The end of the year is the perfect time to step back, take a deep breath and see what worked, what needs improving and what needs scrapping according to most business experts.
Public relations and marketing expert Rodger Roeser, president of Cincinnati based The Eisen Agency, says that while many executives may focus solely on the bottom line, he suggests that they take just a few moments and focus on marketing results – a simple investment of time that could not only save significant dollars, but also significantly improve performance.
Perform a competitive and communications audit: Roeser advises to take a look at all the pieces produced by the organization that were used for any type of public consumption, including letterhead, business cards, sales presentations, sales letters, press releases, advertisements and the like.
Examine all communication material: Lay them all out on the conference table and make sure they follow your approved graphic standards and brand identity. Double check the messages being sent: are they hitting the mark, does it say what you want it to say? Are pieces outdated and does your material need to be refreshed? What is the competition doing, and how is the company measuring up. Is the materials easy to read and understand? What might be some better and more interesting stories about the company, its team and the organization. Roeser advises consulting an expert if a small business leader feels he or she cannot be objective or lacks the time.
Survey existing clients: It’s never been easier than with the online software that exists, such as Survey Monkey or Zoomerang – both free services. Craft a survey and email it out to clients to glean valuable business intelligence. If a small business leader is afraid to do that, they’re not following a basic tenant of business: listening to your client. Analyzing the results is also quite simple and a small business leder may find some easy things he or she can do to make some clients happy, but almost always, simply asking the question of “how can we make things even better,” is reward enough in that it lets customers know that they’re feedback is valued.
Set benchmarks before budgets: Look at what worked, what didn’t perform as expected and set a budget based on anticipated results and expectations. Marketing works because enough “oomph” is put behind it to make it work, and typically, integration is key. Look at your marketing mix and where the dollars are being allocated. Set goals, and above all, set benchmarks of where the company is now and where it wants to be in as many measurable facets of the organization as it can, such as overall sales, monthly sales, web traffic, store traffic, coupon redemption and the like.
That way, a small business leader can look at Advertising, Marketing and PR from a standpoint of “did it work” rather than “that’s a pretty color.” Most press releases, for example, that are crafted and distributed are poorly written because they are overly centric to the business sending it out, or mandated upon the agency to send it out. Don’t impose success when the release or product is the failure. Same goes with a bad ad, or bad customer service. Creativity and newsworthiness are subjective, while sales increases are not. Understand the difference.
Find a community relations outlet for the business: There are hundreds of great causes and programs you can lend your business to, and dozens that will help strengthen and bolster your brand – if help is needed, consult an agency. Cause marketing activities and community relations are proven to strengthen brand, increase sales and increase employee morale. It can be something the small business leader believes in personally, it can be large scale or small scale, but regardless, it should be part of the plan. Yes, it’s a good public relations move, but more importantly, it’s good for the overall health of the company and most likely, the community in which you and your employees live.
Do something different next year: Vow to do something different next year with marketing, such as a podcast series, a custom publication or even start a blog. There are hundreds of new, fun, effective, inexpensive and creative outlets for marketing products, services or people. Again, consult with an expert, but do something and do something different. Remember, sometimes in marketing it can be okay to be that black sheep because the point is standing apart from the crowd and creating a distinctive and memorable brand. If your marketing is a bit stale, do something fresh. If you think blogs are new – it’s time for some fresh, proactive and creative counsel. Overall, marketing should be proactively effective and fun – regardless of industry.
A note to readers: Roeser adds that his agency provides a free competitive and communications audits for businesses and organizations. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.