Posted on January 3, 2015 by David Yovich
Several years ago we worked with a company where the chairman had a great distain for marketing. That wasn’t always the case. In fact, his father, the founder, was a maverick marketer. He took a small local business and turned each product sold into regional powerhouse brands. For many years the company enjoyed rapid geographic growth, loyal customers, and brand recognition.
When it was time for the next generation to take the lead, the company was poised to put many of their products on store shelves and on a national basis. New management contributed a new and different type of talent, numbers. The books were healthy and the sales team was booming. Management’s focus shifted to maximizing profit. Spending money to create new manufacturing processes that lowered overhead and increased quality could be justified through numbers and analysis. Eliminating an entire floor full of marketing professionals could also be numerically justified. In essence, they were just sales support. Replacing a marketing team with a Director of Sales Promotions made fiscal sense in the mind of the chairman.
When I retell this story to other marketers they want to hear that the company soon crumbled and new management saw the error of their ways. This was not the case. In fact, the unemployed marketing team did such a tremendous job of creating brand loyalty in the coveted 25-35 age group that the company enjoyed two decades of continued success. As far as growth, they adopted a strategy of acquisition. They would acquire a struggling brand, integrate the new product(s) within their existing production lines and capacities, and maintain sales. In fact, the internal Legal, HR, Accounting, and Manufacturing departments all increased head count over time with one exception, the Sales department. The Sales department was plagued with a high turn-over rate due to unrealistic expectations of performance.
Now fast forward twenty years and the company is presently on the decline. Market perceptions are that the company and its brands are irrelevant. The product lines which used to enjoy number one positions in their respective product categories are now lucky to even enjoy any shelf presence. 1 As marketers we understand the story all too well. Our job is to make the sales department look good twenty-four months from now. Compared to every other department, marketing is the only one that is proactive, not reactive. After suffering through the Great Recession it’s time for marketers to take back their seat at the corporate table and change the mentalities of the past.
The templates are no longer static, but fluid. For example, twenty years ago when Company X was going to exhibit at the yearly national trade show there was a template. Company X would include the booth number and name of the show in a print ad they placed in the associated trade magazine. They sent a direct mailer to all their customers and prospects announcing the booth number. They would include some sort of give away or incentive to visit the booth and some would even send a thank you mailer out after the show. The campaign’s principle is and will remain effective, but the execution has dramatically changed. A few years ago, email newsletters started to accompany trade publication print advertising and email blasts began to replace direct mailers. It has become easy to fall into a trap of just changing the template, but technology is not static so neither can our execution. For example, marketers now have the ability to geofence a specific street address and deliver content directly to mobile devices. That did not exist five years ago. Now imagine applying that technology to your annual industry trade show promotion. The advancements in technology have not only redefined our ability to be creative marketing tacticians, but have provided us data rich information that allows us to analyze, evaluate, and report effectiveness of campaigns.
Redefine traditional marketing platforms such as print, don’t just discard them. If we focus all of our efforts and budget into technology avenues for the sole purpose of gathering, reporting, and justifying ROI in marketing, we are doomed to fail. Building on the trade show example, let’s assume we decided to eliminate the printed direct mailer invitation and release an email blast two weeks ahead of the show. It’s a good option because email blasts are a fraction of the cost, data rich, and reportable. Another alternative is to develop a promotion that ties the two together, such as a direct mailer that has a digital call to action, reinforced through a series of email blasts leading up to the trade show.
For example, Company X decides to not give away logo pens, but a sweepstakes for show attendees with a grand prize being a three day cruise. The marketing department wins the argument against 2 the sales department that a simple fish bowl in which attendees put their cards for a drawing is not an effective promotion. Instead, the announcement of the program is released via direct mail. The direct mailer is a cruise theme but integrates Company X’s product line. The attendees use the mailer as a game board. Four weeks leading up to the trade show, the company emails words once a week that the attendees fill in. At the show, the attendees hand the finished game board in at the booth for the chance to win. Twenty years ago, a direct mail pre-trade show campaign like this would not have worked and a simple email blast does not create brand interaction, but merging traditional and technological methods allows for greater success — a success that can be tracked and reported.
Unfortunately, marketing in many companies is viewed as a sale support function, and when an economic downturn occurs, the function is viewed as a non-essential role. As budgets begin to bounce back from the Great Recession and as companies begin to market more, how should marketers change the paradigm of thought internally to that of an essential revenuecentric asset? Marketers need to innovate, track, and report. As an example, a small local remodeling company in Northeastern Pennsylvania wanted to run a local cable television spot. Instead, they opted to take a portion of their budget and run online pre-rolled video. Within one year, their entire budget switched to technology-based advertising. By implementing an innovative approach to reaching their market demographics, they were able to track leads from the first moment of brand communication to the final moments of the signed contract for a new project.
As marketers we intrinsically understand the essential need for companies to market, but it’s time we realize that many other colleagues in the company do not. By innovating, tracking, and reporting we can begin to change the perception that marketing is not a matter of preference and opinion, but rather a well executed and delivered message that is backed by research and produces trackable revenue-generating results. By producing monthly marketing reports and detailed customer interaction tracking, marketers will begin to see the perception switched from marketing being an extra expense only necessary during profitable times, to the tip of the spear in company revenue and customer acquisition. Plus, the next time Bob in accounting says he didn’t like the color you used in the last ad, you can statistically report the ads success and question his font use in the monthly P/L report.