When you think about sustainability, what comes to mind? Recycling? Solar panels? LEED buildings and hemp-fiber carpets? While the “green” movement has made heavy use of the term sustainability, the concept goes beyond the environment.
“Sustainability” refers to business sustainability too. In a marketing context, this is a business that maintains brand visibility and keeps sales humming using techniques that are self-perpetuating. In other words, sales are begetting more sales through loyalty programs, upsell and cross-sell migrations, customer referrals, and viral marketing.
This level of self-perpetuation requires a great plan and the ability to implement a mix of traditional (print) and digital marketing touches that work together in an integrated way.
1. Brand visibility. Brand visibility requires more than great talking points. It requires breaking through the clutter of other marketing messages and getting people to pay attention. How? By using repetition and multiple touchpoints over time. This can be accomplished using multiple media (print, digital), multiple channels (direct mail, newsletters, email, mobile), and an integrated strategy that keeps your message in front of your customers regardless of the channel used.
2. Make your brand desirable. One business consultant made his seminar audience gasp when he asked the room of company owners and top managers to write down on a piece of paper what differentiates their business, then hand it to the person next to them. Then he asked, “Look at what the person next to you just wrote down. How many of you in this room could say the exact same thing about your business?” The entire room of hands went up. Know what you offer that is genuinely different and creates a value that is unique to your business. Then ensure that, using your full multi-channel mix (both print and digital), you are communicating that value clearly. If necessary, offer the appropriate incentives to keep your brand desirability and repeat customer satisfaction high.
3. Customers make repeat purchases. It’s an old (but true) adage – it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one. So not only provide products of genuine value and appeal, but also use tools such as loyalty programs, coupons and incentives, and educational newsletters to build deeper relationships with your customers that keep them loyal to you over time. Gimmicks and cheap tricks might gain you repeat sales in the short term, but for truly sustainable marketing, you want solid strategies that will sustain customer loyalty over the long-term.
4. Your brand is so great that customers want to share their love for your brand with others. What is the best possible lead acquisition figure? Zero! You want people to love your brand so much they want to share it with others (think Zappos!). This means creating great products, nurturing a great company culture that people want to be part of, and developing incentive programs (direct mail loyalty rewards, social media sharing incentives) for people to share that value with others. The best marketing is word of mouth because people are more likely to trust the message when it comes from someone they know.
So the next time someone talks about “sustainable business”, don’t just think green. Think marketing green! Think about ways to integrate print and digital marketing to gain visibility, encourage repeat sales, and encourage others to spread the love around.