Brand consistency has become even more essential in this era of constant connectivity, especially for companies executing across multiple divisions, locations, languages and marketing mediums. Whether it’s reading, writing, talking or listening, communication has fused into a single experience. We watch TV shows on our laptops and surf the Web on our TVs. We “speak” to Siri to write texts, notes or e-mails for us. Our marketing messages must make sense in this Omni-channel environment.
Being an Omni-channel brand means making the customer’s experience continuous and universal across all of those mediums. Really it’s just a buzzword for the age-old marketing practice of providing true continuity across channels–and doing it so well that it’s seamless to your prospects. Because marketers now have to navigate more media channels than ever with their brand, it must have warranted the new term.
OmniChannel has not yet made it into Webster’s dictionary, so for now treatment of its spelling is debatable between Omni-channel, omnichannel and omni channel.
However you choose to spell it for now, in marketing it means fully understanding your prospect’s purchase process and offering the information they need, when and where they need it, without them realizing it. It’s a stealth operation when done well.
Why Mess with All of That?
For years the most effective campaigns have been proven to be those that include a wide variety of media. While it’s tempting to try to focus on just the latest and greatest tactic out there, that’s not what’s most effective. To have an effectively balanced tactical plan marketers need to develop a combination among three major categories, Paid, Earned and Owned media.
To make sense of this media conglomeration, today’s marketers categorize mediums into two major categories, Push and Pull, and three-subcategories Paid, Earned and Owned.
“Push,” or Paid media includes traditional mediums that have been around for years. These speak to your target with a one-way message in things like print, radio, TV and outdoor. Their delivery is fast, more predictable and reaches large numbers quickly.
“Pull” media works quite differently and is broken into two sub-categories:
- Earned media is speaking with your customers. These discussions are slower to implement, but also have a higher conversion rate, as they are further along in the sales cycle. It includes things like social media, e-blasts and proposals.
- Owned media has an even higher conversion rate with prospects proactively engaging in the media outlets and even closer to the end of the sales cycle. It includes things like a website, customer service experience and YouTube channel.
How to Navigate It
While categorizing various media into three neat groups gives marketers more of a sense of “order,” the truth is that there is an undeniable overlap between each of the categories. Everything that is done in one medium impacts the overall omni-channel experience.
Someone must own your brand voice across every medium. This internal brand steward can be anything from a marketing manager to a VP internally or a representative within one of your agencies.
One of your team members must be a strategic specialist to ensure there’s a 12-month tactical plan that is measured and adjusted quarterly to maximize your return on marketing investment. Ensure your agency resources match up to the skill set wanted and needed from your internal resources.
The communications environment is complicated, but with experience and diligence, it can be figured out for your specific product or service and target audience. Make a clear brand commitment, monitor it and carefully manage it to a 12-month strategic plan.
Because We Can–And Kinda Have To
Location, Location, Location. The best location for our business is none at all. Today a traditional workforce strategy of locating everyone under one roof isn’t necessary. We operate virtually to best serve clients.
The digital communications explosion has allowed today’s workforce to be more mobile than ever. That same explosion also decimated scale when it comes to delivering marketing messages. Today’s challenging communications landscape is crowded, highly segmented and more often consumer controlled.
The list of ways people consume information is long–and continually evolving. Those of us in the communications business must know a lot about many things. We also must have access to individual experts who know a lot about each one of those things. That’s how GMG is set up.
Broad and Deep Expertise
Our marketing generalists bring a wide range of experience to the table to guide the best path for a brand. They collaborate with our team of seasoned specialists needed to solve marketing challenges for our clients that yields powerful results.
Attracts Some of the Best Talent
The importance of location has now shifted from a priority for consumers to a priority for today’s workforce. A 100% virtual workforce best meets the priorities for today’s job candidates:
1) Salary and Compensation – Costs saved from the overhead of office space and utilities can be invested back into employee salaries and high-level training.
2) Career Growth Opportunities – When the entire company is working from their own personal workspace, the playing field is leveled for those looking to move up.
3) Work-Life Balance – It is estimated that the average worker spends 2 – 3 weeks/year in commute time to their job. The time saved is a nice little bonus vacation!
4) Location/Commute/Flexibility – There is no better, more convenient location than one each employee chooses individually for themselves.
5) Company Culture and Values – The autonomous nature of virtual work requires that accountability, respect, trust and clear communication be core values. For those that align with those, it can be an extremely satisfying experience.
We know that great work is a phased event. Breakthrough ideas rarely happen in an office cubicle from 9 to 5 in khakis. We work from our own space, whether that is a home office, a coffee shop or on top of a mountain. We don’t care. We have no office ego. What we care about is creating the best work possible.
Simply put, our clients pay for the work we produce, not the space where the work is created.
Yahoo is apparently on the sale block. According to many media reports their board announced last week that they were exploring “strategic alternatives” or as many have indicated, code for a sale.
Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer’s come-to-work order in 2013 ended a previous work-from-home policy that by all indications had a largely negative impact on morale. Mayer’s rationale at the time was “It’s not what’s right for Yahoo right now.”
I would argue that if you want the best talent in the industry, especially that requires creativity, you have to prioritize what’s best for your clients and employees first.
Clients today need us to work efficiently in an era of transcontinental teams and multiple time zones. According to most published human resource studies, employees today are concerned most with location, commute, flexibility and work/life balance right alongside salary and benefits.
Messing with key priorities of employees in a such a big way, like eliminating the option to work from home, is obviously going to wreak havoc on a company’s culture and morale. It does not communicate trust and empowerment, key attributes of any healthy organization. Working virtually should not be considered a variable employee benefit, but the very definition of the corporate culture itself.
CMA is a human resources consulting firm in St. Louis. Dana Borchert, a CMA Ph.D. licensed psychologist and job candidate assessment analyzer says, “There are some traits that are hard-wired and impacted by motivational factors. Research from classic studies as far back as the 1970’s from both Kyrter and Glass and Singer have both indicated that people have less stress and perform better when they feel they have control over their environment. Especially for employees who’ve had autonomy and independence, sudden restrictions can be extremely demotivating. It’s is likely that the combination of characteristics and motivators that made an employee successful when working out of the office could make it difficult for them to re-enter.”
GMG uses CMA’s proprietary assessment to screen team members that looks for potential derailers, including candidates that struggle to organize their own approach, lack initiative or require a great deal of guidance. In addition, cognitive capability is important to consider, as candidates will need to make decisions independently.
We have found over the last three years that dispersed workforces, or 100% virtual business models, have benefits well beyond the growing trend of more common options like telework (some employees work remotely all of the time), flextime (working non-traditional hours) and a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) (working virtually within an established corporation)–Yahoo’s previous model.
GMG’s team is still small, currently at 12, but we intend to stay a dispersed workforce as we continue to grow.
We have found that there is less time wasted at work and maximum flexibility. We save on overhead costs that can then be invested back into employee salaries and high-level training. The value to our clients is in the work, not the space we create it in.
Aligning job candidates with a virtual company’s culture and values can be a challenge, but with a committed and conscientious leader can be achieved. A primarily virtual culture works best, like anything else, when its leader fully embraces the concept, has clarity, communicates well to the team and is willing to do what it takes to overcome the approaches’ challenges.
As Yahoo faces potential suitors for a sale, it would be tough to make the case that the 2013 decision to end the virtual work policy was a profitable one.
Today, more than ever, a focused and measured strategic and tactical plan are needed to navigate the abyss of communication options out there today. About half of all companies have a formal marketing plan, attaining 10% faster growth, according to a study by Sagefrog Marketing Group. The study also revealed that the real magic happened for those that combined a plan with measuring the plan’s effectiveness, achieving up to 60% faster growth!
The study also revealed that a business that monitored their brand without a plan grew more slowlythan the average company in the dataset. That kind of reactive approach to marketing without larger goals is like going on a major road trip without a map. You will be able to set out faster, and it may seem exciting, but it will cost you more time, money and headaches to get to your destination. A measured marketing plan will get you there more efficiently.
A Marketing Plan is Different Than A Business Plan
Your Marketing Plan will be a carefully laid out strategy you’ll use to attract and retain your customers. This is similar to your overall business strategy, but there is one key difference. Your marketing strategy is focused externally on your customers, while your business strategy is focused internally on the business itself.
Marketing Plan = Strategic Plan + Channel (or Tactical) Plan
Your Strategic Plan will define what you want to say, to whom, when and how. Three key elements include:
1. Strategic Plan
- Target Market Definition includes the typical geography, demographics and psychographics defined for each market segment, but most important are the key consumer insights–the truths about your target that allow you to communicate on a more intimate level.
- Positioning Strategy with a description of your plan for positioning your business and its products, your unique selling proposition and positioning statement.
- Competitive Analysis that identifies your key competitors, their positioning, strengths and weaknesses, and your standing among them.
- Sensory Package will detail what you want your prospects and customers to think, say and do when interacting with your brand.
2. Channel Plan
A channel plan outlines all of the marketing activities your business will carry out to attract and retain customers, the timing and how they will impact your target to create a unified consumer experience. It is tempting to try to find the one thing that will be the “silver bullet” that’s going to drive all of your leads and sales. Sorry, but that doesn’t exist.
Studies have proven that the effectiveness of cross-channel campaigns, especially those incorporating both digital and traditional channels is highest. Even those with a somewhat limited budget need to implement more than one tactic. It’s like hearing advice from your spouse and thinking, “yeah, o.k., one person’s opinion,” but then when one or more other people say the same thing, suddenly you’re really listening.
3. Measuring the Plan
Measuring the plan in combination with having the plan is the final step to most effectively impacting your marketing budget’s ROI. The biggest challenge is harnessing all of the information from multiple sources on a regular basis.
It’s ideal to dedicate a resource to do this for you to first look at all data available to you that is free, such as: Google Analytics for data on traffic to your Web site, inbound calls, lead generation, sales and anecdotal reports from the field. If these measurements aren’t able to accurately assess your key performance indicators, commissioned awareness and attitude studies can also be implemented. Whatever measurements you use, make sure you have set goals and a regular reporting method for your progress that is shared with key stakeholders.
In 2016, have a plan, measure it and reap the rewards.
Need help getting started? Research experienced marketing companies online and hire one who can help you with your strategic and tactical planning.
Every organization, big or small, at some point will deal with a crisis–internal or external. Companies must have a standard operating procedure for dealing with such scenarios, because when it happens, responsiveness is key.
Just as you would train a spokesperson and plan for good news, such as a new product launch, you need a “go to” plan for when unpredictable scenarios arise and the news isn’t “good.”
Public relations planner, Jack Wang, has over a decade of experience in public relations, in addition to 13 years as a television news reporter. He has seen and experienced both sides of a crisis and shares his best practices for proactive and effective crisis management:
1. Prepare for the crisis
Have a crisis communications plan written ahead of time. The plan needs to include contact information for the communications team and the local media. Develop potential crisis scenarios. Have a list of key publics. The plan needs to include speaking points for designated types of crises. Hold mock crises before an actual event happens. Keep in mind how any crisis may impact your stakeholders, especially since they may include your customers.
2. Respond to the crisis within the first hour
This may not always be practical given the circumstances, but if an organization can at least acknowledge what has occurred quickly in a statement, it can lessen the onslaught of media inquiries. Even if the facts are still unfolding, a simple concise statement can help. Tell the public the organization is aware of the problem and is working on a solution. An initial statement shouldn’t promise a timeline if you’re not sure of it. If the resolution isn’t imminent, let your stakeholders know.
3. Get buy-in
Make sure every major player within your organization understands and agrees with the plan ahead of time. Having a united front with all the key members of the organization will help in dealing with and resolving the crisis.
4. Have a designated spokesperson
The buy-in becomes of major importance to the designated spokesperson. The spokesperson may be the CEO, director or someone from the communications department. Make sure the designated person(s) have had media training, a briefing on the crisis and are prepared with key messages.
5. Apologize if necessary
If the crisis was caused by an error by your organization, acknowledge the mistake. Explain the situation and how the error will be fixed. Show sympathy to the impact the error caused to the customer/stakeholder.
6. Transparency is key
Realize that any internal memo about the crisis may end up in the hands of the media, so be willing to share with the public the same information you share with your employees.
7. Be at the location of the crisis, if possible
If the crisis has occurred at a site away from the CEO or communications office, have the spokesperson go to the scene. It is better to disseminate the information or hold the news conference near the scene, rather than at the corporate office. In the case of a tragic loss, don’t hold your news conference with the visual of that loss directly behind your spokesperson in the background. It will remind viewers and your stakeholders of the incident. Have your conference on location, but away from the immediate scene, if possible.
8. Use all of your forms of communications
Handle a crisis using email, Websites, blogs, social media, news releases and press conferences. On all fronts be efficient and keep your message clear, consistent and concise–an official statement to all media.
9. Monitor all media in real-time
Monitor the broadcasted reports and social media comments. Be aware of what they’re saying and the source. The monitoring becomes especially important if your company faces possible lawsuits because of the crisis.
10. Open your crisis communications center, if necessary
If the crisis appears to be an ongoing situation, prepare for the activation of your crisis communications center. Have a list of the crisis communications center procedures on hand. Have additional copies of the crisis communications plan available at the center for your staff for reference.
11. Debrief after the crisis is over
Have a comprehensive review after the crisis has passed. What did you learn? What did the organization do well? What didn’t the organization do well? What improvements can be made?
The most important thing organizations need to keep in mind about a crisis is that people remember how a crisis was handled longer than the actual crisis itself. Just like any situation in life, responsive, clear and consistent communication is key to sustaining trust, even when something unexpected happens.
While industry trade shows are typically the largest marketing expense for companies selling business to business, they also seem to be the least understood. At Gerard Marketing Group, we often see clients getting caught up in trade show FOMO, “fear of missing out.” If a competitor is at a show, you feel like you have to be. If a competitor is not there, you feel like you should be.
Consider participation and to what degree you participate carefully:
Treat trade show decisions as you would any other marketing tactic. Look at the number of attendees that are your primary target and divide that into the total cost to be there. Don’t forget to include some of the extraneous expenses involved:
- Booth space rental, carpet, lighting and other accessories
- Booth shipping and labor for set up and take down
- Shipping employees there and their cost to sleep and eat while there
- Cost of giveaways or promotions
Your cost per lead (CPL) at a trade show will be higher than most any other marketing tactic, but they should also be the most qualified. If you decide to be at a show, it is imperative that you track booth visitors and the amount of business they bring to your company after the show.
Tchotchkes (Chach-keys) Aren’t Necessary
Giveaways like branded bags have the added value of brand recognition throughout the show, but in general, decision makers will care most about the information, training or new innovations you can share with them vs. a new stress ball for their kids. If you don’t have new products or innovations to talk about, you probably should wait to exhibit until you do.
Work It Before, During and After
Maximize your investment with tactics before, during and after the show:
Before – Build excitement about your new innovations with direct marketing to show attendees.
During – Create buzz around your announcement with social media and event sponsorships.
After – Follow-up with attendees and leads to attain appointments.
Be True to Your Brand
Recognize that it doesn’t matter what city the trade show is in or how large or small your company, you must invest in a space that communicates your brand message accurately.
Assuming the Flavor Depot provides discount, high volume product, their small, modest booth space is arguably branded better than the well-designed, considerably larger booth with the Elvis impersonator.
Don’t stretch your marketing budget so thin that you have to skimp on booth size and construction to be at more events. Your booth is your first impression for trade show attendees, so don’t blow it. Communicate what you do quickly so attendees walk up and ask about a certain capability instead of asking “now tell me, what do you do?”
Use a professional company to design and build your booth. Structure, traffic flow, lighting, layout, furniture, storage, colors and graphics are must work together to have a successful booth space.
Coach Booth Representatives
Obviously, your sales people are integral to any trade show, but also have some of the people that design and/or make your product available also–the people that your clients and prospects wouldn’t normally get to meet. Help representatives be at their best while in the booth space by scheduling their booth time and coach on the following:
- Make eye contact with people walking past your booth and greet show visitors at the edge of the booth with conversation. Bring them into the booth space as you would invite someone into your home.
- Ask compelling open-ended questions vs. waiting for them to ask you.
- Have a compelling answer if asked, “What does your company do?”
- Be engaged and present. Check email, return texts, post to social media and eat on your breaks or after hours. Turn your phone to silent.
- Spread out–don’t cluster together with fellow employees.
- Be on time and communicate with each other if there are scheduling difficulties or if you’re going to be late.
- Bring plenty of your business cards to distribute.
- Use the scanner to scan prospect business cards. This will save hours of data entry later.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be in a better mood.
- Of course, be friendly, smile and have fun. (More so than the reps working the Flavor Chem booth pictured above.)
Is copywriting dead in this age of social media, photo-mania and mass distribution of amateur video? No. It’s not. A picture is worth a thousand words, and what those thousand words are is open to vast interpretation. Great copy writing tells the story you want them to hear.
If you have spent time around a toddler, you probably know both the joy and the frustration of this age group. These tykes are snuggly and sweet one moment and having an irrational emotional meltdown the next.
I have learned that this strange rollercoaster pattern reemerges in the teenage years. One moment there is peace, harmony, laughter and the next there is an angst-filled, emotional tirade on the inherent evils and injustice of having to pick one’s dirty socks off the bathroom floor.
Fortunately, the parental response is the same, “Use your words.” We sympathize with our children and the frustration they feel, but at some point we have to say that their current method of communication – squealy toddler tantrums or surly teenage stomping – will not, in fact, achieve the desired result. “Use your words.” “You seem upset over this small thing. Did something happen at school today? Tell me about it.”
In business, the same advice stands: Use your words. We are an increasingly visual society with an ever decreasing attention span. The words you use and how you use them are more vital than ever. It is important to think through what message you are trying to send and to whom.
Do you want your advertisement to promote a specific product or do you need to build brand recognition and trust?
Are you speaking to current customers or trying to get new ones?
Who are your customers – age, gender, educational level, occupational status?
What do your customers value?
Who are you? What is your voice?
Upon reading your message, what do you want customers to think, feel or do?
Why are you the best solution for your customer’s problem?
It is one thing to know what you want. It is quite another to put the right words together to help achieve your goals. Effective written communication can and will inspire your audience to action. When your audience clearly understands what you are saying, they can relate. Using your words does that. It forms connections. It’s necessary to forming solid long-term relationships.
Do more than just being noticed with what we at Gerard Marketing Group would call a “marketing tantrum.” This is when you are making a bunch of noise about yourself, but not relaying why you want your audience’s attention. Use your words to bond with your audience and build your brand. When they know your brand story, the bond will go beyond that moment’s sale or promotion.
Every year now since 1980 Fortune magazine has published a 100 Best Companies to Work for. The secret to making the list was published back in 1980, “The key to creating a great workplace, is not a prescriptive set of employee benefits, programs and practices, but the building of high-quality relationships.
Every Business is a “Relationship Business”
As knowledge is becoming nearly completely commoditized, the most valuable people today are increasingly “relationship workers.” It just makes sense that when a company also creates systems, operations and a culture that also supports those relationships they more often succeed. Furthermore, the employees then follow that lead in their relationships with each other, and most importantly, reflect that back to their clients. It’s a win, win, win.
It’s relationship-based, not transaction-based that matters most. Reaching people at a level that goes well beyond corporate benefits and cool offices leads to strong relationships, cohesive teams and great work. Astoundingly, many employers still don’t get that.
Thinkers and creators are what’s valued most in this marketplace. Knowledge is commoditized. Team building, collaboration and cultural sensitivity are most important. The most effective teams don’t have the highest IQs, but members who are most sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.
Money magazine’s survey noted that “having a reputation as a great place to work” was the most important factor to professionals when considering a new employer. Remember that today your reputation is splattered all over the Web for all to search and see. Every post, every interaction is part of your image, so make sure you uphold it.
Once they are there, how do you keep employees fully engaged? Be small to start with. Employee engagement is highest in the smallest companies:
42% are engaged with only 5% actively disengaged in companies size 1-10 employees
Only 29% are engaged and 20% actively disengaged in companies size 5,000+
People Really Are the Greatest Asset
The age-old trend that human capital is growing more valuable in every business, is no longer a trend. It is an ongoing state of the workforce. Fortune’s article states, “Intangible assets, mostly derived from human capital, have rocketed from 17% of the S&P 500’s market value in 1975 to 84% in 2015, says the advisory firm Ocean Tomo. Even a manufacturer like Stryker gets 70% of its value from intangibles; it makes replacement knees, hips, and other joints loaded with intellectual capital.”
The Net Net
This all adds up to the companies with the best workers win. Not only is everyone happy, but they’re more profitable also. Fortune’s 100 Best really do outperform other companies as investments. Fortune states that, “analysis of the publicly traded firms in the rankings from 1984 through 2009 by Wharton’s Alex Edmans found that a portfolio of 100 Best Companies exceeded its expected risk-adjusted return by 3.5% a year. That’s what Wall Street calls alpha, and 3.5% annually over 25 years is a stupendous performance.”#LoveWork#GreatPlacesToWork
Customers. They’re why we exist. Whether we make widgets or write novels, we do so with the hope and belief that there is a customer who wants and needs what we have. In theory CRMs allow us to use technology to learn more about our customers and prospects and use that information to improve our processes and products. Don’t forget though, that “Customer” and “Relationship” Come First in CRM. If the user experience is not enhanced by the management system, it won’t help your business. Continue reading
Probably not. Not in the terms most business coaches speak in like your emotional IQ, 360 degree self-awareness and having clarity of purpose. An eleven year old’s mind is not yet clouded with financial obligations, expectations from boards or an existing employee culture. They have the luxury of still seeing their passion and purpose in life with simplistic clarity–a skill most C-levels pay business coaches quite a lot to help them cut through all of their head trash to figure it out.
We are in the communications business, so when we meet a new client with absolute clarity on who they truly are, combined with a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and why, it’s refreshing–and rare! Gerard Marketing Group’s youngest client to date, my eleven-year-old daughter, Meredith, has all of those assets.
Her passion is theatre, but as she says, “The tragic irony of my hobby is that the hardest part is getting in the show.” Having some success at “getting the part,” but not as much as she had hoped, inspired her to start her own production company. “Besides, my true passion is directing and teaching, so why not make my own show!”
Last summer she asked if Gerard Marketing Group would help her create the marketing she needed–a name, tagline, logo and Web site. We began the work as we do all Gerard marketing projects with a solid Creative Brief. Being her mom (and short on time myself), I asked her to fill out the first draft of the brief to help her learn the marketing process. Her first draft (whipped up in 20 minutes) had the absolute clarity and direction we needed to build a brand.
Situation: I’m an eleven-year-old girl running a camp for kids between seven and nine every summer. We will work on skills over two weeks regarding acting, stage and costume design, dance and voice technique, and memorization. At the end of the two weeks we will perform a show that incorporates all the skill sets for the children’s parents.
Target audience: Second grade girls and their parents
My “Why”: I love the theatre and hope to become a director one day. I want to provide an easy-going and fun environment for young girls to learn about singing, acting, dancing, crew work, and the work and dedication needed for anything that you love in life. My biggest goal is to help bring out the best in the people I will be working with during the camp. I also want to raise at least a hundred dollars to donate back to a community organization.
Tone: I want the logo to reflect the feel of the camp, which is fun, bright, and energetic. For color I was thinking about turquoise and yellow but I’m open to other options. There should be a light and dark contrast between the two colors. I want the color scheme to be female dominant but not too exclusive. I don’t want too much flash or frills, but it can’t be drab either.
• Confidence in the way they speak and act in everyday life
• Knowledge of how backstage is operated
• Artistic costume and stage design skills
• Techniques of acting, dancing, and singing
The creative brief she wrote resulted in a couple of hours of brainstorming to develop the name, Freckles Productions, and tagline, Bring Out Your Brilliance, as we drove around the shoreline of Michigan on vacation. The first version of the logo and tagline design was the final. The Web site was completed in record time.
Direction from the perspective of a sixth grader begets meaningful brands. Brands that resonate what the company stands for and what those that affiliate with them can expect.
The Freckle Productions brand launched today! I am so very proud of my sixth grade client. See more at freckle.productions.