Friday, January 25, 2008

5 Ways to Fight Back during the Downturn

We don’t have to tell you that there’s concern about the economy right now—both in Scheibel Halaska’s hometown and across the country.

But maybe we do have to tell you this: Strategic communications are important to the future of your business in both good times and bad.

So if the economy is on a downtown, the vast array of marketing channels makes it easier than ever before to maximize the value of your marketing spending. The current economic uncertainty may be the impetus you need to think and execute creatively.

Without further ado, here are five marketing communications tips for 2008:

1. Blend tactics. Don’t be afraid to make marketing investments. But like any smart investor, you should diversify your portfolio—in this case with print and online ads, email marketing, pr, targeted direct mail and more.

2. Try more ROI-measurable programs, such as email campaigns. You can keep a closer eye on the value you’re getting from your hard-to-come-by marketing dollars.

3. Pursue a key customer strategy. Focus on your best, most profitable accounts—because when the economy is slow, the strength of your relationships will determine your success. In addition, profile your most successful customers and use that to build your prospect database.

4. Emphasize PR. If there isn’t enough room to do as much advertising as you’d like, public relations is a way to get your message out more efficiently. Plus, you can turn every media win into a winning streak by sharing the coverage in other vehicles, such as your website, email marketing and more.

5. Plant seeds for ‘09 and beyond. Potential clients may balk at spending at the moment, but start the conversation now with targeted direct marketing to build leads for the future. Use marketing rather than feet on the street to more cost efficiently stay in front of your targets.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Getting Noticed with Niche Focus

During difficult times for many North American manufacturers, some companies are still thriving. How? By having the courage to focus aggressively on a niche, and by exploiting and emphasizing that niche expertise in every way possible.

Our client Donnelly Custom Manufacturing LLC, a finalist for the Plastics News Processor of the Year Award, is a great example.

Donnelly specializes in short-run injection molding, which involves lower volumes of more complex parts. The company’s customer-intimacy business model—fewer, more involved relationships—dovetails with the advanced engineering and sweat-the-details service that short run often requires.

But it’s not enough to have a competitive advantage; you have to exploit that edge by constantly reminding audiences about it. That’s another thing the Alexandria, Minn.-based Donnelly does well, through public relations efforts, an online newsletter and, to a lesser extent, going after an award like Processor of the Year.

Donnelly seizes every opportunity to reinforce its position: that it’s the standard-bearer for How Short-Run Is Done. We’re proud to be part of that effort, and we think Donnelly’s unity of purpose can and should serve as an example for manufacturers across the country.

Good luck, Donnelly, as you strive for the top Processor of the Year prize, to be announced March 11.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why You Need to ‘Talk It Out’ in Market Research -- Surveys Alone Don’t Tell the Full Story

We don’t know Torsten Ringberg personally, but we like his style.

Ringberg, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, talked in Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the importance of putting research subjects “on the couch.”

In other words, qualitative over quantitative, he says. Longer interviews with fewer people can yield better information than a slew of surveys can. Why? In the longer format, people get a chance to really consider how they feel about a topic. Broader themes emerge—including ideas that a multiple-choice survey alone would have ignored.

Ringberg’s focus is on the consumer realm. But we believe these ideas apply just as well—if not better—to b2b. That’s why we’ve made extensive qualitative interview research the starting point in our branding and positioning methodology, which we call TrueCenterTM.

These initial, probing interviews reveal a lot more about how our clients’ audiences actually feel. Then the higher-volume, multiple-choice questionnaires try to find how widespread those ideas are.

Online surveys are increasingly popular, and they’re a key element of effective, accurate research. But there’s no substitute for the insights you get from sitting down and talking to people, one on one. We’re just glad to hear leading marketing thinkers acknowledging that.