July 22, 2014
Life is a timed event. We have only a certain amount of time each day, week, month and year in which to accomplish our objectives. As my favorite college professor used to say, coming up with the right answer solves only half of the problem. The other half is to do so in a timely manner.
That familiar say, “Timing is everything,” while not totally correct is at least partially correct, and good timing is a very important item, at that. Timing can be pressure induced, but its more comfortable, and perhaps more effective, counterpart is good timing that results from good planning.
There simply is no substitute for a little self-analysis that results in timing things for maximum impact. So, while it is also the result of good instincts (thank God for those), it might be better to rely on good planning to produce the good timing from which your marketing will most profit.
Have you ever noticed how the NBA teams seem to kick it up a notch when the voice on the PA system announces, “Two minutes”? As business owners and managers, we don’t have that luxury. We have to come out of the staring blocks each day and run hard right from the starting gun in order to make our way through our weekly to-do list.
I advise our clients to set up a self-imposed marketing deadline system in order to produce and disseminate their marketing materials and make those vital selling contacts in a timely manner. This just makes good sense and, like the airport control tower, keeps the ”work-to-be-done” traffic moving. Otherwise, as I have found in my own case, it is easy to become so involved in your clients/customers’ needs that you forget the needs of your own business – needs like those key marketing projects and other self-promotion activities.
July 15, 2014
Here is the fundamental premise on which all marketing is based:
If the consumer isn’t aware that you exist, you can’t sell your product.
When encountering a prospect on the showroom floor or at a trade show, in every case, he or she was “delivered” to that critical point by an awareness of you; whether through an advertisement, a referral or, in the trade show circumstance, merely because you were there.
What takes place at that point is two-way communication (you standing face to face with the prospect, closing the sale). Though your degree of success will be determined by your persuasiveness, product, knowledge, price, etc., something that happened before that gave you the opportunity: a prospect had to be delivered.
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, real success is largely a numbers game. To survive, let alone be a leader in your category, you have to close many sales. In order to do so, you have to have ample numbers of prospects with which to work.
Here’s the key point: developing adequate numbers of prospects cannot be accomplished through two-way communication, either face to face, by phone, the mail or, even, the Internet. Neither you nor your sales staff has anywhere near the time necessary for this crucial function. Prominent publisher McGraw Hill & Co. has estimated that the average sales call requires approximately 45 minutes, and that an average of three calls is required to close a sale. Surely, it’s no way to prospect.
Prospecting is what marketing ¾ the one-way communication element of sales ¾ is ideally suited for. Expensive, time-consuming two-way communication simply isn’t necessary, nor is it efficient in developing prospects in the numbers sufficient for business success. Marketing communication, in one form or another, is the answer.
Most anti-marketing hard-liners got that way because they, at some point, were turned off by poor marketing efforts that failed to produce results. This is understandable, because much marketing is misguided or misplaced ¾ but it is not justifiable, and, more than likely, will be hazardous to bottom-line business health.
Is marketing foolproof? Will it always produce infallible, guaranteed results? No it won’t, nor is it fair to expect it to (after all, what does?). But it is more science than art, and, as such, has something very important on its side: LOGIC. Marketing is measurable, quite often yielding predictable results, and as practiced by good professionals, should ¾ and most often does ¾ more than pay for itself.
July 7, 2014
There are three balls that need to constantly be juggled in order to at least maintain the value of a brand. These are:
a) customer acceptance
b) a reasonable level of employee contentment, and
c) fiscal viability.
The first of these is, of course, product/service driven. The second, in addition to their getting a paycheck on a regular basis, has more to do with employees’ general job satisfaction, working conditions, self-image, etc. The third is required because relatively few people want to buy a “loser.”
If maintaining the brand is Business 101, then building equity in the brand requires, not only doing things right, but, doing the right things. Key among these tenets, and a fourth ball one must keep an eye on is business growth.
In other words, if your brand equity today equals “$$,” would the sale of your business net you a comfortable retirement or even an adequate down payment on that cottage in the woods or another business venture? . . . I was afraid that would be your answer! The remedy: build your equity to (at least) $$$$.
How to do this?
The late Peter Drucker, who during the whole of the 20th century was the foremost business management guru of them, all has put it this way:
“Business has two basic functions: Innovation and Marketing.
These produce results. All the rest are costs.”
It may not surprise you to learn that I agree with the renowned Mr. Drucker, whom I hasten to underscore was not a marketing person, but, rather, a management expert. Indeed, unless you are that notable exception (would you believe one in 100,000?) whose business grows sort of “organically” at a rate (and of a quality) significant enough impact the bottom line, you can count on the fact that effective marketing will need to be your key engine in achieving growth.
When a sale of your business is a goal
If preparing an exit strategy and “cashing in your chips” have become more dominant factors in your thinking, it would make sense for you to start a dynamic marketing program with specific objectives and benchmarks, sooner rather than later. If your timeline is to put your business on the market within the next couple of years, it certainly is not too late to mount an aggressive marketing campaign aimed toward making the sale date a bigger pay day (keep in mind that the average business sale easily can take 12-18 months).
Such a campaign most likely will involve direct marketing (probably e-mail) and your online presence (attracting traffic to your website) because that’s where the action is these days. This should not be left to chance or random efforts, but, rather, should be based on an effective marketing plan featuring strategies to meet your objectives, and tactics through which to implement those strategies. And there should be an ongoing review of your exit plan so necessary adjustments can me made throughout the process.
Following these guidelines will help to ensure that the results of what may be the biggest sale you will ever make will meet or exceed your goals.
June 24, 2014
In addition to income creation, the recognition — and strength — of your brand is a major factor in creating equity for your business and adding value in the event that its future sale may be an issue.
Branding campaigns help companies define and communicate the essence of their business by giving it a personality and more clearly conveying what a company is all about. The core concept behind a branding campaign is that if you put a positive message about your company in front of your target market for enough time, potential clients will think about you when it comes time to make a purchase.
Your brand is essentially a promise – a link between your name and what it stands for -to those you engage through your marketing campaign. It will help your patrons and consumers or potential clients/customers distinguish your product/service from others.
The following steps are a required starting point in making the kind of assessment that will help ensure success of your branding campaign:
- Know your strengths. What is your core competency? What does your company do better than anyone else? What is your niche? What is your competitive advantage? Why would a prospect choose your product/service over another company’s? What is the first thing that comes to mind when consumers think of your company?
- Know your customers/clients. Who is your target audience? Who are you trying to reach? What do they want? Why should they choose your product or service over your competitors? Where do they come from? What do your clients need? How can you better serve them? What may they need in the future?
- Determine how you can reach your customers/clients. Where are they? Do they read, shop online and attend events? How do they prefer to communicate? Will they complete surveys, respond to e-mails or open regular mail?
- Develop and implement a marketing plan. Once you know your strengths, who your customers are and how to reach them, putting together a marketing plan should be the next step in your brand-awareness campaign.
June 18, 2014
Look before you leap into a new market (horizontal, vertical or geographic, that is).
There are several key considerations to look at when you are considering to expand your business into a new area. Here is a “Top 48″ list to help get you on the right track in your decision making process:
1. Examine your motives (frivolous, fact–driven or ego–driven?)
2. Do you trust your instincts?
3. Consult family / partners / trusted friends / associates / advisors / skeptics / fans / unaffected “brains”
4. Conduct a background / capabilities “self–exam”
5. Measure existing vs. required financial and human resources
6. How will expansion impact key personal and business relationships?
7. Consider vendor relationships
8. Go slowly: understand that smart growth takes time
9. Utilize research, e.g. type of expansion, market–suitability, timing
10. Economic and consumer conditions and trends
11. Focus groups
12. Case histories
13. Will new skills, techniques and business methods be required?
14. Seek expert counsel, e.g. accounting, legal, business, marketing
15. The things that are hardest to change should be left for last
16. Are you maintaining a consistent bottom–line profit and showing steady growth over the past few years?
17. Evaluate your administrative systems and management team
18. Staff reorganization
19. Staff adaptation
20. Avoiding the “Peter Principle”
21. Selecting vendors, employees, partners, alliances
22. Create a business plan
23. Create a marketing plan
24. Include a SWOT Analysis
25. Entry– and long–term strategies
26. Setting clear campaign objectives
27. Goals and budgeting
28. Assess advisability of product and price adjustments
29. Consider new products for new markets
30. Capitalization, e.g. staying power, investors, angels, joint ventures, venture capital
31. Balance guts against apprehension
32. Establish initial startup and ongoing progress benchmarks
33. Make a “why I should” list
34. Make a “why I shouldn’t” list
35. Keep meticulous notes and records
36. Developing qualified sales and marketing leads
37. Target–consumer assessment
38. Assess demand for your products or services
39. In–house vs. outsourced sales/marketing team
40. Assess your internal sales and marketing capabilities
41. Traditional vs. unconventional marketing
43. Market research
44. Creating product– or brand–awareness
45. Creating “buzz”
46. Competitive intelligence
47. Interviewing prospects a) employees, b) customers
48. Securing the long–term future of your enterprise
June 10, 2014
You probably have an appropriate and effective response to the hypothetical, yet critical question, “Why should we give you our business?” One of our clients who is skilled at delivering those daunting “elevator speeches” was nonetheless stumped when one of his was not clear to the listener. What more should he say, and quickly at that?
If this should happen to you, your “post-elevator-speech” response may be the last opportunity you will ever have to sell yourself, so it had better be to the point, and laced with relevant claims. Here’s a clue: Build your speech entirely around things unique to you and your business. The only things your prospect is interested in are those things distinguishing you from your competitors.
Vague generalities and meaningless claims are verboten. Be clear, specific and benefits-oriented, rather than features-oriented in your response. And never rely on emotion rather than facts. If you can’t dazzle your questioner on the spot, at least try to entice them with something of substance in order to “buy” enough time to give more thought to their needs and concerns before giving a more comprehensive response at a future date.
The keys are brevity, clarity, pertinence, and, if more time is needed to develop a truly appropriate response, enough “enticement power” to facilitate a follow-up opportunity.
June 2, 2014
When was the last time you took a good look at your brand and its objectives, challenges and opportunities. You can give yourself a good start by answering these 18 questions:
1. What are your top four primary communication objectives?
2. Are there any secondary communication objectives?
3. In detail, describe your target audience(s)?
4. How does your target audience perceive your brand?
5. What issues need to be addressed in order to better appeal to your audience?
6. Who are your core competitors?
7. Who are your secondary competitors?
8. In relation to your competitor’s brand(s), how would your audience rank your company?
9. What is your competition doing right in your opinion?
10. What are they doing wrong?
11. What are the key points of differentiation between you and your competitors
12. What is your ultimate desired brand position or status?
13, List as many adjectives as possible you would use to describe your products and services.
14. If your company where an automobile what would it be?
15. What brand of automobile would you like your company to be?
16. What color would you use to describe your company?
17. Are there any elements of your current brand or symbol that need to be maintained?
18. Are there any mandatory creative elements associated with this assignment (such as the need to keep a certain color or design element)?
May 27, 2014
This familiar statement falls into the same category as, “I don’t do windows.” But in my case it refers to something else: My job is NOT to help clients with their customer care process.
My job is to use marketing communication to help bring prospects to them in the first place.
Of course, developing “brand advocates,” as I recently heard them referred to in a Forbes article by David Amerland, is one of the most crucial missions of any business. Quicken Loans refers to this in their tagline, Engineered to Amaze, and customer service Guru Darby Checketts deals in something called Customer Amazement.”
These all pretty much refer to the same thing – customer satisfaction – and an important thing it is.
It’s the job of marketing communicators like yours truly to help the salesperson close by building brand preference, or at least to help introduce the prospect to the brand, or incline them to look favorably upon it. Metaphorically, this amounts to helping a client “fill the bag with sugar” (good will). The function of good customer service, on the other hand, is to see to it that the original customer spreads the word to others so more “bags of sugar” (like the tale we learned in school) can be accumulated because the new prospects were referred by the first customer.
Even though we marketers have nothing to do with the customer satisfaction function, if we’re worth our salt . . . er, sugar, we don’t want to see a hole poked into any of those bags of good will due to shoddy after-the-sale treatment. That’s because neither delivering the prospect nor closing the sale means diddly squat if the sugar of good will leaks out nearly as quickly as the bag is filled.
The bottom line
The client’s success is the marketing communicator’s success. The marketer wants to keep the client a healthy, hearty client. So – even though it’s “not our job,” we do have a stake in a client’s keeping those hard-won customers happy with the way they are treated today, tomorrow and, hopefully, forever. Indeed, all of us involved in the supply chain have a stake in this.
May 19, 2014
1. Know your position.
Determine the specific niche your business intends to fill.
What will you stand for in the minds of your prospects and customers/clients?
In establishing your position, think in terms of –
a) Your objectives,
b) The strengths and weaknesses of your offering,
c) Your perceived competition,
d) Your target market
e) The needs of that market
f) The trends apparent in the economy.
Ask yourself these basic questions:
¨ What business am I in?
¨ What is my goal?
¨ What benefits do I offer?
¨ What competitive advantages?
¨ What do I fear?
2. Identify your target market.
Then, measure your position against four criteria:
¨ Does it offer a benefit that your target market really wants?
¨ Is it a valid benefit?
¨ Does it separate you from your competition?
¨ Is it unique and/or difficult to copy?
3. Create your strategy.
This can be accomplished with seven sentences:
¨ Explain your purpose. (To maximize profits, etc.)
¨ Describe how you will accomplish your purpose
(list your competitive advantage and benefits).
¨ Describe your target market(s).
¨ Outline the marketing concepts you will consider employing.
¨ Describe your niche.
¨ Reveal the identity of your business. (It develops marketing strategies, etc.)
¨ State your anticipated budget (if estimable).
4. Set your positioning statement, mission statement and tagline.
The positioning statement reveals the identity of your offering; it explains what the product/service stands for ¾ why the offering has value and why it should be purchased. Unlike image, which is the impression you choose to make for your business, identity defines what your business is really about.
5. Consider your marketing plan.
The marketing plan –
a) Identifies the market,
b) Lists your goals,
c) Addresses, first, your long-term, then, your near-future vision,
d) Considers market share,
e) Sets timelines,
f) Makes projections,
g) Provides the promotional framework,
h) Specifies the media/methods to be utilized,
i) Considers personnel issues and outsourcing,
j) Reflects on potential obstacles/pitfalls,
k) Considers remedies
l) Estimates campaign costs.
6. Consider the use of a situational analysis(S.A.).
A S.A. includes information about your –
a) Key customers/clients,
b) Expected competition, and
c) The possibilities, probabilities and reality of the marketplace at (this) time.
May 13, 2014
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How to Get Editors to Read Your News Releases
Understanding these considerations, mistakes and myths will increase the probability of publication.
Q: What can I do to increase my chances of having my press releases used by a newspaper or magazine?
A: Whether you’re creating your PR, thinking about creating it or you’re just about to launch it, beware of these shortfalls, mistakes and other considerations:
Editors hate promotion. The purpose of publicity is to inform the public about news, events, people and things of that nature, not to tell a story. Editors and reporters are sensitive to what the reader wants to read. Since a significant portion of news in a news publication comes from press releases, editors want to see news. They hate promotion. If your press release contains information that is purely promotional and you try to disguise it as news, editors can pick out the promotion a mile away. Don’t do it. Save yourself the time and aggravation. Editors and reporters form opinions and perceptions about those that submit releases. If you continue the promotional angle, you will get the reputation of being a promoter. When you have real news to communicate, editors will then ignore you because of that reputation. Think news. Put yourself in the editor/reporter’s shoes and the reader’s shoes, and communicate newsworthy facts, not personal, promoting stories.
Don’t put out a press release announcing a time-sensitive event the day beforehand. Planning a publication and laying out a publication takes more time than overnight. Even though you see yesterday’s events communicated in today’s newspaper, it doesn’t mean there was a happenstance layout with no prior planning done. Editors and copy editors have a place for breaking stories, event announcements and general PR. Respect the fact that there is a degree of planning involved. Turn in any press releases related to time-sensitive events early enough so that an editor can plan accordingly. Communicating information today about an event tomorrow is not soon enough for most editors. Planning your own PR and associated press releases must be part of your event, product launch or personnel planning.
Make sure that your publicity has a news angle to it. You now know editors hate promotion. What they do like is news. Creating a newsworthy angle to anything increases the probability that something will get published. Sometimes just using the word “news” in the headline of a press release will indicate that. Usually anything with a time or date associated with it is considered news. Think announcements, events, happenings and occasions.
Local angles to national stories are also considered news. These sometimes can be human-interest stories. The national story is more newsworthy and satisfies the news requirement of most editors. Anniversaries are news. Promotions in management are news. Seminar announcements are news. New product information is news.
Consider what readers want to read. Put yourself in their shoes. Some news doesn’t matter to the readership. This is where identifying your target market comes in. You want to publicize in those places that are seen by your target market. If a particular publication doesn’t necessarily reach your product market, there is no reason to communicate your news. A business seminar announcement is of no use to a gardening club. Reorganization in the largest business in town is of no interest to sports junkies. Consider the publication; consider the readership; consider what else is publicized in a particular publication.
Don’t call the editor to see when your release might run. Over half of the press releases an editor receives are discarded, ignored or not used. Press releases hit an editor’s e-mail inbox or his or her fax machine sometimes like popcorn–there’s more than can be handled, managed and certainly published. An editor is generally in charge of other publication content. The day in the life of an editor is a case study in prioritization and time-management. Receiving a phone call from everyone who sent in a press release is an obstacle they don’t need nor choose to deal with. Once again, if you bug an editor and ask about placement, you will get a reputation. Editors need to be handled with TLC.
If you do contact editors or reporters, first ask them if they are “on deadline.” Sometimes there is reason to contact an editor. Maybe it’s returning a phone call they made to you for more information. The first thing you should say when phoning an editor is, “Are you on deadline?” Sometimes it’s 3:00 p.m., and they have a 5:00 p.m. deadline they are trying to meet and have three hours worth of work to cram into those two hours. Fielding a call related to prospective PR ruins that time-management. Editors want the opportunity to say, “I’m busy, leave me alone, I still want to talk to you but I’ve got a deadline.” Don’t be offended by this; its part of the PR business.
Paid advertising generally has no bearing on publicity placement. One myth is that paid advertisers get preferential treatment for PR placement. This is a myth. Editors generally don’t talk to the advertising department. Now common sense does prevail when trying to take care of larger accounts and great advertisers. There may be an occasion where preference is given, but the general rule of thumb is that you won’t get preferential treatment for PR if you advertised.
NOTE: The tips mentioned above also apply to broadcast news; just replace the word “editor” with “producer.”
Understanding some of these quirks, rules, myths and considerations will increase your probability of getting your news placed in the publications that your target markets read.