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.
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 email@example.com.