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Marketing in a 'Low' Time: Smarter Marketing is the Key to Growing Your Business During Difficult Times
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Marketing in a 'Low' Time: Smarter Marketing is the Key to Growing Your Business During Difficult Times


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Steven Kleber, President of Kleber and Associates- a marketing and communications agency based in Atlanta, speaks at the 2009 Southern Building Show

Steven Kleber, President of Kleber and Associates- a marketing and communications agency based in Atlanta, speaks at the 2009 Southern Building Show

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  • 1. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times 1
  • 2. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times Introduction My name is Steven Kleber, CEO and founder of Kleber & Associates, an Atlanta integrated marketing firm that specializes in the home and building products channel. With more than two decades of experience targeting consumers and influencers in the marketplace, I hope my perspective is beneficial to you as you strive for business success, increased market share and a strengthened competitive edge in today’s competitive marketplace and during our nation’s challenging economic times. Let’s start with a basic background about the current economic decline, and how it’s impacting your business and marketing. Basics about the Economy and Marketing Many businesses jump on the idea of cutting back on marketing spending when the economy slows and budgets are tight. When they do this, they cripple their business operations. Let me ask you this -- do you want to get a leg up on the competition, or would you rather let your competitors pass you by as you hide out from the storm? Sluggish economic periods are the time when you should be focused more on marketing, not less. If you accelerate your marketing now, you will be more visible than ever. Challenging business times are actually an opportunity to grab new market share and increase sales, while positioning your brand, company, product and/or service as a leader in preparation for the inevitable turnaround. You may be asking yourself -- “How is it possible to increase my market share and position my brand for long-term success during an economic slowdown?” The answer is simple. The secret lies in smarter marketing. Today’s Presentation: An Overview During today’s presentation, I’m going to discuss how to effectively market to today’s discerning audiences by outlining 15 strategic marketing tips. All are simple to implement with proven results. At the end of today’s presentation, you will take away: • Key marketing strategies and tactics that, when implemented, will help you grow your business and market share • Learn how to get more out of your marketing budgets (it’s not always about spending more on marketing; it’s about smarter marketing) 2
  • 3. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times • Examples of companies that are using smarter marketing principles that you can use as inspiration and a platform to develop your own business growth and marketing plans • Great appreciation of what a fully integrated strategic marketing program can do for your company’s bottom line and overall short- and long-term success. Let’s get started . . . Tip #1: Adapt your marketing messages The housing market crisis, bleak state of the economy, the worldwide financial crises, elevating unemployment rates, rising food costs, skyrocketing foreclosures rates . . . have you thought about any of these issues lately? Don’t you think your customers are thinking about them, even living them? Show empathy for your customers’ evolving lifestyles. You can attract today’s cost-conscious audiences with marketing messages that appeal to their emotions and state of mind. If you have a thorough understanding of what your customers are experiencing and how you can add value to their lives, they’re more apt to do business with you. Target is a great example of a company using today’s austere economy to capitalize on the opportunity to grow its marketing share. The retailer’s TV advertising spots tout the tagline “A new day. New ways to save.” and show families doing things at home instead of spending money on extra expenses—things like working out in the comfort of their own homes, spending the night in a Target tent with the entire family, watching a DVD at home instead of going out to the movies, among others. Target’s marketing language is a prime example of a company appealing to the ‘average American’ family who is cutting back, unable to afford the luxuries of additional expenses like a gym membership or taking the kids out for dinner and entertainment. It shows a fresh way to approach living a pared-down lifestyle. After all, it is “a new day.” When targeting your customers, you need to speak to them in a language they understand, in addition to showing the value your product or service provides to their overall lifestyle and general well-being. Tip #1: Adapt your marketing messages continued Showing empathy and serious may mean lowering your prices in a downturn to show some empathy won’t hurt, though make sure you don’t completely throw your carefully honed image of value and intangible benefits overboard and go all cheap and bottom on consumers. Here are some examples I liked: 3
  • 4. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times • Dunkin’ Donuts’ America’s Latte Break program offered 99-cent small lattes on weekday afternoons between 2pm and 5pm, as part of a plan to entice consumers to take their daily coffee break at Dunkin Donuts. The program ran from 1 October–11 November 2008. And in non-frivolous, serious times, how about introducing serious-looking, information-packed packaging? Brush up your seriousness quotient by learning from these health and beauty products that went for a serious ‘look and feel’ before anyone else did: • Australian beauty supply brand Aesop was developed by Dennis Paphitis in 1987 as an alternative to overhyped and under-proven beauty tonics. Notice the austere, serious look of its packaging. • MALIN+GOETZ is a modern apothecary in New York's Chelsea neighborhood that sells treatments for the face, body and hair. The products mix natural ingredients with performance technologies designed to treat specific skin sensitivities, irritations and allergies that can be caused by other beauty products with harsh ingredients. MALIN+GOETZ formulas are designed to minimize the use of unnecessary detergents, colorants and synthetic fragrances, are barely scented and are oil and residue-free. Their packaging? Wordy. Traditionally ‘serious’ products like insurance should be able to profit from more uncertain times: • Insurance company New York Life launched a “Selfless Gift” campaign end of 2008, combining seriousness with GENEROSITY, urging consumers to give the gift of life insurance during the holiday season. Tip #1: Adapt your marketing messages/products/services Lowering your prices is one thing, offering innovative ‘recession-proof’ products and services is another. Keywords: durability, advice and efficiency. Clever examples: • Parents know better than anyone how expensive it can be to buy a new pair of shoes every time a child goes through a growth spurt. InchWorm Shoes provides a solution to that problem with its iFit technology, which allows the wearer to increase the size of his or her shoes by pushing a button and pulling on the toe. INCHworm shoes grow in half-size increments and have the capacity to stretch three sizes. Expect price transparency to become even more popular, especially as straightforward comparison makes way for tailored advice on how to save money: • Validas offers to shave an average of 22% off customer’s mobile phone bills by analyzing their current payments and suggesting changes. Customers can upload their bills and pay USD 5 for a single report or purchase report bundles. These reports then offer a detailed 4
  • 5. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times breakdown of usage, carrier comparisons, and industry secrets and tips designed to help the customer save money. Tip #2: Maximize your marketing dollars Whether you’re attending a tradeshow, educational seminar, sending out a press release, placing an advertisement, distributing a direct mail piece, creating a press kit or embarking on a new social media campaign, take advantage of every marketing opportunity and look for the added value for each marketing initiative and marketing dollar you spend. The best marketing campaigns have a multi-dimensional approach, incorporating numerous marketing venues and distribution methods with the goals of: • Reaching their target audiences • Increasing brand awareness • Managing reputation • Increasing leads • Increasing customer engagement and conversation • Increasing Web traffic, etc. For example, if you exhibit at the International Builders’ Show (IBS), look at it as an opportunity to promote your products and services to customers and to network with other builders, remodelers or industry professionals to gain insight on how they’re handling tough economic times. Tradeshows are also a great venue to assess your competition, as well as allowing for the opportunity to disseminate your press kits and seek out media opportunities. Every tradeshow has a media room where the press can access your media kit. Look at it as another opportunity to augment company awareness among influential and prominent media in your niche marketplace. The bottom line is that you should examine each thing you do, and can do, and how you can yield a higher return on your investment. Tip #3: Focus your marketing Whether your sales and marketing plan includes sales calls, direct mail pieces, advertisements, a referral program, public relations or social media marketing, you need to know who you are targeting. Sometimes it’s best to first think of who you’re not trying to attract. This strategic thinking can be the key to leading you to your ideal customer. What is the age range, gender, household income, discretionary income, personality characteristics, consumer product and design styles that you believe will be most interested in what you have to offer? And, who exactly are these potential customers and who are they not? Before you can successfully attract your target market, you have to understand them, what motivates them to buy and how they attack the purchasing process. Focus on your strongest targets first and put the rest of the population on the B list. And don’t forget past customers, which can be converted to repeat customers and brand evangelists through their word-of-mouth referrals. 5
  • 6. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times Tip #4: Invest in digital marketing continued The majority of today’s businesses have a website. If you don’t, you might want to reevaluate your business strategy, as this could be the most important tool in your marketing tool chest. Customers use company websites to research all aspects of a product or service they are considering including: • General information gathering • Contact and service information • Product and service availability • Photos • Pricing • Competitive analysis • Customer testimonials • And even to make final purchasing decisions online A website is crucial to the success of your business. It’s also a great marketing tool. You have the ability to feature product and service photos, communicate referral sources and customer testimonials, provide pricing and information about what you’re selling, and even position you and your company as a knowledge leader in your industry. The sky’s the limit! Use your company website to its fullest potential. If you already have a website – how interactive is it? Are you providing your customers with the ability to comment on your brand, product or service, share their stories, and speak with other customers who have used your brand? And what about a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media profile? Do you blog? Are you utilizing podcasts, online video, social bookmarking sites, paid and organic search options and RSS feeds? These are all mediums that your customers are utilizing, so you need to jump on board . . . and fast. According to an Epsilon Chief Marketing Officer Survey, 63 percent of the 175 marketing executives surveyed see an increase in their spending on interactive/digital marketing as the future unfolds. Your competition, customers and industry influencers are out there, are you? Tip #5: Cultivate consumer relationships With the instant gratification of today’s evolving technology, many business owners don’t even pick up the phone anymore. However, creating a dialogue with your customers is an important way to secure good will and potential future sales. Effective ways to do this, as simple as it sounds, include sending a handwritten note to thank customers for their business, or, to ask them to pass on your company’s name to friends and family. 6
  • 7. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times Pursuing an in-person encounter with key customers to thank them for their business or with new or prospective customers is another great way to secure that coveted face-to-face time with customers. Differentiate your company by showing off your social skills. Have frequent and personalized contact with your customers and prospects. Know their first and last names, design and product preferences, favorite colors, how they take their coffee, their children’s names . . . you get the point. The most important thing is to simply create and maintain a dialogue. It goes a long way and is more important to your marketing strategy than you may think. Tip #6: Pay attention to current customers Your existing customers are most often the source of your current and future success. Never forget that. Recent studies consistently prove that it costs more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. In tough times, you will most likely make up some of your sluggish sales by increasing sales to current clients. If you’ve been keeping the line of communication open and building the strength of that relationship along the way, you should have no problem. If you haven’t heard from them in awhile, make contact. Invite them back with a welcome back gift or other incentives. The key is to foster the customer relationship so they want to do business with you repeatedly and will tell their friends about your company – word-of-mouth marketing and referrals should be an integral part of growing your market share and customer base. Tip #6: Pay attention to current customers/create brand evangelists and watch out disgruntled customers! It is an in your face, SEE THROUGH world out there. Many brands command little to no respect from consumers anyway, and the current financial crisis hasn’t done much to enhance the standing of the world of business either (another gross understatement). And all of this disrespect is out in the open, for billions of others to see and comment on. Today’s world is frank. They have a point of view and opinion. Some love brands! And some are angry and discontented with brands they have bad experiences with. Look at the media world: no wonder thousands of ‘new news’ sites, from tiny blogs to the Huffington Post are giving established outlets a run for their money. Millions of consumers and readers flock to entities that are serving things up RAW, inviting their readers and customers to join in. 7
  • 8. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times Tip #7: Emphasize quality and value Today’s discerning customers are seeking quality and value in everything they purchase. Otherwise, they’re not buying. A new study from Unity Marketing, fielded just after the recent stock-market meltdown, found that the majority of shoppers are changing the way they shop -- shopping less often, buying more strategically and doing more research before they venture into a store. In your marketing messages, make sure quality and value are mentioned frequently. Customers are willing to spend money on things they see as bringing worth and eminence to their lives -- like cost savings for example. Ensure all marketing materials support the idea of a high value proposition. Sell your product or service at a price with clear deliverables and guarantees. Always speak in terms of value and quality. Tip #8: Market and sell what you’re offering as an investment Sell and market your products or services as something that is going to pay dividends in the end. Yet remember, it has to be more than a cliché claim. Tell your customers how exactly what they’re buying will provide a solid return on investment. Inform your customers how and why your product or service will provide added value and alleviate everyday expenses. Ask yourself how it will improve their lives and then promote those benefits in everything you do. Case studies and testimonials are a great way to illustrate the benefits of your product or service via a third party. This demonstrates to both new customers and old the value of what you’re providing. With that said, always ask satisfied customers for testimonials. Testimonials add credibility and validity to your product or service, and your brand. They speak volumes and have multiple uses such as in your ads, direct mail pieces, on your website, as a quote in a press release, among others. Social media tools like twitter and facebook also provide a platform for your customers to comment about your company, product and service. They also provide ways for you to address customer needs and concerns -- which can be yet another way to show that buying from you is an investment. Wal-Mart is a great example of a company that has used the economic downturn to its advantage. Changing its tagline to “Save money. Live better.” the company illustrates the amount of money consumers can save annually by shopping at its stores in all marketing ventures. Its new marketing campaign, launched in 2007, focuses strictly on the idea of “saving money” and how the company helps you achieve that, versus its old tagline of “always low prices”. Shopping at Wal-Mart is an investment -- it doesn’t just save you money but allows you to invest in that vacation you’ve been waiting to take … 8
  • 9. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times Tip #9: Offer customer incentives Word-of-mouth and referral sales are extremely effective and cost-efficient for companies. Offer your existing customers awards for sending business your way. Bank of America, for example, gives its current customers $25 when they refer someone to open a checking or savings account at one of its branches. Direct TV offers both its current and new customer $50 each for referring its service. Tip #10: Be prepared for an upturn Why not focus on making the best if not more of the current situation? As you may have learned from previous recessions, or from the now hundreds of ‘recession self-help’ publications from marketing gurus and fellow trend watchers, tough times are perfectly suited to forging a better bond with your customers. So… the golden trend tip for brands in a downturn? Care about your customers. Deliver. Sympathize. Surprise them. Talk to them. Give to them. Your customers and employees and investors will remember how you treated them when times were tough, when they needed a break, when a little support meant everything. No one in particular will remember how you acted during the boom times. It’s not just about embarking on marketing initiatives and programs that allow you to sustain your market share; it’s also about strategic planning and being prepared for an upturn. Know what Phase II of your marketing strategy looks like so you can move forward as the market starts climbing. Tip #11: Have a marketing plan Does your company have a strategic marketing plan? Some businesses have no marketing plan at all and they miss the chance to build business as a result. The process of developing a marketing plan is very revealing and will help you uncover a lot about your business offerings, your customers and the existing marketing opportunity. It is a critical tool that will keep you focused in a fluctuating marketplace. Having a plan is the first step toward effectively converting prospects into new and repeat customers. Just like a stool, there are three legs to any profitable business—product/service development, sales and marketing. Without the third leg, your company will not stand up well, especially in today’s difficult economic times. Tip #12: Keep your employees happy Although this isn’t a traditional marketing tactic, it’s important to remember that valuable employees are the heart and soul of any flourishing business and even more so during tough economic times. 9
  • 10. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times The loss of exceptional team members due to factors like unsatisfactory salaries, limited career advancement opportunities or lackluster benefits, disrupts the company dynamic and costs management time, energy, and money while lowering company morale. To retain your top-performing employees, communicate openly, inspire and challenge them, cultivate their talent, and recognize and reward them. What’s more, a happy staff can be extremely effective marketers as they sing you and your company praises. Tip #13: Improve customer service Ranking high among the service attributes list is customer service. In fact, some of the older generations like the Ruppies (retired urban professionals) actually place customer service above quality or value. There’s no better time than a slow time to work on your company’s customer service skills. Use the “luxury” of a slower business cycle as an opportunity to better your team’s customer relationships and service skills through training and team development. When the market begins to improve, your team will be ready for it and your company will reap the rewards. One great example of a company that’s beefing up its customer service while hoping to rectify its industry reputation is Wells Fargo. The bank has established a twitter account to answer customer questions about checking and savings accounts, and online banking, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST. With nearly 2,000 followers, it’s safe to say that this cost-effective customer service and marketing strategy is boding well for the bank. Tip #14: Maintain a positive attitude The housing, economic and financial crises have the entire nation worried. I know how you feel. I myself am a business owner. Yet what’s most important is to remember that if you sit back and retreat into a state of worry and apprehension, your business will only be the worse for it. Get out there. Take action. Be the architect and builder of your own business success. Consider it a challenge, another obstacle to overcome, and channel that into power and innovation for the future. Implement some of these basic marketing principles and consider collaborating with a marketing and communications firm that will sustain and increase your brand position, and enhance your customer base. 10
  • 11. SOUTHERN BUILDING SHOW 2009 Marketing in a “Low” Time Smarter marketing is the key to growing your business during difficult times Tip #5: Seek out co-branding opportunities Seek out and leverage your relationships with colleagues in your industry. Cross-promotional opportunities where you can promote your brand simultaneously with a complementary product or service is a cost-effective way to market your brand. For example, if you built or remodeled a home, why not contact the manufacturers whose product you’ve included in your home and cross promote both your work and their product? Or why not embark on a joint public relations or advertising campaign where you can target the same audience and get more bang for your buck? Summary To recap today’s presentation, below are the 15 marketing tips to growing your business in a weak economy: 1. Adapt your marketing messages 2. Maximize your marketing dollars 3. Focus your marketing 4. Invest in digital marketing 5. Cultivate consumer relationships 6. Pay attention to current customers 7. Emphasize quality and value 8. Market and sell what you’re offering as an investment 9. Offer customer incentives 10. Be prepared for an upturn 11. Have a marketing plan 12. Keep your employees happy 13. Improve customer service 14. Maintain a positive attitude 15. Seek out co-branding opportunities Remember, don’t jump on the idea of cutting back on marketing spending when the economy slows and budgets are tight. Now is the time when you should be concentrating more on your marketing efforts and outlining smarter, more cost-effective marketing opportunities that will grow your sales and market share and position you for long-term success. Thank You/Contact me: Phone: 770-518-1000 x203 Email: Web: Twitter: @stevekleber LinkedIn: Blog: Facebook: Associates/63701448764?ref=ts 11