Yes, We Do That

The Allied Group is New England's leading provider of Printing, Kitting, Mailing and Fulfillment services. Our blog authors have backgrounds in Sales, Marketing, IT, Production and Operations and post useful tips, trends, news and opinions in our industry and beyond. We know you'll find something you enjoy. Most of all, be sure to jump into the conversation!

Avoid Marketing’s Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle conjures up images of mystery, danger and disaster. All too often, marketing gives the same feelings to those who don’t understand it or have failed at it.

Just as three points always make up a triangle, these 3 marketing and sales support mistakes create an area where profits and progress can be swallowed in a “perfect storm” of sales prevention.

1. We know who our customers are. Living in deeply parochial New England, we all too often hear something along the lines of the familiar refrain, “But we’ve always done it that way”. This promotion of the ostrich method of marketing (and/or management by sticking your head in the sand) when it comes to progress and the acknowledgment of changes in technology, styles or buying behavior is extremely dangerous. Or the conversely but equally effective business killer, “everyone is our customer”. Though I’ve seen some Mercedes and BMW’s on my trips to the local Wal-Mart, I’m pretty sure that even they do not expect to have everyone as their customer. In an era of ever-increasing specialization, the need to define your target audience is no longer a nice-to-have but an absolutely need-to-have requirement.

2. We don’t need (or can’t afford) marketing. No less an authority than the late business guru Peter Drucker said that all businesses had only two priorities, innovation and marketing. He also commented “the goal of marketing was to know and understand the customer so well as to make selling superfluous.” Sounds not only important but mission critical to me. Yet the corporate marketing services budget is often the first thing to be cut (if it exists at all) in a down turn or when companies feel the need to reduce costs. How dumb is that?

3. Engaging in “pixie dust” marketing. The other reaction in a downturn is to say something like, “quick, let’s do some marketing to get sales up”. The recent commercials advocating that Yellow Book advertising is the “cure all” to a bad sales month or quarter only serves to reinforce this type of thinking. But rarely if ever does a one-hit marketing effort drive results and even if it does in the short term, it’s highly unlikely to do so over the long run. Marketing is not an event.

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Marketing Madness? Not So Much . . .

b2ap3_thumbnail_finalfour.jpgFor college basketball fans, this weekend is the Final Four, the culmination of March Madness. This is a sporting event that involves the 68 best college basketball teams playing each other in a single-elimination format that generates a lot of passion and exciting games. Fans travel the country following their favorite school as teams are eliminated until the Final Four teams and ultimately one champion is left. The common theme of this event is "survive and advance" to the next round; this survivor mentality makes the entire month a very tense time for players, coaches and fans alike.

Fortunately your own marketing strategy does not have to be so tense; we have many chances to establish a successful marketing program. Unlike the March Madness tournament, marketing is not a "one and done" exercise; when one marketing strategy "loses," you don't go home, but you get the opportunity to try something else.

Today's business owner has many option when it comes to both managing and marketing their business. Whatever the business you are in, many vendors specialize in those fields and finding a compatible business partner can help a business in many ways.

Colleges are able to hire a higher education marketing firm. Large companies are able to hire outside help for business process outsourcing solutions. Non-profit companies are able to partner with a post card mailing service. These are all ways that the business owner -- small or large -- can utilize to maximize their company's ROI.

The Allied Group works with their clients to help them understand what they need. We work to assess your situation and offer a solution to help you meet your needs. We understand that marketing and business management is not a "one and done" deal so take advantage of the options that are available to you.

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The Rumor Mill’s Power to Help or Harm Your Business

Whether good or bad, rumors can have a big effect on an organization. Stories about a company’s positive results can send its stock price soaring. Negative gossip about a firm can seriously hurt sales. 

Rumors don’t have to be true to have impact.  In the 1980s the “Leaflet of Villejuif” began circulating in France. This plain typewritten pamphlet exhorted parents to boycott popular soft drink brands like Coca-Cola, Schweppes and Canada Dry, charging they contained dangerous chemicals that could harm children. 

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Build a Realistic Marketing Pipeline

In the opening sequence of the classic television show, The Beverly Hillbillies, the character of Uncle Jed (played by the actor Buddy Epsen) is chasing a rabbit and fires his rifle - missing the rabbit and only ends up taking a big chunk of dirt out of the ground. But, miraculously, “up from the ground comes the bubblin’ crude”. He and his family had struck it rich with a single random shot from the old trusty family hunting rifle.

In our “hunt” for anew business leads to help create sales however, it’s likely going to take considerably more effort than one or even a few random shots to create a steady stream of prospects. Only with both sustained and intentional effort can we generate the ability to acquire the correct prospecting targets initially and, the right customers eventually.

For many years now, the funnel has been used as a diagram in countless sales and prospecting discussions. Sales training has often focused on bringing prospects through the “sales funnel”. But that is absolutely the wrong picture to have in our heads. In building a sales (marketing and sales support) list of qualified prospects, the proper image should be one of a pipeline. Something that has a continuous flow of prospects, not a voluminous, unqualified top end.

Your revenue pipeline is likely going to take more time, energy, and resources than you may hope for or be comfortable with. But there are rarely any shortcuts to building a process that will deliver a steady stream of prospects in the long run. Though the tactics will change depending on your business, industry and circumstances, consider implementing the following 3 concepts when building your pipeline.

Identify. For each of your particular products or services – find those customers most likely to buy. Spend some effort profiling your existing best customers. What are the common characteristics? In all probability, similar people or businesses exist who share the same needs and values and would make ideal prospects. And therefore, are more likely buyers of your services.

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Years of Marketing Bliss

b2ap3_thumbnail_happy_anniversary_1532.jpgMy wife and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary this past weekend. We have a lot of "give and take" that makes our relationship work: We enjoy being out together and being with our kids but we support each other's individual interests. She goes away with girlfriends each year; I go away to a Patriots game with some buddies. She goes to a yoga class 2-3 times a week; I run 2-3 times a week. She meets with a regular book club; I play basketball one night a week. As is the case in other successful relationships, each side understands the others' goals and aspirations and encourages those things.

Your relationship with your marketing partner should work the same way. The relationship between a business owner and their marketing partner should be as "open" as any successful relationship you might have in your life. Think of any successful relationship you have  - spouse? friend? neighbor? What makes it successful? Certainly we don't need all the details of your personal relationship but chances are the overriding theme is that you have an  understanding and expectation of what you expect from that person. You might not be the "best friend" to the next door neighbor but if you have a mutual understanding of each other, it works!

The Allied Group works closely with clients so we have a clear understanding of our role in the relationship. For some clients, we are their main resource and serve as the role of their marketing department, assisting on just about everything from lead generation to promotional printed products to redesigning their website. For other clients, they may have their own marketing resources but they need Allied to "fill in the cracks" of what they cannot do internally.

When you are not clear on roles and expectations, like other relationships, your relationship with a top direct marketing agency could be headed for trouble. If your client expects one service and you expect something else, this creates the confusion that generally leads to bad feelings and frustration -- on both sides!

We suggest you sit and meet with the client on a regular basis to discuss goals and aspirations. Our formal Client Retention Program mandates that regular meetings occur with all of our larger clients so that we always are aware of what they want, what they expect and lastly, how they perceive our value to them. On our side, these regular meetings keep us aware of their constantly evolving needs, allowing us to react to those needs.

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Edit Post How magnetic are you?

The ultimate goal of marketing is to Attract customers by making yourself attractive to them. It is the concept of pulling ‘em in rather than pushing information out – thereby – pushing them away.

Marketing is everything you do to promote your business; from the second you dream about it through the time you actually have customers buy your products and services. It encompasses all aspects from naming and branding your company through the ways you present your value proposition to your target audience. Peter Drucker, the acknowledged leading management authority of the 20th century, said that marketing and innovation were the 1st concern of all businesses, more important then anything else including finances.

Good marketing and sales support is not an expense but rather an indispensable investment. Most successful companies, even ones that had a unique market position at the start, eventually have to differentiate themselves from the competition. The only way to do this in both the short and long run is marketing.

Today marketing consists of the original big four of price, product, place and promotion, but now also includes people, productivity, process and physical evidence. Solid marketing communication strategies and consistent tactical execution are the only way to guarantee that you stay top-of-mind with both your prospects and customers.

Done correctly, effective marketing will:

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Free Speech – Will risking it really help smokers quit?

The Boston Globe reported last Wednesday that a federal judge blocked the new FDA requirement that tobacco companies put graphic images on cigarette packaging. The article outlined the judge's ruling that requiring the images, which include "a sewn-up corpse of a smoker and a picture of diseased lungs, on cigarette packs violates the free speech amendment to the Constitution.”

This raises a serious issue, presenting all, including educators, with a dilemma. On the one hand, evidence that smoking kills is overwhelming. I had to watch it destroy my mother’s favorite uncle. Efforts to help smokers stop and aid teenagers to avoid smoking are commendable. Clearly, we’d all be better off if smokers quit in droves.

Reducing smoking-related illnesses is a worthy goal. But is it worth eroding the cherished freedom of speech on which all Americans, especially educators, depend? That’s a question for the Supreme Court. Despite the health issues, the specter of government edicts forcing organizations to publicly say negative things about their activities is not a pleasant one. So, we must ask – is the reward worth the risk? Do graphic, fear-arousing images actually help people quit smoking?

What the research shows

There is no question that graphic images on Canadian and Australian cigarette packs have proven to make smokers think about health hazards and consider quitting. A WHO bulletin stated, “The research on pictorial warnings show that they are: (i) more likely to be noticed than text-only warning labels; (ii) more effective for educating smokers…and for increasing smokers’ thoughts about the health risks; and (iii) associated with increased motivation to quit smoking.”

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5 Marketing Strategies for Stormy Times

With inflationary pressures, competitive price-cutting and disruptive technologies so prevalent in today’s market place, marketers often scramble to choose the right places to invest their smaller budget dollars. Well-defined marketing communication strategies and programs, implemented consistently, gives you the best chance to stay ahead of the turbulence.

  1. Do your homework. Drop phrases such as; “We think”, or “But we’ve always done it this way”. This is no time to guess. Invest in research, focus groups and/or surveys. You don’t want to find yourself touting features and benefits no one cares about.

  2. Increase marketing budgets. Yes, I said increase. When competitors are pulling back, it is a great time for you to make a ‘name’ for yourself with prospects that may actually be paying attention right now. 

  3. Get more where you are. Existing customers know you (for better or worse). If you have additional products and services that they could be buying from you, now is the ideal time to tell them. Market to them consistently. 

  4. Make the best better. We all have products or services that outperform some others in terms of revenue and profit. Concentrate and promote those. If you must choose to pull back somewhere, do it with your weaker offerings. 

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Old Man Winter Takes a Season Off . . . Your Marketing Cannot

b2ap3_thumbnail_oldmanwinter.jpgFor those of us living in New England this has been a pretty easy winter. In the past wintertime in New England has meant lots of snow, cold temperatures and icy roads -- basically a pain in the neck. NOT this winter though  . . . so far this year we have had very little snow, temperatures have been mild and we have not been subjected to dangerous roads to drive on. For some people -- like the skiers in the area -- this is not the weather they like but for most of us we are enjoying this lack of winter conditions. Either way, it is clear that Old Man Winter has taken some time off this season!

How would you like to be able to take a season off?

Unfortunately, marketing professionals are not able to take a season off like Old Man Winter. The Allied Group defines Marketing as "The combination of strategic plans and specific tactical actions done intentionally and consistently to influence the perceptions of a target audience or individual buyer in order to create, maintain or grow revenue." This definition can be broken down in a number of ways but a critical component to that definition is the word consistently.

Allied works with various industries: Life Science Marketing. Marketing in Medical Devices. Higher Education Marketing. For these industries, the messages and methods to reach prospects might differ but they all rely on on thing: Consistency. Marketing is not a "quick hit" strategy; rather a successful marketing program requires strategic planning, precise execution, and a strong follow-up plan . . . a successful marketing program should always have a "next step" and a consistent flow of efforts to reach your clients and prospects.

Very few (if any) marketing messages can be successful with one approach or attempt. A great example of consistent messaging in a restaurant that all of us have eaten: McDonalds. It is safe to say that everyone knows McDonalds, knows what they serve and knows what kind of experience you will have going there. Yet you are consistently exposed to their advertising: television, radio spots, billboards, newspaper ads, direct mail coupons to our homes.

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Play Ball (For a Long Time) !

The Boston Globe this week showed their annual picture of a large truck driving all of the Boston Red Sox equipment down to spring training in Florida. This is a much anticipated photo for Boston sports fans, as it signals the end of winter and lets us dream about what our beloved Sox will do this summer. For me, it also strikes me as a reminder about the length of the baseball season


b2ap3_thumbnail_baseball.jpgSpring training gets going in February and the World Series does not end until late October - 8 months! Between now and then, you will probably shovel snow, cut the lawn many times, wish your Mom a happy Mothers' Day, maybe take a vacation, rake leaves, see the kids finish one school year and start another. For baseball players, this is one long season with many ups and downs.

Like a baseball season, your marketing season (which basically never ends) will have those peaks and valleys. A baseball season lasts 162 games and teams will have both winning and losing streaks, there will be injuries, there will be high times and low times. A marketing season will have at times an abundance of leads and opportunities to work on - and there will be be "slow" times. There will be marketing campaigns that work and some that don't. Either way, you will have to persevere through the entire season.

Like a baseball team, your marketing program will have strengths and weaknesses. A baseball team might have a great infield, good hitting but poor pitching. A marketing "team" might have strong creativity and proactive ideas but poor execution. Either way, your strengths need to compensate for the weaknesses so, as a team, you win at the end.

Like a baseball game, you will have many opportunities to score. A baseball game consists of nine innings and each inning allows three batters (at minimum) to make something happen. In a marketing game, you get many chances to make something happen. It will be up to your marketing team to be resourceful (like a good baseball team) to execute a plan for maximum "runs scored."

As your favorite baseball team relies on key areas such as hits, runs and good defense, your marketing team should focus on key areas like lead generation, data appending, promotional imprinted products, and mail order fulfillment services. As the baseball managers rely on statistics to manage and guide their team, a top direct marketing agency uses statistics like ROI, sales conversion, and profit margin to manage their team.

So as we see that infamous truck head to Florida with all the bats, gloves, and balls, it makes you remember the long season ahead for both baseball players and marketing people alike.

Play Ball!

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