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Thursday, 29 June 2006 07:29

In tune

Any good businessperson knows that to be successful, you have to continually reinvent yourself.

The head of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra realized this last year when the organization embarked on a rebranding campaign.

“As much as we’re known, we’re still a young company,” says Cleveland Pops Executive Director Shirley Morgenstern. “We want to look out to a new audience. We wanted to get a fresher, edgier look. We want to help audiences know what pops music is.”

The Cleveland Pops is targeting people between the ages of 30 and 50 because its most frequent patrons — those of retirement age — won’t be around forever. The organization is reaching out to the next generation to change the image many people have of going to a concert.

“So many young people think that going to a concert is going to be very stuffy, and you have to get all dressed up and it’s not fun,” Morgenstern says. “And that’s not what pops music is about.”

But while a rebranding can be extremely beneficial for a company, it’s not something the leader can usually do alone, says Morgenstern. In her case, she had a wealth of resources within her board members, including people from both the advertising and marketing worlds to help. And if you don’t have a board of trustees, it’s critical to get help wherever possible, even if that means hiring a consultant.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether you can pay for it or whether you can get people that are knowledgeable,” Morgenstern says. “Surround yourself with people that know more than you know. No one knows everything, and you need fresh eyes, a fresh look.”

Not only does the process require lots of heads, it takes a lot of time and effort ,as well. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a new brand or company image can’t be developed and implemented overnight.

“We didn’t just snap our fingers and make a decision,” says Morgenstern. “There was a lot of hours put in. There was a lot of discussions. There was a lot of research in what we wanted to do, why we want to do it.

“We did the same thing you do in strategic planning. You look at what you have. You look at the logo. You decide who our audience has been in the past, who our audience is now, what our demographics are. Then we look at where we want to go. And then we discussed how to reach out to the people that don’t know who we are.”

Morgenstern and her team went through 200 to 300 slogans before deciding on “Music and fun for everyone.”

They also had to pick from among 30 logos designed by marketing director Gordon Petitt. They whittled the choices down from 10 to five to three before eventually voting on the final version.

The point, she says, is that it takes a lot of discussion and collaboration to find the best option.

Morgenstern hopes the Cleveland Pops’ new slogan and logo and more cohesive overall marketing strategy will continue to draw people to concerts and events, with the goal of increasing its annual budget from $800,000 to more than $1 million.

HOW TO REACH: Cleveland Pops Orchestra, www.clevelandpops.com

Published in Cleveland
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

All about integration

In the last few years, many organizations have made an effort to move their communications function in the direction of integrated marketing communications.

The term has become old, and the concept is even older. Agencies with both advertising and public relations capabilities have been selling integrated marketing communications programs to their clients for decades.

Regardless of what you call it, the strategy is a good one. An integrated marketing communications plan provides the opportunity to pull together many communications resources, including a deliberate mix of advertising, publicity, collateral, direct mail, giveaway programs, use of the Web and so forth, to effectively communicate your messages. It's the most effective means of reaching your target audiences.

As an example, one of our clients is planning for an exciting new product introduction. This is an obvious event that lends itself to a multiplicity of communications activities. We are utilizing advertising, direct mail, public relations and collateral. But you don't need to wait for a new product or service to make use of integrated marketing communications.

When planning your communications strategy, consider what you want to say about your products or services, how you want your audience(s) to respond to your messages and the best means of reaching them.

Once you've established how to reach your audiences, begin with a theme -- something memorable, but also something that obviously describes what you do or who you are, something that reminds your audiences of your value as someone they do business with.

The theme can focus on quality, speed or comprehensive service. Keep in mind that whatever you come up with will have to work with ads as readily as it will with your literature, gift items and other components that should all fit together in the minds of your customers.

The advantage of beginning with a theme is that it establishes the direction for everything else in an integrated marketing communications effort.

Years ago, a company called WABCO introduced a "See Red" theme for marketing its railroad and mass transit brake shoes (which were painted red). Everything associated with that campaign referred to that theme. The ads emphasized it, playing off the message that " ... you should be seeing red ... if your brake shoes don't ... " and then listing all of the benefits of WABCO brake shoes.

A direct-mail campaign with gift items used a similar approach. Each of the gifts was red. The messages, the color (in this case, color was an absolutely essential part of the theme), the gift items, literature and everything associated with this integrated marketing communications campaign reminded recipients that if they were using, or thinking about using, a competitive product, they would soon "See Red."

That subtle message implied that customers would be angry about their choice of a competitive brake shoe that would not perform as well as the red shoe. Secondly, they could lose money because they would have to replace the competitive brake shoes more often, and their bottom line would show red ink.

That campaign was relatively short -- the whole thing lasted less than a year. But, it made a tremendous impact on the market.

You can make that kind of impact in your markets. If you have a good product, you don't have to paint it red, or change its color. If your service is great, keep it that way. Just begin to think in terms of using a variety of marketing communications tools and, more important, think about how you can pull them all together around a theme that clearly communicates to customers. Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. Reach him at (412) 434-7718 or by e-mail at jkrakoff@krakoff.com

Published in Pittsburgh
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Market makeover

A client needing to aggressively promote an improved product line and service commitment, in an effort to increase sales and market share, presented me with an interesting situation.

The client had long been the pre-eminent provider of specialty chemicals within its industry. After problems with product quality and service several years ago, it decided to focus its attention on quality and service enhancements. During that time, several new competitors emerged in the marketplace.

We recommended a two-step approach. First, we suggested it conduct a study of its marketplace -- both customers and noncustomers -- to identify the perception of the company and determine the factors affecting buying decisions. Second, we advised it to prepare and implement a multiphase marketing plan.

Research is critical in any re-emergence scenario. While the company felt it knew why current clients stayed with it and others left, research leaves no room for interpretation because the audience speaks to you.

Marketing strategy and implementation are equally important. While individual communications piece is useful (brochures, advertisements, etc.), you will get the greater effect only when each piece is strategically combined with the others. By leveraging your efforts, you can minimize the overall expense while maximizing overall impact.

Overall, though, it's important in an effort as substantial as repositioning a company in its market that the communication messages come to potential customers from all angles.

The research study

We performed a comprehensive study and evaluation and found the following:

1 Company name was not well known among noncustomers.

2 Current customers felt very strongly about the quality of the company's products.

3 Company's sales force was not thought to be aggressive enough.

The marketing plan

The next step was to build a marketing campaign to address these challenges. Based on survey results, we targeted three areas for communications: the company's commitment to technology, its product quality and its service.

We then developed a strategy designed to work in conjunction with internal sales efforts. It included:

1. Advertising in trade publications to present a fresh, new image of the company and begin to increase name recognition.

2. Direct mail to send repetitive messages focused on the company's commitment to technology, quality and service.

3. Sales support literature to assist the sales force in getting the company message out to prospects in a concise, consistent manner. Literature included both a general capabilities brochure and a sales kit.

4. Publicity, including writing and placing product announcements and technical articles about technology and quality to garner recognition and credibility in targeted trade publications.

The company planned to deploy the new communications tools over a three-month period, which would culminate with the major trade show in its industry.

Internally, it developed a number of programs to complement the communications efforts:

  • It prepared a "Binder Blitz" of product-specific materials and delivered them to key specifiers in the form of "boxed lunch" sessions.

  • It developed a system to provide for customers the ability to order its products electronically.

  • It expanded the sales force to provide better service.

The results

While the company currently is rolling out the campaign, its customers reportedly have responded favorably, and it anticipates a large increase in sales over the next year.

Just keep these two points in mind:

1. Never underestimate the value research plays in understanding your market's perception of you and its critical role in the success of any marketing campaign. 2. While the individual communications tools themselves are important, their mere existence without a strategic plan for their use may prove ineffective. Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. Reach him at (412) 434-7718 or at jkrakoff@krakoff.com.

Published in Pittsburgh
Thursday, 26 July 2001 20:00

How to be stupid in business

It amazes me how stupid people are and how we get treated as customers.

It's like seeing those buttons companies provide for employees with the slogan, ''Yes I Can,'' then everything you ask them ends with ''No'' or ''I can't do that.''

There's no real secret to customer service and it doesn't involve magic; it just involves common sense, a good attitude and a simple set of rules. When Nordstrom opened last year, there was a big fuss over its incredible customer service. Don't get me wrong: The employees are great at what they do and it is a benchmark company. But, think about what -- or who -- makes it great.

When it opened, it did not transplant 400-plus people from Seattle. Instead, it hired people who were working at other department stores, trained them and offered them the latitude to make customers happy.

While Nordstrom's customer service is strong, that of many of its competitors is not. Here are stupid things you're wont to see in a department store:

  • Signs allowing only three garments at a time in a dressing room. Why? To deter shoplifting, the stores claim. But, studies reveal only a scant 3 percent of people shoplift, and most shoplifting is an internal problem. There's nothing quite like offending and limiting your customers before they buy something.
  • Waiting in line while the salesperson answers the phone. It makes you wonder whether they're trained to get names and phone numbers, then return the call once the customer standing in front of them has been helped.

Many poor customer service issues can be avoided if store managers spend time observing department managers and coaching salespeople to ensure customers are taken care of properly. If you want your business to be first class, fill it with first-class people and train them well.

This was reinforced when I visited several Southern states to teach business owners how to ensure their employees are nice to customers. Here are eight lessons I learned from talking with these owners.

  1. Be nice all the time.
  2. Treat people with respect. If you want to be treated nicely, recognize that everyone else does, too.
  3. Keep your word. If you say you'll call back in 15 minutes, do it.
  4. Don't say, ''I don't know.'' Replace that with ''Let me find out.''
  5. Look people in the eye and smile. People love a warm smile.
  6. Have a sense of humor. The more fun you have, the more your customers will, too. Southwest Airlines has made a science out of this concept.
  7. Be empathetic. Put yourself in the customer's role and try to understand how he or she feels dealing with you or your business.
  8. Did I say be nice? I can't stress that enough.

If you teach your staff to treat people the way you want to be treated, you'll find your business will earn a reputation for good customer service. And in a tight economy, when consumers can choose where to spend their dollars, building customer loyalty is imperative to long-term success.

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of two best-selling books, ''Can I have 5 minutes of your time?'' and ''Lip Service.''

Hal Becker's website

Published in Cleveland
Saturday, 25 April 2009 20:00

Something to blog about

Ask Clyde Miles whether you should advertise your product on TV, and he’d probably tell you to ditch the commercial and air your own show instead.

“You have to have this mindset of, ‘Let’s create our own media,’” says the chief strategist at Optiem, a Web marketing agency with 35 employees. “How can we develop our own content and get it out there?”

The answer: with cheap and increasingly accessible social media. A blog can build your brand by opening a conversation with your customers, stopping short of a sales pitch to provide valuable content that they can use.

But, Miles says, “You have to find a context first before you know the content.”

In other words, you’re not writing about the product or service you provide but about how it helps your customers.

“So if you make widgets, what is the compelling thing, what is the essence of widgets?” says Miles, whose company grew 40 percent last year. “If that widget makes someone’s life better in this way, then start writing toward that versus just, ‘Hey, buy our widgets.’”

Your industry and brand positioning are good indicators of that essence. If you know the need you fill for customers, you know the direction of your blog.

“If you’re Sherwin-Williams, yeah, you’re a paint business, but it’s not really about paint,” he says. “What Sherwin-Williams is about is decorating my house, so obviously they’re going to develop content around decorating.”

Once you find your focus, resist the urge to just promote yourself. Instead, you need to look past the product to see objectively the essence of your message.

“In general, you should avoid overt ‘buy our product or service’ messaging,” he says. “But you might use a description of a situation using your product.”

Look at it as research into the customer’s mind, a chance to read the buzz about your product or your field. The objective is to secure a place in that consciousness by providing relevant stories about the need for your product.

With easy one-click options for customers to comment on the content you post, blogs provide an opportunity for an immediate two-way conversation, taking the relationship to a deeper level than one-way advertising, such as TV spots.

But the danger is that you relinquish part of the message.

“You may no longer be in control of all your brand messaging,” Miles says. “You still are to a certain extent; people are still talking about your brand. But it’s more of a dialogue and more of adding value to that relationship versus just all your communications being about selling stuff.”

To counter that danger, monitor the comments on your blog to rein in the responses to help mold the image you want.

“You may get negative comments,” he says. “In answering those comments, you can turn a negative into a positive by your willingness to engage and be transparent.”

Any response at all will show customers you care. React to complaints, for example, by explaining how you’re addressing the problem.

And the key to those reactions is consistency.

“The other critical thing is to keep doing it,” Miles says. “Before, it was like, ‘Well, we created this TV spot. Now we’ll play it for six months, and then that’s it.’ With this, it’s constantly evolving and changing. It’s not just a one-time thing; it’s a long-term strategy. You have to keep at it, or people won’t follow you.”

So add posts and updates regularly to give customers constant reasons to come back.

“They’ll realize that you’re meeting them where they are and are engaged with them on a much more direct basis that you ever were before,” Miles says. “Hopefully, the relationship is deeper as a result of the fact that you’re actually providing value to that relationship and not just trying to sell.”

Calling all bloggers

Clyde Miles has seen a new position popping up at a lot of companies. Directors of social media — or sometimes, more specifically, chief bloggers — are proof that the business world is hip to the Internet.

But you shouldn’t create a position without experimenting first.

“You may find that there is someone within your organization who is out there doing it now, maybe on their own blog or in other social media,” Miles says.

Ask around your company to find out who is familiar with the online format, who is either reading or writing blogs on sites, such as Blogspot or Twitter or even Facebook or MySpace.

While any of your employees may have the passion to blog about your business, the person you choose also has to be able to write. Start your search in the marketing or public relations department, where employees are already penning promotional material.

Your potential blogger also must have the time to post regularly. Eventually, you’ll have to compensate that commitment or tie it to a job description.

But it’s worth the cost to give your brand value through online interaction.

“The thing about blogs is that it’s a person, versus monolithic content like a corporate Web site,” Miles says. “There’s a voice to it, a style to it, a point of view. You can talk to a brand. It’s like they have a personality.”

HOW TO REACH: Optiem, (216) 574-8700 or www.optiem.com

 

Published in Cleveland
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 19:00

Expanding from within

SearchPath International’s Tom Johnston leads a program that encourages franchisees to be recruiters.

A company in the business of franchising need not look any further than its own franchisees for a great way to expand, says Tom Johnston, president and CEO of SearchPath International.

“The best salesperson you can have for a company is somebody who has already come in, looked at what you’re doing, decided to move forward and purchased a franchise,” Johnston says. “That’s helped us grow the company quickly, hit the market with a lot of credibility, and it’s helped us keep our corporate overhead down because our franchisees are also our sales force.”

The key to making a franchise referral program work is ensuring that the existing franchisees have the right tools to identify and recruit new franchisees who will help the company continue to grow.

“The right way to do this is not to go out and say, ‘Hey, do you want to buy a franchise?’” Johnston says. “We follow a very traditional recruitment process.”

Johnston says that as a talent acquisition professional services firm, SearchPath is very familiar with recruiting. But the steps to acquiring talent apply to any type of franchising organization.

“The first thing you normally do is you talk to them and find out where they are in their life,” Johnston says. “What are the things that are important to them? What, ultimately, are they trying to get to? The proverbial question I always ask is, ‘Where do you want to be three to five years from now?’”

Johnston says it comes down to “being able to truly identify the needs, both emotionally and financially, from a career point of view.”

Recruiting is obviously a vital part of a franchise referral program, Johnston says. But one mistake companies often make in developing a program is building it around a territorial concept.

“The reason why many of the franchises were built on territory when they first started doing business had nothing to do with anything other than long-distance [phone] rates,” Johnston says. With “the cost of doing business back in 1975, when you were doing recruiting, you wouldn’t allow anybody to make long-distance phone calls because they were two or three dollars a minute. You did all your business locally.”

With advances in technology and with the world becoming smaller every day, territorial boundaries should no longer be an obstacle to growth, Johnston says.

“Unless you are fortunate enough to get a very large territory in a desirable area, I think you run into a problem,” Johnston says. “It’s creating restrictions that make it almost a nonincentive.”

One enticement that encourages franchisees to be recruiters is to make them master franchisees, meaning that they get a percentage of the franchise fees and royalties for bringing in new people rather than paying that to someone else.

“They get short-term and long-term revenue,” Johnston says. “We look at the opportunity to create these master franchisees, where they have a vested interest in helping the people that they bring in to be successful. We build that in as part of our support network.”

Franchise referral programs can be “very, very aggressive,” Johnston says, but they can also be very simple.

“Even if it’s just, ‘Hey, if you run across someone who you think would be a good referral, send them on in and we’ll send you a gift certificate, or we’ll give you a couple thousand bucks,’ it can’t hurt,” he says. “The people that have bought in to your organization that are happy and doing well, they are your best salespeople.”

HOW TO REACH: SearchPath International, (216) 589-0431 or www.searchpath.com

Published in Cleveland
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:00

The quickest way to kill your marketing plan

So let’s say you get it all right. You’ve worked diligently for some time to put together what you think to be a great marketing program. You now have an extensive marketing plan that you feel will work, which includes great creative ideas and a communications timeline. Your plan is put together in a professional presentation, you have great visual images, a catchy and compelling campaign, radio spots, TV commercials, print ads, flyers, posters, direct mailers, billboards and nifty promotional items. And you’re now ready to reach out to your public…

Stop. Your plan may be flawlessly designed, but are you truly prepared to walk your talk? Have you consulted with your staff and conducted essential internal research to ensure your plan’s success? Now you might say, “Malcolm, we don’t need to do any of that touchy-feely stuff; none of that matters. Our marketing plan is perfect — and really ‘pops.’” I’m here to tell you that, unfortunately, your plan is seriously flawed.

One of the biggest failures of a potentially successful marketing plan is neglecting to consult with your internal customers, conduct employee research or communicate the plan to your employees. Do your employees have a copy of the plan? Did they have input or help write it? Do they know anything about the plan — better yet, do they even care?

Chances are you probably guard this “strategic information” like the Fort Knox treasury. Don’t destroy yourself before you even begin. You may have the external and media touch points well addressed, but not thoroughly addressing your internally affected touch points is the express lane to a business dead-end.

Every touch point to a customer or potential customer matters — nothing matters more. What is a touch point? Everything from the vocal inflection when answering phones, office dcor, personalities, customer-centric attitudes and actions, to the bathroom being cleaned — and condition of the walkways and windows. Everything about your business is a reflection of who and what you are as an organization. The easiest way to blow a successful plan is to ignore some of these minute details. On the other hand, fine-tuning and orchestrating those details help take marketing — and your business — to another level.

Get your left and right talking
Systematically address this internal marketing and alignment. Survey your internal staff; talk to key players that deliver and execute on the claims made in your marketing. Be sure to include all of your employees. Dig a little deeper to see how even staff who don’t interact with your customers make an impact on customer deliverables. You may be surprised to find just how many ways that everything they do can help (or hinder) your marketing results. This process isn’t just about the CEO’s opinion; it’s about everyone involved in the day-to-day processes. These are the people who are ultimately responsible for your customer’s happiness.

Use their perspectives to better gauge the approach that you want to take to satisfy your customers. This is a formative process that allows you to look at the company as a whole and pinpoint specific pieces that allow you to figure out the company’s best alignment to deliver what is called your “brand promise.”

Shared vision
Do all of the employees know the 2007 goals? It’s the CEO’s job to set the vision, and share the goals. Creating the goals of the company and having a great marketing plan are useless in your desk drawer or attracting dust on the bookshelf. In fact, your plan should reflect the goals and vision of the company and be integrated into the daily tasks throughout the ranks.

In order to achieve a goal, you have to put some effort into it. Simply setting goals is not enough. The goals should be acknowledged and shared with everyone in order to achieve them. In addition to the overall goals of the company, each employee should have a record of their goals and objectives to check frequently and make sure that they are on the right track. Everyone is accountable.

Once you’ve been able to share and align your vision, goals and infrastructure, your brand delivery will be turbocharged and your marketing plan destined for success. Taking these steps will allow everyone to get a better grasp on your company’s direction and help motivate your employees to better address the expectations of your customers. It’s not just about having good ideas, it’s what you do with them that matters. We’re only two months into the year, so it’s not too late to take out your marketing plan from the desk drawer and start using it.

MALCOLM TEASDALE is the principal and “Big Idea Catalyst” of Teasdale Worldwide, a strategic marketing firm headquartered in Tampa, Fla. Reach him at Malcolm@TeasdaleWorldwide.com. To obtain a new direction, increase revenue, and the expertise to facilitate your customers UBAs, call Kathi Kasel at (813) 868-1520 or e-mail Kathi@MarketingofDistinction.com. To view additional articles, register at www.MalcolmOutLoud.com.

Published in Florida
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

The write stuff

Want to stretch your marketing communications dollar for all it’s worth? Make room in the budget for feature articles for publications that reach your customers.

In the mind of the reader, an article is more credible than an ad. It’s what the publication says about your product or service. And you can order reprints of the published article and send it to prospective customers.

You may have the initial draft of an article already prepared. A technical paper, for example, often can be published without making many changes, if you send it to a magazine that publishes such papers in your industry. Take the technical jargon out and send it to not-so-technical magazines that reach your customers.

Do the same thing with a presentation you’ve developed for a trade show ... or a customer group ... or even for employees, if the subject is appropriate for a wider audience. If you record the presentation, you can develop a transcript, edit it into an article and send it to a magazine without doing a lot of additional work.

You’ve already put the work into creating the presentation, so why not get more mileage from it? You may be surprised to discover how quickly you can prepare such an article.

A white paper can be converted into a feature article in much the same way. Since it may not contain the jargon sometimes found in technical papers, it may be even easier to develop. The white paper may include more detail and may be longer than the specifications called for by the magazine, but that simply means you’ve got a little editing to do.

Another document that can be developed into an article is a news release. The format may need to be changed, and you’ll probably want to expand on the details. But that provides you an opportunity to further explain some points you didn’t have room for in the news release, and you can add more narrative.

A popular article with many editors is the case history. You create it based on a customer’s — or several customers’ — good experiences with your product or service. The article describes that experience in their words and from their points of view.

Keep in mind that commercial messages in any of these articles tend to lessen its value in the eyes of the editor. The standard line for knowing how much commercialism you can get away with is, “If you want to put an ad in the magazine, buy the space.”

Your name as the author of the article, or a mention of your business in the article, or even a mention of your company in a photo caption, all serve to identify you to the reader. Consider any other mentions a bonus. Go light on them as you draft the article, and you’ll improve the odds of having it accepted for publication.

Increase your chances of success even more by checking editorial calendars for the magazines you want to reach. Look for an issue that seems to fit the subject you have in mind, and aim for that issue. Most magazines post their editorial schedule for the year on their Web sites. If you can’t find it, call the magazine and ask it to send you one.

Just be careful not to send articles to competing magazines at the same time.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. Reach him at (412) 434-7718 or jkrakoff@krakoff.com.

Published in Pittsburgh
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

Presentation is nice, but...

What is the secret to giving an effective presentation? My presentation skills are unmatched, but I have colleagues who close more business than I do. I don’t understand it.

Most people are very comfortable talking about their products and services because that is what they know the most about and because of childhood conditioning.

As a result, most salespeople are anxious to do demonstrations or give proposals. It’s the adult version of show and tell.

As children, we were always rewarded for making a good presentation, whether it was to our teachers or our parents. It makes us feel good to do a presentation that is well received, and in this way, we get our emotional needs met.

However, selling is not about making presentations or getting our emotional needs met. Selling is about gaining commitments and winning business. Too often, we walk away from a presentation with nothing more than applause.

Business is not won or lost at the presentation. It is won or lost based on how well you have diagnosed the prospects’ needs and problems and how you set up the presentation.

Before you submit proposals, always gain the prospects’ commitment to make a decision at the time you conduct your presentations or review your proposals with them. Done right, the proposal itself should be nothing more than the fulfillment of what has already been agreed to.

If you aren’t able to obtain this commitment from a prospect in advance of the proposal, consider it a red flag — the prospect is either looking for a free education or simply looking to validate a decision that has already been made in your competition’s favor. Another red flag is a prospect who won’t let you present your proposal in person.

Unless you are in construction, you should never submit a proposal in any fashion other than face to face. Sending a proposal via fax or mail is usually a waste of time.

Don’t rush into a proposal. Spend the bulk of your time uncovering the essential needs and concerns of your prospects and discussing the investments that they will have to make and the obstacles they will have to overcome before you do a demonstration or proposal.

The sale is usually won or lost in the diagnosis, not in the presentation.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send comments and questions via fax to (724) 933-9224 or e-mail at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.

Published in Pittsburgh
Monday, 22 July 2002 09:42

Meeting the media

The owner of a new business with a great product but a very limited marketing communications budget once asked me what I could do to help him make an initial impact in his target market within about four months.

Print advertising wasn’t viable; the budget just couldn’t support producing an ad and buying the space to place it multiple times. Besides, numerous magazines reached the potential customers he wanted to reach, including a mix of business trade publications and the big — and very expensive — consumer magazines.

So I took him on a media tour, with a presentation about the product, to some of the top publications, many in New York City. We visited with 19 editors — in two days. More than half were with McGraw-Hill publications, all located in one building.

We also visited publishers of multiple publications and included a stop at the New York Times, where we met with a syndicated columnist. That single meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes, led to a story that was carried in newspapers across the country, including one right here in Pittsburgh. The story was read by millions of people.

What I wanted to do with this client — and what you should consider doing if you’re thinking about putting together a media tour— was to develop an approach to engage each editor in a discussion that would lead to the development of a feature article specifically for that publication.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Make a list of all the publications reaching your customers and group them by city or geographic region. You’ll probably find a number of them based in the metro areas of New York City, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

2. Develop a statement about why readers will be interested in reading about your product or service and call or e-mail the editor. E-mail seems to be the most effective way to reach most of them. Craft the message. It needs to be brief, but have enough detail to convince the editor that you have something in which readers will be interested.

3. Call the editors to arrange a meeting. If the editors you’re meeting with work for the same publishing house, (McGraw-Hill, for example), your commute between offices may consist of a ride on the elevator, and you can schedule meetings closely together.

4. During each meeting, briefly engage the editor in a conversation about how information about your product or service will be of interest to lots of readers.

5. If the editors are scattered around the city, it may be to your advantage to rent a conference room in a hotel that’s centrally located and invite the editors to come there. Do a brief presentation before noon, go right into a Q&A session and then have lunch brought in. That offers privacy, and you avoid the confusion of asking the editors to move to a different room.

6. As soon as you return to your office, write a personal note of thanks to each editor for meeting with you and remind the editor of any discussion you had concerning a specific article. Remind him or her about possible topics, deadlines, etc., that were discussed in the meeting.

This follow-up of the media tour is what makes it a marketing communications activity that pays for itself many times over. You’re now in position to begin developing an article with the publication. Mission accomplished.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. Reach him at (412) 434-7718 by e-mail at jkrakoff@krakoff.com.

Published in Columbus