From manufacturing companies to the service sector, businesses need to use tools to stay in business. From the most high tech contrivances to a pen and pencil, how well those tools are used has a direct correlation to the success of the business.
Highly trained professionals using the right tools with a clearly defined objective can achieve outstanding results. A master carpenter and a finely crafted tall chest of draws; a doctor with a cured patient and a grateful family; an entrepreneur with well compensated employees.
But when you put the tools in untrained hands, without set goals and well conceived plans to accomplish those goals, all you have is a recipe for failure. This concept is simple. It's basic common sense.
So why do many businesses fail to practice these simple basic business concepts and practices when it comes to marketing their business? Because they don't understand marketing.
What is marketing? It is a concept. Brochures, direct mail pieces, print advertisements, Websites, and even word of mouth are the tools for marketing. It's not rocket science, but some businesses don't recognize these as business tools because they fall out of the confines of performing the essential operations of conducting their business.
Marketing and its tools are thought of as ancillary to a business. They are all too often thought of as a necessary evil.
All too often, this perception is perpetuated by poor planning, lack of measurable goals, the wrong tools for the job, and using unskilled and/or inexperienced labor for the job. The notion, “it works well enough for us,” is oftentimes the fuel for this misperception.
But the question that ultimately nags these cynics is: “How do the other guys do it?” and “Why aren't we as successful?”
Put Marketing in the business plan
Smart marketing works. Just ask any Fortune 500 company. Every company should have a business plan, whether it's a long established business or one just starting up. If your business has a plan, great. If you don't have one, make one, and put it on paper. It makes it “real,” but not chiseled in stone. Business changes, and so can plans.
The business plan should always include a marketing plan, because a marketing strategy is most effective when it is part of an overall business strategy. The mission statement and company goals will help define the market and the allocation of resources.
A good marketing plan should be cohesive, establish measurable goals, devise short and long range tactics, and be dynamic to respond to the effects of implemented action plans. It is a living document, but with a foundation that maintains the company's mission, goals, and policies.
Market the right way
Going from the philosophical and theoretical to putting ideas into motion and implementing action plans in the real world takes people, money and time. It is not a trivial investment.
By carefully defining the targeted audience, doing the research, evaluating the media options, developing and positioning the message, and establishing the benchmarks to evaluate the success of a marketing initiative, expenditures should have a desirable effect.
Allocating resources and being committed to a marketing plan is relatively simple, but there are traditionally two major stumbling blocks – allocating the right amount of resources to achieve the targeted goal and utilizing a professional to implement it.
Hiring an experienced marketing/advertising professional or full service agency, with the right resources, is the surest way to accomplish the tasks most effectively. It is not necessarily the least expensive approach, but it provides the experience and know-how to get the biggest possible return on the investment.
From a marketing and advertising professional's perspective, the client is a treasure trove of his/her company's background/products/services, his/her industry's peculiarities and machinations, their major perceived competitors, and customer profile/needs/wants.
This research provides a launching point to define a message and identify the proper media outlets. Then creative talent, writers, graphic artists, and techies convert the message into tangible marketing tools that catches the attention of the chosen audience, conveys the desired information, and is aesthetically pleasing.
Identifying the right Professionals
Selecting the right professional is critical.
You wouldn't hire a carpenter to perform a root canal procedure, nor would you hire your dentist to create your company's Website.
Or would you? Believe it or not, there are businesses that do. Recently, a major New York area clothing outlet's owner hired his dentist to develop his business's Website, and unfortunately, the site functions and looks like his dentist developed it. But the retail store owner is happy because he has a Web presence.
Or how about the small suburban florist that had an ad announcing its opening developed and placed by the local newspaper? A part-time graphic artist and a full-time 11th grader put the ad together for a small fee. It was very attractive, but the omission of the florist's address and phone number was an oversight by everyone, until after the newspapers were delivered.
Marketing and advertising professionals have the necessary experience in the fields in which they work.
A marketing professional would not recommend a business' presence on the Internet without providing a return on the investment, regardless of how small the investment.
An advertising professional would not release an advertisement for publication without contact information, unless otherwise implied.
Businesses who hire marketing and advertising professionals and agencies do so to avoid and limit risk, and to tap into their experience, know-how, and creativity.
Selecting a professional is a time consuming process. Like any other professional service, it is important to get credible references and learn about the company's credentials.
For instance, if your business uses graphic elements in its marketing materials, it is important to use colors that make sense. Review the fundamentals of color selection in the sidebar on page 35.
Beyond word of mouth
Hands down, the best marketing tool is “word of mouth,” but most businesses lack the resources to hire enough individuals with the necessary credibility to deliver a sales message to enough potential customers.
So, the fall back is a myriad of print materials such as: business cards, brochures, sales slicks, other handout collaterals, product packaging, point of purchase displays, direct mail pieces, newsletters, catalogs, post cards, and advertisements in newspapers, magazines, trade publications, and directories.
There are also traditional broadcast media outlets: television and radio. And alternative media resources like outdoor signage, trade shows, events and interactive CDs.
The Internet is the newest medium with its Websites, e-commerce, banner ads, podcasts, and streaming audio and video.
There was a time, not too long ago, when hearing about a “virus” on a computer was a bad thing. Now there's a whole new form of advertising called “viral marketing,” which is the closest thing to “word of mouth” on the Web today. But may I suggest you don't have your dentist develop your online campaign for you.
Other communication vehicles to consider include specialty advertising, promotions, and public relations. Hence, there are almost too many choices out there to get your marketing message out. This is when a company's business plan becomes helpful. It brings the sanity and clarity of focus back.
The business' mission and purpose is clear: products and/or services have been positioned. Budgets and resources have been established, as well as goals with preliminary measurements to determine their success.
With the “who,” “what,” and “when” satisfied, only the “how” and “where” remain. This is the critical phase of any marketing campaign, where experience of both the marketing/advertising professionals and the client combine real world experience, market research and analysis, creativity, estimates on future trends, and a little touch of “gut” feelings to choose the right vehicles of communication.
Marketing and advertising are both a science and an art, and understanding that fact always leaves the door open for tweaking and making improvements, especially when updating materials or re-branding a product or company.
Know the target audience
Before an architect designs a house, he or she should know who is going to live there. That will help determine the style and the materials needed, the type of tools to be used, and the degree of skill required from the laborers. And thusly, how the house is going to look and function.
Unfortunately, many homes are designed by builders (as opposed to architects). The builder has an idea of what is selling, but primarily the house is designed from the builder's specifications.
After the house is built, the builder crosses his or her fingers and hopes somebody buys it. It's yet another metaphor, but oh, so applicable to marketing.
All too often, a company's principals and/or in-house marketing people have their marketing materials designed to appeal to themselves and not to their customers. It's not a sound marketing practice, but a very common one nonetheless.
What marketing vehicle to use?
It is also important to know the audience when selecting the vehicles with which you plan to communicate to them.
Choose publications and media that they read and watch.
How computer savvy is your marketplace? Before you have a Website developed with all the latest and greatest bells and whistles, will your marketplace even have the computer systems, appropriate software, and line speeds to see the Website?
Websites that appeal to their market, or stay a step or two behind the latest technology, tell many customers, “You're important to us, and we haven't forgotten you!”
Following my own advice
When asked by Automatic Merchandiser Magazine to write an article about marketing and developing sales tools, I faced the same issues I would face developing a marketing campaign. What's my mission? Who's my audience, and what do I want to achieve?
The means in which I was to get my message out was a predetermined given – right here on these glossy pages of this well respected trade magazine.
My mission was to convey the importance for a company to define their mission, set marketing goals and establish plans before taking action, and to use professionals qualified in the field for which they are hired.
These may be perceived as general marketing 101 principles to some, but failing to accurately set these guidelines has been a factor in the decline of many an American business.
An example is the decline of the rail road industry. They misdefined their mission as: “the logistical movement and scheduling of thousands of trains across the United States” when it should have been: “the transportation of people and freight.”
No one approach fits all needs
Going beyond the theoretical and philosophical and into specifics of a marketing plan would not benefit the readers of this article. Differences in companies, their objectives, and selected targeted markets are too diverse for me to promote a single “one size fits all” marketing strategy.
As far as identifying my audience, I must admit that I assumed this publication's readership profile, my audience, in generalized terms and characteristics. I viewed them as business people who have been in the trenches of sales and marketing and have seen and experienced many of the points I raise in this article.My goal is to remind everyone in business to get back to basics. Clearly define your company's goals and marketing strategies. Write them down; when you see them in writing, they somehow become more real.
Develop an action plan
Devise a cohesive action plan, identify your audience and means of communicating your message, and set achievable goals that have measurable results. And always use professionals who are experienced in the methodology and the means necessary to accomplish the project at hand.
About the Author
Paul Jann is the executive vice president and marketing and creative director at Paul Jann Advertising Inc., a New York, N.Y.-based full service marketing, communications, and technologies firm. One of his agency's client's of record is Coffee Distributing Corp. an OCS operator in the New York tri-state area. Besides occasionally writing as a contributing editor in trade publications and text books, he often guest lectures at local area colleges on subjects of marketing, advertising communications, graphic arts, commercial photography and alternative and new media.