Who else is talking to your customers

Who are your competitors? Any sales person, marketer, store manager worth their salt knows who they are competing against. You could sit and think of 10, 12 easily. Other companies that sell the same as you, going after the same customer base, trying to secure the same sale that you are, trying to get the repeat spend and loyalty that you are. That is the traditional view of competitors, an essential one that you need to have.

When it comes to communicating with your customers, you are dealing with the same competitors aren’t you? They are after your customer after all. They will be putting promotions on similar products, sending emails telling the customers of your industry about how their USP’s and all the same sort of things you will tell your customers.

The inbox isn’t your traditional competitive marketplace though. You need your emails to stand out above your competition so that you get the attention of that customer and the subsequent spend.

This is where the definition of who your competitors are has to evolve.

Think about your own inbox. Who do you get marketing and sales emails from? I’m willing to bet that you are getting direct contact from more than one industry. In the automotive parts sector you have businesses like Eurocarparts and GSF as direct competitors of each other. There are lots more suppliers out there that will be communicating to customers too, so you start to build a picture of who you are competing against in the inbox of an Automotive repair business.

But as a business, why wouldn’t they be a potential customer for a payment provision service, an office stationary supplier and an accountancy firm? If you are Eurocarparts, your competition for that customer’s attention just got a lot bigger. Add in the personal emails they get too, iTunes, Halfords, Sky TV, The Body Shop, Groupon… Inboxes are very busy places and you need to have some killer content and awareness in the customer base in order to get the cut through and get that little bit of attention you need to drive a response.

In a time of tight budgets and Zero budget marketing strategies you really need to have activity that works and generates a return. My own background is in using data as part of direct mail and email where ROI is king, so you might expect my next comment to be about focusing on ROI and only doing what you can measure and know gets great results. While that is incredible important, I’m a believer that you need to consider the overall effect of awareness building activity and how it supports the rest of your activity.

If you don’t invest in awareness building, how do you expect your prospects and transient customer base to recognise your name in a sender ID? In email the sender ID and subject line are your only tool to beat your inbox competitors, but you can give yourself an advantage by being recognised. Consider the brands that you have a strong affinity with. You will occasionally (or even all the time) give these emails a look, more so that those from senders you don’t recognise. It is the same with direct mail, that brand recognition gives you an extra few seconds of opportunity before your piece lands in the recycling.

Obviously I’m not saying that brand awareness is everything, but have a look at your own activity. Analyse your direct response activity that follows brand awareness activity, then measure it against stand alone direct response activity. Chances are you have seen a difference. This is the key to proving your brand awareness activity works. If you analyse and report on a campaign by campaign basis you box yourself into direct response activity and a smaller pool to go after.

Think of the big picture and analyse accordingly. It is hard to prove that brand awareness works on its own, but as part of a strategy they covers direct response too, you can prove that your strategy as a whole works and that it should be funded that way, not as a series of campaigns that it is much easier to chip away at and reduce an already challenging budget.

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