Invest in a Change of Scenery

July 27, 2010

Albert Einstein is credited with describing insanity as doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result and while you don’t often see him mentioned in marketing arenas, the application is equally valid here.

How often have you poured good money after bad on a marketing program or message that wasn’t working just because you didn’t have the time to come up with a better idea?

Make today the day you find the time to stop wasting money on a bad campaign (or no campaign at all) and find something new.

  • Change where you are marketing, from one publication to another.
  • Change how you are marketing, move from print to online or even outdoor.
  • Change who are you marketing to, by trying a different demographic.
  • Change the places that you market, from one event or association to another.
  • Change your message; pick different words to describe your value proposition as see how people respond.

Shake things up. Then measure the results.


Why Frequency Marketing Works

July 27, 2010

Marketing Sherpa’s chart this week  — entitled The Long Road from Lead Generation to Sales Conversion — further reinforces everything we’ve been saying lately about the importance of frequency marketing.

Once a lead is in the pipeline, you need to nurture, nurture, nurture them until they convert to customers. Because your field sales personnel can’t possibly call these folks every week (and that kind of pestering would be downright creepy), let your frequency marketing campaigns do the work for you. It is not uncommon for purchase decisions professional services to take several months and for technology to take up to  a year. Regular professional touches delivering updates and educational material about your biz, your industry and your products help keep your company of mind so that when the prospects is ready to purchase — next month, next quarter or even next year — they think of you.

Once is Not a Marketing Campaign

July 26, 2010

If I had a dollar for the number of times that a business owner told me they tried marketing once and it didn’t work for them, I would be driving a much nicer car.

Marketing is not like lima beans, you can’t try them once and make a decision on the spot that it doesn’t work for you. Yet I continue to run into businesses who use that excuse when I suggest that better or more targeting marketing efforts might improve their bottom line. I try to give the benefit of the doubt when meeting a new biz owner and assume that they are at least doing something — thus the suggestion that there might be room for improvement — but that isn’t always the case.

One direct mail campaign, one e-mail blast or one display ad is, for a great many, a waste of money. There are lots of rules about the number of impressions required before your audience recognizes and reacts to your offer — with somewhere between 3 and 7 as the rule of thumb — but the general idea here is that you have to keep plugging along.

The first time your audience sees your message they may not even recognize it. The second time it may trigger some kind of awareness of the product category or offering. Hopefully by the third time they’ll remember your name.

The key is not only awareness and recognition but being in the right place at the right time: when your best prospect is ready to make a purchase decision. Sure, once in a while those single wave campaigns actually land in the lap of a prospect at the right time and they get the business. But this is pure luck that rides on the back of a competitor that already established awareness and education for the product category.

When I worked for a direct marketing firm, we typically planned all campaigns in 3 waves. Today we encourage clients who want to see the greatest ROI to invest only in programs that they can sustain for a full year.

Why Smart Professionals Invest in Marketing

June 25, 2010

Some businesses fall prey to the great idea of if we build it, they will come. No marketing necessary.

Typically this is the plight of organizations run by really smart and highly educated professionals like engineers or attorneys. They know they are really good and what they do. And they have a high expectation that prospects will recognize the value they deliver without any push in the right direction.

Unfortunately, sometimes your customers aren’t as smart as you are and they have to be taken by the hand and led to your great idea. By making the time to explain to them not just what you do but how what you do can make them successful, you’re educating your audience and building loyalty for your brand.

The more complex the subject matter, the greater the opportunity for the delivery of educational material. This education process can take place in many formats and forums besides the ones pushed out from your internal marketing department. Highly educated professionals are sough-after for public speaking and by-lined article contribution. But it takes a little investment in PR to secure these opportunities.

Successful operators will always be the ones that get out in front of their audience early, beating their competition to the punch. Besides, there’s nothing worse than losing business to a provider with less expertise who will ultimately do a mediocre job of satisfying your prospective customer.

Common Problems in Marketing Plans

August 18, 2009

WSJ published a great piece early this summer entitled How to Write a Good Business Plan that starts off pointing out why a down economy is a great time to start a new business (lower costs, less competition) and then goes on not to tell you about the right way to do everything but some of the pitfalls to avoid.

I had fun with the piece but was drawn mostly to the table (at the end of the online version) that cites overused phrases/concepts in really bad business plans including two of my favorite pet peeves:

1. HUGE — as in the market in so huge, everyone is going to want to buy our product. Get a grip. there may be lots of biz opportunity out there but if you can’t quantify your market opportunity, you’re never going to be able to put together a business plan much less a marketing plan to go after them. I’m constantly faced with owners who want to market to everyone… and can’t afford it.

2. NO COMPETITION — For real? There are very few entirely new concepts out there, just new and better ways of marketing them. Don’t be so naive to think that you have no competition. Everyone has competition. The trick is figuring out who they are and how to do a better job of attracting customers.

If you’re in the market to write a new business plan, you may find the updated release of Biz Plan in a Day from Rhonda Adams to be helpful. I’m not endorsing her product as the best solution but for a quick and dirty workbook to get you started, it is definitely a running start.

Increase in Advertising Spending = Recovering Economy or Desperation?

August 11, 2009

About six months ago I started encouraging clients to take advantage of the pull back in advertising spend to make their dollar go further by taking advantage of greatly reduced rates. My clients don’t do a lot of display but the same mantra held true for most of the available media at the time.

Over the summer I noticed an uptick in marketing spend in my business serving the SMB space and subsequently confirmed the same was true with my counterparts serving the medium enterprise and global corporation space. Conjecture might say this signals a turn in the economy, but is that true?

The WSJ reported this morning that the dental market is seeing a 10% drop on average in patient billings largely due to unemployment rate. People without dental insurance stop going and those high brow vanity treatments don’t seem as important when we’re counting our pennies. The article goes on to describe how dentists are having to get creative with their marketing efforts and spend less time seeing patience and more time recruiting them. The old reminder postcards aren’t bringing patients in as fast and thus dentists are trying the same tricks as everyone else: email campaigns and twitter.

So perhaps the increase in marketing spend is just a sign that business are finally having to do what we marketing folks have told them all along: focus on your best prospects, show love to your best clients, identify to your competitive advantage and then promote it in more ways than buying one ValPak envelope a year and putting your initials on the door?

I think what in fact what is happening is that certain businesses are preparing to thrive. They’re establishing a robust infrastructure, staking their claim on their space and working harder to protect their brand. It’s not just a marketing investment that will help them succeed. It’s their overall investment in their business from people to technology that is helping them ramp up and prepare to take market share from the competition who instead of investing has squeezed every available dime out of their business and hidden it under the mattress.

Planning to Use Social Media is Not the Same as Planning Your Social Media Strategy

July 29, 2009

Back when everyone read Kotler’s marketing textbook and set about defining an approach to the 4 P’s, businesses had marketing plans. The plans specified the who and the what of the business before getting into the sexier issues of how we’re going to do it.

Lately folks seem to have that engine backwards. They’re skipping past the planning stages — where we identify our audience, the value of our product, the competition and our competitive advantage — and running right along to a marketing strategy which sounds suspiciously like quick throw up a web site (no pun intended) and start tweeting about our biz and see who comes runnning.

Tweeting about your beer special may have brought 6 customers in for free pint glass night at Taco Mac (see article in this morning’s AJC), but it certainly isn’t a big enough marketing success to make a difference in your quarterly revenues.

David Armano took the time to draw parallels between application design and social media planning in a witty post that draws humorous analogies to watching MacGyver. He makes an extremely valid point about social media being more than a tool but an entire approach to your business while endorsing the idea that before you dive head first into this new universe and start pontificating about the transparent and customer-centered approach of your business that you take the time to make sure your reality aligns with your on-line identity.

While being honest is important (albeit critical), the other really important issue to address here is one of consistency. If twitter is something you do in your free time, blogging happens occasionally when your PR firm reminds you and facebook has been relegated to your summer intern, you should stop now. It’s not a strategy if you just do it once. That’s called dabbling. If you’re serious about using social media to promote your business, make sure your plan not only identifies which platforms you plan to use and what you plan to use them for but includes a budget (time and money and resource allocation) to keep it going far past the next quarterly sales meeting.