Businesses need to focus on delivering high quality, professional marketing materials as they aim to attract the attention of consumers and encourage them to spend.
Businesses are constantly on the lookout for ways to reach out to customers and build stronger brands. In a difficult economic climate, customer acquisition becomes increasingly difficult - meaning companies must look to take advantage of every possible lead. Consumer spending power remains constrained, creating challenges for firms as they look to extend their customer reach.
A variety of different channels can be used to market a company's name, products, services or activities. Traditionally, print advertising has accounted for large chunks of firms' budgets, with larger companies also eager to take advantage of the broadcast media - TV and radio. Direct mail and outdoor advertising are also staples, helping to take a brand name into people's homes, rather than waiting for consumers to discover it for themselves.
But in the digital age, businesses are increasingly looking online as they bid to increase their presence. Targeting fixed-internet users and those with mobile solutions, they are injecting resources into web-based marketing plans. More and more people are using the internet on a daily basis - for work and leisure purposes - meaning there is vast potential for companies to engage with potential new customers online.
How can the internet support marketing?
Companies can use the internet to develop their brands in a variety of ways. One of the longest-established forms of internet advertising uses email, with firms mailing promotional material directly to consumers' inboxes. On websites, pay-per-click advertising has its uses, while many firms pay for banners and thumbnails in order to display their logos and slogans. Search engine marketing - using keywords to draw attention to companies' sites - has proved popular in recent years, while more firms are using online video for promotional purposes.
The rise of social media means companies have even more touch-points to aim at. They can register an account on Facebook or Twitter, and then engage in real-time conversation with the people they hope will buy their goods and services. This helps keep their name in the minds of consumers, but also assists with reputation management and the development of customer loyalty. Businesses may not sell directly via networking sites, but they can earn the trust of members of the public in this space - with sales and new revenue following later.
Getting the message across
Businesses have a wealth of opportunities to build stronger brands over the internet, and claw market share away from their rivals. But they are operating in a competitive, congested marketplace, with many companies competing for the attention of consumers. They need to offer something which appeals to their target audience - in terms of an offer, or discount - but they also need to focus on developing quality campaigns which make them stand-out from the crowd.
By nature, online advertising is relatively affordable - particularly when compared to traditional forms of marketing such as direct mail. Companies can communicate with consumers en masse, but using personalisation tools to tailor content and direct it towards particular demographic groups. Targeting can allow companies to run efficient, cost-effective campaigns which help preserve budgetary resources and ensure the business generates a solid return on its marketing investment.
But ultimately companies get out of marketing what they put in. If the message is strong, the offer alluring and the campaign well-conceived, firms can successfully attract and retain customers. Yet they need to ensure sufficient focus is placed on quality throughout the process - particularly when content is concerned. With a range of design tools and communication platforms available to online marketers, there can be no excuse for low quality adverts and campaigns.
Using Office to improve marketing
Even with fairly rudimentary IT skills, business marketers can construct quality, professional online marketing communications. Microsoft Office offers a range of solutions capable of supporting advertising campaigns, with numerous handy applications and tools available. These can be used without the need for vast amounts of training or specialist expertise.
If the company wishes to draft a press release drawing attention to a new offering, Microsoft Word offers sophisticated word processing and design features which can be used for corporate communications. For online presentations, Microsoft PowerPoint may be a useful tool, while Microsoft Outlook can be used to distribute email marketing to mailing list subscribers.
Microsoft Publisher may be ideal for design tasks, as firms look to differentiate themselves from the field of quality. It allows users to design online brochures and newsletters - with the availability of wizards making the programme accessible to almost anyone. Not only is Publisher highly versatile, but it is relatively simple to use.
Very often, businesses get out what they put in when it comes to marketing. If their efforts are half-hearted, communications may well receive a lukewarm response. Attractive, well designed and professional advertisements are no silver bullet - companies need to be offering something which appeals to the customer. But they certainly can help, and may be the difference between two rivals with a similar offering. With business competition fierce, making a great impression through external communications and marketing is the very least they should be looking to do.
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