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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Integrated marketing

You'll want to read Steve Yastrow's books for insights into the importance of a clients-first approach to marketing. His latest blog entry is appropriately titled, "Your un-media plan".

I believe in integrated marketing; that is, your effective combination of internal and external methodologies to both your brand and attract new clients. Done properly, this need not cost a fortune -- in fact, you can often build an effective marketing strategy for little or no cash.

Your employees and current clients are 80 per cent of the picture.

Read Steve Yastrow's Brand Harmony -- then think about the overall client experience and how you can improve it. Dissatisfied clients bad-mouth you. Satisfied clients will purchase more. And truly enthusiastic clients will be your best sales reps. You need to make the entire process of doing business with your organization a pleasure -- in fact something clients truly enjoy. Frankly, with my own business, I see lots of improvements to be made here -- yesterday, I worked on a file where the contract had not been properly confirmed, we had sent inaccurate invoices, our collection department had 'pushed' for payment -- but not promptly returned calls seeking clarification -- and this is a long-standing and well-established customer! Ouch.

It is vitally important that before you spend any money on outbound marketing and selling, you ensure your internal processes are in order, and you can serve your current clients properly, effectively, and enthusiastically.

In reaching for new business, consider your clients' needs first.

Sure, you can force your way into the consciousness of potential clients by blunt force -- and maybe get some business. But this is expensive and largely ineffective. I know not everyone agrees with me, but this is why I have problems with dumb telemarketing and canvassing, where drones reading scripts call down lists in the 'numbers game'. But how many people do you irritate in the effort to get some response? (I'm not quarrelling with rational and creative canvassing and telemarketing -- if you are a roofer and drive around, and see roofs needing work -- maybe it makes sense to knock on the door, especially if you know the work now will save your potential client much grief later on.)

Multiple messages from credible sources will influence decisions.

Advertising, word-of-mouth, consistent logos and designs, and editorial coverage, will build the 'front of mind' awareness of your business, your positive awareness, and attract interest.

Your key marketing measurements should be the "cost per lead" and "quality of client satisfaction".

You need to measure your results, and your objective should be to achieve the most profitable cost per lead (note the absolute cost of the lead is less important than its lifetime value. Say, you need to spend $100,000 to attract one client -- but this will be a repeat client worth $1 million a year -- and a client with a large network of friends and colleagues, who can purchase your services as well.) But you will not have a sustainable business unless you deliver the goods and your clients are truly impressed with your service.

You need a plan, a budget, and the ability to change on the fly.

Some seat of the pants marketing decisions are rational -- you need to be able to seize opportunities as they arise, or adapt to changing economic circumstances. But you don't want to be flapping about desperately, or doing business just because one sales rep or another charms you about a particular media or leads service. With guidelines, consistent principals, and an integrated approach, you'll be able to evaluate competing marketing service claims and achieve the results you are seeking.

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