Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Generic Marketing Material

Consistent communication with your clients, prospects, associates and referral sources is a crucial component of any successful marketing strategy. This communication can be phonecalls, postcard announcements in the mail, letter campaigns, emails, etc. Newsletters, print or electronic, are one form of communication that, if done right, can be a great marketing tool. They can provide valuable, timely information, increase your visibility and branding, and establish your credibility as the go-to expert in your field. (Are you sensing a big "BUT" coming?)

That said, I'm struggling with the concept of 'generic newsletters'. With increasing frequency, experts are asking about the effectiveness of using pre-done marketing materials provided (for a cost) by their professional association or organization. The prefab newsletter part of this package seems to be popular with many experts, and, as one who puts together a monthly newsletter myself, I can definitely see the attraction - doing it from scratch each time takes a lot of time, research, and plain old work!

This morning, I received an email with thoughts about this issue from Trey Ryder, a marketing consultant who specializes in education-based marketing for lawyers. While his advice was specifically geared to attorneys, much of his wisdom is applicable to marketing efforts by experts as well. In an article he titled "Canned Marketing Programs Almost Never Work" he cautions:
"To be effective, marketing must be customized to your specific situation...must emphasize specifically what you do...Specifically why you are qualified...

Some generic materials may work. But usually only in a vacuum, when they are the only materials your prospect receives. When prospects get both generic and specific materials, the specific message wins every time...if you buy them, make sure that you can return them for a full refund. Because once you see how generic they are, you'll see that the information has almost no value to you or your prospects."

Ryder continues and cites an example of my main concern in using these mass distributed materials:
"My accountant told me he receives the same newsletter from four different financial planning firms -- with only one difference: Each newsletter has the name of the financial planning firm on the masthead, implying that this firm wrote the newsletter. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth."

And obviously, the receiver of your newsletter will clue-in on that fact. Where do you stand on this issue? Have you used 'pre-fabbed' newsletters or other marketing materials? What has been result? Please leave a comment on this blog or send me an email and let me know. I will compile the answers (anonymously or attributed at your discretion) and share them with you in a later post.

1 comment:

Cindy Pinsonnault said...

Thank you for bringing up this topic. This is a choice many businesses face: undertake the expense in time and money to prepare unique marketing materials or take advantage of the convenience of prepared, generic marketing materials.

If your goal is to build a unique brand, the generic materials will likely fall far short of that goal. Ideally, promotional materials would build the brand by communicating your unique position in the marketplace. By their very nature, generic materials will not accomplish that.

However, I have seen generic materials used effectively as one part of an overall custom marketing plan. A college I know used a combination of prepared materials alongside their own unique, custom articles to create a magazine for students and alumni. The result was a quality magazine that was still customized for that campus. As the budget for the magazine grew, the prepared materials gave way to materials that are 100% unique to the campus.

In the end, no generic marketing effort, used alone and in the absence of a plan, will produce substantial results. But a careful combination of resources coordinated toward your goals could effectively include generic materials.

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