Are You Ready To Hire A Marketing Firm?


Every business owner is faced with the similar options and approaches to handling their communications strategy and campaigns.  Most start by trying it themselves, because they believe they know their business best, and want to give a try at the “fun stuff” – like marketing and advertising.

Like many businesses, you might also consider hiring a full or part-time marketing assistant or consultant.  Before you do…ask yourself this: When your business needs electrical work do you do it yourself? Hire an electrician to be on staff full-time? Or ask your plumber to handle it?

Bring in the Experts.

Though simple marketing and advertising might seem simple enough to do yourself, nothing hurts as much as a costly misfire.  Not only will you send the wrong message to a very busy public, but your budget will likely suffer and you’ll be in no position to recover or redirect the funds and time wasted.  The fact is, no one can do the job as effectively and efficiently as someone who lives and breathes the industry everyday.

Seeing the forest and the trees.

With any luck, the consultant you hire will bring with them an objective opinion and a fresh perspective.  It’s easy for many business owners to lose perspective on their brand as they become immersed in daily operations.  When you’re managing the minutia of business, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.  Often, a business’ marketing will reflect this, and the actual benefits of a product or service is lost to a detailed description of its functions and product details.  All emotion is lost in the pitch, and as such, isn’t received by the intended audience.

If you add another ball, technically it is juggling.

Even if you give the added tasks of marketing to an employee, attention is being taken away from other important responsibilities and projects.  Consultants on the other hand, are dedicated to one, and only one, important portion of your business.  The right one will stay focused on your brand’s image and sales – allowing you to keep your attention on other important development projects and goals.

Be Like Gumby.

The right consultant will remain very flexible, and should be ready to take on an assignment at a moment’s notices.  The ease of getting a project started is just a phone call away from being put into production.  Conversely, hiring a new employee to handle your marketing takes time to advertise, interview, and sort through candidates – often to find you may or may not have committed to the overhead of an employee.

The C- Word

Hiring a marketing consultant or firm may not require a long-term Commitment.  When a marketing firm completes a project, they have the flexibility to move into whatever position you need, from quarterly analysis, to basic maintenance, to completely out of the picture while remaining on the sidelines when you’re ready to take a new step forward.

Whatever your stage in business, it’s worth your time to set clear strategic goals for your marketing budget – and spend it wisely.  Investing in a professional or team of consultants to help you execute your campaign will not only save you money in the long run, but deliver greater results for your investment.

Do you work with a marketing firm?  If so…we’d love to hear about your experience!

Smart Branding: Online and Offline


Few products or services can reach the level of brand recognition that the millions of ad dollars help create.  Few businesses have the resources or expertise to achieve those levels, but that doesn’t mean that corporate or business branding should be overlooked in strategy and planning.

Branding is much more about creating and keeping a clear, unified vision of a company, with all of its marketing efforts focused on supporting that one central theme….the customer’s experience.

Website and Social Media

I think nearly everyone can agree that a website is a key element for branding any business today.  As the internet continues to grow in popularity as a primary place of commerce, the competition to truly “stand out from the crowd” become more and more difficult to achieve.  And so, the importance of your website continues to grow with the market as one of the key places your brand “lives”.

The explosion of social networking platforms has created a whole other arena for online branding. While having a solid social media presence is another important channel to consider for your brand, using it well becomes even more of a challenge. When you communicate with your customers through social sites like Facebook and Twitter,  you create the kind of direct engagement that can lead to real customer loyalty.

But, while incorporating your brand image (logo) and messages in your social media outreach is smart, nothing is as powerful as engaging your clients and prospects in real dialogue, and helping to spread their messages to your followers as well.   This “social reciprocity” creates a public image of interaction that can strengthen your relationships – and even more importantly, elevate the level of your brand in the competitive market.

The most important thing to remember with a website and social media is that it should remain true in message and presentation to every offline endeavor. If you have a general look to your printed materials, flyers and brochures, the website should capture as many of those conventions as possible. The more unified your on-line and offline marketing is, the more successful they will be in branding your company as a whole.

Logo Products and Community Engagement

Many businesses can also benefit from offline promotions and marketing with logo products and community engagement. While branded promotional items may seem like an unnecessary expense to many emerging or struggling businesses, the reality is these little tokens and reminders can go a long way toward increasing your brand’s perception and reach.  Granted, people may not make a purchase decision based on whose company pen is more stylish, but when it does come time to make the sale decision, they may just be reminded of your offering through that one small investment in a promotional item..

Physically reaching out to your local community is another great way to get people interacting with, and learning more about your brand.   Something  as simple as a one page flyer can be available in group settings that can make all the difference in your sales strategy.  But even more powerful that collateral, supporting a non-profit cause (“Cause Marketing”) may be the most effective of all.  Showing that your company cares about a cause is one of the fastest ways to attract, and maintain a solid list of loyal clients.

No matter if you’re offline or online marketing, branding is key to your business.  Smart branding is using all of the methods at your disposal to increase the visibility of your brand name, and when you leverage your website and social media together as one unified effort, deploy your logo cleverly and embrace your local community, you create a marketing mix that can take your company brand to a new level.

What “marketing mix” has worked (or not worked) for your brand recently?

Got IMC?


We marketers LOVE our acronyms.  Many times, they’re used to convey complex concepts that are difficult to explain in a sentence or two.  Other times, our love for abbreviation is a simple way to make us look more intelligent that we really are – or worse yet, give importance to a topic or trend that’s easily explained in more simple language.

Whatever your perspective on the language of marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC, is something that you should both embrace, and evaluate for your brand.

What (formally) is IMC?  Wikipedia says it: ” is the coordination and integration of all marketing communication tools, avenues, functions and sources within a company into a seamless program that maximizes the impact on consumers and other end users at a minimal cost.”  As a basic understanding of the concept, I’d agree – but there is much, much more to this important concept.

True, IMC is when all of your marketing communications work as one effort in unison.  Your printed materials/collateral, website, advertising, mail campaigns, PR and social media must speak with “one voice”…. in “one language”… at “one time”.    Consistency of your language and tone (or “voice”) is key to all of your internal and external communications – or what I like to call “touch points”.

But really …is that it?  Don’t we expect that we all strive to have one voice in a well-organized, collaborated campaign?  Of course we do – that’s nothing new.

More than your communication efforts, IMC is about integrating your customer into your company/brand.

More than what you think your customers need, truly effective IMC is becoming honestly responsive to your customer’s insights, desires and wishes…. and then crafting your company and its products to fill those needs.  IMC dedicated companies are much closer to their customers – they welcome them in their strategic thinking and planning.  They truly want to achieve the best for their clients changing interests.

IMC is for smart brands.  How are you integrating your customer’s opinions and perceptions directly into your marketing efforts?  Are you truly listening to them, and acting on their input?  Or are you faking it and using IMC as an excuse to do what you really want?

What examples of great IMC do you see in today’s market?  We’d like to know what you think is working now for your brand.

Measuring Your Social Media


courtesy gerardbabbits.com

Yes…it can be done…and with accuracy.  Brand awareness is still a major goal, but metrics play a key role in measuring the ROI from your investment in time – or your client’s investment in you.  Start with the goal… then determine the time you think it should take to achive – then measure your results for the two.  It’s not as difficult as you’d think.  Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:

For Facebook

So much expectation around this platform that it’s quickly become the defacto leader in the social media mix.  There are plenty of tools and demos you can work with, a few of which really help measure your success:

  • How many times was your promotion message liked?
  • If you launched your own Facebook application, how many times was it actually installed and shared?
  • Did you actually reach your targeted audience?  Check in with Facebook Insights for some guidance.
  • What was your investment into your Facebook campaign in dollard, and how does that compare with the cost-per-click, or better yet, amount of new sales?

The Viral Blog

Blogger outreach programs are key to public relations these days.  For the money, it’s quickly becoming a cost-effective way to spread your brand’s message.

  • Use Google Alerts to find out just how many bloggers are talking about you.
  • Do your research to find out what comments they received.
  • Measure your web traffic both before, and after the campaign.

The Tweet

Immediate results – for la fraction of a penny on an impression. Twitter is quickly becoming the go-to application to launch a brand. Measuring your impact on Twitter is fairly simple to uncover:

  • How many times was your hashtag used?
  • Who retweeted your posts?
  • If you have a vanity URL – how many times was it accessed and used?
  • Of course, how many new followers did you gain?  Be sure to eliminate the growing army of spammers who really arent’ engaged with you.

Video, Video, Video

Perhaps our personal favorite, YouTube (Vimeo, Viddler, etc.) are quickly becoming THE tool of choice.  Try to discover:

  • What is your new views count?
  • Did you receive any “likes”?
  • What was the download count for your video?
  • Did you gain new subscribers to your channel?
  • How many social shares did you track?

These suggestions just begin to scratch the surface of possibilities for measuring your campaign.  New tools to help you do this spring up like dandelions in a field of grass.  The key is to truly define your goals before you start…and establish your form of measurement well before taking any steps toward a launch.

After all…without an accurate way to measure your efforts, why even start?

What are YOU doing to measure your campaigns?  What successes/failures have you experienced that might help others?

How about you – how are you measuring your campaigns and defining success?

Smarter Marketing In Today’s Economy


Without doubt, your business has been somehow affected by today’s economic slump.  One of the very first things that companies often cut back is their marketing expense – which is a little like cutting out the muscle, and not the fat.  Given that the reduced ability to make a sale is a common theme for nearly everyone, smarter marketing strategies and tactics can be a lesson in survival, and not simply growth.

So what should you consider in your marketing budget that might help you sustain your business in today’s economic challenge?  Consider a few of these suggestions to help you become more efficient, while still remaining effective:

  • Carefully review your cost per thousand for alternative media vehicles and be even more selective about choosing your target audience.
  • Perhaps you can commit to a longer advertising campaign cycle to lock-in lower rates, while incorporating additional value-added tacktics for editorial, features or promotions that support your investment as a long-term advertiser.
  • Develop creative ways to incentivize your sales team to get them to concentrate on landing new business.
  • Search out cost-effective public relations tactics that will keep your company or product’s name in front of your target audience.
  • Team up with other businesses that may offer complementary products, then create some kind of  offer to be sent to each others customer base.
  • Frequently check-in with your advertising publishers for ‘remnant’ space, and be sure to get your name on their list for last-minute cancellations.  Be sure to consider having some standard sized ads ready for use at a moment’s notice.
  • Consider a consistent email marketing campaign to stay in touch with current customers. This can be a fairly inexpensive and low-cost way to support your brand presence with them, while offering them unique email based offers.
  • Consider approaching potential partners that we’re previously unreachable.  They may be more willing to partner with you now than ever before.
  • Don’t be afraid to target customers of your competition. It never hurts to keep them informed of your progress, and ask again for their business.

Keeping up your brand presence in these slower economic times will help position you to take advantage of the inevitable time that the market returns to a stronger climate.  Don’t waste this opportunity to place your company or product, and take advantage by getting a true head start in the strengthening economy.

What steps have you taken that you feel will be to your advantage in the months ahead?

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