In good times and bad Featured

10:26am EDT September 27, 2004
When business is booming and cash flow is good, many businesses don't worry much about marketing their product. That was the case with Formtech, a leading provider of plastic extrusions; when it was working hard to keep up with demand, there was little need to spend time on marketing and advertising.

But when the economy took a spin in the opposite direction, Formtech found itself at a crossroads and needed to rethink its business strategy -- a strategy that included innovative ways to market the company's products and services, and help it survive in a tougher market.

Formtech president David Turk decided to employ Cross Current Solutions, a full-service integrated marketing and advertising agency, to advise Formtech management on a new strategy. Cross Current has worked with large, middle-market and small businesses to create effective business strategies, and its clients include First Energy Corp., The Sherwin-Williams Co. and GE Lighting.

The Formtech campaign included a new graphic identity and positioning statement, company brochures, sales presentation materials, a direct marketing program, PR support and a new Web site.

"Dave Turk is a smart president," says Les Stein, president of Cross Current. "He saw that Formtech was operating in a number of vertical markets, and some of those markets dried up."

The Formtech problem is not an uncommon one, says Stein. Often, when a company is doing well, marketing is overlooked. And when budgets are cut, it's often the marketing department that goes first. As a result, the company will try to bring its marketing and advertising needs in-house, which can be a mistake.

"Formtech is very good at innovative designs, and we wanted to make that clear," says Stein.

Cross Current assisted Formtech in its rebranding, starting with its logo. The integrated marketing firm tweaked the existing logo to give it a new edge, and helped with the position statement "Shaping endless possibilities" to give the company a tagline.

The brochures, materials and Web site all had a uniform look and format, something that lends consistency and credibility across the board, says Stein.

Cross Current also assisted in the formation and recognition of other markets where Formtech could operate, and worked with the sales team to form strategies to gain new customers.

"We basically helped Formtech strategize and generate new markets," says Stein.

The results have been positive. The sales team has embraced the new program and now better understands Formtech's capabilities, which increases the chances of identifying and winning new customers. The consistent presentation materials provided by Cross Current have been a key to that success.

Since the program's launch, there has been an increase in business from existing clients, and several opportunities have been unearthed in new industries. The Web site has helped generate new leads each week, and has been a great marketing tool.

From the start, Cross Current's objectives were to locate new markets and maintain confidence in its current client base, and it seems it did just that.

"Les Stein and his team quickly learned our business and developed a truly creative set of marketing tools that addressed all our needs," said Turk.

How to reach: Formtech, (330) 688-2171; Cross Current Solutions, (216) 241-8185

Marketing 101: The essentials

Every marketing plan must fit the specific needs and situations of a particular business. Still, there are standard components that you can't live without, regardless of what business you're in.

A marketing plan should always include a situation analysis, marketing strategy, sales forecast and expense budget.

* Situation analysis. This normally includes a market analysis, SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and a competitive analysis. The market analysis should include a market forecast, segmentation, customer information and market needs analysis.

* Marketing strategy. This should include at least a mission statement, objectives and a focused strategy, including market focus and product positioning.

* Sales forecast. This should include enough detail to track sales month by month and follow up on plan vs. actual analysis. A plan will normally also include specific sales by product, region or market.

* Expense budget. This ought to include details on tracking expenses and outline specific sales tactics, programs, management responsibilities, promotion and other elements.

These are minimum requirements, not the ideal marketing plan. In most cases, it is important to start with an executive summary and review organizational impact, risks, contingencies and pending issues.

The implementation of the plan, over the plan itself, is most important. You can influence implementation by building a plan with specific, measurable and concrete tactics that can be tracked down, followed up and evaluated.