No doubt the current business and economic environment have had an impact our on your plans and goals as an organization. Challenging times require extra care in managing your business. As you evaluate alternatives, marketing and communications will play an important role in shaping the future. A few unsolicited thoughts on things to consider:
Building a plan and using that plan as a benchmark - You have a mission and a number of exceptional programs and initiatives. The annual meeting/conference, ongoing efforts to guide regional sales, thought leadership/position papers and publications – to name just a few. Resources are always limited, but your chances of making progress on an annual basis are more likely to be achieved if they are part of a dynamic planning process that organizes and prioritizes activity. Done well, a dynamic plan becomes a documentation of success as well as o commitment to focus on best practices.
Budgeting for success - The plan document is important and should have broad readership. The budget, on the other hand, is best managed with a smaller circulation. Budgets for marketing and communications activity can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Many companies simply do the best they can with a ballpark that has been established within in the past two-three years. Consumer products marketers often battle for “share of voice” and budget based on best estimates of competitive spending. New products often try to obtain rating points against the target prospect. When all is said and done, the budget should be a companion document to the marketing and communications plan. It should be realistic and fair. The budget also needs to be evaluated at least quarterly as they year unfolds. My experience has been within a relevant range of a wide variety of budget scenarios.
Engaging customers - You must attract new prospects and keep repeat customers each year. To accomplish this you must understand what products and services add value. If your value proposition falls short or it not fully understood, you will experience attrition and lose business.
Managing the brand - Your company is a brand. Like all brands, it is a reflection of a positioning in the minds of your stakeholders and customers. The brand comes with a promise. The promise must be reliable and true. Otherwise the brand loses equity and can be tarnished. Marketing and communications programs designed to reinforce the brand are a critical pieces to the puzzle. If you visit a Starbuck’s Coffee Shop, anywhere in the world, you see a dramatic illustration of a company effectively managing a brand.
Innovation and thinking outside the box - The brand platform enables you to apply brand building strategies that will result in meaningful success that added value to the company overall. The discipline and processes for uncovering this equity and leveraging it is very real and palpable.
Social media and thought leadership - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs and a host of other digital media options are generating opportunities for exponential exposure (and at a modest cost). It begins with understanding the attitude of key stakeholders. But the only way to earn exposure is to go viral with news that is relevant, compelling and timely. In short, it starts with CONTENT. Like all media, the interactive media presents opportunities to be an important part of a bigger picture. The whole has an opportunity to be far more significant that the sum of its parts!
Targeting market segments - Your brand has market segments that merit effort and attention. Underdeveloped segments may require some investment, mature segments may require some fresh thinking and new products might require exploration.
Reputation Management - Be mindful of reputation. Be prepared with crisis communication and smart about how you present yourself to your customers and prospects. Reinforce the brand with an ongoing program of public relations activity. Have a process by which the successful measurement can guide ongoing programs designed to add credibility and showcase expertise. Use innovation and creative thinking. Everyone wants to be a part of an organization that is viewed in a positive light.
Managing the team - Marketing and communications are often undervalued. The activity can boost sales, enhance value and dramatically improve an organization’s performance. Yet, so often, much activity falls on a small cadre of soldiers motivated more by the art than the commerce of their daily tasks. This is as it should be. Let’s face it; movies would be boring if actors and directors thought of nothing else but box-office draw. Instead, you need actors and directors who are passionate about telling a story and telling it well. Managing such a team, takes finesse. It also requires discipline and guidance to contain and focus energy on priorities. At the start of each day there needs to be a sense of purpose. At the end of each day a feeling of accomplishment (and being a part of a larger mission). The internal team needs to be strong and cohesive. Where appropriate, outsourcing may be necessary. The best teams function as a unit with a common purpose.