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Timing your communication

How to pick the right moment to contact your customers

How would you feel if your insurance broker phoned once a week to pitch more coverage on your life insurance policy? Annoyed, right? Or how about the ski resort that sends out monthly reminders in April, May, and June to "Reserve Now"? Hardly effective is it? You haven't even planned your summer getaway yet...

But what if the local florist mailed you a timely postcard, asking whether you would like to duplicate your delivery of last year's order of a dozen roses on a certain day? And what if that date just happens to be your wedding anniversary? Now that's helpful and might just prompt you to act.

So, what's the difference? The latter is indicative of some consideration and thought going into the customer offer. They sent the right message at the right time to the right people.

Time communications right

Reaching out to customers is not only about focusing on loyal or high-volume buyers. Timing and frequency count volumes. You need to market to customers when they're most receptive to your message - when they need or want what you're selling the most.

How frequently you contact a customer will be determined by the kind of business you have, or by the circumstances of your customers. You want to be in touch often enough to develop recognition and trust, but not so much that you become a nuisance. Different businesses demand different timing and tactics that depend on objectives for customer contact and other variables.

So, you must first decide on your objectives. Are you looking to:

Build long-term relationships?

Generate quick sales?

Remind your customers that you can fulfill their needs?

Your objectives will determine which strategies you use to communicate with your client base.

Calls to action With flyers

Direct mail flyers work best when you're marketing a call to action. For example, The Cake Store deliver leaflets and flyers to local homes and businesses publicising special offers for Easter and Christmas and inviting recipients to visit their website. Use flyers when you want to produce an immediate customer response. The message and the medium say: Get it while it's hot.

Direct mail flyers get your message across fast, and are easily produced whenever you run a promotion - especially if you set up design templates in Microsoft Publisher. Find out how to create reusable publication templates in Publisher.

So what might you promote on your flyer? Here are some ideas:

A retailer with monthly specials might send out flyers or discount coupons every month

A new dry cleaner that has just opened might mail a few rounds of flyers to nearby home owners to announce the grand opening. The announcement could include short-term deals to entice customers to switch to them

A nursery or childcare website might post flyers on bulletin boards or at local shops and community centres to help build awareness of their offer

Reminders for action with postcards

If your key objective is to communicate to clients that your firm can serve their needs appropriately, postcards and eCards can be very effective.

In fact, for professional services, postcards can be an effective way to keep in touch with customers on a less frequent basis.

Professional services don't have the same sense of urgency as a retailer. It would border on scary to receive a flyer from your accountant. And weekly communications from the dentist, for example, might irritate clients even more than the dreaded drill...

Healthcare practices, law firms, or management consultants see clients on very different timetables than retailers. Their marketing needs are both more formal and less frequent.

Most service firms can benefit from sending out messages once or twice a year.

Formal note cards with an envelope can also deliver the same message. You needn't only send your customers cards at Christmas.

Of course, when you vary the design and tone, postcards are also a terrific medium for mass-market mailings. But a formal postcard, with conservative design, text, and impressive paper stock, can offer customers timely reminders about expert services. Produce professional looking postcards with Publisher.

Building customer relationships with newsletters

When you want to forge long-term customer bonds, newsletters via email or direct mail are highly effective yet affordable. They establish an anticipated benefit for customers.

By sending out the newsletter on a regular basis, you can become an authority in your field and the trusted source for advice on a particular topic.

Newsletters give customers consistent attention and create ongoing relationships, heightened credibility and repeat business. Download our guide on How to Create and Mail a Newsletter- it'll give you plenty of practical advice on putting newsletters together. As well as getting your timing right, though, you'll need to make the content authoritative and meaningful- there's plenty of advice on writing incisive newsletters here.

By targeting the right people at the right time with the right message, you'll build recognition and credibility, while also building customer loyalty which will lead to increased sales. Choose the right strategy to suit your core objectives; from flyers, postcards and newsletters and make every customer communication count.

What next?

Now it's time to put these plans into action. Things to do include:

List your main objectives in terms of customer communication and determine which strategies will best suit these objectives

Create a list of people to distribute your flyer, postcard or newsletter to

Create your marketing material templates and decide what you'll include in your first issue. How will you show the customer what's in it for them? Make sure every piece of newsletter content will useful be to the reader. Once you've designed and tested the marketing materials, you're ready to go. Track response and feedback so you only send similar materials to customers when they are most receptive

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