Improving Marketing and Marketing Communications – A Midsized Company Dilemma

You’ve slashed expenses and reduced investments to deliver your current profitability. But your sales growth is marginal at best, and you know this is not a sustainable model.

You’re not alone. According to Frost & Sullivan’s CEO Choice Growth Survey, ninety-three percent of Chief Executive Officers consider “growth” their number one objective over the next five years. And with an ever increasing need to use the latest “sales deal-of-the-day” to meet quarterly goals, you know you can’t profitably continue this course much longer. Further, and perhaps of even greater importance, marketing budgets have also been cut drastically, impacting brand value for the short, as well as long, term.

One tactic you should consider to begin “righting the ship” is to invest in and improve marketing and marketing communications to grow both the top and bottom lines. But where to begin? How to do this? Using which marketing tools? And with whom?

Understand The Changing Marketing Environment
First, you must recognize that there is a changing marketing environment. Businesses and consumers are learning to “do more with less”, while also having less time to evaluate choices and make purchase decisions.

Therefore, the most fundamental change revolves around one word – trust.

With all that has happened, people distrust not just the most traditional of institutions – banks – but business in total. According to a survey by Edelman, only 44 percent of Americans said they trusted business in the Summer of 2009, down from 58 percent in the Fall of 2007. Whether you’re a b-to-c, b-to-b, or even a nonprofit, how you act and communicate in this environment is vital to your success.

As a first step, employ market research. You probably think you know everything about your existing and potential customers but, other than price, are you really sure you know what’s important to them? And do you know what factors are critical to their purchase decisions, and how much trust they place on you to deliver versus your competition? And with downsizing affecting everyone, and new faces in many positions, what do your new purchasers and prospects know about you to begin with? It’s time to find out.

And these changes are taking place not just in the outside world. Your internal corporate environment has changed as well. With already stretched marketing and sales departments, are the leads generated by marketing actually being followed up by sales? A recent study by the Kern Organization estimates that up to 80 percent of b-to-b leads are not followed up by sales, and only 13 percent are followed up in the first 90 days. Why? Because sales doesn’t trust the leads from marketing as being qualified.

Whether you’re a $35 million organization or a $350 million organization, without recognizing and developing solutions to meet the needs of a fundamentally changed environment, your growth and brand will stagnate.

The economy may improve and help you, but it most probably will also help your competitors as well. So, now is the time to get an edge on them by improving your marketing and marketing communications.

Determine Your Best Marketing Mix And Measure It
There isn’t any boilerplate answer to determine which marketing communications disciplines to employ, much less whether your brand position is right for today’s marketplace. But there are steps you should take to answer these questions.

Focus your attention on being media neutral or at least find advisors who are, and are seasoned professionals with broad experience across industries and companies who don’t have a vested interest in promoting a particular marketing communications discipline.

And recognize that all of the hard work that goes into today’s marketing and marketing communications needs to be measured to make sure you’re on the right track. Find an individual or company that really understands analytics and what it means for the future.

Which Media To Employ – New Or Traditional
The next question is how to effectively and efficiently reach these customers and prospects. Professional marketers have spent countless hours addressing this; take advantage of their knowledge and expertise.

For example, your website is probably heavily branded, but did you know that less than ten percent of your visitors will actually click through to see the important message you’re putting out there?

You’re probably sending out email newsletters, and may even be blogging and tweeting to your important audiences. But, when was the last time you handed something to your customer or prospect, and looked them in the eye? There’s no question that webinars, for example, are effective and cost efficient, but what about in-person events, seminars and trade shows?

Much of today’s marketing dilemma is appropriately focused on media fragmentation and the resulting difficulty of efficiently and effectively reaching a prospect. Newspapers and magazines are clearly losing ground, but they’re still important channels of reaching certain demographics (such as the ever growing older demographic). Contrast that with the fact that the fastest growing segment on Facebook is women, aged 55 to 65.

Determining which media alternatives to use to reach any key marketing or demographic segment means that you have to consider both efficiency and effectiveness. Traditional media and social media should be able to co-exist in your marketing communications plans. It’s just a question of when and where to use them.

The Marketing Communications End Game
Which leads us to the ultimate dilemma – how to obtain and evaluate the creative work that will impact and move your customers and prospects. Recognize that whether you use television, radio or billboards, or emails, blogs, Facebook or tweets, they are only tools to deliver your message. The strategic thinking and outright “creativity” that you employ with these tools will ultimately determine your success.

Look for strategic and creative partners, with demonstrated ability; people who are genuinely interested in profitably increasing your sales, not just trying to garner the latest industry awards.

There is much to think about, especially for a mid-sized company. The dilemma is trying to understand what to do, how to do it, and finding people you trust to help you accomplish this. But, standing still clearly isn’t the answer.

Find a senior professional, or group of professionals, whom you can trust, who can not only improve your marketing ROI but will also be willing to help you evaluate your on-going marketing communications efforts.

Don’t try to go it alone.

FOMO – Killer of Effective Marketing Communication

No matter how awesome your stuff is, it does you no good if you can’t communicate to the relevant people about it.

When you get down to the purpose of communication, it’s to GET YOUR POINT THROUGH.

Which means, if you get too convoluted in your communication you’re going to lose your audience’s attention. When your audience gets lost, you don’t get your point through and they don’t understand you have good stuff for them. You don’t get to sell your stuff, and that’s not good for business.

I see a lot of “verbal diarrhea” in most marketing communications – online and offline.

I’m guilty too. I was looking at my website homepage the other day, and I thought – what exactly do I want to communicate? If I were a first-time visitor, would I know what to do?

When I redesigned the homepage, it started out with a pretty clear objective. As time went by, I read an article here and listened to a webinar there, I thought – hey maybe I should tell people A and B, and I probably should put a link for Y and Z.

So I added A and B and Y and Z – and the homepage got mucky.

It’s not because I didn’t know Keep It Simple Sunshine is a usually a good thing – I challenge my clients to do that all the time.

It’s because I am human, and I have FOMO (fear of missing out).

Many times when I come across a “tip” or “tactic” I have the urge to add it to my marketing communication so I can tell myself I got all the ground covered and I am pulling all the strings.

Not for the sake of my audience. But for the selfish reason of pacifying my FOMO…

Forgetting that if I pull all the strings and they go in opposite directions, they would cancel out the effect of each other!

3 Simple Words for FOMO Prevention: Clarity + Discernment + Discipline

FOMO can creep up everywhere in our communications – from website to brochures to presentations.

You need a powerful filter so you can stay focused and get the point through.

1. Clarity – what do you want this piece of communication to achieve? What’s the best way to get the point through?

2. Discernment – simple, chuck whatever that don’t answer the questions above.

3. Discipline – it’s easier said than done when it comes to “chucking” stuff. Now you have the awareness, you need to train your Discipline muscle so you can execute your discernment and free your communications from FOMO.

Theory is cheap… here’s how to stay focused when you write for these common webpages:

HOMEPAGE

What’s the primary objective to support your business at the moment? Building your list? Creating an authority positioning? Showcasing your work? Launching your book? Promoting a webinar?

What’s the secondary objective?

What’s the MINIMUM amount of content, links or calls-to-action needed to support your primarily and secondary objectives?

When you put too many choices on the page, your visitors will be confused. And the confused mind says “no”.

Is your Call-To-Action that supports your primary objective loud and clear? Or has it disappeared into a sea of content? If everything is screaming, nothing can be heard.

ABOUT PAGE

Your about page is not really about you. Your readers don’t care about your entire life story unless it is relevant to why and how you can help them.

Typically, your about page needs to (1) build a personal and emotional bridge so your readers can connect with YOU and trust you; and (2) share your experience to illustrate why you are qualified to help them and how you can do so.

Your about page needs to answer the question – why are YOU, as a PERSON, relevant to helping ME solve my problem?

Just listing out your trainings and certifications is not enough – what’s your journey? What’s your unique point of view that would make me want to work with you rather than the next gal?

BLOG POSTS

Your blog on your business website is not your personal journal. Write your articles with an objective in mind.

One big idea per article, one call-to-action per article.

What do you want the article to achieve for your business? What call-to-action will help you achieve this result?

Who are you writing for, and what do they need to know to take the intended action?

If you have the tendency to ramble, have the discipline to read and re-read your articles, and DELETE anything not essential to getting the point through. (note: read and re-read, but don’t get stuck in perfectionism. You need to hit that “publish” button.)

Run-on sentences? Break them down into 2-3 smaller chunks. Big jargon-y words? Find a plain English alternative.

Run your content through a readability score tool – a 7th grader should be able to comprehend your article.

Stop FOMO from driving your marketing communications:

Clarity – know your message, how it applies to your audience, and how to position it to get the point through

Awareness – catch yourself when you are having a verbal diarrhea, and admit it

Discernment – realize what is not in alignment, what is extraneous to getting the point through

Discipline – have the guts to not yield to FOMO and cut out what doesn’t serve the purpose of the communication

Marketing Communications

Yes, you are communicating when it comes to marketing. The communication is between you and the customer. You are explaining to them why they want the product, and they are telling you why they cannot afford it. The customer usually wins and you have to stop calling them the customer. Every once in a while they stay the customer.

Marketing communications is a very lucrative field if you are any good at it. There are many tools at your disposal to perfect your craft. As any artist knows, you have to have good tools to make masterpieces. Article marketing is one of your best tools.

If you are willing to accept that you are in communication with your customer, then article marketing should come naturally. It is like you’re writing to your pin pal you never met. You are telling them about this great new thing you found out about. You’re telling them about how they have to get one. You come off very personable if you’re doing it right.

Of course, there are some products where this doesn’t work. Sometimes your ethos can’t afford too personal a relationship with the reader. You have to sound a little above the reader. Right? Wrong. There is never a time when you should try to distance yourself from the reader. Even if you are selling incredibly complex scientific equipment, you should write to the scientist like you’re old buddies. Good article marketing is very personable.

Marketing communications is very direct. It’s between you and the customer. To accomplish this you have to find niches. You will need to write a different article for every niche that you are selling to. This will keep the articles personal. It’s impossible to write one article that will be personal to everyone. People are different. You have to talk to them in a certain way. Don’t be lazy; write a lot of articles.

There are some dangers in marketing communications. If you’re too friendly you’ll admit to your customer that they don’t need the product. You have to wear your mask. This is all fiction. You don’t really know what you’re talking about. They don’t really know what they want. That’s why you work so well together.

Still, article marketing can be a rewarding process. As you get better at marketing you will enjoy communicating with the customer. You will anticipate their responses, and that will help you write better articles. You will form a bond with them, and together you will stimulate the economy. The customers are your friends. Pretend like you haven’t written to them in forever. You have so much to say and it’s all about his great new product.

Marketing communications is a large field. We’ve only discussed article marketing today. Still, that’s enough to base an entire career on. The better you get at article marketing the better you will be at marketing communications. They go hand in hand. So practice your writing skills and become a better article marketer. Your career will thank you for it.