Marketing services in_the_new_normal


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The events of the last two years constitute more than an economic recession. Rather, they shape a global realignment -- "The New Normal." This position papers describes four fundamental areas where change has occurred in society and provides recommended responses for service brands and service marketers.

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Marketing services in_the_new_normal

  1. 1. POSITION PAPER The New Normal Marketing Service Brands in 2010 and Beyond
  2. 2. What’s the New Normal? Over $1 trillion in government stimulus, the collapse of some of the world’s largest financial institutions, a complete rewrite of the nation’s healthcare system and the biggest ecological disaster in the history of the country. Economics It goes without saying that the past two years may constitute more than an economic recession. Rather, it’s a global realignment that may have lasting change for 3-4 years – it’s the New Normal. The New Normal is defined by lower rates of growth, higher rates of Regulatory Culture unemployment, more government intervention, lasting changes to consumer behavior, and rapid acceleration of interactive, social and online media. Ultimately, the New Normal is shaped by the confluence of structural change in four areas: • Economics Environment • Culture • Environment • Regulatory
  3. 3. Looking deeper. Industry leading brands will monitor these four areas closely to identify opportunities for growth, to innovate new services, and to implement effective marketing strategies. Economics Culture In an August interview with USA Today, Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-chief In June 2010, U.S. consumers saved 6.4 percent of their after tax-income (as investment officer of Pimco, described it as a “square root” shaped recovery compared to 1 to 2 percent in recent years). Many consumers have drastically defined by slower growth (2% rather than the 3% experienced in recent years) altered not only what they buy, but also how they buy it. Rapid growth in social and persistently high rates of unemployment (hovering around 10% for up to five media has empowered consumers and businesses to be more educated users of years). This new economic reality brings us less leverage through tighter access to the services they buy than ever before. The best service brands are focused on credit and financing. With less capital available, marketers must demonstrate optimizing brand experience – they recognize that by exceeding customer proven ROI in the form of leads to the sales function and measurable expectations, they allow customers to broadcast their successes through growth in brand awareness and brand preference. social media technologies. Regulatory Environment The most visible indicator of the New Normal may be the larger role of government While we may continue to argue the causes and effects of Global Warming for in business and society. In the past two years, the U.S. government has invested years to come, there’s no doubting the importance of environmental concerns over $1 trillion in stimulus funds, bailed out entire industries, and passed sweeping in the marketplace. More and more business purchase decisions are taking into healthcare legislation. In a September 2010 speech, President Obama suggested consideration not only the quality of a service provided, but also the environmental a pooling of public and private dollars through an “infrastructure bank” to evaluate and ecological consequences of the way it’s provided. The best service brands and fund public works programs. Programs like these constitute a new future in recognize that their operations have an effect on the world around us. the relationship between government and business. Companies that strive to They see this not as a rising cost of business, but as an opportunity to build authentic brands build higher levels of trust both with consumers carve out a leadership position. and policy makers.
  4. 4. Marketing tactics for the New Normal. While many companies have flocked to digital 1. Marketing to the Buying Process and social media, the best marketers recognize Traditionally, service marketers have invested the majority of their resources to the middle stages of a buying process – marketing service features and sharing case the importance of balance. studies and testimonials. They’ve done this through traditional advertising, direct marketing and direct selling. Unfortunately, this approach assumes the customer They invest in a combination of brand building activities to establish awareness already knows her options and is ready to consider alternatives. Also, it assumes and preference while also investing in direct marketing programs to build leads that the marketing process ends at the moment a contract is signed. Now, service and opportunities for sales teams. They invest in a combination of traditional and marketers need to focus on all aspects of the buying process – helping customers non-traditional tactics. Most importantly, they think like customers of their own self-assess their problems and explore potential solutions at the beginning of service to make sure their message is relevant and meaningful at all times. the process and creating follow-on opportunities with existing customers after a relationship has been established. B2B Decision-Making Process Epiphany Exploration Evaluation Execution Engagement Define problem and seek Clarify objectives and Finalize short lists and Select provider and Evaluate service delivery possible solutions. search for providers. solicit proposals. finalize relationship. and assess impact. Sources: ITSMA, “How Customers Choose Solution Providers, 2009.” September 2009. Julie Schwartz, Katie Espinola, Olivier Nguyen Van Tan. Sellers, Mark. “The Funnel Principle”. 2007.
  5. 5. Marketing tactics for the New Normal. 2. Thought Leadership The rapid expansion of social media provides opportunities to take your message to potential customers when and where it’s most relevant. Professional service brands must stand for something meaningful and relevant. This is done by producing regular thought leadership that is informative, issues-based and educational in nature. Thought leadership is best shared through blogs, podcasts and webinars. It should be promoted through social media channels, distributed through other sites such as or, and later repurposed through ongoing email marketing. 3. Bite-Sized Multimedia Content Leading service brands are leveraging multimedia content to offer relevant insight at all points in the buying process. They do this by offering a combination of educational, brand-centered and service-oriented information. Educational content informs prospects of driving business issues and offers potential solutions. Brand-centered content explores the company’s unique value proposition and shares its driving belief system. Service-oriented content outlines service features and benefits as well as customer testimonials and case studies. By packaging content into short, digestible snippets, content is timely, relevant and search-friendly. Additionally, it’s easily repurposed for use on YouTube, on mobile devices and in traditional sales presentations.
  6. 6. Branding in the New Normal. With stressors on revenue growth and the availability of measureable online media, it’s tempting to postpone traditional branding initiaves for a future day. Yet, now may be the most important time to invest in branding. 1. Growth is Elusive In many markets, flat or declining revenue is the norm for many professional service brands. Acquiring customers in the New Normal requires not only understanding how to reach them, but knowing what you want to say once you have. Service brands must stand for something. That ‘something’ takes the form of an internal belief system that inspires employees and attracts customers. Most importantly, a well conceived brand strategy creates a truly unique point of differentiation for the service brand that helps to maintain margins and generate top line sales growth. 2. A Transparent World Demands Authentic Brands The days where companies could hide behind clever taglines and creative “marketing spin” are long gone. With the rise of social media, customers and prospects are hyperconnected. Prospects can learn everything they need to know about what you do and how you do it. They can connect with your employees, past employees and suppliers to learn about your brand from all directions. They can voice frustrations (or occasional praise) regarding your brand experience quickly and easily – more importantly, they can broadcast it to the masses just as easily. This high level of transparency demands authentic brands – brands built on clearly defined belief systems, brands that engage employees at all levels, brands that attract customers not only for what they do, but why and how they do it.
  7. 7. Sources Publications Barkley, Tom and Victoria McGrane. “Private Sector Adds 67,000 Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal Online. September 3, 2010. Bird, Anna. “What the Best B2B Campaigns Get Right.” Information Technology Services Marketing Association. March 16, 2010. Rosenbloom, Stephanie. “But Will It Make You Happy?” The New York Times. August 7, 2010. Shell, Adam. “Pimco’s El-Erian: ‘New Normal’ Argues for Investor Caution.” USA Today. August 16, 2010. Stolberg, Sheryl Gay and Mary Williams Walsh. “Obama Offers a Transit Plan to Create Jobs.” The New York Times. September 7, 2010. Schwartz, Julie and Katie Espinola and Olivier Nguyen Van Tan. “How Customers Choose Solution Providers, 2009.” Information Technology Services Marketing Association. September 2009. Sellers, Mark. The Funnel Principle. 2007. Online Resources
  8. 8. About Mlicki. Mlicki is a nationally recognized branding agency that specializes in the development of service brands. We have led branding initiatives for organizations ranging in size from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Recent or current clients include Ashland, Denison University, DHL, Emerson, River Consulting and Sequent. Organized around three disciplines, Mlicki provides brand strategy, design development and interactive design. For more information, visit
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