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By David Frey
Times have changed. An ever-increasing amount of competition is vying for the same customers. Fortunately, with the increase in competition, there has been an equal increase in the amount and quality of marketing tools you can use to beat the competition.
Yes, you still have the same reliable marketing mediums such as television, radio, and print advertising; however, with recent advances in technology, there is a new breed of low cost tools you can use to attract and convert new prospects.
In this article I'll introduce you to six cutting edge technology-based marketing tools that every small business should be using to get more customers.
Tool # 1 - Electronic Newsletters
One of the most effective follow-up marketing tools available is the humble newsletter. Electronic newsletters are much like paper-based newsletters in that they inform, entertain, and make product or service recommendations.
The difference is that you can send an electronic newsletter instantly to thousands of people with the simple push of a button for almost no cost whatsoever. It's truly amazing.
Of course you need people to send your newsletter to so you should start collecting the email addresses of your prospects and customers today.
A surefire way to persuade a prospect to share their personal email address with you is to offer them a low cost premium such as a free report that describes insider information, which coincides with the product or service you are selling.
In the hot tub and pool market (where I do a lot of marketing) I've developed a special report titled, "Six Critical Questions You Should Ask Every Dealer Before You Even Think of Purchasing a Hot Tub." This report is a hot item for prospects that are trying to sort out the facts and the myths of how to buy a hot tub.
The key to making electronic newsletters work is to write, in a personal voice, as though you were talking to your prospect or customer face-to-face.
Also, provide interesting and useful content so that your reader looks forward to receiving your newsletter. Be consistent. Send your newsletter on a bi-weekly basis, such as the 1st and 15th of every month.
If you want all the fuss taken out of the newsletter process you can use an all-in-one tool such as www.ConstantContact.com or for a more do-it-yourself option you can have a newsletter template designed for you at www.DesignDoodles.com and use an online autoresponder service such as www.GetResponse.com or with desktop software such as www.Gammadyne.com.
Tool # 2 - Email Autoresponders
In the previous paragraph I referred to an "autoresponder service" and now it's time to learn what they are and why they're important. An autoresponder service automatically sends multiple email messages that you create on a scheduled basis that you define.
For instance, imagine that you were a mortgage broker and you offered a free 6-part email course on your website titled, "How to Get the Absolute Lowest Cost Loan with the Least Amount of Risk."
After your website visitor signed up to receive your email course by sharing their email address with you, your autoresponder service would automatically send them one email containing your course content every other day over the next 12 days.
Every other day your prospect would automatically receive a useful tip or technique for selecting the right lender, without any manual intervention from you.
Included in each day's tip could be an offer to visit your website to take advantage of a special offer or to visit your store to receive a personalized educational session.
There's no magic to how many emails you can set up in your autoresponder system. I know of one pool builder who has over six months of weekly emails pre-written and set up to automatically be sent in his autoresponder system. Each email has a unique teaser that drives prospects back to their website.
For instance, one email says, "Click here to see one of the most unique pools we've ever built."
The link then takes the reader to a page with a beautiful pool that they've built and also includes an story about some of the problems they encountered building the pool, how they overcame those problems, and a testimonial from the prospect raving about the builder. It's quite powerful.
Tool # 3 - Self-Produced Audio/Video CD's
When prospects make a decision to buy, they often know very little about your product or service and are often crying out for knowledge and advice so that they make the right decision. The first small business owner that takes the time to educate their prospect is usually the one who gets the sale.
The problem is, that it takes a lot of time and effort to educate prospects on a face-to-face basis (or over the telephone). Using educational audio and video products you can create a relationship of trust and admiration without having to physically be there to do the work.
If you don't believe how effective this can be you don't have to look any further than the success of late-night infomercials. Millions of products are sold via 30-minute television videos every day. If they can do it, why cant you?
Creating a 30-minute audio CD is as simple as writing a 10 page script, buying a microphone (I recommend the Plantronics DSP 500), downloading some free audio editing software (I use http://audacity.sourceforge.net), and investing in a CD burner from the local computer store.
Then you read your script into the microphone, save your audio file and burn it to a CD. Viola, you have your own audio CD program!
Developing your own video program is a bit more complex, but with video editing programs such as Visual Communicator (www.SeriousMagic.com), broadcast quality video production can be done on your kitchen table.
Tool # 4 - Telephone Hotlines
How would you like to capture the name and address of all your lead sources and know exactly where they all came from?
Capturing this information would allow you to do follow up marketing with your prospects and compute the exact return-on-investment of each of your marketing and advertising campaigns. Telephone hotlines allow you to do just that∧ more.
A telephone hotline is simply a recorded telephone message that can either,
(1) Ask for and record a prospect's contact information that can later be transcribed
(2) Play back a pre-recorded educational or sales message
(3) Allow the caller to be directly transferred to a live person after listening to a message.
Most telephone hotlines use toll-free telephone numbers that are rented to your business on a monthly basis. You'll also receive multiple extension numbers with message boxes that can play different messages depending on the marketing campaign.
I use www.AutomateMarketingSolutions.com for my telephone hotline services. If you order your service from them and you mention my name, they'll drop the set up fee.
Imagine offering an interesting information product (or audio / video) in your advertising by asking the prospect to simply call your toll-free number and a specific extension number to request your information product.
The prospect calls up the advertised phone number with its unique extension number and then requests the report by leaving their name and address. Their name and address gets transcribed that night, entered into an MS Excel spreadsheet, and then sent to you in the morning ready for you to follow up on.
At the end of the month you go online, click a button, and a report spits out the exact source of each of your leads and when they came in. Now you have some powerful information that will allow you to precisely track the return on each marketing campaign.
Tool # 5 - Internet-Based Pay-Per-Click Advertising
More and more people are going to the Internet to search for information before they call up any small business. It's critical to be the first business that your prospect finds in their search. Pay-per-click advertising allows you to do that in a low risk way. Let me explain.
Pay-per-click advertising programs such as Overture and Google's Adwords program allow you to bid for search engine placement. If you've ever searched for something in Google and saw those text ads on the right side of the screen you've seen Google Adwords.
With Google AdWords or Overture you create your own ads, choose keywords to match your ads to your audience and pay only when someone clicks on them.
For instance, suppose your furniture retail business is in the city of Victoria. You might bid on the keywords Victoria and furniture, which is a likely keyword combination for a Victoria resident looking for furniture.
You may only have to pay $.05 per click to be at the top of the search engines. In less than one hour any retailer or small business owner can launch their own pay-per-click Internet advertising program.
Tool # 6 - Voice Broadcasting
How would you like to get your customers coming back to your store more often and spending more per visit? You can, using voice broadcasting technology.
Voice broadcasting allows you to send personalized reminders, invitations and/or verbal coupons to existing customers. The message is sent out via a broadcaster directly to your customer's voice mail machine for only pennies per delivered message.
Imagine the impact of sending out a voice message before your direct mail campaign to your customers letting them know that they will be receiving a great offer from you and that it's going to be delivered in the next day or so be looking out for it.
I've seen response rates from direct mail campaigns literally triple and quintuple using this little-known tool.
It's very easy to do. You simply record your message; upload it to the voice broadcasting service along with your customer's phone numbers, and tell the service the date and time you want the message delivered. That's it.
You could have hundreds of phone numbers or even thousands. A good voice broadcaster will have the ability to deliver your calls on time. I also use www.AutomatedMarketingSolutions.com for this service.
If you're not using even a few of these technology tools then you're missing out on potential lost sales. The tools are relatively simple to implement, are low cost, and can provide a big impact on your bottom line.
I invite you to move into the 21st century and take the time to learn and implement a few of these wonderful hi-tech tools that will help put your marketing on overdrive, with little extra effort.
-Cost, Cutting Edge Technology Marketing Tools Every Small Business Should Be Using
Get more tips at The Small Marketing Business Bible