There are so many ways to reach customers today; Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, Search Engines, e-mail messages, web sites, text messages, phone calls, etc. And then there is the 999 channel universe with Cable TV. Plus there are multiple choices of Internet, Satellite, AM and FM radio. The ways to reach out to customers has become so fragmented and diverse; it’s nearly impossible to use them all. It’s a sad fact, we cleaners have to work a wider array of communication methods across multiple media to reach current and prospective customers, but our customers get to be selective about which media they monitor.
Just as we dry cleaners are frustrated by too much choice being offered to us to reach out to customers, our customers are just as frustrated trying to find us on their preferred communication channel. It’s rare that every customer is using EVERY system available to them; people tend to limit themselves to just a few channels such as Twitter and Facebook, and maybe text messaging. So if you are working your e-mail list hard while the majority of your customers are expecting you to reach out via social media, your message may be lost entirely.
Case in point, recently I was helping my sister with her business. She took a booth at a food and music festival that was supposed to be a huge event with thousands of people expected to attend. The company promoting the event had sent out advertisements on an Internet Radio station and Facebook page posts; that was it (we found out after the fact). Nobody at the promotion company had really taken a good hard look at whom they were targeting, and whom they were reaching. On Friday, ten people showed up, on Saturday, the crowd swelled to 40 people. Far short of the thousands expected. The company promoting the event had relied on their numbers of people responding to their Facebook Event invite count as gospel (it said a thousand plus people were ‘going’ to the event), but in fact, few actually showed up. And the Internet Radio station they were using to promote has a very small online listenership, many of who were in Europe, far away from where the event was being held. I recommended that next time they held this event the promoters should drive around town taping business cards to lamp posts as it would be as effective at drawing a crowd, maybe even better.
You (the business owner) have to go where the people are. If that requires you using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Snap Chat, Vine, e-mail and texting, that’s what you have to do. Miss your audience, you’d better be prepared to sit on a pail and wait for folks to find you some other way.
So which is the best medium to reach customers? You may be surprised with my answer… a postcard or a letter. Yes, it’s very old school, but here is my reasoning.
First off, sending a postcard or a letter has the most likelihood of reaching your customer. Despite all the wonderful technology built into social media and websites, many messages and online ads can be blocked with an ad blocker. As an example, over 200 million people have installed this particular ad blocker into their Chrome and Safari web browsers (see:AdBlock). Ad blockers effectively block ads on web sites and social media, and sorry to say, a lot of people prefer an ad free internet session. With more and more people installing ad blockers every day, your ads may never be seen. Its become such a serious threat of social media companies that rely on ad revenue to fund their ongoing efforts, that some social media companies such as Facebook are spending millions and millions re-writing their web site code to work around ad blockers.
Second, there is no filter I know of that blocks delivery of a post card or a letter. These days, if you are relying on sending e-mail messages, an Internet Service Provider, or a corporation’s internal technical support, or e-mail server administrator’s anti-spam filter may filter out your efforts. Or worse, a customer can simply click ‘junk’ on your e-mail message and your e-mail address, server IP, subject line and content can be added to the individual’s personal spam filter, and all your messages end up in the junk or spam folder, unseen and flushed from sight, forever. As for sending a text message, all a person receiving your message has to do is reply with the word STOP, and they are removed from receiving any subsequent message from you. Text messaging systems are set up that the word STOP in reply, does completely block any and all your messages and there is absolutely nothing you can do to work around the system.
Pretty much any way a letter or postcard can be blocked is if the recipient refused to accept delivery, or tosses it in the trash can. But, that brief moment where a person is sorting their mail into A pile and B pile, is your golden opportunity to have your message delivered. That brief moment where a person scans your message before deciding ‘I’m going to read this now’ or ‘I’ll read this later’, your message is seen and delivered. Mission accomplished!
Yes, a letter or postcard can be expensive, but I argue, so is the practice of placing ads that are not seen, not delivered, and never reach their intended recipient. Wasted effort can be some of the most expensive advertising you will ever do. There are ways of creating direct mail ad campaigns that not only pay for themselves, but generate a profit.
So, if direct mail is so good, how come so many folks are moving into social media and online ads? Well, I counter that I think there is a herd mentality at play. Many businesses are easily swayed to social media because ‘it’s free’. No, social media is not free, it costs you time, precious time, time that could be used in your business, or working ON your business.
And here is a big surprise; guess who one of THE biggest Internet companies is that uses direct mail to promote one of their most profitable divisions?
That’s right, Google, a multi-billion dollar a year online ad and services business, uses postcards to promote their advertising services. Google IS the Internet, and they still use direct mail. I think that speaks volumes in itself.