Is a Holiday Client Retention Program in your Future?

It’s that time of the year again. The candy rush is over and the stores are playing wall-to-wall holiday music. We, former client-side marketers, refer to the period between Halloween and Christmas as “Holiday Gift-List Hell.”

As the weather turns colder, and we begin to set our sights on Thanksgiving and Christmas, people in marketing departments across the country are scrambling to track down sales teams’ members, managers and executives, in order to put together a comprehensive gift list of clients to receive a holiday gift. One would think that this would be a happy, joyous task. One would be wrong.

Sending your clients a holiday gift as part of an ongoing client retention program is one of the most stressful projects a marketing department can undertake. What one considers primarily a strictly administrative function (to create a list and get mailing addresses), generally requires the abilities of the department’s most tactical member. This person is detail orientated, patient and has a track record of wrangling executives and salespeople, all while staying on time and on budget.

This person needs to walk a constant balancing act. He/she will serve as a project gatekeeper. He/she will also be constantly berated by salespeople who can’t get their acts together to provide a list of names. This person needs to be able to effectively manage executives’ expectations and insane requests yet remain calm and collected throughout the process.

Depending on the size of your list, it may also be necessary that this person is pulled from all of his/her other job functions for the length of this project. And if something goes wrong, and something always goes wrong, this person will be considered the designated scapegoat. Being tasked to coordinate a corporate holiday gift list is not for the faint at heart.

Holiday gifts can be a logistical nightmare, but they don’t have to be that way. After a decade of coordinating client-side holiday gift giving programs for nearly 2,000 recipients a year, here are our top 10 suggestions for implementing a successful holiday client retention campaign.

  1. Know your audience when picking a gift.

Nothing tells your clients how clueless you are to their wants and needs than picking a holiday gift that they are going to give away. For example, over a decade ago a company decided to send iPods to all of their clients. At the time the iPod was the “hot” gift of the season.

The only problem, their target audience were older gentlemen who ranged in age from about 50 on up. Not exactly early adopters of the iPod. The result: most of the recipients gave their iPod’s to their children or grandchildren.

If your audience isn’t going to use your gift, or if there is a high probability of them re-gifting it, then pick something else.

  1. Pick a gift that is useful.

Nothing is more annoying to a client then receiving something that a) they don’t know what it is, or b) makes them feel bad.

This comes back to knowing your audience. While you think sending a donation to a charity in your client’s name is a good idea if you have always sent a tangible gift a change of this magnitude has the effect of going over like the proverbial lead balloon.

  1. Pick one gift for everyone.

This one comes down to how much you care about the mental health of the person coordinating your holiday gift efforts. Picking one gift for men and another for women or picking a high-end gift for “A” clients and a lower priced item for “B” clients becomes a logistical nightmare.

Especially, when the recipients work in the same firm. It’s never fun getting a call from Joe saying that Mark got a different bag than him and he likes Mark’s bag better (true story!). Your marketing department is not Publishers Clearinghouse.

  1. Not every high-end brand wants to co-brand with you.

Whatever you send to your clients should be branded in some way. A tasteful tone-on-tone logo is perfectly acceptable. Now if you decide you want to send your clients a luxury item keep in mind you may not be able to co-brand the item. Brand reputation is very important to many companies and it may not be in their best interest to co-brand (have their logo next to yours) with you.

Don’t take it personally. Find another item whose manufacturer has less stringent guidelines.

  1. Find a promotional marketing dealer.

Finding a dealer who can help provide you with ideas for an appropriate holiday gift can be worth his/her weight in gold. Promotional marketing experts have the resources and contacts to help secure items that might be difficult to source. (Especially when your item is being shipped from overseas).

  1. Find a fulfillment house.

If you are going to be sending gifts to more than 50 people, consider working with a fulfillment house. The fulfillment house receives the incoming shipment of your gift.  Each gift box needs to be opened, a printed card with your company’s name should be added (so your client knows who sent the gift). Then they need to repack the boxes, print the mailing labels and arrange for shipping. A mailing house is worth the expense for high-volume mailings.

  1. If you plan to send food, do your homework.

You don’t want to send alcohol to a recovering alcoholic (or a teetotaler), cookies to the CEO with celiac disease, or anything that is not properly certified to your clients who keep Kosher.

  1. Make sure you send your gifts to your clients before they leave the office for the holidays.

Generally, deliveries between the 17th and the 20th of December will work for most clients.

  1. Make sure you are only sending gifts to active clients.

This one is very important. The recipients of your gifts need to be active clients who you are not currently negotiating a deal with. Prospects DO NOT get holiday gifts. You want to avoid any improprieties that could potentially be misconstrued as a bribe. Especially, if you work with the government.

  1. Check your client’s gift-giving policies.

Just because you want to send someone a holiday gift doesn’t mean that they will be allowed to accept it. Some companies have full-on gift bans. Others have a dollar amount cap that the gift needs to come in under.

If there is a gift cap, a tray of treats to be shared by the office may be a nice gesture. Make sure you respect your client’s rules.

That wraps up our 10 suggestions for sending clients holiday gifts as part of a client retention program.  If you are interested in learning more about how a client acquisition/retention program could benefit your business please send us a line at info@stcgllc.com.

Happy Holidays!

 

Angela M. Insalaco is the Founder and Managing Director of Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LLC and The Reputation Factory. She spent more years then she cares to remember coordinating corporate holiday gifts for clients and has the battle scars to prove it.

 

 

The 70/30 Marketing Rule

Are you a CMO or marketing manager who is consistently shut down by management when you try to allocate your marketing budget into strategies that actually have a chance of bringing in revenue?

Or are you an executive who is completely frustrated that your marketing team can’t deliver MROI (marketing return on investment) on anything?

calculator
Calculator and budget

We have a theory.

Having spent most of our careers in corporate marketing departments, we have zero problems publicly stating approximately 33% of every marketing dollar is completely wasted. We have witnessed this phenomenon and believe it is endemic of most corporate marketing departments.

We deem this statement “33% of every marketing dollar is completely wasted” is an incontrovertible fact.

We oversaw corporate marketing budgets from the inside. We ran the monthly expenditures. It’s not rocket science to follow the money.

Today, we are about to make another somewhat controversial proclamation.

Most corporate marketing departments are running on what we will call the 70/30 budgeting principle. They spend 70 percent of their budgets on intangible activities or non-converting events and 30 percent of their budgets on activities that actually bring in dollars.

News flash: Brand equity is intangible; it can’t be measured. 

The way to have high brand equity is to integrate your marketing communications (one voice, one message, multiple mediums) by creating campaigns that are focused on bringing in revenue.

The old ways of measuring marketing are more or less dead. We live in a data-driven world. Between things like metrics, analytics, and CRM systems we should, at all times, have at least some concept of how our marketing campaigns are being converted into incoming dollars.

The only area of marketing where this may be to difficult to track is offline advertising. But advertising should be used as a reinforcement of your brand, not as a way to bring in customers. Advertising reinforces the concept of your brand that is already in your target audiences’ minds.

So why is it that executives keep asking their internal marketing teams and external marketing partners to focus on intangibles? They refuse to pay for campaigns and events that actually have the ability to bring in revenue because they are too busy throwing good money after bad on the elusive brand equity.

If you position your business correctly, then the issue of brand equity becomes a moot point because every marketing move you make is reinforcing the position you already hold in your prospect’s mind.

(If you are in business and have not yet read Al Ries and Jack Trout’s seminal Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind we highly encourage you to grab a copy. Full disclosure: as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases).

The next budget suck that contributes to that 70 percent is the event sponsorship.

How many times have you had this conversation:

Marketing Manager: “I don’t think we should sponsor EVENT X. Last year we spent over $65K just on the sponsorship and we got not one piece of business in return.”

Executive: “We have always sponsored this event. People expect us to sponsor this event.”

Marketing Manager: “I understand that we have always sponsored this event but the attendees have changed. They now have so many sponsors that our prospects are actively avoiding the tradeshow floor. Why don’t we just send our sales team under the conference registration (which we are doing anyway) and stake them at the hotel bars, restaurants and by the elevators in order to really talk to potential clients.”

Executive: “Well we are planning to send 22 people and we expect at least 12 of them to set up meetings for the event but people still expect us to be on the tradeshow floor so we are still going to sponsor. End of discussion.”

Total cost for the event including sponsorship, travel, hotels, etc. about $100k

Three days after the event the sales team completes their after-event action reports. Of the three thousand attendees at the conference, your tribe of 22 people brought back 19 business cards. Seven of them from the same company (who you already know is never going to be a viable client).

Someone needs to stop the spending madness!

We have a simple rule that we follow at Strategic Tactics Consulting Group (STCG): “If it’s not going to make money, why are we doing it?”

The whole reason businesses exist in the first place is to turn a profit.

So, how do we stop the madness?

We advocate for zero-based budgeting when it comes to marketing. What you did yesterday (or for the last ten years) has no bearing on what gets approved today.

Each marketing expenditure should be looked at on its own merits like:

  • Does this expenditure align with our goals to get in front of our target audience?
  • Does this expenditure fit with our Position (i.e. brand) in the minds of our customers and prospects?
  • Have we done this before? What was the MROI?
  • Will spending this money improve our brand in the eyes of our prospects and customers?

Now you may be saying to yourself isn’t that last point an intangible?

Yes, but you need to look at context. Co-hosting an event with a non-profit organization that helps children with cancer is not a money-making endeavor. It’s a good-will endeavor. People (i.e. prospects and customers) like to work with organizations that believe in corporate social responsibility. Goodwill in your prospect’s minds is never a bad thing.

You don’t have to give up all of your intangible marketing activities, you just want to make sure that your non-revenue producing activities are less than your revenue producing activities.

If you think that your marketing budget is completely out of control and need a budget intervention please reach out to us today at info@stcgllc.com to schedule a consultation.

 

Angela M. Insalaco is the Founder and Managing Director of Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LCC and The Reputation Factory. She has spent over a decade managing corporate marketing department budgets and expenditures.

Your Communications in Crisis

Do you consider your company to be a well-planned, well-oiled machine with strategic and tactical marketing and management plans in place?

Do any of those strategic or tactical plans include a communications blueprint for what to do in a crisis?

Red phone

Recently, a local news station ran a series of investigative reports that exposed issues of a multinational business headquartered in town.

I watched the company response unfold as this tenacious reporter kept the pressure on, and I couldn’t help but wonder -didn’t this company have a crisis communication’s plan in place?

Apparently not.

After the initial report (which was extremely damning), the reporter and her team went to the company looking to speak with their spokesperson. After waiting over an hour, they were told the company spokesperson was in a meeting and therefore, unavailable for comment but the reporter could schedule an appointment for a later date.

Are you freaking kidding me? You are in the middle of a scandal with national implications and you can’t pull your spokesperson out a meeting?

The optics went from bad to worse and eventually culminated in an interview with the CEO of this company where he came across as, sweaty, uncomfortable and defensive.

This reporter was like a dog with a bone. Two weeks later, the nightmare for this company continues.

My question is, why didn’t this large multinational company have a crisis communications plan in place?

I am assuming they didn’t because they failed to follow the first rule of crisis communications.

First rule of crisis communications: Control the message

The goal is to get in front of the story and control the narrative.

Burying your head in the sand, praying it goes away, or worse, letting your lawyers handle the messaging is usually a recipe for disaster.

By issuing a “no comment” you allow the media and the public to control the message. Whatever speculations abound, people are going to believe them if you are not out there as an active participant from the get-go.

A former colleague and I were discussing the situation and what we would have done differently.

This is a six-step breakdown of what we at Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LLC would advise any of our corporate clients to do when facing a communications crisis.

Step 1: Have a corporate-wide crisis communications plan in place.

This is a preventative measure so that when something does go wrong there is no scrambling. Everyone knows exactly what the protocol is for handling the situation.

This should cover which executives may speak on behalf of the company, social media response, legal team response and employee notification.

It should include contact info for outside counsel and public relations.

Run drills.

Create different scenarios.

It’s like an insurance policy for your business. You hope and pray you will never have to use it but if you do need it you’re really happy it is there.

Step 2: Hire a heavy hitter PR firm to control the message

There are firms that focus specifically on crisis communications. These people are trained to “control the narrative.”

When it comes to crisis communications you need to get out in front of the story early. Be decisive in your response. No flip-flopping.

My very first reaction when I heard this story was that if it was me I would have been on the phone with firms like Edelman or Y&R (Young and Rubicam) immediately, which are leading US PR firms.

Have you ever tried to get a hold of a Public Relations firm? It can take weeks to get a meeting with a PR agency. PR firms work diligently on behalf of their clients. If you are not already their client, it can take time for them to get back to you. It may not be a bad idea to establish relationships before you need their services. The caveat here is that firms that specialize specifically in crisis communications, by nature of their businesses, may not be as difficult to get a hold of as a traditional PR firm in a crisis.

Bottom line: it doesn’t hurt to have a pre-established relationship.

Check with outside counsel. They may have a firm they partner with that can be brought in when the need occurs.

Step 3: Media training

As a preventative measure, whether you are a publicly-held or privately-held company, anyone who has any authority to speak on behalf of your company should receive media training.

This includes the Chairman, CEO, President, CFO, CMO and General Counsel at the minimum.

If someone at your company is expected to get in front of a camera then you want them as prepared as possible.

Google PR blunders. Stupidity reigns supreme. So, prepare your people before you send them out to the lions.

Step 4: Mea culpa

If your company is at fault, apologize. It is far better to seek forgiveness day 1 then day 21 of a scandal.

Now, the lawyers are going to tell you not to admit guilt. I am not a lawyer, but I spent almost a decade working for them. This is where a PR firm well versed in the art of crisis communications becomes invaluable.

Our opinion at STCG is that if you are going to end up apologizing anyway, it is better to do that as early in the process as possible.

Step 5: Social media

Nowadays, it feels like “innocent until proven guilty” has been turned on its head. In the court of public opinion, it’s more likely to be viewed as guilty until proven innocent and social media has a lot to do with the changing dynamic.

If you experience a business crisis make sure you have a social media team in place that can handle anything thrown your way. This is where having a crisis communications plan and being prepared comes in handy.

Ignoring detractors that want the CEO’s head on a platter is probably not the best social media strategy to employ in a crisis.

Social media is a tool that allows you to control your message because you can speak directly to the people without any filters or third-party perspectives coloring the narrative. This is not the place for mudslinging. Be professional!

Step 6: Keep your employees informed

Employees need to be kept in the loop. If a gag order is issued then that needs to be explained along with who the appropriate people are in which to refer inquiries.

Gossip and speculation run rampant among employees kept in the dark. I once told a VP at a company I worked at that if I listened to every story running around the building eventually I would hear that Bigfoot had been spotted in the parking lot.

So, inform your people about what is happening and how your response is being crafted and deployed.

Final takeaways:

Got some time? Grab a copy of Crisis Communications The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message by Steven Fink. It’s a read that is definitely worth your time.

Prepare your company’s crisis communication’s plan now.  You never know when your biggest competitor is going to screw up a government contract and make the front page of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on the same day (true story) causing increased speculation for everyone operating in your industry. If it can happen to them, it can happen to you. So, prepare!

 

Angela M. Insalaco is the Founder and Managing Director of Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LLC and The Reputation Factory. She believes that a good crisis communications plan should be part of any company’s strategic and tactical planning initiatives.

Business Intelligence Quotient

Business Intelligence is something that all businesses possess. It is lurking in their CRM systems, social media channels, and CMS. It can be found in procedural manuals and in HR protocols. It’s acquired through client studies, competitor analysis, and SWOT analysis.

Technically business intelligence is all around us all of the time.

One of the challenges that most businesses face is that they are either:

  • Unaware of the intelligence that surrounds them every day
  • Overwhelmed with data and unable to break through the clutter, or
  • A little bit of both

Data can be a wonderful thing if you know how to use it. However, Business Intelligence is not just data gathering. When you are looking at your business intelligence you are looking at:

  • Data
  • Metrics
  • Research
  • Feedback
  • Processes
  • Performance

The reason to get a handle on business intelligence is that all of this information can help an executive make smarter business decisions.  Who wouldn’t want to analyze their marketing or management processes to improve retention rates, customer engagement rates and validate content?

Think of the money that could be saved and the revenues returned just by adjusting the information gathering and decision-making process.

Business intel schematic
Business Intelligence

How this works:

For example, suppose Company X is spending $5million a year on marketing. They have a team in place that is running campaigns and generating content.

Now, they have one piece of content which has been hyped as “cornerstone.”  This particular piece has generated 5,000 views in the past six months.

This piece is being touted on their website and social media channels. Company X executives are speaking about it at conferences and tradeshows. Everyone is extremely proud of this piece of content.

However, the CEO knows something isn’t right. On the surface the engagement rates are fantastic, but behind the scenes, sales are lagging. The CEO concurs that all is not right in Whoville.

The CEO decides to bring in a consultant that just happens to be a Business Intelligence Specialist.

A business intelligence specialist’s job is to dig, uncover and provide recommendations and solutions to help their clients overcome business challenges.

Upon review of this piece of content, it is discovered that of those 5,000 views only five of them could be classified as actually being clients or prospects.

This CEO just found out that his customer engagement rate is a tenth of 1 percent.

Engineering better decisions:

They say that knowledge is power. Company X just discovered that the content it produces (which is both time-consuming and expensive) is not being validated by its audience.

They now have the option to change and make better decisions.

This data can be used to engage in a client study. They can take the time and spend the money upfront to really get to know their clients’ wants and needs. They can then use that information to create communications that are valuable and that their audience wants and is willing to receive.

By properly targeting an audience, one can significantly reduce wasteful spending. The more targeted the campaign, the better revenues returned.

Conclusions:

There are opportunities in everyday business situations and with the right leverage, you can totally improve the functionality and communications of your business.

Sometimes an outside perspective is just what you need to get where you want to go.  Better results and better revenues are possible.

 

 

Angela M. Insalaco is the Founder and Managing Director of Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LLC. She is the creator of the Insalaco Process a proprietary methodology that helps executives leverage business intelligence to make better decisions in their enterprises.

Strengthening the Employer-Employee Interface

Guest Post from Joel R. Evans, Distinguished Professor of Business and author of Evans on Marketing

As we realize, well-treated people are typically better employees. And these people are better motivated and more productive. Also, they gain better relationships with co-workers and managers. In addition, they are more customer-friendly. For this post, we study strengthening the employer-employee interface to motivate employees even further. In the next section, we show an employee engagement loop.

Among our past posts on employee motivation are:

 

Strengthening the Employer-Employee Interface

So, let’s address this issue: strengthening the employer-employee interface. In what ways can employers optimize their relationships with employees?

A good overall tool is the employee engagement loop. And it was devised by customer experience expert Ian Goulding. As he observes for Customer Think:

“To succeed, treat employees how you want them to treat customers. If a leader aspires to ‘put the employee first,’ it is important to have structure and rigor. And yes, it is common to find businesses with frameworks to manage the customer experience. But we do not often see this principle applied for the employee experience.”

“And the ’employee engagement loop’ is a simple framework. Also, it supports the employer journey – a framework with six steps. If well designed and managed, it should help you deliver the desired employee experience.”

Before noting the steps, look at the following flowchart.

The Employer Journey to Strengthening the Employer-Employee Interface

 

Implementing the Employee Engagement Loop

At this point, let’s outline the engagement loop’s steps. And look at its focus on optimizing employer-employee relationships:

    1. Attract. If a firm wants a customer-centric culture, it must hire the right employees in the first place.”
    2. Infuse Brand DNA. In everything you do, infuse your brand DNA. To keep the right engagement with employees, infusing brand DNA must be ongoing.”
    3. Inspire Excellence. In most cases, people must be encouraged to excel. To be ‘just good enough’ is ‘not enough.’ At Ritz-Carlton, employees ‘make memories.’ Because it is not sufficient to just fulfill tasks.”
    4. Encourage Curiosity & Learning. As a good example, Amazon infuses its brand DNA via 14 leadership principles. Of importance is ‘learn and be curious.’ And a leader who understands the value of learning encourages the same from others.”
    5. Innovate & Co-Create. If you encourage curiosity and learning, you also encourage innovation. At customer-centric firms, employees should not just bed ask their opinions. In addition, they should co-create new products and initiatives. And those who best know the desired customer experience are those who interact with customers.”
    6. Reward. If we want to inspire employees, we must show we value them. Yet, this is not always monetary. As with customers, employees want to know their employer cares about them. And they want to be thanked for their effort.”

 

What’s Your Strategic Vision?

One of the most frustrating things I encountered in my life as a strategic marketer was management’s inability to create an overall marketing strategy. A strategic vision.

Strategic Vision Close Up of Red Text on the Vintage Pocket Watch Face. Business Concept: Strategic Vision on Watch Face with Close View of Watch Mechanism. Vintage Effect. 3D Rendering.

Instead of looking at the big picture, management was content with executing individual tactics for what they perceived as “small wins.” The phrase “you need to go after the low hanging fruit,” to this day causes me to cringe. The problem with this approach is you end up spending a ton of money with very little to show for marketing return on investment.

The Big Picture

Story: I come from a family of diehard Yankees fans, always have been. One of the most frustrating things for a Yankees fan the past few seasons has been Joe Girardi (who incidentally the Yankees fired after the 2017 season). One of the biggest gripes with Girardi’s management as per my father was that he played “small ball.” He wasn’t looking at the big picture. Same concept here.

Many companies run their marketing operations as individual silos. This means that each marketing discipline is separate from one another. For example, separate departments exist for digital marketing, marketing communications, public relations, events, etc.

All marketing is not advertising, but all advertising is marketing. Keeping your ad team segregated from your PR or events team doesn’t make any sense from a strategic standpoint.

In this type of environment, departments become completely paranoid and put such a tight grip on their incoming information and data that nothing gets shared. It’s common for one marketing silo to tell another silo seeking assistance that “that’s not my job.” A phrase we ought to banish from the corporate lexicon.

Budgeting without strategy

What you end up with are bloated departments where there is a dearth of information sharing. Marketing dollars are held hostage to ridiculous annual budgets. With each silo submitting their budget you run the risk of paying more for services that could be shared resources.

Alternatively, but just as screwed up are budgets that are based on the insane “scientific” strategy of “well this is how we’ve always done it before.”

“This is how we’ve always done it before,” the kiss of death to innovation. It’s the business equivalent of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. Doing what you’ve done in the past forever in perpetuity without review is one of the stupidest budgeting strategies I’ve ever encountered. The kicker here is that no one from the CMO on down can tell you what all those sacred cows in your budget have produced regarding MROI.

At Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LLC., we advocate a zero-based budgeting approach. All events, sponsorships, acquisition and retention expenditures, and general marketing expenses are presented for approval. If you cannot justify the expense, you don’t get the money. If the Marcom team and the PR team have a cross-over in resources, those resources become shared services under one corporate license.

Tactical Planning: How to do it right

Another thing that happens is each silo executes its own tactical plan without thought or consideration to what is happening in other business units.

Now, I love a good tactical plan as much as the next person. (I named my company “Strategic Tactics”). However, without having a big picture, an overarching strategy, a “strategic vision” if you will, companies are primarily approaching their target audience as something akin to a chicken running around without a head. Vision is lacking not only in many corporate marketing departments but also within the executive ranks.

On January 5, 2018, the UK trade publication Marketing Week published an article on “5 ways to make an impact on your career by Thomas Barta. The subtitle of the piece was “The Best Marketers are masters of branding, pricing and communication. But pulling off a great marketing career is another story.” Tip 5: Aim High discusses how those with vision are more likely to achieve significant career success.[1]

Defining your Vision

A frequent refrain I hear from clients is that they come to me because their teams lack vision. They cannot create an integrated strategy across multiple marketing functions in-house. They are unable to see how all the moving parts and pieces of marketing fit together in a big picture.

Companies become so paralyzed by fear of the unknown that they are afraid to move in any direction. So, they stagnate, and nothing changes. Your strategic vision doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be at 100 percent. Waiting for 100 percent perfection before launching a plan is like waiting for the rain in the middle of the Sahara. You wait. And wait. And wait some more. And nothing ever changes.

If you’re waiting for 100% perfection, for the timing to be absolutely perfect, be prepared for disappointment. Nike created a whole cultural revolution with the tagline “Just do it.” If you’re waiting for the stars to align you’ll never accomplish anything.

This is a major sticking point in most organizations. The paralyzing, all-consuming terror that you cannot make a change until everything is perfect. Until you learn to overcome that fear and accept that change can be a good thing, you’ll be completely stuck and unable to achieve anything of significance.

So, what does a strategic vision get you?

A roadmap. A guide. The freaking yellow brick road.

I may have mentioned a time or two in this blog how much I love Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). It’s my marketing specialty. I love IMC because it forces you to have strategic vision.

At the starting gate, you have your brand standards guideline. The bible for your business. The holy grail. You do not vary from the brand standards guideline. This is non-negotiable.

Next, you look at each communication tactic (like branding, advertising, public relations, content creation, social media, SEO, and SEM) and wrap everything into one comprehensive go-to-market strategy.

This forces you to determine how content creation affects PR. How PR affects social media. How social media affects SEO. And on and on we go. Every communication is interdependent in another marketing medium that all ties back into the brand standards.

The beauty of IMC is that when working properly, your target audience knows who you are and what you stand for regardless of the medium where they encounter your brand.

One voice. One message. Multiple platforms.

Strategic vision can be applied outside of the marketing function.

I love Organizational theory for the same reasons I love IMC. There is a psychology of both marketing and management theory. Both revolve around the need for looking at the big picture at the starting point.

Creating a team that functions as a well-oiled machine takes planning and a bit of creativity. Avoid groupthink. You want to bring together a diverse group of individuals with different ideas and perspectives. The end-goal is that you are all working towards success (for more on organizational hierarchy, please visit our piece on The Seven Dwarfs Teach Team Building).

There needs to be a rhyme and a reason why your team does the things it is doing. And the reasons should all relate back to one simple truth:

Why does my target audience care?

How often has this happened to you? You’re sitting in a meeting and management is discussing a directional change and you’re trying to figure out why your target market gives a damn. Maybe you’re the executive at your wit’s end because you’ve exhausted your options and don’t know where to go next.

Just because management thinks something is a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean that your target audience will feel the same way. Case in point: New Coke.

Whether you’re speaking to clients, customers, shareholders, or employees you need to tailor your message to your audience. That message needs to follow the corporate brand standards. It’s like a loop. Every internal or external communication ties back to the strategic vision for your company.

Luck is not a strategy

You need to decide that you are ready to move your business forward. That you are ready to take that leap of faith into the unknown. Yes, you may fail, but at least you can say you tried. And if you succeed? Well, that makes all the difference.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today at info@stcgllc.com or visit our website at stcgllc.com.

Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LLC. (STCG), is a consulting firm dedicated to helping marketing and management executives define their strategic vision. This is done through marketing strategy, strategic development, tactical planning, messaging services and executive consulting. Visit us today at stcgllc.com.

Angela M. Insalaco is the Managing Director at Strategic Tactics Consulting Group, LLC. (STCG). She spent a decade observing and participating in the inner workings of corporate marketing departments. Many which lacked a cohesive go-to-market strategy. Her findings lead her to found STCG to help marketing executives and managers create a strategic vision for their businesses.

 

[1] Barta, Thomas. “5 ways to make an impact on your career.” Marketing Week 5 Jan. 2018.

5 Reasons to Love Your CRM System

A CRM or Customer Relationship Manager is a tool worth investing in for any organization with a sales and marketing function.

Notebook with Tools and Notes about CRM, concept
  1. Creates a central repository for all your sales and prospect data.

Having a central location to store all data relating to clients, prospects, and marketing campaigns in one place is a great way to keep your sales team organized. It also allows you monitor sales activity. Many salespeople are resistant to this, but an organization needs to know what is going on, especially, if someone in sales decides to leave.

  1. A true CRM allows you to track marketing expenditures.

A true CRM system. What does mean that mean? A true CRM is a traditional model CRM like Salesforce.com or MS Dynamics. Inbound systems like Hubspot are not true CRM’s because Hubspot does not allow a marketing team to create campaigns and track expenditures to those campaigns. You can’t calculate ROI.

For example, in Salesforce.com you can create campaigns for events and client acquisition and retention projects that allow you to assign dollar amounts. You can then assign contacts and leads to those campaigns. It makes it easier to figure out the cost per client/acquisition and ROI to justify marketing expenditures.

  1. Data!

Anytime you can track data on your marketing and sales programs is a good thing. In a CRM you can pull up a client and see where he went to school, the name of all his children, his favorite sports team, and his fascination with the fiber arts. You can also see every touchpoint everyone in your company has had with this client. All this data allows a company to tailor outreach. Instead of inviting this client to a cocktail party, it may be more beneficial to invite him to a charity knit-a-thon your company is sponsoring.

  1. Track the RFP process

A CRM system allows you to track all the stages in the RFP or proposal process. It also keeps a running score of wins and losses.

  1. Syncing your analytics

Integrating marketing automation software into your CRM system adds another layer of data and analytics because you can see who is coming into your website, how long they are staying and what they are looking at. You can also run email campaigns through your CRM system. Pardot and Marketo are two popular marketing automation platforms.

Adding a CRM for your Sales and Marketing teams is a good decision for any business interested in managing customer relationships.

Three Reasons to Choose Public Relations

Public Relations (PR) is an excellent tool for anyone implementing an Integrating Marketing Communications strategy.

Public Relations – handwritten text in a notebook on a desk – 3d render illustration.

Here are three reasons to look at implementing a Public Relations plan.

  1. Public Relations is highly credible

In their book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, Al and Laura Ries postulate that companies trying to build brands should use PR over advertising because PR is deemed highly credible.

People tend to believe PR for two reasons:

  1. A) A press release is fact-based without any of the hyperbole or emotion traditionally found in advertising. B) A news story adds an element of validity because now a third-party (whether a newspaper, magazine or the local news) is legitimizing your brand.

 

  1. PR can be repurposed as part of a content creation strategy

In an integrated marketing communications strategy, the goal is to have the same messaging across all of your marketing so that your target audience recognizes your brand at every touch point. PR like articles and press releases can be repurposed as social media posts. You can also use a PR piece as a foundation for content creation like video, blogs, infographics, podcasts, or case studies.

 

  1. Search engine optimization

Every organization we have dealt with in the last decade is interested in search engine optimization (SEO). Using PR is a great way to increase your search rankings, either by linking to the third-party story on your website or posting a press release on your website. The article or press release can then be posted on your social channels that link back to your website.  When people share your social posts, they’re sharing the link within the posts which all positively contributes to SEO.

 

So, remember when it comes to PR take the Joe Friday approach of, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Stick to the facts and watch your brand’s credibility rise.

 

 

The Management of a Life Cycle

Do you know that your business has a life cycle? Just like a product has a life cycle. Change happens, nothing lasts forever.

If you walk into my office you will notice a television. If that TV is on, chances are it’s tuned to Fox Business. There are two reasons for this.

Reason 1: I love Stuart Varney. I think Mr. Varney is brilliant and I enjoy having his show playing in the background as I go through my morning.

Reason 2: I like having a business perspective of the day’s news.

Recently, a major story on business news has been the collapse of the retail market. American malls, once the crowning glory of a generation, are going dark or being forced to innovate and find new sources of revenue. One by one stalwart companies are either restructuring or liquidating.

If you listen to the pundits you’ll hear all sorts of reasons for the downfall of the retail sector.

Public enemy number 1: Amazon.

Consumer tastes are changing. People buy everything over the internet.  There is no need to go into a store anymore. [As someone who takes two years to find a pair of pants that will fit without extensive tailoring, I disagree with this assumption, but I digress].

There seems to be a prevailing sense of “who will save us today.”

There is a life cycle for everything under the sun. People have life cycles. You’re born. You live. You die.

Business Lifecycle concept
Business lifecycle concept on blackboard

Products have life cycles which any Marketing 101 student should be able to clearly elucidate.

So why don’t people believe that an individual company or corporation also has a lifecycle?

I contend that the corporation as is at founding is not meant to exist in perpetuity.

Want to talk about Darwinism? It’s survival of the fittest. Businesses need to change and adapt to survive.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I was affiliated with an organization that was in a dying industry.  The management team admitted to a slump but, refused to acknowledge that their industry was dying. The go-to strategy became one of desperation. Better sales, better customer service, more knowledge than the competition.  Guess what?  Sales and customer service are never going save a business in a dying industry.

We hear this story frequently. From news, from friends. The desperation to stay alive when your business model is no longer relevant.

So, you ask do we just roll over and die?

Hell no! You fight.

At STCG we advocate a 4-step program:

Step 1: Acknowledge there is a problem.

Step 2: Seek qualified help.

Step 3: Listen to the help!

Step 4: Implement changes.

Step 1: By acknowledging there is a problem you take the first steps to being able to salvage your business. Any 12-step program worth its salt will tell you to admit you need help first, which brings us to:

Step 2: Seek qualified help. Hire a consultant not involved in your business who can objectively research the situation and make informed and rational recommendations.

Step 3: You are paying a consultant good money, in many cases a great deal of money. They are experts with perspective and objectivity. Take the proffered recommendations

Step 4: Implement changes. Whoever coined the phrase “Innovate or Die” was dead on. Diversification into a new service offering or product line is the future.

Skeptical?

Before Shell Oil was Shell Oil they were an import/export company.

Western Union went from sending telegrams to becoming the largest money transfer service in the world.

Editor-In-Chief Steve Forbes laid out how Forbes magazine had to change to survive in their 100 anniversary Collector’s Edition[1].

The point is these companies found another path to leverage business success and so can you. By recognizing the need for change and the foresight to make it happen you can take your business to new heights.

 

 

[1] Source: Forbes, Steve. “Our First 100 Years.” Forbes 28 Sept. 2017: 23-28.

Knowing Your Target Audience

The first question I usually ask when meeting with a prospective client is “who is your target audience?” You wouldn’t think it’s a hard question to answer, but it invariably is for some businesses.

Knowing your target audience is the very first thing that anyone hanging out a shingle as a marketing strategist should be asking you.

It is the question that determines everything.

If you pick up any book on marketing, chances are one of the first rules you are going to come across is to specialize. Know your niche. Narrow your focus.

Look at any book on becoming a better writer, and you most likely will find advice stating that you need to be writing for your reader.

Every single marketing decision should revolve around “Who is your target audience.”

When it comes to creating marketing content strategies, there is considerable noise around the phrase “thought leadership.” This approach is where you are positioning yourself as an expert and if executed properly, can be a valuable tool in your marketing strategy.

Unfortunately, most thought leadership initiatives suck. Companies produce massive quantities of content that no one cares about. When you dig into conversion rates, you frequently find that while there might be tons of traffic, none of it is your target audience.

Creating content just to hear yourself speak is a rotten strategy. I call it the love fest syndrome.

The love fest syndrome is a false notion that your content is brilliant and therefore everyone wants to hear/read everything you produce no matter what.

This is patently false. Unless the material you produce offers some value to the reader (aka your target audience) what’s the point?

With that in mind the next time you are interviewing a potential creative agency/analytical consulting group, pay attention. If they don’t ask in meeting number one who your target audience is, then move on.

Business Strategy Compass
Conceptual 3D render image with depth of field blur effect. Compass needle pointing the green word strategy over natural paper background.