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Name: Gemma Manning
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia

Welcome to Manning & Co's Marketing and Business blog. Manning & Co is an integrated marketing and PR consultancy with a boutique and highly personalised approach to service. We recognise that businesses of all sizes can be overwhelmed by the expensive fee structures of larger agencies yet still need professional marketing and PR support. That is where we can help. We provide senior marketing experience and support at price that businesses can afford. Our team is passionate about marketing and determined to keep our customers ahead in marketing excellence. Our blog is a reflection of our passion towards marketing and business. It will provide you some insight into our world and our thoughts, tips and advice on all things marketing and business. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

5 top marketing tips for businesses to survive the downturn

I watched 'Insight' on Tuesday night. The episode was all about confidence in the current economic climate. I think Jenny Brockie did a fantastic job of exploring this topic. What was discussed was incredibly thought provoking. Confidence does plays such an important role in turning the current economic downturn into a recovery. Confidence influences the willingness to invest - to commit money, time, reputation - or to withhold or hedge investment. SMEs will benefit if they themselves show confidence in the way they do business during this time. Confidence has a contagious, flow-on effect.

As a small business owner, I am often asked, "How are you coping?", " Do you wish you had not started your business when you did" etc. There is so much doom and gloom around but I am determined to ignore this rhetoric and seek the opportunities that exisit. Richard Branson in a recent media interview commented that the key to survive these times is to be creative, innovative and look outside the square at new opportunities that you may have not considered before.

Based on this, I have compiled some top essential marketing tips for SMEs to consider during these difficult times. Marketing doesn't need to cost the earth but is something that needs attention to at the same time. SMEs who are determined to get through this time and to remain positive and confident, need to avoid shying away from active marketing, promotion and the process of exploring new business opportunities.

Top 5 Tips

1. Revisiting the basics - review your marketing plan. Now is the time for businesses to review their marketing plans. Businesses need marketing plans and programs that take into consideration changing market trends and customer behaviour. Through the process of reviewing your plan, you may find that a previous unique selling proposition that you were using in your marketing activities no longer resonates with your customer base or is appropriate.

Businesses need to sharpen their pencils and get the creative juices flowing! Brain storm and really think about what is it about your business that is different, how can you bring or add value to your customers in the current environment and how are you going to get your message to them. A good marketing plan doesn't need to be complicated. It needs to be realistic, practical and can be implemented and measured.

2. Be creative and innovative - think outside the square. When you review your business or marketing plan, you really need to think outside the square. It can be hard for businesses to change the way they do things including review of their product/service mix, pricing and means of promotion. However it needs to be done. Sometimes having an external specialist come in to facilitate the process can make it easier and can get businesses across the line in terms of thinking about the business in a new, different way.

3. Be targeted in your approach. In times like these you want to make sure that you get the best bang for your marketing dollar. This means that you need to know and understand your customers, their needs, their purchasing behaviour and how to get to them. For example, rather than doing a blanket email campaign, segment your customers into groups (i.e. geography, industry sector, revenue size etc) and send targeted emails with specific messages that apply to that group of customers.

Do a basic customer value matrix to determine what group of customers that you should be investing in when it comes to marketing spend. This will have an impact on your marketing mix of activities and the way you go-to-market.

4. Look at the entire marketing mix. Research shows that customers often need to be touched 5 times by a brand before they make a purchase - whether it be a product or service. You need to ensure that you customers are touched by your brand in more ways than one. A PR campaign with a media mention on its own won't cut it or will a single advertisement. You need to look at all areas of the marketing mix - direct marketing, online marketing, partner marketing, media relations, referrals etc. When a customer reads about your business in the media, comes across you on the web and hears about your excellent service/product via word-of-mouth, your business is in a lot stronger selling position than if they were just to be touched once by your brand.

5. Commit to communicating your message regularly. Don't take for granted that your customers will automotically know what your latest products/services or specials are. Now is the time for you to push your message to your current and future customers regularly. There are a number of ways that you can do this that are cost effective. Email communication one part of the marketing mix to consider. Partner marketing - when having the right partners or alliances on board - is also a great way to tap into target markets. Social networking through sites like FaceBook and Linked In are other options also.

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Monday, 16 February 2009

Does PR drive sales?

Recently at a friend's engagement party I got talking to a fellow business owner. I always enjoy talking to people in business and found listening to this person talking about her footwear business really fascinating. Firstly, she was only 25 and had already been in business for four years! I found this in itself admiring. When I found out that she had a business and marketing plan in place, I was equally impressed (According to CBA figures, approximately 50% of businesses don't have business plans in place!)

Naturally Marketing and PR came up in our conversation! She talked about how she had considered doing PR in the past and had a few meetings with some PR companies. She had put a PR program on hold however as she was a little over whelmed by the fees and was a little sceptical about PR and its role in driving sales.

She asked me for my thoughts on PR and its role in driving sales. There is no doubt that PR is a vital part of the marketing and communications mix. When PR is used as part of a well balanced marketing program and when it is treated as an ongoing activity, then PR can both increase brand awareness as well as drive sales.

Here are some tips on how to use PR to achieve broader sales and marketing objectives:

1. Let your customers, stakeholders and influencers know about any positive coverage that you receive from a PR campaign

Getting your company name mentioned in targeted media is fantastic for brand awareness and exposure. However, not all of your target audience will necessarily see the coverage. Leverage any coverage that you may receive in your marketing and communications activities. For example:
  • Include a media section on your website and list your coverage and media releases there
  • Include any media mentions in regular forms of communication to your clients such as e-newsletters
  • Make sure that you flag media mentions in any internal communications

2. Communicate media successes and future PR plans to your sales team!

Keep your sales team updated with any recent media coverage and upcoming PR plans. Pass any article re-prints to your sales team. You may even consider using a reprint in a targeted direct marketing campaign. Make sure that your sales team have any white papers or reports that have been used in media campaigns also. This can be used as useful collateral during the sales process.

3. Be consistent and persistent with your PR plans - don't give up

A one-off campaign will not always deliver the necessary business outcomes that you might desire from investing in PR. Businesses need to communicate consistently with their customers, stakeholders and influencers and this goes for the media too. You need to build, foster and nurture media relations over time. Be patient.

In wrapping up I thought it would be worth highlighting the most successful PR campaign that I have been involved with to-date as it is a perfect example of how PR can work in conjunction with other areas of the marketing mix to drive brand awareness and sales. The campaign involved executing an online survey to customers re energy efficiency. We attracted interest with the survey and managed to get a significant number of responses required to develop a statistically valid white paper. We launched the white paper to the media and generated more than 30 media mentions including radio and print. We then used the paper in a direct marketing campaign to generate leads and appointments for the sales team. Following this we used the paper as a basis for an event to which we were able to invite key existing and prospective clients to. In this example, all forces of marketing were at work - online marketing, collateral development, media relations, direct marketing, internal communications, lead generation and events! It worked in perfect harmony!

Gemma

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