Senior Client Manager

Marketing Madness? Not So Much . . .

For 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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Years of Marketing Bliss

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

For 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


Spring 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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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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Abandon Ship? Abandon Marketing? Two Bad Ideas!

Abandon Ship? Abandon Marketing? Two Bad Ideas!

The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground off a Tuscan Island the other week - no doubt a major story as lives were lost and the lives of over 4000 passengers were in jeopardy. However the offshoot of this story has been the behavior of the ship's captain Francesco Schettino. 

The captain has been accused of abandoning his ship while there were passengers still on-board. In addition to this being a major "no-no" in the maritime world (remember the captain always goes down with his ship), Schettino faces possible manslaughter charges, which could carry a sentence of 12 years in prison! Whatever news account you hear might be a different version but clearly the captain made a huge error in judgment when he abandoned his ship.

How does this relate to Marketing and Business Development Professional Services? It all relates wise decision making, good judgment and not abandoning your "marketing ship." Whatever role you play in your company's marketing effort, "abandoning ship" is not an option. If you are in a decision-making role, you are responsible for setting the right strategy; if you are not making the decisions, it is your role to follow the directives set forth my management. Either way, you have a role to fill!

As a strategic marketing consultancy, The Allied Group works with clients to help them understand what roles are and how people should fill them. When one person abandons their role, it does affect the whole marketing program (not unlike the behavior of Captain Schettino, who abandoned his role during a crucial time for the Costa Concordia).

Data Appending. Lead Generation. Redesigning Websites. Not everyone can be involved with all things but you owe it to yourself and the company to know what you have to do. As an example, on a personal level, it is not my job specifically to manage the CRM system; but I do have a role of maintaining my contacts and their information so our marketing team can adequately do their job.

Each of us has a job to do with Marketing; you don't need "Marketing" in your title to be aware of these efforts and act on them. 

How will you stay aware and not "abandon ship" when it comes to your company's marketing efforts?

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Marketing Playoffs: Not One and Done

For those interested in pro football, you are at "peak season" for yourself - playoff time! For the next three weekends, the top teams in the NFL square off for the right to play in the Super Bowl first Sunday of February. This is the most intense time of the season for coaches, players, and, yes, the fans. Why the intensity? Because these games are all single elimination - you lose, your season is over - "One and Done" is a term often applied to these playoffs.

Fortunately your marketing does not have to be One and Done. 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 to create, maintain, or grow revenue."

In other words, you have to find the right mix of strategy and tactics for your own marketing program. There is no magic pill or secret potion that is the answer for everyone. Your mix of strategy and tactics will be dictated by some combination of your industry, your company's goals, and you company's internal resources. If the prospects in your business are buying one way, that might be completely different than the business next door. You need to assess your landscape yourself or hire a top direct marketing agency to assess the market and offer advice. Life Science Marketing will be different than Higher Education Marketing, which will be different from Healthcare Marketing.

Once you assess and determine the plan for you, now we are back to the One and Done concept - i.e., don't get caught up that it will be successful right out of the gate. Whereas NFL teams must win NOW or be done, marketing plans should be flexible and leave some room for changes "on the fly." If you are thinking you have one great idea that will answer all the marketing questions, you could be in for a disappointing year.

So, over the next three weekends,root on your favorite team, enjoy the NFL playoffs and all the intensity of the games . . . but leave the inflexible, rigid "One and Done" concept out of your 2012 marketing plans!

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Make the Slow Week a "Planning" Week

This week is a coveted week for many folks. The week between Christmas and New Years is a vacation week for many - in fact, for those who are working it is usually a bit slower since many of our colleagues are not around. For many it becomes a chance to "catch up" on piles of mail, email, or other paperwork that was not done "when it was supposed to."

Looking ahead to next year (really, next week) is also a typical activity for this week. For those of us in business know that the "race for revenue" starts back up once the calendar changes to January. If your revenue for this past year hit your expectations, good for you! If your revenue was down from what you expected, maybe not so good. Either way, you will have little time to either celebrate or commiserate over your results. Don't look know but 2011 is leaving and here comes 2012!

Are you planning ahead for next year? Are you ready to surpass goals from 2011? What are the priorities for the next year?

Do you have enough "irons in the fire" to generate the sales revenue you want? Do you need one of the lead generation agencies to help you? Do you have enough business development professional services to keep your pipeline filled? What will you do to increase your sales presence next year?

Hand in hand with sales is your marketing . . . is your "homegrown" system to market your company in line with what you might get from a top direct marketing agency? Do you have enough promotional product ideas to keep your name in front of clients and prospects?

Then behind the scenes . . . how are the operations looking? Need any help with your supply chain management strategies? Is your shipping fulfillment plans ready for the next year?

Bottom line, the calendar might read this to be the last weak of 2011 but for many of us, this should be the "first" week of 2012!

What are you doing this week to plan for 2012?

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It's the Most Wonderful (Marketing) Time of the Year

It's the Most Wonderful (Marketing) Time of the Year

Holiday season is busy time of year . . . very busy. Holiday parties. Buying Gifts. Year-end tasks at work. Seeing relatives. There are many things that happen at the end of the year that no doubt make this a stressful time. BUT despite all the stress, we love it!
 
We love this time of year?? Yes, we do! I will concede the fact that now and then you run into a person who plays "Ebeneezer Scrooge" but overall people love the hustle and bustle of the season! What is it that makes us enjoy this stress? I say marketing!

This season is loaded with marketing to get us pumped up. Start with the traditional start of the holiday season: Black Friday. People used to plan shopping excursions the day after Thanksgiving; now they are planned on Thanksgiving. Check out your Sunday paper with all the advertisements; if you are strong enough to pick it up, you will see loads of ads for that "can't miss" offer at Store X. Drive by any shopping mall until December 24 at closing time and you will see plenty of evidence of the mania that is holiday season.

Does your business create a buzz even close to the holiday season? Are your marketing communications strategies gripping your clients for the entire month of December? Do you have an integrated marketing communications campaign that leaves clients waiting in your parking lot to buy more? Are your marketing and sales support personnel exhausted at the end of their workday because the sales activity was through the roof?

We might acknowledge that the buzz from holiday season is just temporary and will be over on December 26 . . .

BUT wouldn't we all like to have that excitement in our business now and then? What can your business do to help you look like your marketing was done by a top direct marketing agency?

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Does Your Business Need Chapter 11 Reorganization?

Does Your Business Need Chapter 11 Reorganization?

American Airlines filed for bankruptcy this week! What! American Airlines?? Bankrupt??

Not as bad as it sounds... The word "bankrupt" conjures up images of a destitute person, unable to pay bills, down on his luck, etc. Certainly there are some bankruptcy stories like that but American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, which is basically a reorganization of their business. So you might see a change in how the airline is structured or maybe fewer flights but for those with current reservations, you are safe. I see this as the company making a strategic move to "stop, explore their situation, and make appropriate changes for the future."

Ever think your business needs a Chapter 11 Reorganization? Sounds scary but maybe we don't call it "Chapter 11 Reorganization" - what if you just took the time to "stop and see what is going on?" For many of us, our daily to-do list leaves no time to look at the big picture; we are all so worried about today that tomorrow only gets looked at tomorrow. These recent challenging economic times have forced business to stop and re-engineer, similar to what American Airlines is doing.

I have personally seen The Allied Group stop and re-engineer. When I started with Allied almost 18 years ago, we sold business forms and maybe an envelope here and there. Through the years (mainly because of industry changes, technology, and client demand) we added promotional imprinted products, third party fulfillment, data to print, direct mail capabilities and various marketing services.  

When will Allied stop adding products and services? My guess is never! The world changes faster than it did 18 years ago so our product offering needs to stay ahead of the curve so we maintain out ability to offer complete marketing and fulfillment services. If Allied kept the same plan as 18 years ago and stayed with the product offering of business forms and envelopes, the company would not be thriving, if not breathing at all...

What have you noticed in your industry the past 18 years?

Is it time for YOU to declare a "Chapter 11 Bankruptcy" and re-evaluate your situation?

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