The Internet has caused changes in reorienting and redefining sales channels. The weak economy put undue strain upon marketing organizations at all levels. The China factor is causing manufacturers to reinvent themselves.
Accordingly, successful marketing must lead the way in discovering this new paradigm before competitors get there first. Tactics that produced dependable, predictable results just a few years ago are no longer as effective as they once were.
Recently, our agency asked electronics companies to identify their biggest barrier to growth. It wasn't technology, they said. Not cheap imports. Not even meager budget dollars.
The single biggest growth obstacle these companies are struggling to overcome are "sales channel challenges," reflecting legitimate questions about how to best go to market -- distribution, direct sales force, just Internet? That lack of clarity wasn't present several years ago.
So how can you fix it in your company? Consider these three steps.
Dedicate yourself to the sweet spot
Every company must be able to describe those customers to whom its product or service is simply irresistible, where sales close the fastest, where profits are greatest and where the potential for growth is highest. Identify this group, describe it, locate it and cultivate it.
Squeeze out "me-too" messaging
Most companies stop short of where they need to go when describing their products or services. Don't just say what you do; say what you do better.
This lack of comparative messaging, where you're truly defining what makes you distinguishable and important to customers, leads to ads, Web sites, brochures and sales pitches that are dull, unpersuasive and identical to those of your competitors.
Encircle your sweet spot
Once you've identified your most profitable customers and the messages those people care most about, build a program that encircles those prospects in a way that is regular, consistent, sustained and efficient. Effective marketing in a noisy, dispersed world requires programs that are measured and balanced, and that don't lurch from campaign to campaign.
Far too many companies begin marketing planning by writing an ad before they know whether they need one, or even know what the ad should say. Tie your marketing to sound research, and the impact tactics will be far easier to identify.
JOEL GOLDSTEIN (email@example.com) is president of Goldstein Group Communications Inc., which provides marketing strategy, public relations, e-mail and Internet marketing, advertising and direct marketing programs. Goldstein is a past president of Public Relations Society of America, Akron, and served as a member of the executive committee of PRSA's National Section on Technology. Reach him at (216) 573-2300.