The internet has changed the world of publishing. One of the key changes is the removal of barriers meaning anyone can get involved. Mass communication used to be expensive and available only to the elite few (with big budgets!), but now anyone with an internet connection can broadcast their views to the world. Sounds great, but is it? A recent blog post on econsultancy suggests that this free for all approach has its downsides, and is well worth a read.
How does this relate to marketing?
Marketing is about communication so much of the above is true here too; but in the battle of cost vs value, has the balance in marketing tipped too far in favour of cost? Take 2 examples; Printed Brochures and Direct Mail…
Brochures vs. Websites
Before the internet, printed brochures were expensive to produce, and once printed they could not be updated or changed. This meant that people took care to ensure the message was well presented and engaging, and you would rarely consider doing a brochure design, layout and print entirely in-house. A website is often seen as the internet equivalent of the brochure. They are quick and cheap to deliver, and almost every internet connection comes with free web space, so the cost of creating a website can be pretty much zero, and everyone has a (…. insert relation/friend/colleague here….) who says they can build websites. So now you can have your (online) brochure for free (almost!) But is this approach good business? I would suggest not! Just because you can get a website at minimal cost does not mean that you should. If you put low value on your website, should you even bother having one at all. An effective website that is well designed may not be free, but it offers much greater value to your business. Not least because the layout, marketing messages, content, navigation and updateability should have all been properly considered and built in to give you a marketing tool that can properly reflect your business and evolve with your business.
Direct Mail vs. Email
Before the internet, direct mail was expensive and time consuming. There was the cost of design, artwork, printing, collating and stationery, not to mention postage costs which were a significant part of the total cost. All of these meant you thought hard about your message & presentation, and ensured that it was carefully targeted because every extra message sent added significantly to the cost. Now there is email marketing. Delivery (aka postage) is virtually free and the size of your list has little effect on cost.
Everything has a cost, even when it is “Free“!
There are free-to-use email marketing services (e.g. Mailchimp) which can be very effective, but bear in mind that while the free version costs nothing to use, you still need to have a strong message well presented so design and layout of a good message can be time consuming but this effort can deliver a great communication tool. Mail chimp (and others) tend to have a branding tag (usually Powered by…) on their free service, which can say to the recipient “I value this message so little, I wasn’t willing to pay for the ‘stamp’!“. But again, if you put minimal value on your message, should you be sending it? In my experience, there is one circumstance where using a DIY approach using a free email marketing service is appropriate, and that is if your business is time rich & cash poor. In this case, using a free tool to send messages yourself can really benefit your business, and is definitely better than doing nothing at all! But don’t forget, if you are preparing & sending the email yourself, this has a time cost. At the other end of the scale, big companies with marketing departments may well be able to justify a dedicated email marketing resource in-house. But what about the rest of us? There is no doubt that the internet has brought down marketing costs dramatically, and now SMEs can develop and implement a professional and effective marketing strategy on a very limited budget, but should you be doing it yourself? Wouldn’t you be better off doing what you do well (running you business and serving you clients), and let the professionals help you with your email marketing. Outsourcing email marketing to a marketing specialist means you can benefit from a wealth of experience, resources and expertise yet only pay for what you need.
Cost vs Value – Are you making the right business decision?
Just because you can do it at the lowest cost doesn’t mean that that it offers the best value to your business!