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Communication Recipes: Vary to Taste

by Steve Robinson, Constant Contact Senior Regional Development Director

recent study by Microsoft and MarketTools(6) on how people (adults in particular) are using the smorgasbord of communication tools at their disposal shows that email(7) and social media(8) usage are both up year-over-year, 45% and 21% respectively. As marketers, this means you have more ways than ever to reach out to customers, members, and prospects, but finding the right mix of tools (email, Facebook, Twitter, et al) can be a bit of a challenge.

Think of your communications mix like cooking. Different recipes (such as cookies or cupcakes) may call for the same ingredients (eggs, flour, sugar), but it’s the amount and way each ingredient is used that changes depending on what’s being baked. Similarly, on some occasions, email might be the main form of communication, while social media is only lightly sprinkled into the mix. In other cases, the two "ingredients" may be evenly divided in the "recipe."

Here are a few different examples of communication recipes that might serve as a guide for your business or organization:

New product launches: If you’re a business getting ready to roll out a new product, or even a restaurant getting ready to unveil a new summer menu, providing a little preview to only those on your email list is a great way to build buzz for the launch. It gives your loyal customers a feeling of being company "insiders." Social media can be used to tease the upcoming launch and drive those interested in learning more to sign up for your email list so they can get the preview. Once the product or menu is available, post pictures, specification information, and links to order forms on your Facebook Page and/or Twitter feed to let the public know your latest offering is here and ready for sale. Coupons or special incentives to engage is a great idea as well.

Touting expertise: For those whose currency is their expertise — accountants, lawn care experts, mechanics — social media can be used regularly to share some of that knowledge with prospects and customers. For instance, after a spell of particularly wet weather, the lawn professional may share ideas for keeping weeds, moss, or other grass hazards at bay with links to articles and resources posted to Facebook and Twitter. Similarly, a monthly email newsletter to current and former lawn care customers could offer a roundup of tips along with coupon for future service to spur sales. An accountant could offer preparation advice and tips for next year’s taxes ("It’s never too early to get started!") via social media, while emailing customers a discount coupon for a consult during what otherwise might be the slower summer months. Providing such information on a regular basis through multiple channels will bring your business to mind when those looking for help with an issue are wondering whom to call. With both channels, think of your content as a way to position you and your business as the "go to" expert.

Promoting events: For events open to the public — where the goal is to get as many attendees as possible — email and social media play well together in getting the word out, generating pre-event buzz, and keeping attendees informed of any changes to the event. For instance, an organization hosting a fundraising dinner and auction could use an email list to give members first crack at tickets for the event. Once the early-bird deadline passes, Facebook and Twitter can be used to attract members of the public not already on a list. And, as the event approaches, those on the attendee list can be emailed with last-minute details, while the buzz-building continues through snippets of what’s to come posted on Facebook. (Read this month’s success story on FlavaFitness Studio(9) for a prime example of how email and social media can be used to promote different type of events to different target attendees.) Both Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to post your events and can attract clients you don’t engage with elsewhere.

When it comes to marketing your business or organization, you know your customers’ tastes. It’s good to remember that email is just one ingredient, and social media is another. It’s how you use them together that’s going to ultimately determine if your target audience will gobble up your messages.