K list.
2. Pick a control group of 500-1000, and send them a “customer survey” using Swiftpage’s survey tool (included in your subscription).
3. Ask a combination of open-ended and closed questions with actionable (for you) answers. Ie., don’t ask questions that don’t give you a gateway into product/service development.
4. Use the answers to see what your list wants from you. If you get wimpy answers (or no one takes the survey), you either a) didn’t ask the right Qs or b) don’t have a viable USP.

(For those of you reading this post who don’t use Swiftpage, our post-Swiftpage marketing automation recommendation is Hatchbuck, which we’ve been using and love for almost a year now.)

Surveys requesting customer feedback are the single most important thing you can do right now with your list because good answers will position you with a profitable direction for the next 6 months or so. You can build all kinds of campaigns off these answers.

The biggest mistake “traditional media” practitioners make is thinking they’re SELLING their products/services. In reality, your marketing should be attracting prospects who want to BUY solutions that only you can provide. Big diff.

My final comment is that I specialize ONLY in helping companies integrate their website, database and e-marketing so customers get on your “path to purchase.” You can do a lot with the in-house assets you have, without spending big $$.

For help getting out of the past and into the present, sign up for my free 10-minute Brainstorm Session. Then I’ll add you to my list, and you’ll get examples of how I do this.

Lori Feldman