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By Brian Whiteman

RISMEDIA, Oct. 27, 2007-When pressure surfaces to boost sales, direct marketing materials often present a logical fit for small business professionals. However, given the importance of executing these campaigns properly, it’s amazing to see how much emphasis is placed on the advertising materials and how little on the messages that go in them.

Designing and printing direct marketing postcards, for example, with standard promotional language will only go so far in increasing sales leads and conversion rates. Ultimately, the most effective postcard will speak to the unique messages of your customer base.

Strategic messaging should be a routine exercise for any small business. If customers prefer convenience, then focus on language that will best elevate the need (i.e. “hassle-free” or “user-friendly”). If they prefer variety, then consider terms such as “choice” and “flexibility” in your materials. These seemingly simple techniques can make a huge difference in whether you resonate with your target audience(s).

In order to differentiate your business from the litany of competing materials, you need to give customers a reason to trust your brand. Your marketing materials only represent the beginning of a much larger dialogue with your customers.

Here are a few tips for initiating and growing this relationship:

Needs before Leads. Any marketing piece can have a ‘call to action,’ reaping short-term benefits. It’s just a matter of dangling the right incentive. But the best organic sales growth comes from the quality of your leads, not the quantity. Keep your messages connected to the fundamental needs of your customers.

Education over Assumption. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. They probably require more information to truly appreciate the merits of your products and services, even if they appear ready to sign the dotted line. Whether it’s having a comprehensive Web site or a friendly voice answering the telephone, you should always promote ways to create a more informed customer.

Be honest and set realistic expectations. There’s nothing more off-putting to customers than seeing unsubstantiated claims in a promotional piece. Even if you think the tactic will raise revenues, consider the cost of losing trust and credibility. Customers need to know what your products and services can and cannot do because, in the end, they will discover the truth.

Initiate the Commitment. You may be seeking a commitment from the customer, but it’s the commitment you make to them that matters most. Customers want to see that you can fulfill your own promises – whether it’s promising to respond to a sales lead within a precise time frame, demonstrating an genuine interest to listen to the customer’s needs, or offering a quick turnaround time on work quoted.

Successful football coaches always come prepared with a playbook – helping them know which tactics to employ in any given situation. Your next direct marketing campaign should be approached with similar precision – specifically, determining which messages to convey to the appropriate audience.

Those strategic messages will define both the integrity you bring to your profession and the confidence you instill among your customers.

About the Author
Brian Whiteman is CEO of, a leading online printing solution provider for business cards and direct mail post cards.