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!

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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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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Can Students Learn from Whitney Houston’s Death?

Many were shocked and saddened by the sudden, unexpected demise of singer Whitney Houston. Most wonder about the cause of death. While answers will undoubtedly come from the toxicology report, the news media tells of the presence of strong prescription meds in her hotel room. Those at her last impromptu musical performance testify that she had been drinking and appeared under the influence. Some medications combined with alcohol can be deadly, especially for those bathing in a hot tub. The singer takes her place in a long line of talented people whose lives were cut short or ruined by drug and alcohol addiction.

Perhaps Houston’s death can provide the vivid example needed to make changes in the drinking habits of many college students. Admissions officers and college marketers do a great job in helping young people from a variety of backgrounds get an education that can enrich their future. But the unrestrained party atmosphere on some campuses can prove to be a trap leading to alcoholism, squandered opportunities and wasted lives. According to a Center for Science in the Public Interest report:

• Annually some 30,000 college students overdose on alcohol, requiring medical treatment.

• 44% of students attending 4-year colleges engage in binge drinking.

• 19% of college students ages 18–24 met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence.

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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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Can you Feel (or Share) the Love?

Today being Valentine’s Day, all sorts of romantic messages, flowers, cards, candy and dinners abound. Expectations run high, and credit card bills run higher. But, we know that in order to keep our loved ones around, it is critical to notice and appreciate them from time-to-time, especially on the special days.

Here’s the question then, in your marketing communication efforts, how much “love” do you extend to your customers (and prospects)? And, how often? Just as in personal relationships it is important to feel connected through specific regular acts of kindness, it is equally important to do in our business relationships as well.

As consumers, we have more choices than ever in our shopping lives. There are more products available and more channels in which to purchase them than ever before. In business, it has become critical to communicate with our audience in whichever media they prefer. One size does not fit all.

Just as some people would prefer one red rose to a box of chocolates, certain buyers may prefer to be in touch with you via: mail, the web, with mobile devices or tablets or via social media. Make sure your marketing communication strategies include all of these tactics to ensure the widest possible delivery of your messages and offers.

At work, integrated, multi-channel marketing programs that include all these methods are your best bet to help your entire audience feel “loved”. At home, go get the chocolates, flowers, cards and…throw in a romantic dinner too!

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Why Do Companies Pay $3.5 million for Super Bowl Ads?

At an average cost of $3.5 million, Super Bowl commercials must accomplish a lot – increasing consumers’ awareness, liking and preference for the brand advertised. How do they do it? Consider a few examples:

1. Volkswagen’s “The Dog Strikes Back” – People like dogs, and most of us can relate to the overweight Golden Retriever. Like us when we pack on too many pounds, he gets off the couch, starts exercising, resists overeating and soon he’s lost the extra weight. He can now fit through the dog door and chase cars again, this time a new Volkswagen. We can’t help but like the Retriever, and the car looks pretty good, too. This is a good example of the principle of association – good or bad feelings tend to rub off on anything associated with them.

2. Doritos “Man’s Best Friend” – More power of emotional association with a little salesmanship mixed in. The good-looking Great Dane illustrates just how good Doritos are – tasty enough to enable the dog to bribe his male owner into overlooking his killing and burying the family cat.

3. Bridgestone’s “Performance Basketball” – This time, cute sleeping babies and NBA stars Tim Duncan and Steve Nash impart good feelings to Bridgestone tires. Duncan and Nash dribble a basketball made out of the same material as high-performance Bridgestone tires designed to eliminate road noise. Both tires and basketball pass “the sleeping baby test.” This commercial does two things: It imparts the good feelings generated by the babies and basketball stars to Bridgestone tires and demonstrates that this tire company is constantly finding new ways to make the best tires. This commercial distracts us from the sales pitch, avoiding viewer irritation.

4. Chevy’s “Happy Grad” – The parents of a new college graduate blindfold him and lead him outside to unveil his graduation gift, an apartment-size refrigerator. Unfortunately, it’s on the sidewalk in front of the neighbor’s brand new Chevy convertible. The grad, beside himself with joy, assumes the car is his gift. Soon his friends join him in rejoicing, including his girlfriend who offers to marry him, an offer he accepts. The grad proclaims, “This is the best day of my life.” The Chevrolet logo and “Chevy Runs Deep” appear briefly onscreen. Finally, the neighbor appears and drives off in his new car. The grad laments, “Mr. Johnson just stole my car!”

This amusing story cleverly hides the embedded sales pitch: ‘This Chevy is so great that obtaining one brings tremendous pleasure. Buying one could bring about the best day of your life.’ If GM actually said this, most viewers would reject the inflated message. Presenting it as the actual reaction of a new graduate who received such a gift would be greeted with skepticism. But staging it as a comical mistake gets our emotions involved. We’re amused and almost embarrassed by the reaction of the grad, his friends and girlfriend. We wonder what he’ll do when he learns the truth. What we don’t notice is that Chevrolet has implanted a pretty strong marketing message into the back of our minds. The feelings invoked by this commercial may well surface if we’re shopping for a car in the near future.

Building in psychological components is one of the marketing communication strategies that run deep in Super Bowl advertising. High cost demands strong results. Time will tell if this year’s ads increase sales. We at The Allied Group, a marketing communications and full service fulfillment company, will watch and report.

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What now ‘Purple Cow’?

In talking to marketing executives everywhere the common sentiment appears to be one of uncertainty over what to do and how to market today. And yet having the right marketing communication strategies and programs that generate awareness, interest – and – leads, has never been more important. Here are a dozen thoughts to consider that we’ll explore in future ponderings.

  1. Marketing is in the biggest flux it ever has been.

  2. Multi-channel marketing still appears to work the best.

  3. Figuring out the right tactic(s) is very hard.

  4. The primary goal remains attracting and keeping attention that leads to action.

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Can Ingenuity help Colleges Cut Costs and Expand Access?

The rising cost of living presents a dilemma for colleges. Higher education’s economic value to students is clear. At the same time, the cost of that vital training is rising beyond American families’ ability to pay. The President proposes rewarding institutions that cut costs and penalizing those that don’t. Can the ingenuity for which American colleges are famous come to the rescue, decreasing costs for students and expanding access – without cutting educational quality, jobs or compensation?

Technology provides an answer

Perhaps. Unfortunately, the mention of educational technology invokes images of standard online education. That’s not what I’m proposing here. While web-based classes can teach effectively with lower costs, they have clear limitations. They eliminate the greatest asset U.S. colleges have to offer – the excellent teaching of world-class faculty. Online courses are usually taught with a textbook and the instructor’s (preferably) short explanatory essays. The onus is on the student to master the required material.

While online education can be ideal for busy, highly motivated adults, how many 18-year-olds have the desire or the discipline to take a significant number of courses online? Many need more than textbook explanations. Most crave interaction with their peers. They depend on the structure of scheduled classes and activities to stay on track. Without these, it’s hard to imagine the majority graduating on time. Besides, courses with lab work require presence on campus. So, while online education can save tuition dollars, it’s not a useful option for most undergraduates.

A new option lets families tailor education outlays

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Save the Debates for Politics

Save the Debates for Politics

Political Season... We are in the thick of it.

For those who follow the political landscape, you are no doubt keeping your eyes on the debates that have recently been held with the Republican candidates. Pick your favorite guy and you will see them discussing and debating the subjects (one pundit called it "professional arguing"). The moderator offers a subject and the politicians have at it... many subjects are up for debate.

Your marketing and business development is NOT up for debate. Think of all the aspects of your business: operations, finance, IT, product development, research and development... all are key aspects for a successful business but none of that matters if your marketing and sales process is weak.

If you are not thinking like a top marketing communications company, it fairly certain that you might be missing the boat in some areas. The tip of the spear is lead generation - are you leveraging your website to maximize those leads? What marketing strategy services are you employing to increase your awareness in the marketplace? Once you get the leads, do you have a CRM system to manage the leads and opportunities? What marketing and sales support is available to help close these opportunities? 

Has your company taken the time to answer these questions? Oftentimes these questions fall to the back-burner as we are constantly handling the daily activities. But think about the old adage "The customer is always right" - the customer is the start of the cycle in any business. Since clients spend the money and fund all of the other activities in a business, it makes sense to pay attention to the process of getting more of them.

The Allied Group works with clients to manage their marketing and sales functions. As a marketing communications company, we strive to assist clients on navigating their challenges. For those who don't even know their shortcomings, a good start is assessing your current situation and using an outside marketing company to determine your next steps.

So enjoy the political season and leave the debating out of your sales and marketing effort!

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