Tag Archive for Tough Times Marketing

Tools to Stand Out

BNET shared some stories about marketing tactics that independent bookstores are using to remain successful.

  1. Expand your reach to a national market.
  2. Go green.
  3. Create a store within a store.
  4. Open your doors to the community.
  5. Cultivate the next generation of customers.
  6. Get social.

One or more of these ideas could work for your business. We would love to help you implement them and put together a story to tell your customers about it. Maybe it is just the reason you have needed to mail a postcard out to your favorite customers?

A Tribute to the Underdog

As a tribute to cute costumes and a way to help you consider a possible branding message, we want to share some highlights from Harvard Business School professor, Anat Keinan.

The weaker party is often more attractive to many people. The reason might be due to consumers wanting to identify with the underdog. In today’s economically difficult times, it appears, underdog brands are gaining power in the marketplace.

Stories about underdogs overcoming great odds through passion and determination are resonant during difficult times. They inspire and give hope when the outlook is bleak. They promise that success is still possible. Throughout history Americans have embraced the American Dream, which proclaims that through hard work and perseverance anyone can be successful.

Underdog brand biographies (that highlight the companies’ humble beginnings, hopes and dreams, and noble struggles against adversaries) are being used by both large and small companies and across categories. Even large corporations, such as Apple and Google, are careful to retain their underdog roots in their brand biographies.

The common themes that link these brands’ underdog biographies are

  1. a disadvantaged position in the marketplace versus a “top dog,” a well-endowed competitor with superior resources or market dominance, and
  2. tremendous passion and determination to succeed despite the odds.

Marketers can use underdog narratives to positively affect consumers’ perceptions of and purchase of brands. “Underdog narratives are often delivered to consumers through the rhetorical device of a brand biography, an unfolding story that chronicles the brand’s origins, life experiences, and evolution over time in a selectively constructed story.”

Many contemporary brand biographies contain underdog narratives. Product packaging, corporate Web sites, direct mail advertising, blogs, and marketing communications tell the biographical stories of brands.

  • Avis’s classic slogan “we’re number 2” emphasized that it was playing second fiddle to a giant in the rental car business.
  • Brands such as Google, Clif Bar, and Apple celebrate their garage origins. Hewlett-Packard recently bought, and has a whole section on its Web site dedicated to, the garage in which it started. It is now a historical landmark.
  • Starbucks, in an effort to reverse declining sales, recently launched Pike Place Roast, which emphasizes the brand’s humble Seattle coffee culture beginnings.
  • Adidas’s “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign emphasized the underdog stories of famous athletes.

A Strategy for Tough Times

BNET posted an article in its leadership section titled, “What to Do in a Double-Dip Recession? Grow!” This may sound counter intuitive but it isn’t. There is evidence and research everywhere to support the notion that if you invest in gaining market share when your competitors are just trying to hang on, you will be in much better position when things do turn around.

We published these tips about Marketing in Tough Times a few years ago, they still seem very relevant today.

The Plan for Those Who Don’t Plan

BNET recently offered these ideas about business planning. The premise started with the observation that during the last twelve months, the business and economic landscape has continued to change and no one can predict what’s next. So why waste time with five-year plans?

One of the most prevalent rules for entrepreneurs is to create a long term plan! But in 2010, small businesses are learning that it’s more important to be agile and flexible. Plans are unhelpful when they restrict your thinking or don’t allow for deviation or reinvention.

That kind of thinking can give you the edge in the market. Liberating your company from traditional business planning may mean you can be both more enterprising and more robust for survival in difficult times. Here are four tips for navigating your way through the unpredictable business landscape without a big strategic plan:

  1. Think fluid. Don’t get stuck to a rigid strategic plan. Instead, see where the water flows and trust your instincts — not your spreadsheet — in pursuing new options. Make sure your business is agile enough to react to market trends or new innovations in technology. If you spot a new opportunity, you don’t have to check it’s on the plan first — just go for it.
  2. Prototype. Test your ideas in the real world. Better to launch beta versions of your website, so you can evaluate and tweak as you go, rather than trying to perfect the model before you launch. Otherwise you might never get the site off the ground.
  3. Reinvent. Learn to love change and be prepared to rethink what you do and how you do it. Maybe your business feels a bit stale, a bit stuck. You might need to shake up your organization so your clients start thinking differently about you. Re-energize your organization by taking your team on an ‘away day’ to brainstorm new ideas; think laterally about how you can re-engineer your offering to grow the business.
  4. Think goals, not plans. Set objectives for the year: deadlines to meet, products to launch. It’s important to know what you want to achieve — if not necessarily how you’ll get there. This allows you to think big without initially worrying about the details. A goal may be “I need to get a new client every month.” Perhaps you don’t have a strict linear plan for how you’ll actually achieve that — you just start off the instinctive way: word of mouth, social networking, client meet-and-greets, and so on.  You can’t chart this activity on a graph, but mentally focusing on the goals will help you reach your desired outcome.

A timeline or a spreadsheet can’t capture those opportunities that arise from serendipity and random meetings. If you remove the traditional business planning mindset, you’ll be liberated to grow your business in line with how the world really changes — not with what it says on a spreadsheet.

How can we help you test a new idea or be fluid in your marketing?

The “Down Sell”

BNET posted an article by Jeremy Quittner suggesting a new strategy. We are very familiar with “up-selling”, the practice of giving a product premium characteristics and a premium price too. There are success stories of luxury brands that began as basics all over the place. Think of what Starbucks has done to the 50-cent cup of coffee.

In this economy, down-selling might be a worthy strategy. Consumers may be spending again, but they’re doing so cautiously and with a newfound resolve to stick to a budget. If they’re giving up the bells and whistles in favor of more basic and affordable products, why not follow suit and take the “premium” out of your premium products?

It’s a much trickier proposition — that’s why. If you go too cheap, you risk, among other dangers, killing your profit margins and diluting your brand.

Ways to try this strategy:

Give Customers Something New
You could simplify an existing product by stripping it down to its essentials, or invent a completely new, cheaper product. Go to your customers for clues about what they’re looking for and what they’re willing to buy. Just make sure you don’t give them exactly what they say they want — your customers probably only know what’s already out there. It’s your job to figure out what’s new.

Pitch the Value
Marketing non-premium products in a down economy requires a different kind of sales pitch. Convey that they are still getting a valuable product, but it’s priced for this economy, and the value may not last. That way, customers get the message that you are looking out for their needs and you are still providing the high quality that they associate with your brand.

Know Your Brand
Down-selling customers won’t work for every company, particularly if your image depends on an air of high-end exclusivity to differentiate it from your competitors. Don’t cannibalize your core (business, products, brands or customer base) to stimulate sales in the short term without thinking long term and strategically.

When you are ready to introduce your new ideas, direct mail is a great way to test messages, approaches and innovations.

Courting a Wary Customer

Deliver Magazine and Sid Liebenson suggest three ways to build and maintain loyal relationships when customers are running scared.

Consumers are retrenching, economizing and just plain scared. But as the saying goes, the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, and the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.

The recession presents the perfect opportunity to finetune your marketing efforts that will build loyalty among your current customers. It also is the prime time to go into acquisition mode and attract competitors’ customers to your brand. Here are three ways to do it:

1. Get personal. Consumers are vulnerable in a down market: They’re rethinking their brand loyalties as they look to economize and reconsider what they value in a brand. Keeping your customers means personalizing like you’ve never personalized before.

Mine your data to let your customers know you understand what’s important to them. For example, you might send a message on a catalog overwrap saying, “In the spring, you bought this lightweight cotton sweater from us. Now that it’s fall, here’s what people who bought that sweater are buying now.” This shows you care about what they are thinking, and there’s some logic to what you’re recommending — you’re not selling them something just to sell it.

Your marketing messages need to be not only personalized, but frequent. In a tough economy, it’s common for consumers to question where every penny is going. When they do that, suddenly every relationship is a little at risk. Their question becomes “Am I really getting value from this relationship, or is there something that will satisfy my needs equally for less money?”

2. Don’t make cuts. Now is not the time to scale back on marketing spending. If you don’t stay in touch with your best customers — while they’re continuously exposed to messages from your competitors — the idea of buying your brand gets further from their mind. This is especially true when consumers are already reconsidering their brand loyalty.

In several categories, competitors aren’t marketing as much or they’re reducing campaign frequency. With these cutbacks, some marketing media have become cheaper. If you’re not afraid to spend some money on acquisition, chances are your media costs can be a little more efficient.

3. Show them you care. Empathize with customers to demonstrate you understand what they’re going through during the recession. Health care, for example, is a big concern for consumers right now.

You should always practice good marketing — personalization, appropriate messages, frequent touches — but focus on these things even more to keep your customers with you through the economic crisis. When times are better, you’ll have your core group of customers — and then some.

Low Cost Publicity Tips & Ideas

You want to stretch every marketing dollar right now! If you decide to promote your own company here are ten ideas and tactics to get you started. We saved the traditional ideas for last.

  1. Network! Join groups and talk to people.
  2. Start a newsletter. This implies you have a mailing list. If you don’t have one, start building it now. In your newsletter always make sure you include news your readers can use – there has to be at least one part that will benefit your readers directly.
  3. Ask for testimonials. If your clients were happy with your services, ask them for a testimonial to use in your marketing. If they don’t time to write one, write it yourself and ask them to approve it.
  4. Blog about it. Don’t have a blog? Get one! If you’re worried about the cost, you can sign up for a free account. When writing your posts, take considerable time in writing your headline. Make sure to include keywords that relate to your post. Also comment on blogs. Compile a list of blogs that complement your service/company or relate to your industry and comment on their posts. Consider guest blogging too. Offering to guest blog on someone else’s blog can be a great way to introduce yourself or service to others. Research a list of relevant blogs and contact the blogger. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how willing bloggers will be to talk to you.
  5. Profile your company in Wikipedia. Check out how other companies profile themselves and use the same format. Be sure to include links to your site so people can find you.
  6. Leverage Social Media. Social networking sites can be a great way to market your company and/or offering. Make a list of groups on each that are relevant to you, join them, network with other members, and promote yourself and your service.
  7. Add E-Mail Signature Lines. You are probably constantly e-mailing vendors, clients, partners, etc. Did you know you can also market your new services in them? Add a signature line at the end of your e-mail with a link to your site that promotes your new service or blog post. It’s easy to do.
  8. Start a contest. Everybody loves to win something and a great way to market your company is to start a contest. Make one of your offerings for free as the prize. Use this opportunity to add to your mailing list.
  9. Write an interesting article. Writing articles is a great way to establish credibility. The key is to make sure your article ends up benefiting the person reading it. Send us an email and we will share lists of topic ideas. Your headline should draw people in make it short, funny, thought provoking and/or engaging. Sometimes writing it last works best. Your byline should give readers a brief background of yourself and your company. Be sure to include contact information.
  10. Submit a Press Release. Write a noteworthy press release in third person and submit it yourself at free online sites. You can also send the press release to the local media around your area. To gain a better chance of getting it picked up, include a cover letter that showcases how the information in your release benefits your local community. It may prove worthwhile to pay for one PR service if you have truly newsworthy information.

Tips for Print Buying

We are all being pressured to produce more with less. More powerful campaigns, more cutting-edge designs, more targeted pieces, more tangible ROI, more pizzazz than your competitors’ materials, more pressure to deliver faster with less money in your marketing budget.

These tips should apply in any economy, but right now it is so important to save every possible fraction of a cent.

  1. Maintain a list of vendors and their capabilities, they offer different services at different prices, this is due the differences in press sizes and other equipment features. Also track information about concerns, list the name of the vendor, dates and any possible problems.
  2. Get recommendations from other buyers and designers who produce similar types of materials, ask about pricing, service, ability to meet deadlines.
  3. Don’t expect printing to be done overnight.
  4. What matters most to you, delivery date, price, print quality or “wow!”? Know your priorities and share them with your printer.
  5. Get quotes from new suppliers and develop relationships during times when you are not busy, the more details you provide a potential printer, the better estimate you will receive.
  6. If you plan to mail the pieces, think about schedules, post office regulations, designing for mailing, USPS rates/costs, mailing lists, mailing houses, fulfillment, and so on. Dean’s Mailing is happy to review proofs before they go to press to look for possible improvements.
  7. Take advantage of payment terms and discounts.
  8. Consider direct paper stock purchases, paper is the biggest cost factor of a print job.
  9. Meet with paper vendors to determine what paper stocks can bring the most value and look for incentive programs.
  10. Work with up to five printers, don’t concentrate all your resources with just one vendor.
  11. Find the printers who can offer your more; creative ideas, lots of experience, current with the technology, and people who understand your business.

Make the Most of What You Have

Direct Magazine published an article titled, “Make the Most of What You’ve Got”. Author, Carol Lustig, shared some realistic practical information with a great attitude. She talked about how her information technology systems were not completely up to date and she was not able to get the exact customer purchase data that she wanted to use for a new campaign.

The result was that working with what was available, a new campaign has been launched and customer relationships are being retained using targeted specific information.

We have talked about the ideals of customer segmentation and market analysis, but the other side of those ideas is that we just need to do something! Maybe that something is just to start with what we have.

Please talk to us, we are here to save you every possible fraction of a cent on postage and that sensibility can help you make the most from what you already have (creative ideas, artwork, customer information, extra mailing pieces, samples…).

The Future of Marketing?

Is it really the economy, or is the recovery sluggish because people are not being reached when they want to consider marketing messages?

In a post that appeared on a Harvard Business Review blog, Dick Patton suggested that the four P’s of the traditional marketing mix (product, price, placement and promotion) be replaced. His article suggests a new acrostic: ROIDs

  • Responsibility marketing, including social responsibility, green marketing, and sustainability
  • Organizational leadership, requiring marketing to touch as much of the value chain as possible
  • Insights about customers, based on new analytic techniques that replace yesterday’s market research
  • Digital marketing, requiring companies to master an amorphous bundle of fast-changing media

What about the four D’s?

  • Dependability, as in marketing that is accountable, conscientious and responsible
  • Direction, marketing should be an integral part of determining where the company goes
  • Discernment, understanding of customers and the environment
  • Digital, companies must harness the power of ever-changing media, but be careful not to give it more influence than it deserves

Direct marketing needs to stay an integral part of this future; even as the environment, the rules, the models and what is really working and yielding results and returns on investment keep changing. Many businesses in many sectors have put more and more resources toward marketing using new technology, but the profits and revenue have not been created.

We need to talk to people when they want to receive information, not when they are in the middle of trying to just get through 50 emails or when they are gathering information for what they are ready to buy right now.