Tag Archives: marketing communications

Do Small Businesses Need a Marketing Communications Intervention?

Among small businesses, (500 employees or less), I find it rare that they much in the way of communicating with customers, prospects, suppliers, influencers, and even employees. Why? There are three primary reasons:

  1. Marketing is perceived as mysterious, and seems complicated.
  2. Sales is familiar and seems easy (I hire a sales guy, use Salesforce and dial for dollars).
  3. I’m too busy to think about it or do it (We’re developing products, ensuring service, hiring people, keeping people happy, fighting fires and meeting payroll, etc.).

When they meet communicators, they’re usually interested in what we have to say. We’re excited and more than willing to rattle off exactly what their business needs: “Social media is critical, public relations is essential and your website, sales materials and trade show stuff must be new, fresh, and compelling. And, of course, there’s the issue of your corporate brand and how all of this fits into an overall marketing communications strategy. So, let’s get started.”

The business owner is now catatonic. Eyes are glazed over. Is he or she breathing? Their business brains have gone straight to “oh my god”  and “there’s no way I can do all this—no time, no money, no people.”  We just assassinated our prospect.

Here’s how to slow down and showcase the role of marketing communications for small businesses in 7 simple steps:

  1. Break it down. No company can do everything all the time. Through a simple yet comprehensive planning session with the sales and executive team, we discover the business goals and efforts that are already planned. We align marketing efforts with business efforts. Business goals with marketing goals.
  2. Start small. If the business owner and the team are historically sales focused vs. marketing savvy, it’s critical to start small and get them comfortable with how marketing works—vs. sales. Starting small may mean implementing something as simple as a customer letter that is written, printed and mailed every quarterly. An easy First Step is a brief yet consistent e-mail “newsletter” to customers and prospects.
  3. Budget the basics. The same principle applies here. Don’t scope the marketing program so they have to put a lien on their building. Give them some practical perspectives, share a brief strategy/goals statement, and then break out the steps and tactics with hard numbers. Be precise and specific.
  4. Stay nearby and navigate with care. I find that entrepreneurs thrive amid chaos so keeping efforts focused, synced and timely are often the most difficult parts of the project. Pre-scheduled status meetings per week serve to remind everyone “who’s on first.” Keeping everyone committed, aware and engaged is 95 percent of the success factor.
  5. Make it easy. Do everything you can to eliminate redundancy, delays and to-dos. If it gets you what you need to accomplish the task, meet your client for a drink after hours or do a phone call after they tuck in their kids for bed. Accommodate them.
  6. Show progress. Don’t go silent and not correspond with the client for a week. Tune in, communicate and let them know something’s happening. I add calendar reminders called “Quick Touch/Client A” just so I reach out—even if there’s not a lot to say. Quick and easy.
  7. Step back. In our quest to act and generate results, we may forget the most important action required with clients: to listen. They are the experts in their business. We need to leverage that so we can improve and advance their cause—and ours.

When clients and communicators combine their competencies, long term, the outcome is extraordinary. There is strength in relationships and results.

Please follow me at http://www.twitter.com/practicalpr.

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Filed under marketing communications, PR, Roy G. Miller, Small Business, Uncategorized

When your company stuff is “dusty” and “ratchet”: My teen talks

Having several days away from the office and doing very little but hanging with a triple threat of my kids–teenagers (18, 14 and 10 — he thinks he’s one)–brought new revelation to this world we call communications, marketing, PR and social media. I just had no idea.

Cases in point:

  • Dad, that music is so dusty.
  • Really, Dad, the shirt is so ratchet.
  • Dad, don’t use the word stud, you obviously don’t know what it means.

Well then. I stand corrected and a bit baffled by my apparent ignorance — and command of the English language.

“Pray, tell me oh wonderful fruits of my loins, please share thy greatness and wisdom.”

And so they did.

  • First, “dusty” is the equivalent of “so yesterday.” I’d call that obsolete (Dad, that terms is so dus– …).
  • Ratchet. The shirt, it’s gross, ugly. Really downhill, outdated. Stupid. Ratchet. Thanks for the advice, and the kindness in which you shared.
  • Then there’s stud. What once was a genetically groomed horse with fantastic DNA is no more. It has something to do with bi-sexuals … I stopped their Wikopedia-ish insights. Who cares.

Later that same evening as I lamented my new “ratchet” shirt, I realized I had seen some pretty ratchet websites of late, most of which suffered an overdose of, u-m-m-m, dusty-ness.

uglyshirtIt’s 2013. Now is the time to evaluate your marketing collaterals, websites — and how you and your business are communicating to those who buy your products and services. For those companies that still have a Visitor Counter on the top of the webpage, ALERT! That’s dusty and ratchet.

If your color scheme mirrors the earth tones of the 70s, that’s another sign of problems. Have we mentioned animated gifs, Times Roman fonts and the stock photos you can find on almost any other website within your industry?

Time for a refresh? If your site hasn’t been polished in the last 18 to 24 months, take a look, navigate through it, read it and get the opinions of others (none of which report to you).

With a refresh in look, feel and message, there’s more to consider. What is your marketing mix? Have you been doing the same old ads and direct-mail that’s worked since Devo was the music rage? And if social media isn’t part of your mix, think why and why not. It may not be strategic for you. But it may.

Avoid Dusty. Run from Ratchet.

It’s painful to hear. Acknowledge. Accept.

Truly.

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Where is God’s marketing team? Survey sucks, so does church marketing

My curiosity is certainly well intentioned. I just wanted to know.

I’ve always seen churches as spiritual havens. And as businesses. They are organizations that face the same struggles and successes that others have, especially when it comes to cash flow, and building and retaining “customers.”

So, how do churches market themselves? Beyond a great “product” and “relational selling,” what are their marketing communications approaches and how much do they spend?

I didn’t find my answers online. So, I figured, why not ask them. So I did.

I sent 100 e-mail notes to various church leaders that spanned the country; Some were mega-churches and some were itsy bitsy. Most of them were Protestant and evangelical churches. I gave them two weeks to respond to the online survey. I also posted the survey opportunity on my personal and professional Twitter and Facebook sites.

On deadline day, I checked the survey results. I was disappointed. I garnered a 6 percent response rate. Based on the experts, an online survey will often generate a 20 percent to 30 percent response (that sounds high to me, but …)

I wasn’t ready to give up, so I reviewed the findings.  Here is a “snipshot” of results—not even a snapshot. Here we go:

  •  Respondents of this survey were both male and female; Churches varied in size, from 146 members, to 455. Four of the six respondents provided their names instead of titles when asked, with one responding with the title of “Mobilizer,” another as “Senior Pastor.” Five of the six respondents are Texas churches, one is in Ohio.
  • Among marketing communications tools—listed as brochures, phone calls, Website, e-mail and social media–40 percent of church respondents say social media is their most used marketing communications tool. The least used tool is direct mail (postcards and letters).
  • Respondents ranked the following as most used to least used marketing communications tools:

1. Social media

2. Website

3. Email

4. Phone calls

5. Direct mail (letters or postcards)

6. Brochures

  •  84 percent of respondents say they spend between one percent and 5 percent of their annual operating budget on marketing communications. The remaining 15 percent said less than 1 percent.
  • The majority of respondents (actually at 50 percent) say the primary purpose of their marketing communications is to promote an event. The remaining 50 percent was evenly split among “introducing the church to the community,” a special sermon series, children’s, youth, women’s, men’s and social services ministries.”
  • 67 percent of respondents say the quality of their marketing communications is average, 16.7 percent said good, and 16.7 percent said below average.
  • When asked who they primarily targeted with their marketing communications. 50 percent of respondents said members; another 50 percent said non-members.

DISAPPOINTMENT, PART II

Confession. My disappointment extends from the survey’s lack of response. It was more than that. The people in the know – the church leaders, consultants, speakers and influencers with strong voices and opinions, did not respond. I’m not talking they declined. I’m talking, no response. I approached Tim Schrader at www.churchmarketingsucks.com for comment. Nothing. I emailed contacts for Chuck Swindoll and Stonebriar. Nothing.  There were a few more. Still nada. That’s the real disappointment. I understand busy schedules and priorities and hold no contempt for any of them. Just disappointed.

ANALYSIS

The snipshot tells me that churches remain cash strapped, despite what appears to be luxurious, evangelical churches “bring home the bacon.” These perception may be an actual aberration; I’m betting that most churches struggle month to month to pay bills. That’s why social media is so popular. It’s virtually free, as is e-mail. Even Websites are low-cost, with many already established and costing nothing but hosting. Not using brochures and direct mail is surely related to their hard costs for design, writing and printing—and the fast-paced ubiquity of online communications. And phone calls? They require real people and real commitment. The struggle for committed volunteers is constant for any non-profit organization.

The only real surprise is that churches—respondents—say they spend most of their marcom dollars on special events vs. other ministry opportunities. I’m betting these dollars pay for events that draw community participation and potential new members, i.e., free Easter egg hunts with face painting, bounce houses and more. There is nothing wrong with that, although I question spending the majority of a marketing budget on one event . Could it more effective with a consistent marketing campaign to key audiences? That’s where  metrics and evaluation enter the picture.

Lastly, the results show that churches—ministries as whole, I’d bet–do not have professional marketing experts planning, executing or measuring their marketing communications efforts. It’s mostly “what can be done” by “anybody” at “any time.” Perhaps that’s why the majority of respondents  say their communications efforts are average or below average.

Bottom line, it’s the bottom line. Budgets and resources.

THERE’S HOPE … HELP OUT

Help church leaders not fret, or burn out by being everything to everybody, all the time. Be a volunteer. And for communicators out there, use your brain and creative capabilities to support your local churches. Help them understand and apply strategic communications.

One final note. Churches should not be intimidated or ashamed of the word “marketing.” In a world where churches sit on every corner, marketing is required. How is your church distinct from my church, and why should you be at “my church” vs. “that” church? Marketing shares those messages and helps churches grow as a distinct body of believers.

Tell me your stories and thoughts. Comment below or send me a note. I want to know.

The PRactical PR Guy

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