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!

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!


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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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!


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.


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!


What's Trending 9

Here we go again. Yahooooo! (by the way, does anything else besides beautiful women 'trend' on Yahoo? I swear, I did not make this up!)

Katherine Heigl. I guess she admitted on Monday that - at times -- she regrets having left "Grey's Anatomy. Hmm. As "admissions" go, I'm not sure that was the most revealing.

Jennifer Aniston. Jenny and boyfriend Justin Theroux are reportedly set to buy a home in Los Angeles' posh Bel-Air neighborhood. Well they say home ownership is the American dream!

Drew Barrymore. The star is newly engaged to art consultant Will Kopelman and says she chose her man wisely. The actress, who has weathered two marriages that ended in divorce, told ABC News that the third time is the charm: "He is a really good person. I'm proud of my choice with him." The 36-year-old is reportedly converting to Judaism for her fiance. Will they buy promotional products for the wedding? I wonder if Adam Sandler can squeeze her into his song this year?

Again, it's a good thing I challenged myself with this tough assignment. It's not easy to find pictures of beautiful women and come up with witty comments to complement their glamorous lifestyles. But I try. And, again, what does this have to do with building and implementing marketing communication strategies? I have to admit this time, absolutely nothing! But I'll continue to do it.

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Seven Ways to Get People to Listen - Part Two

The Magnetic Middle


How can you get people to listen to the facts?  What can move them to action?  Previous blog posts showed why some resist or ignore factual evidence that contradicts their viewpoint and gave some ways to combat that tendency.  Once you’ve opened the minds of colleagues, team members, customers and prospects, how can you best present the facts and gain their buy-in?  This has been the subject of considerable research and a number of effective methods have emerged.  One important communication strategy is:  recognize and make good use of the power of the “Magnetic Middle.”


When the Magnetic Middle works against you

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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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