Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blogging about PR Prospects... a Nod to Brian Solis

Just finished up an RFP for Southwest General Health Center.  I am fairly confident that we will not be invited to make a presentation before the final selection committee.  That's too bad.

Here's the thing: Southwest was asking for a lot; I mean a LOT.  The "required deliverables" of the RFP included 13 points; here is just one of them:  "a complete promotional plan evaluating our current brand image including logo and tag line, with detailed project budget, timeframe and responsibilities to include incorporation of suggestions for special events, activities and PR opportunities to minimize cost and maximize effectiveness."  The other 12 were equally involved. 

But that's not the issue.  After all, if you think a prospective client is asking for too much, you have the option to  simply not participate in the RFP.  No one is holding a gun to your head, and you can't blame an organization for trying to get as much as they can.

The real issue was the lack of available data to support the development of the deliverables requested.  While Southwest was well-intentioned in providing a tremendous amount of background material (census driven market data, original research, samples of literature, etc.) and equally responsible in terms of answering agency questions (I called the marketing director several times and she was tremendously responsive and helpful).  Still, there simply was not enough supporting data to provide the required deliverables.

So, guess what we did?  We provided all the deliverables that we were able to and we addressed those that we couldn't by proposing the implementation of a more comprehensive research study that would provide essential data to support the other desired deliverables.  We could have just made up a bunch of stuff based on our experience servicing other health care systems (Cleveland CLinic, University Hospitals, Grace Hospital, Summa Health System, Samaritan Regional Health System, etc.), but that would have been totally irresponsible.  So we didn't do that.

And it will likely cost us the opportunity to get the account.  We did the right thing and we will likely not be rewarded for it.  And some other agency will likely get the opportunity because they were willing to create logo and ad concepts and propose PR and marketing strategies (even though they didn't have the necessary knowledge to do it responsibly).

In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, "and so it goes."  But then again, maybe I am wrong and maybe I will be surprised and we will get a call from Southwest telling us they loved our direct and honest approach.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Missing Inaction

Been down with the flu... you know, the one the shots didn't protect us from.

Hot topic of the day:  Brian Solis is asking whether or not PR firms should blog about their clients.  Whatever.  Brian Solis thinks all PR people are profoundly stupid... or at least totally ignorant about anything that is not printed on paper.  But that's fine.  Brian Solis is a yacker.

Here's my advice.  If you have something useful to talk about, then blog away.  If you don't, then just keep your hands in your pockets.  If you are not sure whether you have something interesting to say, call your dad or mom and ask them.

Just because you have the ability to blog doesn't mean you ought to blog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Direct Marketing Case History

Had a sit-down meeting with a client today (imagine that).

The only purpose of the meeting was to say hello. But some point, the president of the company indicated that his marketing/sales department had prepared a post card to mail to more than 2,000 log home builders in the U.S. The plan was to mail the cards and follow up within 3-4 weeks with all recipients.

Then I started asking questions and he started answering (following is a summary):

Q. Why are we doing this?
A. This audience represents the potential for increased sales of our wood treatment product.

Q. What is the message?
A. We guarantee that you will never have to blast or strip the log home again or we'll pay for it.

Q. Is this a good deal?
A. Unbelievably good; no one can make this offer and no one can pass it up.

Q. Who is doing the calling and what's the purpose?
A. The individual driving the campaign is making the calls to schedule appointments and make sales.

Q. How are you supporting this mailing?
A. We're not.

By the way, this is a really smart and marketing-focused client. But like many companies today, budgets are limited and so too, therefore, are the marketing initiatives. So we thought about what we could do to turn this mailing and telemarketing effort into a bigger campaign.

There are plenty of trade and consumer publications dedicated to log homes (building them, buying them, maintaining them). Let's send them a news release announcing the product and the guarantee... and let's call them to discuss the story and push for interviews (we can even send product samples). Wait, why consumers? Because many consumers build their own log cabins or at least spec them out and they can use or spec our product (push).

What else? What is the call to action? Utlimately, we want builders to call us, but they are likely to make a quick stop at the Web site. Is there anything on the site about this guarantee? No? Let's set up a home page callout that links to a dedicated page about log homes. Can we do that? We can do that.

Anything more? Are there log home builder blogs? Are there moons around planets? Good call. Let's initiate discussions.

Back to the direct mail post card; do we have e-mail addresses? Only some. Then let's use this campaign as an opportunity to capture more. We need a bigger, better, more useful database of log home builders for future marketing.

Okay. There is probably more we can do. Let's keep thinking; this is a dynamic process. Agreed.

[This is a real conversation that took place in less than 20 minutes. Last year this client implemented a direct mail campaign (post card) to deck and fence builders and with no telemarketing support experienced a 5% response rate(are you kidding me?). For the purpose of this new campaign, we agreed to shoot for a 15-30% response rate and an overall conversion of 2% (4+ log home builder sales).]

I'll let you know how it turned out in April.

Monday, February 11, 2008

As Goes the Economy, So Goes Marketing?

Yeah, that's not backwards.

Those of us in the heartland, like those of us in the South and the West and the East, have been feeling the pinch for about 12 months now, give or take a year.

Outside of the lucky and the elite, you know, those Goliath and/or super hot (aka, firm du jour)agency's supporting the biggest and best funded organizations, agencies are feeling the pressure. They may not all admit it, in fact, many of them will deny it, but below the bellweather mark of the Fortune 100, most clients are already feeling the sting of a weakened economy.

And as goes the economy, so goes marketing. It is pure insanity. At a time when marketing is about the one and only surefire way to help an organization bolster or shift strategies and strengthen sales, what do most comanies do? Cut and run. Brilliant.

Marketing research will help an organization understand what is happening in the marketplace and identify opportunities for growth.

Strategic planning will ensure an organization is focused on primary audiences and objectives with appropriate tactics designed to achieve those objectives.

Tactical marketing deployment - advertising, publicity, direct mail, trade show marketing, online marketing, etc. - will build awareness, enahnce brand, cement loyalty, drive traffic and increase sales.

But by all means, listen to accounting and cut back. If marketing are the wheels that drive a company - and it is - then what could be smarter than to remove the wheels? Oh, I don't know; not cutting back? Maybe even bolstering your marketing initiatives?

If you want to be a leader, you have to lead.

As goes marketing, so goes the economy. Put your money and your efforts where it will do the most good. When was the last time accounting brought in new business? How about HR or the legal department? As goes marketing, so goes your organization.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Fat American Tuesday

Think about it.

Which will receive more media attention today:  Super Tuesday election returns, Fat Tuesday celebrations or American Idol Tuesday auditions?

What will you pay more attention to tonight: election returns, Mardi Gras revelers or Idol contestants?

Twenty years from now, which will remain the freshest in our memory:  the winners of Super Tuesday elections, the best YouTube video from  Bourbon Street or the next William Hung of American Idol?

Just wondering.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Wheelbarrow Politics

It took some doing, but the economy is finally on stage with the environment.

Unfortunately, this being a big election year, little is likely to happen on either front. 

Consumers are doing their part... trying to stay employed in a job-cutting world, attempting to reduce their expenses in order to pay gas bills that have doubled in size, selecting environmentally friendly behavior over churn and burn habits, trying to stay healthy since they have no insurance.  

But really, without some direction and cooperation at the global, federal, state and local levels, how much can consumers do?  More than you might expect.  And with the support of the private sector, they may just have a fighting chance.

Mark Twain said that the secret of getting ahead is getting started.  My dad always told me that the secret to success is having a set of "balls" so big that you need a wheelbarrow to carry them around.  Put the two together and you have the beginning of something plausible.

Be confident.  Be bold.  Be proactive.  

If we wait for government - at any level - to solve the environmental and economic woes of the world, we will be sadly disappointed.  I believe John Kennedy said it best (I did not know John Kennedy, John Kennedy was not a friend of mine, I am not John Kennedy... but that doesn't mean I can't admire his philosophy):  "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."  You must know that it takes a pretty big wheelbarrow to make a statement like that.

So, times are hard.  What are we going to do about it?  I suggest we roll up our sleeves, wipe away our tears and get to work.  There's no point - no gain - in sitting around complaining and waiting.  Go get a job, conserve resources, help your neighbors, register and vote wisely, protest bad behavior, fight for what's right, never give up and never give in.  Be strong.  Be fierce.  Be brave.

As JFK continued:  "with a good conscience our only sure reward... let us go forth and lead the land we love..."