Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Local Target Marketing Primer

targeting your market
There many types of “general marketing” activities out there, but if your business has not done real “target marketing” before, you probably need this primer. While anyone can advertise to everyone easy enough these days, getting real results for those efforts can be a hit and miss affair. Target marketing, or more precisely targeted marketing methods can offer you a better chance, efficiently getting more results for the same effort. Let me help explain to you why target marketing is something your business should consider.

Why do you need to do target marketing?
As this article from businesswise says, “everybody is not your prospect”. Meaning, most of the time in marketing your goal customers or consumers is not everyone that you can reach. You always have some specific key demographics that are the people you need to succeed in getting more leads and more sales.

What is the consequence of this? This means that your general mass media type marketing can sometimes fall on deaf ears, as the message you are giving will not be totally for them. Though you can get exposure, your results will vary, while you are still spending money on them.

Enter targeted marketing, and this situation can change. While you can have a wide mass media campaign, targeted efforts at marketing gives a better chance of reaching your REAL customers and consumers.  With the same effort and cost, you increase your marketing’s effectiveness through more targeted methods. This is the real value of local target marketing and why it is an important practice.

Who does target marketing?
From the biggest companies like Apple, who target “people”, to the smallest businesses, target marketing is a typical tactic. Any product or service no matter how big and small will have a preferred target audience. So don’t think that it does not apply to you. It applies to everyone and you do not have to be overwhelmed by what is needed for it because you can easily scale these target marketing efforts up or down easily since there are tons of different target marketing avenues that you can consider.

Finding your target audience.
If you are now finally convinced about target marketing, your first question would probably be how to do it. THIS IS NOT the first inquiry that you should do. The first thing that you really need to know is your target audience. You should ask yourself not only “WHO” your target market is, and “WHERE” they actually are. This will help shape the methods that you would need to implement for proper target marketing.

To find your target market, you have to first see the profile of your current customers. See the average age, sex, social class, location and even cultural preferences that they have. You have to narrow down and determine the specific types of people that will always be more likely to transact with you. Do a survey, or just observe the usual transactions that you have in your business.

Now, the next step is for you to determine where exactly does your target audience hang out. This requires some work both ONLINE and OFFLINE. When it comes to online market research, it would be best to know the right keywords and the right websites where your target market is.

For offline efforts, you will have to look at your local community. Observe the flow of people, and even try to get some statistics from your local government if possible. See the locations like commercial areas, offices, schools, sporting arenas etc. where lots of people gather. See if your target demographics are there or not.

Target marketing venues.
Now, we go to what you actually need to do. For target marketing on a local level, there are two primary venues that you can focus on. One is online target marketing and the other one is the “offline” mode. While you can of course easily focus on one, both can complement one another for a better holistic target marketing strategy. First let us tackle online target marketing.

Online Target marketing

Online target marketing is actually a very precise science in its own right. The beauty of how the internet has grown these days is that with online target marketing, you have a ton of different options that you can go for. Below, you can find a list of the different tools and sites where you can start with your online target marketing campaign. Hopefully these can be useful to you.

• Google Adwords – This is a must for anyone wanting to have a more targeted marketing campaign online. Google has made THE perfect tool for you to capture your target market by helping you advertise to people looking for specific keywords. Bidding on the right keywords nets you the right to get your ad visible to a person ACTIVELY seeking for what you are selling. Moreover, they have localized targeting settings that lets your ad only appear on specific locations for better.

• Facebook Ads – Albeit on the passive side, Facebook ads are of course your premiere choice for specific demographic targeting. With an 800 million market potential, you can divide and specify who will see your ads in terms of a whole range of demographic profiles and cultural preferences or interests. While you do have visual ads, it is a more passive and classic style advertising though, where you need to grab the attention of an unassuming visitor.

• Email Opt-ins – Some people subscribe online for certain updates. This is due to some interesting topic that they want to keep their tabs on, or sometimes just so that they can get a freebie. Whatever the case, if that person opts in to your mailing list for a certain interest, then you have a targeted and captured audience ready for marketing. So the trick here with email opt-ins is for you to attract people by landing pages and other gimmicks with a certain theme or interest. With that you can gain easy and quick access to a targeted audience for dissemination of your offers.

• Other Ad Networks -  There are also a ton of other advertising networks out there that will offer targeted ads online for specific niches and demographics. Refer to this BIG LIST of adwords and adsense alternatives.

Print Target Marketing

Finally we have the so called print target marketing. This is on the practical side, of marketing that many traditional marketers know about. This is basically the method of printing marketing materials and then distributing them in a targeted manner to the precise areas where the target market for the company is. Here are some of the different print types that you can use.

• Flyers – Color flyers are the cheapest and easiest to deploy when it comes to print target marketing. These small pieces of paper can be delivered at specific community areas where YOU KNOW your target market passes through or hangs out. So if your targets are sports fans for example, the hallway entrance to a sporting arena might be a good place to deploy your targeted flyers.

• Posters – The same rules for flyers apply to posters. You should deploy posters in locations that are highly visible, not only to the public in general, but to your target readers. As an example, if you are directing an information campaign for example for the youth, posting posters at high schools and colleges of course will work well.

• Direct Mail Marketing – This one is a very traditional type of marketing tactic, and probably is one of the first targeted marketing efforts of all time. Direct mail marketing is of course the method of sending snail mail to specific addresses. While some may be unsolicited, other people actually opt to get mail marketing materials. So all you have to do is gain address lists of potential customers, categorizing by location and demographic data for specific target marketing.

• Hobby/Interest Magazines – Definitely, if your brand has a particular bent on a demographic or interest, you can easily advertise on interest magazines (or print your own if you want). Interest or hobby magazines still sell these days, because true enthusiast will consume both online and offline content of their specific interest ALWAYS.

So that is all the big facts and questions with regards to target marketing. A combination of all the above methods should be a good first start for your business marketing, no matter how big or small your business is. Just keep in mind that target marketing is an important practice for any business, and it should always be part of a healthy marketing campaign.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Visual Explanation of 3D Printing

Lately, there has been a lot of talk going around about 3D printing. Some say that it’s the future of the print industry; others say that it’s just like other fads that will come and go. Whatever you believe in, 3D printing seems to be a promising technology. Whether its shoes, dress, or house (you read that right) you want to create, 3D printing will let you create them in just a few minutes. That’s right! You can print them right at home. You can even create 3D business cards or postcards which you can hand out to prospective customers. They’ll let you be more captivating and memorable to people.

If 3D printing is a new concept to you, HighTable.com came up with an infographic to explain the whole process:

3d printing infographic

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

5 Things Your Business Cards Must Have in 2013

You will need something new for your 2013 business cards. Business cards today have evolved to be more than just pieces of paper, and there are a lot of new and even exciting features that many people have thought up and integrated into their card designs. Some are classic but distinct features that make a business card look high quality, while others are very modern features that make them look up to date.

If you really want to make a good impression with your business cards today, I suggest that you look at some of these amazing tricks that we have found people are doing to their own cards. There are a lot of creative features out there worth adapting on your own designs.

Number 1: A Third Dimension

Now, this is not about hi-tech transforming business cards (though that would be cool).  For this first feature, we are talking about just expanding business cards a little bit to the third dimension to embossing.

Embossing, if you are not familiar with the concept is basically the act of creating raised or recessed (or pressed) features in paper. So much like how in your credit card, your name and numbers are raised, so can you do it as well in your business card. This “third” dimension in your card not only makes it look a bit like a modern credit card, but it also gives tactile feedback that will enhance the chance of your card being remembered. Also, this kind of embossing typically increases the perception of the quality of the business card, as it seems to take on a more hardier, plastic feel afterwards. Most business card printing firms should be able to do this for you. Printplace.com for example can give you custom choices on how you want your text and logos to be embossed in your business card designs.

Below is a great example of an embossed business card from Stadium Sporting Goods. The embossed lines simulate metal or rubber etchings which give the card a more solid feel. You will definitely remember a business card with that.
business card from Stadium Sporting Goods

 Number 2: A Virtual Dimension

The next thing that your business card needs these days is a virtual dimension. Nope, this is not some TRON or Virtual Reality kind of device. It is simply the need for your business card to feature your online connections and profiles.

As you should no doubt have learned, all businesses, great or small need an online presence. This includes having a website, an official email address, and several official profiles and pages inside social networks. This virtual identity of a company is important because more and more people search for products and trustworthy services online.

Now, if you are using a business card, giving out a link to those social profiles will be important. Not only does it tell people that your company is up to date with the times, but it also gives them the opportunity to interact with you more easily, as more likely than not, they too have social profile handles.  Below you will find a very simple example of a business card with that virtual dimension from a collection in Mashable.

As you can see from the image , the Facebook, Twitter and Youtube links are integrated into the content, along with the website and the person’s email address. In some other business cards, you may also see Google Plus and LinkedIn URLs as these are also great social networks to be on. All of these add more credibility to the business card, and of course people will know they can easily reach you through these sites.

Number 3: Enhanced Visual Dimension

One of the more crucial elements that you need in business cards today are enhanced visuals. A typical clipart, the boring one colored logo “can” be okay, but it will not have the needed impact that most businessmen want today. You need that enhanced visual dimension these days to impress people as most today have higher standards when it comes to visual art they see both online and offline.

This means that you need things like dynamic gradient backgrounds (more than one color), crystal clear graphics and of course lots of simulated texture effects.  If you are not a graphics designer, then you may want to have a good artist do these things for you, usually through some great software such as Adobe Photoshop. Below you can see a great example from Laachi.

Here you see that the background has some different shades of blue, with a texture or grunge application. Notice as well that even the text has different shades of white, as defined by the grunge application of the design. This adds the gritty and creative style that the designer of the business card wanted to convey, and they conveyed it beautifully. You will want these types of amazing effects to establish the next important must have feature of 2013 business cards, and that is a clear original character.

Number 4: Clear Original Character

Now, character is something that ALL business cards must have in whatever year. However, it is significantly more important these days as more and more people are just using pre-made templates or copying other designs for their own.

YOUR own business card design is the key now to be at least considered as someone to pay attention to. Otherwise, if you just look like any other business card out there, or even if you copy some of the other designs from the web or on magazines etc. you will just be branded a copycat more or less.

That is why in your designs, make sure that you show your original character, as a professional, or at a greater extend the image that you want your company to embody. For example, see the image below. As you can figure out, they are a construction company. The black and yellow team established that correctly, and with the addition of textures and even an off cut on one corner, you see a professional looking construction company by just the design of the business card. So it is a great way to establish that professional character, something that you should try doing yourself.

Number 5: Technological Upgrade

Finally, since we are in a very “technological” age, you will want to include one hi-tech upgrade to your business cards. In this regard, I have two suggestions. One is a QR code and another is an NFC chip. Now what are these and how do they help you? Well let me briefly discuss each.

• QR Codes – Quick response codes or QR codes are graphic blogs (black and white) that can be scanned by smart phones with QR code scanners. Through a camera, the code can be interpreted by the phone and it will redirect the mobile phone browser to the website specified by the code. This allows a business card designer to direct a reader to his/her website directly and feature something about themselves online immediately. More on QR codes here:  http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/07/30-creative-qr-code-business-cards/ .

• NFC Chips – Near Field Communications, in simple terms basically are special chips that can be embedded in paper. Mobile phones enabled to read NFC’s can detect these chips and read information from them. This can include contact information about someone or other kind of data that you want to pass on. This is a relatively new technology  and the good thing about this is that it can be updated when you want to (unlike QR codes). More on NFC chips here: http://bgr.com/2012/09/27/moo-nfc-business-cards/  .

So pay attention and make sure you have at least 3 of the 5 features above for your business cards. It is best to use ALL of them of course to get the best responses and opportunities for your business card.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Trends to Watch Out for in Printing

Like all human technologies, the process of printing still keeps moving forward. Sure, you might say that the whole concept of printing things in “paper” is obsolete, but in fact there are many ideas and technologies out there that help move printing forward. Let me feature for you some of the things that may already be around you in the near future. From 3D printing to QR codes, the future of printing has never been so interesting as it is now.

3D printing

3d printer
To tell you the truth, the 3D technology is actually been around for quite some time. However, it is only recently that smaller and easier to deploy commercial 3D printers have been deployed. In the past, only big industrial 3d modelers can do it. But now, they are inventing smaller and more portable commercial machines. The plan is for people to buy cartridges for the material in the 3D printer, and from there the printer can create 3D replicas of the 3D model that one needs.

What use will this technology be for people? Well, for example, in business, you can easily send product prototypes to different branches easily by just sending the 3D model file via the Internet. They can replicate the approximate size and shape of the product in their location, and test them in their environment. On a consumer perspective, people can “print” a product that they like and see if it will fit their equipment correctly without having to buy the real thing.

There are a lot of probable uses for 3D printing. While today it would be in the form of some plastic or clay, but who knows. In the future with more advancements in 3D printing technology combinations of materials can be used to almost fully duplicate different types of objects.

Printing without Ink

ZINK imaging pinter
Now, one of the big issues with printing is the use of ink. No doubt, you have encountered the annoying situation of trying to print something important, only to discover that your office printer *just ran out of ink. It would be fortunate of you guys had a stock of inks, but if that secretary forgot to resupply, then you are probably going to delay printing that important document.

Well, that is all about to change. Several firms have already started to develop printers that do not use ink. So no more trouble with nasty print cartridge refills or even print ribbons, all you have to buy is the paper.  One company named ZINK imaging ( see article here from technologyreview ) has already developed smaller and better full color printers with the inkless technology concept.

The basic premise is that the paper will be the one to be changed. Special thermal reactions in the paper is caused by the printer, which will make the different colors appear in it. So you could say that the ink is already in the paper so to speak. The interesting thing is that this is actually already deployed on less advanced scale with some cash registers that us thermal paper for printing. The only difference is that today, we can now print in color thermal paper (the past ones just had black).

More interestingly enough, scientists in Singapore have taken it further by using nano-materials to get high resolution color printing without the ink. The amazing thing here, is that you can get resolutions up to 100,000 dots per inch! (the traditional print industry limit is 10,000). So this technology seems really promising, giving printers an important new advancement for the future.

QR Codes

Now, we all know that the digital medium has already overtaken the print medium in many respects.  Some newspapers and magazines have started to focus on their digital portals more than the printed kind.

However, while we have some big newspapers leaning digital, some magazines, catalogs and even other advertising prints are “connecting” to the digital world through QR codes. QR stands for “Quick Response” code and they are the odd square symbols with black blocks that you see in many different types of print and packaging. They are the ones that you scan using your smartphone or tablet camera, which in turn causes your device to browse to a specific mobile web page.

The premise here is that by scanning something from print, you can quickly be sent to a more interactive medium online. This has been increasing in popularity of late, with some estimates here, saying that its use has risen 400% just last year alone. Many marketers are using those QR codes to connect readers to specific videos, landing pages, shopping cars and electronic coupons for their convenience.

It is a great additional add on that helps print become online portals. This becomes a great compliment for marketing campaigns, since you can lead “offline” markets online through the use of these specialized codes. Most printers like printplace.com can easily attach these codes to your flyers, posters and custom magazines easily without the need to retool.

Green Printing

For those who think that printing has been one of the big contributors to solid waste the past 100 or so years, you are actually not wrong. Think about all the newspapers and other materials printed since the invention of machine enhanced printing. It would probably amount to millions, and perhaps billions of tons of solid waste. While one can argue that paper is biodegradable, you should also note the trees that have to be cut down to produce that amount of paper. Moreover, some paper materials these days are actually tougher and have a more difficulty time decomposing.

So to answer to the call of an endangered environment, a lot of print innovators are investing in green printing.  There's an online presentation from slideshare.net that can give you an interesting overview of environmentally friendly techniques. But as an overview though, this is about using recycled paper, paper from managed forests, easier to decompose paper and organic inks.  These innovations help printing become more environmentally responsible, lessening its impact for future generations.

So as you can see, there are many exciting and wonderful advancements in printing to date. In fact, these innovations are continually in development, pushing printing to the future in many interesting ways. Printing is not really obsolete. It advanced like any other human technology, and is always worth investing in.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Menu for the Day: 3D Printed Meat

We’ve heard of 3D printers able to create medical implants out of metal powder and handguns out of plastic. These materials were created from scratch through additive manufacturing called 3D printing. Straight from a CAD drawing, the manufacturers were able to produce the material or part they need without too much hassle and cost. Impressive, right? This is exactly what gave ModernMeadow, a Missouri-based company, the idea to start generating meat from 3D printing.           

Through funding from billionaire investor Peter Thiel, the company is trying to develop a regenerative medicine that will allow 3D printing to bring meat replacement from cultured cells to the dinner table. If realized, this technology will greatly reduce the cost of raising large animals for their meat and, likewise, cut down gas emissions from meat production. Soon, everyone will be able to put a feasible facsimile of steak on their table without spending a lot of money.

The technology is still in its early stage, but Modern Meadow believes that it’s getting close to the real thing. Once unrolled, this 3D printed meat replacement will be like a synthetic steak out of a Star Trek episode. It’ll be like a science fiction dream come true.

Image source: http://www.exponent.com/meat-consumption-and-cancer/