THE MARKETING FORUM

An interactive forum for marketers to share their marketing hints, tips, creative ideas, and success stories.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Is Your Marketing Communications Budget Adequate?


















How do you decide on how much budget you need each year to fulfill the marketing communications tactics that coincide with your company's marketing plan? Well, the typical approach is to list the tactics and then list the total cost. Then management looks at the total cost and says to cut somewhere. But where do you cut? While this is not the optimal way to create a marketing communications budget, sad to say, it is how most companies handle this task.

A better way is to develop a marketing communications plan synergistically with the marketing plan to ensure that the marketing goals and objectives are fully being supported. The marcom plan should also outline the key messages, branding messaging, and overall corporate image that the company wants to project. So, first of all, budget, then create your message and then issue your list of tactics.

Many companies use a percentage of sales approach. Consult your industry's main trade association to see if they have any research data available as to an average marketing communications budget for your particular industry. It typically will be represented as a percentage of sales. While this is a standard approach, you also need to consider where your products are in their life cycle. Are they mature? Is there a new competitor entering the playing field? Are you repositioning your product to grow market share? Is your industry growing or shrinking? Are you planning to market that product into other markets?

So, what should be included in the marcom budget? Strictly any promotional and advertising expenses. Your marcom budget should not include the salaries of the staff, travel expenses or other overhead expenses. The marcom budget should include all of the expenses to get a marcom project completed including design, printing, digital media, etc. Printing the company's letterhead and stationery, for example, should not be included.

If you are severely underfunding your marketing communications efforts, specifically compared to your competitors, then you need to decide if you are really serious about making your company successful.

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Keys to Developing a Creative Brief

Creative Brief

























Do you regularly use a creative brief when you are developing or implementing marketing programs? You may have had to complete this type of form if you typically work with an in-house creative services department or an external advertising agency. But did you know a creative brief can be very helpful to marketing personnel when you need to involve various groups within your company to develop marketing materials? Here are a few key items of information you should include in your creative brief.

Provide a brief overview of the project.
This is the big picture. You don't have to go into great detail at this point. Describe the main concept and what you want to accomplish with the project.

Describe the main objective of the campaign.
What do you want to accomplish with the campaign, marketing literature, advertisement, etc? Do you want to increase awareness of your product or your company? Do you want to generate leads for the sales organization?Do you want to educate your audience on a certain topic? You've probably heard of the SMART approach. Make sure the objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Describe the target audience.
To whom are you directing the marketing program? Try to be more specific than just the usual demographics. State the current attitudes/beliefs and objections that your audience may currently have. Analyze why the audience hasn't purchased your product. Put yourself in the audience's shoes, so to speak. Better yet, do some market research if you don't know the answer to this question. The more detailed you can get about the audience, the better understanding you will have of what motivates the audience to purchase your products.

Describe the current situation.
What strategies are currently working? How do you need to modify your current marketing strategy to better communicate the benefits of your product to your audience? Why is this marketing project needed? What do you hope to accomplish by implementing the project?

What behavior do you want to change?
After assessing the current behavior, attitudes, and beliefs, describe the behavior you want to change and describe how you hope to accomplish this. Also add a measurement component so that you can measure the current behavior and then measure any changes that occur in a certain amount of time, whether that is 3 months, 6 months or a year timeframe.

What should be the tone of marketing piece?
Is this an upbeat, fun, or edgy tone? Or do you want to have more of an educational tone? Are you targeting very conservative individuals? Or do you want to convey innovation, youthfulness, or radical thinking?

Be specific on the key message of the campaign.
Please don't put everything but the kitchen sink into your message. Try to determine one key, succinct message. If you try to tell your audience too much at once, they won't understand your message at all. Basically, create an elevator spiel. In seven words or less, state your message. If you do need to have a secondary message, please don't have more than 3 key points. Studies show that 3 is the magic number.

Create a timeline.
Plan the entire project or campaign in detail. You can easily develop a spreadsheet with all of the details of the plan including graphic design time, approval deadlines, final drop dead date for materials. For example, if this is an advertisement, what is the drop dead date that the ad materials are due to the publication.

Gather all of the material you need to get started.
For example, media kits, market research reports, previous ads or brochures, competitive brochures, and key websites can be used as resource material. Compile a list of the team members, including their contact information, job responsibility for the project, approval level, etc.

So, why should you use a creative brief? It's a great way to keep all of the team members on track so that deadlines are met. It also helps to ensure everyone is agreement with the scope of the project, objectives, and strategies. So, the next next time you have a marketing project, try writing a creative brief, and you'll find that the workflow progresses more smoothly.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Be Passionate About Marketing

Have your marketing tactics changed in the last 5 to 7 years? If not, then you should get up to date on some of the new digital marketing techniques available.

Being classically trained in marketing, I know that some of you are probably having difficulty embracing the "new" marketing. It really isn't all that difficult. Just don't get overwhelmed. Keep trying new things, test, and see what works for you and what doesn't. But, above all, be patient. Here are some tips to help you get started:


  1. Your products and services are more important than ever. Social media like Twitter and Facebook, review sites like Yelp, and even industry blog sites where your products and services are mentioned should be monitored closely. Products and services are under a microscope these days. So, you should deliver the best you can at every touch point. You really can't take down a negative comment. But you do need to address any comments, whether positive or negative. Embrace the negative comments and learn from them. Negative comments will help you to improve your products or put new processes in place to better serve your customers. Learn from your mistakes. So join the digital conversation.
  2. Integrate your work group to be effective. I'm sure in most established companies Marketing, PR, and IT are all separate entities and rarely communicate with each other. To be effective in today's marketing climate, all of those groups should be integrated and communicate regularly. Provide each other feedback and share knowledge and data about customer interaction with your company. In other words, break down the silos within your company.
  3. Data, data, data. Understand your digital. Understand your data. Understand your customer. Gathering data can be as simple as using Google Analytics or doing a search on the Internet. But, know what people are saying about you and your company. Know your customer's buying habits. Find out what they look at, read, review. Distill down the data from your various marketing channels such as SEO, email, banner ads, loyalty programs or subscriptions. Determining the cost per channel will help you make more intelligent decisions on the best channels for your company's prospects.
  4. Test. Test. Test. Making a headline change in a blog article or online press release can make all of the difference in the world as to how many people will share your information on the various social media sites. Use adaptive design techniques to personalize information for each individual. Track what people are viewing and provide them the information they want.
  5. Content is king. Hire the right individuals for your organization. You will need people who can develop content. Provide value to your customers. Provide ebooks or definitive guides about your products and services.
  6. Push the boundaries. Be passionate about your products and services. You need that passion to drive the customer experience.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best Practices for Selecting a Marketing Agency

Whether your company is small or large chances are you do need some sort of marketing and advertising support to help you market your products or services. When you are busy developing your product, getting it into production and deciding which sales channels you need for distribution, your marketing efforts can sometimes fall by the wayside. Your product will not sell itself. You do need a way to get people to know that your product exists. That's where a marketing/advertising/public relations agency comes in. Here are few tips to help you select an agency:

1. Make a list of the services you need.
Advertising agencies in the past were just that. All they did was handle print advertising and television or radio commercials. But an agency today needs to be savvy with the new media like social media, online advertising, and content marketing as well as the traditional advertising opportunities of the past. So, make sure when you select an agency that they are well rounded and provide more than just design or advertising services. If you can find an agency that bundles advertising, marketing and public relations together, you will have continuity in your messaging, content, and graphic style versus hiring three individual agencies that only are expert in one area. Not to mention save money by combining services.

2. Create a list of potential agencies.
Where do you start looking for a marketing agency? The best way is to ask for a referral from one of your customers or ask other companies in your industry who they use. You can also get a wealth of information on the Internet about marketing agencies. And, don't feel like geography needs to be restricted. I've worked with companies throughout the USA. Now that email, FTP sites, web-based meetings, teleconferences, etc. are available, there is no need to search for an agency that is in your backyard.

3. Set up one-on-one meetings with potential agencies.
Before you even develop an RFP, select a handful of agencies based on your referrals and research and ask them if they can meet with you either in person or via a WebEx meeting so they can present their capabilities and you can get a feel if they will be a good strategic partner for your company. No use in wasting time or money sending out dozens of RFPs if the agency is not a fit for your company, has exorbitant rates, or has no experience in your industry. Remember this is a relationship. It is a two-way street. The agency also needs to feel comfortable with you and your industry.

4. Develop a Request for Proposal (RFP)
Rule no. 1…DO NOT let your legal department or procurement department write the RFP for you. You know what you need in an agency so ask the pertinent questions you need answered. In general, here is an example of information you should include in your RFP:
  • Provide a brief corporate overview of your company, industry, and products including a mission statement. Make sure you include the reason you are performing the agency review. And indicate if your current ad agency will also be involved in the review process.
  • Don't forget to provide contact information including the primary contact as well as a secondary contact. In case the agency has questions, they will have a resource to contact. In addition, include all of the other people who will be involved in the review and indicate if the decision will be made by a committee or one person in the marketing department.
  • Provide the scope of the services you need and any specific project milestones or schedules.
  • List the criteria that you will use for selecting the agency, such as specific capabilities, years in business, types of clients serviced, etc. And please get a list of their clients current as well as past. You want to make sure the agency understands your business; however, you also want to make sure that they are not currently working for one of your competitors.
  • Also include the terms of service, that is how long you would engage the agency if they are selected. A one-year term is advisable and your company should do an agency review on an annual basis. If the selected agency is doing a great job then, of course, you would renew their contract for an additional term.
  • Client references are also important. You do need to do your homework and ask a sampling of their clients what they like and don't like about the agency. Do not skip this assignment.
  • Last but not least, ask them for a breakdown of expenses for the services provided, deliverables, and project schedules or other planning information. Specify in your RFP if you prefer a retainer or if your company pays on a project-by-project basis. Also indicate the amount of revenue or budget that is available for agency activities. Remember the agency is interviewing you, too. A large agency may not be interested if the proposition is not lucrative enough for them. So, don't waste your time on agencies that either will not respond to your RFP or don't want to work with your company. But most of all, don't waste the agency's time in the development of a proposal unless you are really serious about retaining an agency.
  • Include a section in your RFP how you will work with the agency. Who are the principals who will interact with the account executive? Is it someone from your marketing or marcom department? Do you have input meetings and provide background information or written creative briefs for each project?
5. Give the agency a trial run.
Before you make a long-term commitment with any agency, you may want to try them out on one or two projects to see how they perform. Once a good working relationship is established then a longer term commitment can be made.

So whether you are searching for your first agency or are in the process of an agency review, take these guidelines to heart and your search will be much easier and more rewarding.

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Heirloom Marketing

We've all heard of heirloom tomatoes and other such fruits and vegetables. You've probably seen them at your local grocery store. If you haven't tried them yet, you are missing the great taste you might remember from your childhood. Heirloom means that the plant was produced from original seed from older plants (before genetic modification or hybridization techniques were used). So, it's wonderful that we can bring back those great flavors of yesteryear.

But have you ever thought about heirloom marketing? That is, marketing how we used to market? Have we gotten so far away from good old-fashioned marketing techniques from the "mad men" era of marketing and advertising? Don't forget that social media, content marketing and all of the new fancy terminology and technology that we use today should still have good solid marketing principles at their core. So, let's get back to the basics of marketing, shall we?

Principle No. 1: Fund your marketing strategies adequately.
I find that most marketeers tend to focus strictly on tactics. Their entire marketing plan is based on how many ads they plan to run, how many newsletters they will have time to write, or how many trade shows they will attend. And then to add insult to injury they usually do not budget enough to accomplish those tasks effectively. Generally, I find that budgets are arbitrarily set by dividing up some pot of gold into various smaller pots without any rhyme or reason. And then management wonders why there weren't enough leads generated, sales made, or revenue increased. So better to do less well than to do a lot of tasks poorly.

Principle No. 2: Keep innovating.
This comes more under the heading of product development rather than marketing. That is, your company needs to keep the product development in motion. However, even with older, reliable products, the marketing department can innovate by marketing the technology to new market segments, developing new applications, or updating the branding and messaging.

Principle No. 3: Target and segment your market.
I find that most companies I work with have a tendency to blast out their message to anyone who will listen. Now that we do have all of these new technologies like sales automation we can better target and segment our market. But, you do need to define that market first. Start with a few demographics like age group, job function, geographic location, etc. Then customize your message to your target audience. For example, if someone attended a trade show and requested some information, don't send them information on an unrelated topic. Focus on what they are interested in now. It shows that you are listening to their needs.

Principle No. 4: Stay in touch with customers and prospects on a regular schedule.
There is nothing worse than getting too much information from a company. We are all bombarded with emails on a daily basis. But, only communicating with your target market once in a blue moon will not keep your name or product top of mind when that prospect is in the market for your product at some time in the future. I once had a prospect of mine say that "I bugged him just enough." I took that as a compliment since that prospect turned into a client about 6 months down the road when they were looking for a new marketing agency.

Principle No. 5: Use the new technology that is available.
I'm certainly not against using social media, content marketing, sales automation or any of the other technologies available today. They make marketing that much easier. So embrace the new technology and use it to help you strategize, gather data about the market and your prospects, or learn more about the buying behaviors of your target market. However, please don't put your marketing program on auto pilot and assume that your Twitter account will make the sales for you. There needs to be a person behind the account with an engagement strategy in place. Engagement is key to success these days. But also providing value to your customers and prospects is also key. People are hungry for knowledge and information. So, provide your customers what they seek. But, please refer to Principle No. 4 and provide them the information they need and don't bombard them with other extraneous  information.

So think about heirloom marketing next time you are posting to your Facebook or Twitter account.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why You Should Use Twitter to Promote Your Business

Almost everyone has heard of Twitter. You know, the micro-blogging service where you send a 140-character message to people who are following you. So, why would you want to use such a site to promote your company, your message, or your expertise? Well, it's an easy way to interact with customers and prospective customers in a fast, concise manner. You can use it for many different purposes such as:
  • Promoting your brand
  • Interacting with your customers
  • Tracking what people are saying about your company or your products.
  • Hear what people are saying about your competition.
  • Create a buzz about a trade show or other corporate events.
  • Promote your blog content, webinars or podcasts you produce.
  • Generate leads and interest in your company or products.
So, how do you get started with this technology? It's really easy. Here are a few easy steps:
  • Set up a company account. This is a good way to represent your company to your customers base. You can give real-time updates about your company activities, offer customer, service and technical support. You can also set up multiple employee accounts. For example, you may want an account for investor relations if your company is public, a separate customer service account, or even product-specific accounts. But, make sure the employees who are responsible for updating these accounts, use common sense in what they post. You do need to create some corporate guidelines as to who can post and what they can post, especially if you are a public company or have Regulatory requirement. Log on to Twitter. Decide your username. If you are creating a corporate account, you an abbreviation of your company name. If you are setting up a personal or individual account, use your real name or use a combination of the company and personal name.
  • Set up your profile. Now that your Twitter account has been opened, you can start personalizing it. Click on Edit your Profile and upload a photo. Rather than just a company logo, it's always best to show a picture of a real live person. People like to put a face to the name. Add your location such as city and state. Add a link to your company website, blog, or LinkedIn profile. Just another way for people to find out more about your company. Add a short description of your company. Think "elevator pitch". Keep it short and sweet and to the point but descriptive enough so that your followers will know who you are. You also have the option to protect your tweets. But, why be on Twitter if your tweets are protected. That means that only your followers can see your updates. Many people will not follow people who have protected tweets.
  • Upload a background to make your Twitter page more esthetically pleasing. You most likely already have some artwork in-house that you can use. it's always good to add additional information such as your website, blog, Facebook or LinkedIn URLs. Make sure your background is professional looking. After all, Twitter is like any other promotional piece that you would produce. Make sure it complements your current branding. You'll want to make sure your company logo is shown on the background. It's better to use one image rather than tile the background. And use the left hand side of the background image for your important information.
  • Now that your account is all set up, just start tweeting. What do you want to share about your company? If you have a blog, it's easy to post a link to an article on your blog. Are you attending an event? Tweet about that. You can also retweet or post someone else's content if the information is relative to your followers. You can even post a link to a "how to" video. The possibilities are limitless. You'll feel more comfortable tweeting as you gain some confidence.
About the Author
Sheila T. Brann is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, business owner, and marketing coach. She specializes in Marketing and Strategic Planning and has over 20 years of business-to-business marketing experience. She is the Founder and President of KIWI Communications, Inc., a full-service marketing, advertising, public relations, and social media consulting firm that specializes in the biotech, life sciences, medical device, and high-tech industries.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Engagement is the Key to an Effective Press Release Strategy

Content is at the heart of a well-executed press release. But engagement is even more important. Since you are now able to interact directly with your target audience with online press releases, you'll want to push them to take action. So, set a goal for each press release. It could be to sell your product, generate leads, get people to sign-up for your announcements, etc. You can easily drive the reader to an e-commerce site, a "contact us" form, or a donate link if you're a non-profit organization. Sending out press releases on a regular basis lends credibility to your company and your products. It can show your expertise and show that you are a trusted resource.

So, how do you drive people to your website with a press release? It's pretty easy but it must be executed well. For example, if you put out a press release about a new eNewsletter that you have developed, direct the reader to a landing page that provides more information on the newsletter. You can even send them to archived issues in case they may want to see the types of content before signing up. Be sure you have a sign-up form on your landing page to make it easy for the reader to get more information or to make a decision to join your mailing list.
Whatever you are offering to the reader, make sure it is something of value, for example, awhite paper, online demo, or a trial offer.

No matter how great you think your press release is, make sure you measure the results. You can use web metrics and some of the online distribution services also offer reports. Continually tweak and evaluate what you did right and what you did wrong. That's the only way you'll improve your content selection and ensure that you are providing information that your readers crave.

About the Author
Sheila T. Brann is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, business owner, and marketing coach. She specializes in Marketing and Strategic Planning and has over 20 years of business-to-business marketing experience. She is the Founder and President of KIWI Communications, Inc., a full-service marketing, advertising, public relations, and social media consulting firm that specializes in the biotech, life sciences, medical device, and high-tech industries.

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