By Len Monheit
I had a conversation earlier this week with an industry marketing executive who expressed dissatisfaction with the results of all of his marketing programs- print, on-line, multi-venue and multi-media. This individual’s reaction to this performance issue was to hire more sales representatives and so reach more clients in face to face interactions.
Yesterday, I had a discussion with an entrepreneurial colleague whose business (not in this industry) is growing significantly. His discomfort, (and I’ve seen this in so many cases) is that his staff doesn’t deal with existing and prospective clients the same way he would and he is leery about losing that direct interaction, fearing it will change the identity of the company he has strived to create. Worse yet, this creator is worried about losing touch with friends, business partners and allies.
Do either of these sound familiar?
The common threads in these situations is the need for direct interaction in increasingly frantic and busy times, the recognition that there is value in having company leaders on the front lines, and the practical reality that this is only possible as an exception rather than a rule. In the first instance, the economics dictate that hiring rep after rep in order to get more face to face interaction, has its limits as a strategy.
The challenge is to effectively leverage and extend the value of face to face meetings (reps or business leaders) using an arsenal of tools which includes traditional marketing, new age programs and a bit of creativity. Writing for print or on-line publications and tradeshow seminars and discussion panels provide opportunities to reach a wider audience than that provided by a one on one interaction. The efficiency gain is obvious, but the follow up often atrocious. In fact, most programs we’ve seen recently are not integrated, rather are standalone and the opportunity to build a program and therefore an identity is lost.
Consider the following:
You’ve hosted a tradeshow seminar. You had 65 people at the seminar including five media, as well as five of your company representatives in the audience. Two of the media may write something about your seminar. You did not collect cards and create a discrete contact list for further information dissemination or for future events, or even for lead follow up by your reps. You have no opportunity to follow up with the other three media to see if there is any way to get some copy. In many cases, you have no follow up strategy.
This is one example where developing an integrated and multi-tiered communications strategy and implementing it as a core component of company activities can have benefits, not only for gathering potential warm leads, but for building product, brand and identity awareness throughout the year- not only for the three weeks ahead of each industry event or tradeshow.
If the audience was interested enough to take the time from a busy show schedule to listen to you, then there is an excellent possibility, if you are delivering value, that they would be interested in participating in your integrated communications strategy, providing you delivered value. And if you could leverage your face to face interactions (with a high cost) with components of a communications strategy that built up your audience, and kept them engaged in (at least one way) dialogue with your company year round, then you’d be ahead of the game and ahead of most of your competitors.
Some in the industry realize the importance of this ongoing communication through multiple channels and touch points, in print, in person and electronically. Others fear a high cost burden, refusing to realize the potential gains and in fact, ultimate savings over one dimensional communication strategies.
I find it difficult to understand why every company in this industry doesn’t have a managed e-mail list, and isn’t actively seeking permission to send periodic updates and notifications electronically. Additionally, most websites in the industry do not provide an opportunity for viewers, and potential and existing clients to add their names to receive such periodic updates. It is also challenging to understand why many companies refuse to see missed opportunities for reaching an increasing ‘community’, building identity and awareness using all communication vehicles in a rounded approach. Why not have your company president deliver a quarterly message to your ‘community’ electronically? Even if you don’t want to annoy people with another electronic newsletter, why not communicate with them notifying them that there is new information posted on-line or available through their sales representatives?
A key consideration to keep in mind is that the quality of each one of your interactions with existing and potential clients is a reflection on your organization. This means that your strategy must be solid and well planned, your presentations professional and thorough and the value inherent. Your brochure must be well presented, your website professional and well supported, your advertising appealing and your electronic communication elements interesting, technology and ethically sound (no SPAM or drug claims).
You have an opportunity to quadruple your touch points with your customer community, and get a high level of attention with each point for a relatively low unit cost.
Many are missing these opportunities.
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