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Guide to Sales and Marketing: Marketing Tips

Jan 9, 2012

Main Article     Sales Tips

Rock, Paper, Winners

Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism has had a consistently great print campaign for the past five years. The tone is authentic to the province: witty, honest and replete with homespun wisdom that makes you smile. (I once met a Newfoundlander who proclaimed proudly: “We don’t have unemployment; we just got all the work done.”) – Steve Williams

Get Over Your Fear of Commitment

If you’re going to create a marketing campaign, do it thoughtfully and do it right. There’s no sense buying one billboard and hoping to get results. You need to come up with a plan – whether it’s a $20,000 plan or a $200,000 plan – and stick to it.

“It’s all about longevity,” says Alyson Hodson, a partner at Zag Creative Group in Edmonton. “For any business trying to get into the marketing world, they’ll have to put the money and the time into it and commit to it.”

That doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money. Maybe you choose just a couple of marketing mediums, do some social media and update your website. Some of these things can be done relatively inexpensively, but not without thought and advance planning.

The exact length of time you run a campaign will depend on a number of things – three of them are your budget, your geographic reach and how well your brand is already established. The plan could run for six month or a year or five years. The key is to pick a term and stick to it.

Advance Planning
+ time and commitment
+ social media
+ money (needn’t be a ton)
= successful campaign

Learn to Love Uncertainty

We all want to know what kind of bang we’re getting for our buck, but it’s information that is particularly tough to come by in marketing. “We’ve had clients come to us and ask, ‘If we do this campaign, what can we expect in a year?’” says Hodson. “That question is hard to answer.”
That’s not to say there are no measuring sticks. It’s getting easier in some respects with the Internet. There is Google analytics to measure
click-throughs on your website and you can track the impact of online ads. But it’s a soft science.

So people went to your website; what did they actually do? Did they buy from you? Plus, the influence of any particular marketing campaign will be affected by external factors like economic conditions and new competition entering the market.

American businessman John Wanamaker is often credited with being the first to recognize that half of his marketing budget was wasted, but that it was impossible to tell which half. The key is to have faith that it is crucial to build awareness of your brand.

Should You Outsource?

Often in small and medium-sized businesses there is no dedicated marketing person. The job falls to the vice-president of sales, perhaps, or to the owner. But marketing is not really their bag, so it gets less attention and scrutiny than it deserves.

There’s a point where that starts to change. “You’ll start feeling really time-starved with the amount of stuff that you have to put out, versus the amount of time that you have to actually do it,” says Scott King, the director of interactive services with Trigger Communications, a Calgary-based marketing firm.

Then perhaps it’s time to hire an expert. “It’s important to use agencies because we have copywriters and web people and designers and creative directors and media buyers,” says Hodson. “Even a small welding company who needs some more sales: maybe all they need is a good strategy, a website and some corporate marketing materials. I still think it’s important for them to hire someone to do that because it’s going to look professional.”

That’s not to say everything is outsourced. Keep someone internal to deal with the marketing agency and order new signs and envelopes and ensure that a logo goes on whatever needs a logo. But for the big-picture stuff, there comes a time to involve the professionals.

Shop Around

“Fit is probably the hardest thing to find and the most important thing to have when you’re working with a third-party company to handle your marketing and communications,” King says, adding that some of the best work Trigger has done is with clients who “put in a great effort to find out if we’re a fit.”

There are ways to ensure a prospective marketing firm will work well with your business. The first is to be honest about your company’s marketing budget, since many agencies will have a difficult time presenting their ideas and solutions if they don’t know what to spend. “The problem is that the amount of money you have to spend might depend on whether you’re using stock photos or taking shots from a helicopter above Calgary,” King says. Finding an agency that can fit both your needs and your budget is an important place to start.

When Rebranding, Go Big

Is your brand old and tired, dating as it does from the days of Leave it to Beaver? Maybe it’s time for a total makeover, but rebranding is a sensitive issue, tied up with the history of the company. For many owners of small and medium-sized businesses, their brand is their baby. Maybe you designed the logo yourself and have watched it pop up all over the place as the company has grown.

The key is to not get emotional. When you hire a marketing company to work for you, it’s important to trust it and its research. “Often clients will look at [a campaign plan] and say, ‘I really don’t like the colour blue,’” says Hodson. “Well, it doesn’t matter if you like blue. Your target market loves blue.” As in all professions, there are reasons why things are done as they are.

And when you rebrand, it’s important to roll it all out at once for maximum effectiveness. Hodson admires the job Telus did a few years back. “One day, the light went on and everything was changed: stores were changed, advertising was changed, signage was changed and it was consistent overnight,” she says. “Too many companies say ‘I want a new brand but I don’t really have the budget to redo my signage or my vehicles. Can I do
that later?’ It’s not good to piece out a rebranding campaign. You have to commit to it and launch it all at once for maximum effectiveness.”

If you’re going to rebrand, roll it out all at once for maximum effectiveness.

Know Your Place

Don’t overestimate the importance of geography. More and more national and multinational marketing agencies are working with local clients. “It’s a lot easier than it used to be,” says King. “We have a really good example of that with Kal Tire. They’re a national brand with more than 200 stores and tons of money on their marketing budget. They’re based out of Vernon, B.C. That’s a really small place for a company that does the kind of sales that they do.”

On the other hand, bear in mind that working with an out-of-market agency might require more time for it to understand your brand and get up to speed on your business. “It actually takes a while for a marketing agency to get its footing with you and figure out how you’re relevant and different and how that can be conveyed through communication,” King says. Be prepared for that to take even longer with a marketing agency that isn’t local.

Know Thyself

With respect to your marketing campaign, bolder is not always better. Sure, you want your brand to make a splash in the marketplace but, as King says, be truthful to your corporate identity. “I wouldn’t expect an organization that’s helping the elderly or something like the Mustard Seed, which looks after homeless people, to be super bold with their advertising – it’s not their brand.” The marketing goal with a company or organization in that sector should be understated and confident in a quiet way.

When asked about a company like Benetton, whose recent marketing campaign featured a picture of the Pope kissing an Imam, King says there’s no point in being shy. Companies like Benetton and Lulu Lemon, whose brands conjure energy and fun, should be as bold as possible. “If they get out there and create controversy, it’s probably good for them.”

But courting controversy requires more nerve today than it did just five years ago. Social media and the Internet will amplify controversy. “It can seem a lot worse than it really is,” King says. When the Gap redesigned its logo, for example, the company underestimated the public backlash and ended up stopping plans to roll it out. As far as controversy goes, “You have to be in the middle of it, and you have to respond in an honest way and, more importantly, you have to keep responding,” King says. “You can’t ignore it and hope it goes away.”

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