By David H. Martin

The acceleration of change in marketing has been relentless in the last decade. Water treatment dealers have seen the demise of Yellow Pages as a leading source of business leads. Newspaper ads have shrunk in size and frequency. Time shifting of TV broadcasts has enabled viewers to speed past commercials. And in recent times, we have been told that even customers’ new media habits have shifted. But not so fast!

How customers want to communicate
A new survey by Marketing Sherpa lets us compare customer preferences for communications. In short, 2,057 American adults were asked about their channel preferences: print; TV; email; text messaging; social media. The number of channels you can use to communicate with your customers has expanded and continues to grow. From January 21 to 23, Marketing Sherpa commissioned a survey that asked consumers: “In which of the following ways, if any, would you prefer companies to communicate with you?” The responses (shown in Figure 1) clearly indicated the preferred method of communication was email.

Customers overwhelmingly prefer email
Junk mail didn’t kill email the way most experts expected. Instead, the struggle to stay afloat in an ocean of junk made permission-based emailers much, much stronger. And this was before the rise of the latest threats to email communication: Facebook, Twitter, smartphones and WhatsApp, etc. According to the latest research, however, email marketing could borrow from Mark Twain’s famous quote: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” The study revealed that a large majority of US adults—72 percent—prefer communication with companies to happen through email. In many ways, customers prefer traditional versus digital tactics, with email being the main exception. Email was unique among digital channels. In fact, it was the only digital channel to outperform old media standbys: postal mail (preferred by 48 percent), television ads (34 percent) and print media, such as magazines and newspapers (31 percent). For example, only 11 percent of people preferred mobile apps and just seven percent preferred online video ads. Across every demographic, email was the most popular channel. There were, as you would expect, variations on channel preferences among different demographic groups.

For example, 64 percent of those 55+ preferred postal mail and 41 percent in that cohort preferred print media, while 38 percent of people ages 18-54 preferred postal mail and 24 percent preferred print media. Across almost every demographic surveyed, however, email was the preferred way to communicate with companies. The only exception was females 65 or older: 64 percent prefer email and 65 percent prefer postal mail. Males aged 35-44 were the biggest fans, with 87 percent preferring email as their favorite channel. The more things change…

Have smartphone users abandoned PCs and laptops?
The answer is: not entirely. It depends on the user’s purpose: checking email? Or researching products before purchase? A new study from Millward Brown Digital reveals that for low-attention tasks, most people prefer smartphones. But the same people prefer a laptop or PC as task-time investment increases. Unsurprisingly, consumer tolerance for tasks on smartphones falls off sharply after a five-minute threshold. Eighty-one percent prefer to complete five-minute tasks via smartphones. That number drops to 43 percent for tasks that take 10-20 minutes. So a customer who researches water treatment dealer websites is likely to prefer searching and printing out pages on a PC. Are PCs and laptops dinosours? Well, not exactly. And the answer depends, in part, on the age of the user. Seventy-one percent of baby boomers still prefer using a PC or laptop for most tasks; 67 percent of GenX users and even 58 percent of Millennials still use PCs or laptops. In other words, younger users are more smartphone-centric, while a majority of consumers across generations still rely on laptops or PCs. The more things change…

Optimize your website for mobile devices
While PC and laptop users will still conduct lengthy searches, their numbers will decline, making it necessary for you to optimize your site for mobile. Don’t wait! Smartphones and tablets have already become an integral part of web life. A study in Forbes predicts that 87 percent of all sales on Internet-connected devices by 2017 will be on tablets and smartphones. Going forward you need to ensure that your website responds as well, if not better, on mobile devices as it does on standard desktop and laptop displays. You need to have an alternate mobile version of your site or at least a responsive design, which means that your site translates well when accessed on a tablet or smartphone. Pages also need to load as quickly as possible. If potential customers don’t get a user-friendly experience when visiting your site on a mobile device, they’re likely to jump ship in a hurry. The more things change…

Google: still the number-one search engine
Ten years ago, Google was the number-one search engine. Today, it enjoys an even wider margin of success and usability. If you haven’t done so already, establish a pay-per-click marketing program on Google; make it a mainstay of your lead-generation program. The more things change, the more they stay the same…
Getting ready for WQA Aquatech USA hasn’t changed. Some timeless tips are in order, as you look ahead to April’s big industry show in Las Vegas, NV:

  • Eat light and rest up for a few days prior to the show.
  • Pack comfortable shoes, wear business- casual clothing and remember you are there to represent your business.
  • Allow enough room in your suitcase(s) for bringing back more than you take. This includes literature, freebies and product samples.
  • Some exhibitors provide bags, but come prepared by bringing a comfortable carry-all for all that literature.
  • An updated show guide will probably be provided when you arrive. Take some time to revise your plan if necessary.
  • Make sure your badge is in plain sight at all times for networking opportunities.
  • If possible, request literature and samples be mailed instead of having to carry them with you.
  • Have a pen and notebook ready for notes and use business cards to jot down information on the back.
  • Take advantage of show specials, discounts and sales where they are truly bargains and needed.
  • Keep track of orders placed so you’ll stay within your budget.
  • Take a break after a few hours to refresh, have a snack and get some fresh air.
  • If you have a problem you’d like to solve, come prepared with questions you need answered.
  • To maximize time spent with vendors, be direct and assertive when communicating.
  • If you get caught by a long-winded sales person, don’t be afraid to politely interrupt them and remind them you have a lot more to see at the show.
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities with people who do the same thing you do for a living to share ideas and industry knowledge.
  • Leave the show a little early to avoid long lines for buses and cabs.

And don’t forget to have fun!

About the author
David H. Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or by email at [email protected]


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