Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is it too early to think about your December holiday cards?

It’s late summer, which means that vacations are over and kids have returned to school. It also means that most companies are creating their 2011 budgets and planning for large expenditures, such as, new hires, tradeshows, event sponsorships, social media, etc. But, before 2011 begins, what about thanking your existing customers for their business as well as wishing your potential and existing customers a happy holiday season?

Due to the current economy, there are probably few companies that will invest in large-scale print projects including fancy cards, calendars, and other unique gifts. But, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to send holiday greetings. All that is necessary is a good plan, a sense of philanthropy, and some basic technology.

If you wish to contribute to a charity, make a donation. Many charities have lost significant amounts of funding due to the economy, so any and all donations will be welcome. Once you make a donation, send either a printed card or an e-card to your customers with a message along the lines of: We appreciate your business, and in your honor, we made a donation to XYZ Charity. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Of course, you may also wish to send customized e-greetings via email. You can segment your database by prospective customers, current customers, and repeat customers. You may also wish to segment the e-greetings by industry, customer size, revenue size, etc. The sky’s the limit in terms of how you customize your e-holiday greetings, but remember that segmentation is the name of the game.

Above all, remember that the recipients of your greetings will appreciate whatever you send. They will not miss the $50 gift basket of stale cookies or rotten fruit. The bottom line is that, during the holiday season, people just want to be remembered and thanked for their business.

So, have you started your planning yet? If not, time to get started.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What Is the Most Overlooked Element of Your Company's Brand Marketing Strategy?

How often do you think about all elements of your corporate marketing? Can you list them? Your list may include many or all of the following elements: annual marketing plans, brand identity including logo/tagline and letterhead, annual reports, newsletters, all collateral especially direct mail and print ads, radio and/or television ads depending on the size of your company and budget, email marketing, blog posts, social media (at a minimum, a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube), brochures, event sponsorships, tradeshows, seminars, webinars, videos, strategic partnerships, promotional goodies, proposal templates, presentation templates, mailing lists, website design and maintenance, professional association dues, public relations/media outreach/advertorials, strategic partnerships, co-branding initiatives, and software renewal fees. But, there is something clearly missing, and it touches every employee, every vendor, and every customer everyday. Still stumped? The answer is the universal email signature.

Think back to your first day on the job. On an employee’s first day, he/she receives an employee manual and a tour of the company, and is assigned a desk, computer, and phone. Then the role of human resources is done for 90 days. But, shouldn’t there be a discussion about corporate marketing, which is actually a discussion about brand consistency and the role of every employee as a brand advocate? You can be sure that all Apple employees receive some form of what I call “brand advocate training.”

There should be a discussion presented by the HR Department about the corporate mission and brand consistency. Of course, the ideal situation would be for the Marketing Department to hold a one-hour brand marketing overview for all new employees, but depending on the size of your company and the size of your marketing team, this may not be feasible, but all of us in the marketing arena can dream. Back to the issue at hand, the discussion should focus on the need for brand consistency, which means that emails sent from all departments should look the same.

There should be no flowers as wallpaper, no rock musicians plastered behind the email message, and no size 4 font. The consistency will ensure that all emails sent by the company look the same, which reinforces brand identity or the company. A good universal email signature contains the following information in the same font and the same font size:

Employee’s Name

Employee’s Title

Name of Company – include tagline if appropriate

Address for Company

Telephone (Direct)

Telephone (Main)



Website URL

Social Media Links – if applicable

Promotion for Company Event – if applicable

Testimonial for Company – if applicable

There are some final considerations. A logo image may not be recommended since it may not appear as intended due to email servers. In today’s electronic age, some companies do not include their mailing address in email signatures, based on the URL to the corporate website. Some social media links may be more appropriate than others, so carefully consider which should be included as part of the company’s email signature. Do not use link shorteners because some may be considered spam, and your customized URL may be part of your brand marketing. If a large tradeshow or other event is coming up, it might be beneficial to include on all employees’ emails, however, it is essential to remove it from the email signature immediately following the event.

So, what do you include in your universal email signature, and is it consistent with your brand marketing strategy?