Web Site or Brochure? How Do You Choose?

When resources are tight, every marketing dollar needs to count. You want to present the best possible image to your clients, but how do you decide whether to spend your money on a web site or printed marketing materials when you can’t afford both?

There are many factors to assess in a decision like this, but for most service business owners there are three areas you should look at closely:

1. Demographics & psychographics of your client base.

The most important question to ask yourself is, “How much time do my clients spend on the web?” If you’re marketing to heavy users, such as high-tech managers or home office entrepreneurs, having an attractive web site can be essential. On the other hand, if you are targeting light users such as senior citizens or people working in a storefront environment, a web site might be unimportant.

Find out how your customers typically go about locating and selecting a professional like you. Do they respond to materials sent by mail, or keep them on file for future reference? Do they evaluate possible providers by comparing what they have to say about themselves, and would they prefer to do that by sorting through brochures or reviewing web sites? How often do they find someone to help them by surfing the web?

Consider also the geographic range of your target market. If you are primarily selling to people you will see in person, printed materials may be valuable in presenting what you have to offer. But if your customers are across the country, a web site can be an excellent tool for walking them through your assets and capabilities.

2. Overall marketing strategy.

Don’t let the cart drive the horse. Whether you are considering a web site or a brochure, choose your tactics FIRST; then design the tools that support your choice. Web sites and printed materials are only tools. To use them, you need to employ tactics — the specific activities you perform to make sure that customers will see your web-based or printed message.

To reach doctors, for example, you might decide upon a call-mail-call strategy. Your reasoning could be that they would never answer their own phone, so you would have to reach them by other means. You believe that a well-written letter with an enclosed glossy brochure might be what would make this somewhat conservative group respond.

Could a web site help the process? Possibly. You could direct the doctor to your site for additional information. But how do you know where the doctor is reading his mail? Is it after hours in his office, or at home after a long day? Is he anywhere near a computer? Your chosen tactic in this case requires a brochure, but a web site is nonessential.

If you wanted to market to doctors using the web, you would be better served by focusing on a web-based promotion strategy. Build an appealing site, then do your utmost to have it linked to, or listed in, resources that doctors use — search engines, related web sites, newsletters, mailing lists, etc.

3. Relative priority of your needs.

When you know that you eventually want both printed materials and an informative web site, but must prioritize which comes first, it’s easy to be driven by expediency. But basing your decision on what could get done more quickly or easily might not be the best idea. Ask yourself which avenue is likely to lead to either MORE customers, or HIGHER-PAYING customers sooner. That’s the place to start.

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