A Fine Strategy

Monday, April 5, 2010

CRISIS TALK – When you say nothing, you say a lot.

How many times have you seen or read breaking news about a company having high profile problems and the CEO or Chair has nothing to say. By not acknowledging the situation, they’ve made a bad mistake that compromises the company’s credibility from the start. And if they say ‘no comment,’ they’re adding fuel to the fire of negative perception.

A sure result of not responding or commenting is that media, adversaries and stakeholders will all want to know what the ‘real’ story is. The barn door opens to unmanageable rumors and speculation. It takes a lot more effort and money to corral rumors than it does to send out a strong message at the outset.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Expecting a crisis? Don’t wait another minute...

Expecting a crisis? Don’t wait another minute to strategize and plan. Get ahead of the storm.

Unfortunately, too many organizations wait until the very last minute to try to achieve the best outcome in the face of adversity – on a matter they may have known about for months. American companies are famous for trying to dig themselves out of a ditch at the point of crisis and not doing very well for themselves or their stakeholders.

One of the most important lessons for organizations to take to heart is to get ahead of a storm, leaving enough time to plan and develop strategies that can lead to the most positive outcome. Planning may not be a silver bullet, but it can save a company a lot of grief and prolonged consequences that translate into lost productivity and a dented reputation.

More crisis communications tips coming soon….

Friday, March 12, 2010

And you bought those Girl Scout cookies how...? ...and why?

Now even the Girl Scouts are online, working Facebook and Twitter to sell those incredible cookies for an even greater ROI (ref. http://bit.ly/csu4AK). Their campaign has just started, but it brings hope to those of us who aren’t on cookie routes and love those Tagalongs and Thin Mints. Look on Facebook for “Girl Scout Cookies’ – there’s even an app that leads you to choose the cookies you want to order, enter your zip to identify the Girl Scout Council nearest you, enter your email address and/or phone number and wait for the Council to contact you to complete the sale. How easy is that...and yummy to boot.

They’re big on tweeting too – imagine having a tweet up just to buy cookies. Sounds like a good reason to me.

The Girl Scouts generally have been smart and strategic about their fundraising approach over the years. They’re selling an iconic item of a valued brand and manage to keep it in tune with the times. Plus they’ve added double cause marketing to the equation. You now have the option of donating the cookies you buy to a specified charity. This allows you to feel good about supporting not only the Girl Scouts, but one other good cause and you don’t have to gain weight in the process! It speaks clearly to our modern lifestyle, and it’s especially relevant to women and girls, who are both the sellers and buyers in this instance.

A tweaked version of that marketing change is the “Project Cookies 4 Troops” campaign. For every $3.50 donated online to the Project, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta will send one box of Girl Scout Cookies overseas with a message from area girl scouts. How good does that feel? Now you get to not gain weight and thank the troops at the same time. That’s a double whammy of feel good marketing, and a terrific example of staying relevant and maximizing sales opportunities. It all leads to the bottom line of course and on the Girl Scouts’ books, that tallies to more than $700 million in cookie money just for online sales. No small change that.

There are lots of nonprofits, big and small, that could learn from the Girl Scouts.

What do you think? Do you have a better example?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Need an uptick in marketplace visibility?

Try two easy ways to touch your key audiences.

Keeping your brand visible in the marketplace takes time and focus, but it’s important to stay in front of your target audiences. If you don’t, your business suffers. Here are two ways to generate positive brand awareness for your company.

1. Send CEO Updates: Extend your brand presence positively and exponentially by sending a short, personal letter to your database of clients, prospects, friends, selected reporters and associates three or four times a year. Let them know about new products and/or services, significant new hires, promotions, honors and awards, community involvement, business changes, etc. Let them know you wish the best for them also. A one-page letter, with your personal signature, mailed vs. emailed, has an excellent chance of being read, especially by people familiar with you and your company. You may not hear direct comments immediately, but know that you are casting pebbles into the pond of extended brand presence.

Respect the value of your database. Update and maintain your company’s database of friends, associates, reporters and particularly prospects. When you receive someone’s business card at lunch, add his or her name to the list. When someone you have met changes jobs, enter the change when it happens. This may be a tiresome chore, but your database will be updated, accurate and ready to use at any time.

2. Secure High-Profile Speaking Engagements: Move from sales and marketing to leadership positioning in front of your target audiences by securing speaking engagements at pertinent trade shows. Select a timely, appealing speaking platform related to your industry or business in general. Your speech content improves your chances of being accepted if you have new research, trends or ‘insider’ information to share. Then locate the organizations’ speaker packages for criteria, applications, etc. A warning though – most associations request speaker applications one year in advance of the next conference. Be sure to meet deadlines and periodically check on your status. When you have been accepted as a speaker, publicize the event before and/or after the conference in your local business and news media.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Getting eaten up by the competition?

Don’t let them make a meal of it.

It doesn’t take a wizard to see that companies of all sizes and in all industries are falling along the wayside in the current economic climate. Whether they’re selling directly to consumers or to business customers, companies are on the spot to focus and perform. If they falter, competitors will eat them up in a heartbeat. Here are a few recommendations from a marketing perspective that can help a company stay in the game.

Take a Competitive Market Position: Determine a competitive positioning that differentiates you from your competitors and resonates with your target audiences. If you have something innovative or leading edge to market, all the better. Once determined, use that position frequently, consistently and across the board. Don’t change it from week to week or on a whim or you lose your marketplace identity.

Have a Strategy: Use strategy to your advantage. Have a marketing strategy for your business overall and sub-strategies focused specifically on your buyers and other target audiences. Strategies can be as macro or as micro as you want them to be. They can include changes in pricing; products or services; communication and promotion to prospects, customers and other stakeholders; and/or distribution channels. Just have a strategy for marketing and follow it. Monitor it, evaluate results and revisit it if goals aren’t being met.

Adjust Expectations: It is a tough economy and the sales cycle is a lot longer for most products. Closing takes longer so factor that timing into your projections.

Look for more tips in the next blog.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kudos to Dahlonega

Did you ever notice in your travels that smaller towns tend to shutter up to visitors on Saturday and Sunday? It is the weekend after all and ‘daycations’ are now officially in vogue. These folks are missing some excellent opportunities to add travelers’ money to their coffers, never mind happy tourists who will spread positive brand buzz.

My husband and I have always taken a lot of road trips. It’s in our blood. Once in a while, we run across a town that takes a strategic approach to visitors and really heeds the call. The town of Dahlonega in the north Georgia mountains does it well. Home to America’s first gold rush, the former mining capital has kept its historic Square looking good, complete with the old courthouse and loads of retail and free parking all around it. The stores lining the Square appeal to a wide swath of people, including the big groups of weekend motorcyclists who like mountain riding, enjoy circling the courthouse, and like to chat, eat and shop. There are benches for older visitors and anyone else who needs to rest as they make their way around the Square. The restaurants are within easy walking distance, vary in cuisine and price, and some offer (gasp) beer and wine on Sunday. They also have a place or two where you can mine for gold, just like in the old days. All in all, downtown Dahlonega leaves visitors feeling good by strategically combining history with modern day appeal.

Outside of the historic district, there’s plenty happening too. You can pick your fun by following the town on twitter, checking its http://www.dahlonega.org/ website and/or becoming a fan on Facebook. Do it now though – the July 4th weekend is coming up and Dahlonega has big plans!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tweeting to Success

Ford Motor Company is tweeting its way back to solid ground, thank goodness. Ever since I moved to Atlanta, I’ve had a Ford so I feel as if I have a stake in their success. I’ve had two Ford Mustangs – a 1965 ragtop (I could go on about V8s) and then I inherited my mom’s 1976 Tahoe Turqoise hardtop. Now my husband and I have a Ford Ranger that we can’t seem to part with. So we have an emotional investment as well as a financial one.

It’s been great to see Ford marketing its brand and products aggressively, and particularly building buzz and support through creative social media use. I followed the Ford CEO on twitter during the Fusion Hybrid promotion, and other Ford tweets have produced all manner of interesting items, e.g. an invitation to check out their beta website – http://bit.ly/bnY8g – and give feedback. They use twitter to direct people to their products (with photos on flickr) and post company news and car reviews.

Additionally, they have Facebook pages for employees, dealers, car owners and buyers. It must be rewarding for employees to read positive notes from consumers, and the company’s smart to be open about complaints and issues. All of this strengthens and builds a company’s brand loyalty. Ford, like all other American car companies, has its issues, but it’s smart strategy to get out and stay out in front of the people who make up and support the company, now and especially in the future. Other companies could learn a lot from them.