By Tim A. Schultz
According to marketing communication experts, branding is not just something you need to consider. It’s everything. It’s the elevator speech that defines your company and product benefits. It’s the glue that holds your marketing program together and the gasoline that drives and supports your sales engine.
Having said that, since 2008 and this last great recession, just about every company has had to tighten its marketing budget. Not to worry, there are still plenty of cost-effective initiatives you can implement to continue building your brand without breaking your budget. Plus, when the economy bounces back, you may realize that you can actually accomplish almost as much while spending less.
Change Your Advertising Strategy
While advertising remains the single most effective strategy to build brands, you may have to reconsider your advertising campaign options. For instance, even though you may have to forego your full-page four-color ad campaign, you still have options. Consider more targeted fractional page ads to maintain a strong frequency and reach equation. This accomplishes two things; it keeps your brand active while keeping the trade publications interested in supporting your efforts with cost-effective publicity. While every trade publication representative will tell you about the distinct line between editorial and advertising, I have never worked with a trade publication yet that does not do its best to support the companies that support it.
Work Your Publicity Advantage
Then work your publicity program to your best advantage. News releases are inexpensive. Literature releases are inexpensive. And by using a resource like Business Wire, you can be sure to canvass your entire online and print market. Then augment Business Wire with your own news release submittal program. Make certain your marketing communications expert has a targeted list of industry trades and maintains a personal relationship with targeted editors. A personal e-mail with an attached news release to an editor you know will go a long way towards getting your release published. Finally, to maximize your publicity efforts, be sure to produce a constant stream of case histories and product success stories that feature your company. While poorly written advertising fluff and advertorial will never get published, trade publications are always on the lookout for well-written articles that offer real reader value. And case histories that feature how a product solution solved a company’s problem by increasing productivity while reducing costs are always welcome. The fact that it was your company and your product that provided the solution only completes the story.
Create A Customer Newsletter
Everyone appreciates news that offers value and benefits the reader. Start by creating a newsletter that keeps your customers abreast of the latest news from your industry, including technological information that's sure to benefit them. Then, keep your customers informed about your own news that has reader benefit, That includes your latest corporate news, your newest product introductions that will increase their productivity or reduce scrap, and keep your customers up to date on your latest trade show activity. Newsletters are also an ideal way to showcase your case histories and product success stories, explaining to customers how one of your products helped another company like theirs increase productivity. Then, by using your website, email blasts, social media, and printed mailers, you have all sorts of ways to share the information and get it out there, and for not a lot of money.
Change Your Trade Show Strategy
For industry trade shows, consider a smaller size booth. Never pull out of an industry trade show to save money. You can do irreparable damage to your brand, giving your competition all the ammunition it needs to question your absence and viability. Instead, reduce your static square footage, while making certain you incorporate plenty of dynamic activity. You’ll find little difference in traffic or lead results.
Cost-Effective Direct Marketing
For effective brand building, direct marketing is always cost effective. If you have a strong sales proposition that resonates with your customers, a targeted mailing list, and understand that you need to take advantage of the power of three, which means at least three mailings to make any impact and get a response, direct mail marketing works. Plus, if you maintain a targeted e-mail list as well, you can augment your snail mail campaign with broadcast emails that are extremely cost-effective.
Make Sure Your Website Works For You
Every company has a website. Unfortunately, most companies do not get anywhere near the benefits from their site that they should. For not a lot of money, you can dramatically increase traffic and continue to build your brand. For instance, are you taking advantage of free Google Keyword Research and Keyword Analytics to optimize your site content and attract search engines? Are you blogging? And are you taking full advantage of free article repositories on the web such as ezinearticles.com to get your news release information circulating through the web while attracting customers and search engine searches to your website? And most important, are you regularly updating your website? Remember, the worst thing you can do to a website is to not update its content on a regular basis. Several times a month spiders from each search engine circulate throughout the web and check for new activity. Dormant websites are considered irrelevant, and once considered irrelevant, your organic search engine ranking drops in a hurry.
Social Media Marketing
Are you getting social and getting involved in social media? Social media marketing may be the most cost-effective method available today for building brands and engaging customers. Recent studies have determined that social media networking has already surpassed e-mail as the preferable method to communicate online.
So how important is social media? Recent studies show that Facebook now has 750 million users worldwide. It’s why every company should have a Facebook page to regularly engage customers. Even better, it could not be more cost-effective. All you need is a dedicated administrator who is a social media expert to maintain your page. Then, linked to your website, you can engage customers with all sorts of value-added information and sales opportunities. You can even use Facebook to post blogs, movies and new product literature. Most important, you can use Facebook to develop an important dialogue with your customer, which continues to build your brand.
Other cost-effective social media opportunities for building brands include LinkedIn, providing a free and excellent opportunity to make business-to-business contacts and to link your company with industry-related groups. Twitter offers companies 140 characters per “tweet” to talk to followers, an important and free medium to reach smart phone users. YouTube gives you a free opportunity to post movies with links to your website. When you see one of your movies go “viral,” you’ll understand the power of social media and YouTube.
Don’t Forget The Research
And finally, are you periodically doing your homework first, which means are you earmarking a certain amount of money every year for research? For the relatively small amount of money that you invest in benchmark studies and customer satisfaction surveys, you will find that your research will more than pay for itself in building brands, for the short-term and long term.
Tim A. Schultz is President and owner of Marcom Solutions, a full-service marketing communications agency supporting business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients.He can be reached at MarcomTim@yahoo.com or by phone at 216-314-2227.