By Stacey Cohen
In an economic downturn, yesterday’s marketing strategies just won’t do. Marketing should be viewed similar to a financial portfolio- with a diversification strategy and long-term focus- that should not be cast away during a sluggish economy. It is more important than ever to adopt innovative, hard-working marketing tactics that produce bottom-line results and bring you closer to your consumer:
- Take The Time To Develop a Solid Marketing Plan. In today’s economic climate, it is essential to look beyond today’s boundaries, focus on well-defined markets, map out the best marketing tactics, and demonstrate their impact on the long-term. Service/product benefits; target markets; competitive environment; short/long-term objectives; tools to reach target audiences; a month-by-month implementation timetable and a yearly marketing budget should be detailed. To come out on top, consider trends three-years out so that you can begin executing on a strategy now. Look for opportunities to share marketing costs with logical partners, such as developing co-op advertising with a related company that shares your target market. Concentrate on marketing tactics that can cut through the clutter and segment your market in new ways.
- Make Your Staff An Integral Part Of the Marketing Effort. The entire staff must be consistently aware of the important role they play in marketing the company. Business processes and marketing actions should be clearly identified and prioritized at regular staff meetings. It is critical to promote your brand internally since your staff is on the front lines communicating your company’s benefits. This image needs to be presented by the person who answers the phone, greets guests and speaks on behalf of the organization. Your company’s marketing efforts, in good and bad times, require a strong management structure.
- Don’t Put All Your Marketing $ In One Basket! Your need to ensure a steady flow of information to your target audiences through a variety of channels. The optimal marketing program uses a mix of direct mail, public relations, advertising, collateral materials, and Web site development. This integrated approach must combine brand and tactical marketing into a single campaign. It’s more important than ever to develop and maintain a branded environment that reflects one look, feel and voice across all mediums.
- Let PR Put Your Organization On the Media Map. Public Relations campaigns put you in direct contact with your audience through public appearances, publicity, and community outreach. While your story may not land on the cover of Forbes Magazine, sending newsworthy items on an ongoing basis to local media outlets, trade publications and Web sites that reach your prospects are well worth the effort. Be an ambassador for you organization and take a high-profile position rather than melting into the crowd. Offer to participate in a panel discussion or seek solo speaking engagements. To further increase your company’s visibility, associate with a charitable cause or community-based group for a special event.
- Conduct a Communications Audit. Printed material remains the top choice for disseminating information. Take time to review your marketing materials to ensure your message is targeted and consistent. Discard anything that is ineffective or dated. Identify any gaps in your collateral pieces and prioritize the development of new marketing materials that are flexible and remain timely. Establish graphic standards, such as a logo, and use artwork or photography that can be leveraged across all of your marketing materials, including your Web site. If possible, print all of your materials at the same time – combining print jobs can translate into big savings.
- Advertise with Care. Today’s consumer receives 1,500 plus advertising messages daily. We have become adept at filtering out these messages and focusing only on those that directly impact us. Lay low on image ads and substitute with ads that are designed to produce bottom-line results. The ads must make a strong call to action and communicate your firm’s benefits. To track the results of your efforts, consider placing response codes in your ads and train staff to ask respondents where they learned about your company. Contact-management software is essential to record such information.
- It’s All About Relationships. Remember, 20 percent of your customers account for 80 percent of revenues. Creating a relationship with a customer is the most vital part of selling. Relationships are created by responding to the consumer’s need for information and by providing a consistent message. Customers want a product or service that delivers on its promises. Maintaining an ongoing conversation with customers and building a brand will turn consumers into customers, and customers into brand loyalists and long-term purchasers. Designate staff members to get out and attend different groups, assign goals for follow-up and regularly add contacts to your database. Communicate with your potential and current customer database once every four to six weeks by e-mail, fax, direct mail, phone or in person.
- Perceive Your Web Site As a Revenue Producer, Not a Drain On Your Budget. Your Web site is your around-the-clock marketing department and should not be viewed merely as an electronic brochure. Make your site dynamic, user-friendly, informative, interactive, and persuasive. The low cost per impression and the relative ease of making modifications is a big plus. Phase your Web site to allow you to prioritize information and make budgeting more manageable. To drive traffic to your site, put your URL address on brochures, ads, business cards and stationary. Consider hiring a professional to optimize your site to ensure good position on the top search engines (Google, MSN, Northern Lights).
- Create a Compelling Direct Mail Piece That Motivates Prospects to Take Action. Establishing an ongoing direct mail program is a cost effective and efficient way to maximize exposure. Of equal importance is your mailing list. Consider purchasing lists from a list broker. One word of caution – – be sure to ask the list broker when the list was last updated. Consumer and business lists can be streamlined to be “demographically correct.” For example, business lists can be purchased by industry code, sales volume, number of employees, etc. Compliment traditional direct mail efforts with an e-mail campaign to pick-up even more steam!
- Maintain a Positive Attitude. Positive energy pays-off in a big way. Attitude is pivotal to your organization’s success. We must continually reinvent ourselves since fresh ideas lead to growth. So, break out of your comfort zone and try something new.
Stacey Cohen is president of Co-Communications, Inc., a full-service marketing/public relations firm located in Mount Kisco, NY. She can be reached at (914) 666-0066 or via e-mail, Stacey@cocommunications.com.