Oct 19 2009

If we build it better why don’t they come?

by Jeff Propper

One of the most often asked question of small and medium businesses is: “how can we unseat our competition”? Often times, the incumbent supplier has the benefit of a long-standing relationship, along with a reputation of quality products and services.  This is understandably, a serious issue when you may have a better solution, at a better price and even better service.  I call it the “if we build it better why don’t they come?” syndrome.  They don’t come because customers don’t want to take chances.  Most people will avoid risky decisions, even when their current supplier makes mistakes.

How do we change this behavior?

It can be changed, but it takes time and money. What’s more, it takes building a reputation. Creating a promise and making good on it time after time, influencing your target market, and in other words, even SMBs must build a brand!  Sometimes, simply saying the word “brand” sends shudders through the very beings of senior management.  “Build a brand? Those are only for big companies who can afford it—not us!”

Let’s take it one step at a time.

Building a brand for your SMB doesn’t have to cost multi-millions of dollars, but in order to be successful you must think SYNERGY. Remember we’re talking about a building process, not an instant solution. In the brand building process you start with the basics, and those basics include asking the right questions:

  • Assess who you are: What is your company’s corporate culture?  What is the perception of the company in the marketplace?  Does your reputation reflect the true nature of your company? What is it about your company that makes you better/different than your competition?
  • What do you stand for? What core values best describe your company?
  • What can your company promise? A distinct, clear, attainable brand promise must be articulated.  Example: GE.  imagination at work.  The perception of a high quality company dedicated to turning imaginative ideas into leading products and services that in-turn make our lives better.

Building your brand is not just advertising.

Your brand must be incorporated into every aspect of your company. From your corporate culture and customer interface, to advertising, social media, internet marketing and public relations.  Your brand personality must come through consistently.  Example: The Body Shop has developed programs that reflect its core identity called Values and Campaigns.  It contributes to rain forest preservation efforts, is active in women’s issues and even has a program called COMMUNITY TRADE that embodies their commitment to trading fairly and responsibly with suppliers.  The Body Shop’s vision carries right through to the in-store experience.  Walk into a store, and you’re greeted by a salesperson wearing a T-shirt with both the logo and a social message.

In the end, building a brand for your SMB takes time, effort, commitment and money.  It’s not a quick fix.  It’s a long-term strategy that leads to growth, profitability and stability. After all, don’t you want your company to be your customer’s “supplier of choice” no matter what?

Jul 6 2009

Tourism Queensland Smart Integrated Marketing Strategy

by Andrew DiFiore

This month Ben Southall, the winning applicant of The Best Job in the World, officially assumes his duties as the Caretaker of a group of islands off the coast of Queensland, which includes maintaining a weekly video blog. By now you have heard about the massively successful marketing campaign put on by the Australian government to raise global awareness about the islands of the Great Barrier Reef  and attract more tourists to this breathlessly beautiful region (lets hope it stays that way).

Tourism Queensland broke the story via traditional media and then sustained the buzz through social networks including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. The web site for the contest received a million hits the day after its launch. By the time the campaign was done it had attracted 34,684 applicants from 201 countries and generated over $150 million worth of international publicity (including a BBC documentary), all on a $1.2 million budget. Watch the video above for the full case study.

Although similar in concept to the ING Direct Professional Fan campaign launched last year to increase people’s engagement with Spanish F1 driver Fernando Alonso, this was nevertheless brilliantly executed by CumminsNitro which recently won three Grand Prix awards at this 2009 Cannes Advertising Festival.

I like this campaign as a good example of a smart integrated marketing strategy. It doesn’t hurt that Tourism Queensland has a great product to promote (who wouldn’t love to visit paradise) but they didn’t decide to just run full page ads in Traveller magazine or ask Tony Wheeler to blog about it on Lonely Planet, no, the The Best Job in the World combined both old and new media channels in an extremely effective manner. Each element of the campaign had its part to play but what really made this smart was facilitating real people to help tell the story: first through video responses (over 600 hours of user-generated content) and then ongoing engagement via branded social media pages (e.g. Facebook).  This in turn created a viral phenomenon so compelling that mainstream media outlets had to cover it (free publicity). And it was done without sex or shock! Imagine that.

Jun 29 2009

Managing Business in this Economy

by Bill Amirault

You just found out your staff and budget are being cut, a common reality in this economic climate. This scenario is the norm at most companies, it just depends on the severity and duration. If the reductions are 10-20% (you can manage it), 25-40% (it will hurt), 45-60% (brace yourself), 65% or more (you may be the one turning off the lights). So to chart the proper path forward, you need to take stock of the situation and the company on several levels.

1) Does the company philosophy and competitive situation indicate that marketing dollars are (a) an investment like R&D or (b) an expense like paper clips? It’s always some of both, but the former situation provides much more flexibility and opportunity with future programs than the latter.

2) What’s the actual or perceived ROI for each Marketing program? This is ultimately the litmus test for any advertising, promotion, PR, sales and/or e-Marketing event. The better you can measure this, the more likely your programs will have continuity.

3) What % of sales are normally devoted to R&D, Marketing, Sales, etc.? What will those percentages be after budget changes? If R&D receives funding any time it’s requested and you have to conduct a mid-Eastern bazaar for every dollar, it will be an uphill battle.

4) Where are the majority of your customers in the purchase cycle (awareness, consideration, trial, repeat, loyalty) and how are they faring in this climate?

For your loyal and repeat (meaning somewhat loyal) customers, make sure they don’t find a reason to go to a competitor at this time. Since you have established relationships, you may be able to cancel an expensive convention or road show, but still have to keep communications open by phone, email, blog, etc. to ensure they know any developments in your business that can benefit them.

If the purchase cycle is long enough so that your customers are effectively new each time, cutting back now could be disastrous, no matter what the CFO says.

5) Is this downturn really an opportunity to take a long a look at current and previous programs and either refresh them or overhaul them completely? Technology has helped make communications and even promotion programs more cost effective. But, before jumping on the social media bandwagon, for instance, make sure there’s a real business reason, and return, for everything you do.

6) Are there real customer opportunities out there that you may have missed because your message and targeting have been slightly off line, or just focused on customers who aren’t supporting you as they have previously?

So, what to do?  Your answers to the above questions will go a long way toward refining your strategy in the best possible way.  Here are some additional guidelines:

* Focus on those programs you know have a guaranteed return, with a caveat…  Familiarity can lead to complacency and mediocrity, even with reasonable returns.  One B2C company I worked with got so enamored with Sunday newspaper coupons (they’re easy to see, measure and bring instant spikes to weekly sales — like a direct mail program may be for your) that they didn’t realize how much overall returns had declined through the years.  These promotions also missed a very large % of the real target audience.  Make sure your programs are updated from a messaging and a delivery standpoint.

* Tighten up your strategy, positioning, branding, communications and media to ensure consistency and proper targeting.  Can’t emphasize this enough!!!  Though it’s easy to rely on those inside the company to chart the course, the far better approach is to focus on what the market needs are, and how your company best addresses them.  The B2B Marketing Posse is an excellent resource for developing these insights.

* Spend 10-20%, or more, on breakthrough (for you) test programs that have been proven elsewhere.  This may seem like the last thing to do in a downturn, but if you don’t create fresh programs, you can become stagnant.

Finally, keep your chin up!  Though this economic period has been difficult for many, but as has been true in all other downturns, this too shall pass.