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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Writing mailshots and emails - checklist

Writing to customers and prospects can be an effective way to promote your business. Business emails and mailshots each have their own advantages; the important thing is to get the right tone of voice and message that will boost sales.

  • Clarify the objective of the email or mailshot. Are you collecting leads, driving traffic to your website, making direct sales or providing information? Email is often a good way to link to useful online content; hard-copy mailshots are more likely to be sales-driven.
  • Identify your target audience - what do they already know about your business and products, what are their needs, and what objections might they have?
  • If appropriate, identify different groups of readers and consider preparing different versions of the mailshot for each group.
  • Personalise each letter with the customer's name and add your signature; you can also personalise emails. However, the letter or email must have specific appeal for the recipient; if it is too generic, it could backfire.
  • Consider which method of communication is most likely to get noticed. Email works with existing customers - ensure they have given you permission to contact them. Direct mail leafleting is better for drumming up new local customers.
  • Use a friendly and direct tone of voice. Focus on "you" (the customer) rather than "we" (the business). Avoid unnecessary jargon.
  • Decide what the main message of the mailshot will be and focus on the single major benefit you offer.
  • Decide whether you can write the mailshot yourself, or whether you should invest a few hundred pounds in using a freelance copywriter.
  • Produce a headline and an opening sentence which will highlight the main benefit and encourage the reader to read on.
  • Make a credible offer: explain the reasons for buying your product or service, anticipate likely objections and provide facts to back up your claims.
  • Maintain the reader's interest throughout, for example, by offering solutions to common problems or including provocative questions.
  • Use short sentences and keep everything clear, simple and convincing.
  • Make key points stand out by using bold or italics sparingly. Keep the look clean and uncluttered. Simple emails often get more attention because they look more personal.
  • End with a call to action, telling the reader what to do next; make it easy (eg by including an email or web address, freephone number or reply-paid card).
  • Add a PS which restates your main point in a different way.
  • For hard-copy mailshots, think about inserts that could support your message, such as a free sample, a brochure, press cuttings or an order form. With email, add links to useful pages on your website.
  • Proofread your letter and try it out on colleagues and customers. Use sample mailings to test how effective it is.

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