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The Quell Group : Integrated Brand Communications

New Year's resolutions to meet the new year's challenges

Donna Fontana

Although we ring in the new year with the toll of a recession, we know that products will still launch, news will still be made, crises will occur and messages will need to be heard. The difference is that you have fewer dollars to do these important things. Its worth noting, however, that cost-effective is not synonymous with dont spend any money it just means that you spend it smarter.

Even in survival mode, you cant take your eyes off the big picture. Here are New Years resolutions worth making to keep your brand shining in challenging times.

Market strategically. Marketing budgets are an easy target for cost cutters, but no one can afford to go dark when everyone is vying for market share. Revisit your companys key business goals for the year and focus on tactics, messages and audiences that will help you strategically meet those goals. Fine-tuning your programs to support strategic direction and create opportunity makes them worth every penny.

Get back to basics. When budgets are slim, its time to get back to basics trading in the four-color full-page ad for creative, trackable banner ads; moving the direct mail campaign to email; reenergizing a website instead of printing a new brochure; exchanging large trade show events for key customer activities; putting a greater emphasis on public relations; and, importantly, taking the time to leverage your employees as ambassadors for your products and brand.

Be creative. Even in tough times, there are good opportunities they just require stepping out of the normal planning process. With media and marketing spending down industry-wide, there is less clutter, and better deals available. Extend creativity into spot-on execution, as well. The right message communicated with wit and insight can make a smaller booth or ad just as effective as its heyday versions.

Consider the media alternatives. Weve all heard the benefits of banners and e-campaigns they're more targeted, more measurable and more trackable. In fact, more than 66 percent of b-to-b marketers say they plan to increase their online spending this year, especially with email marketing. Online videos in banner ads and on websites will be used with greater frequency this year, and there will be an increase in leveraging social media sites for b-to-b activities. The trick is to leverage digital advantages while building your brand at the same time. You cant go wrong by combining response, branding AND cost efficiencies.

Look at Apples latest banner campaign. Once again, it pushes the creative envelope using leader boards and right towers that actually appear to interact. Great, eye-opening creative supports the innovative brand image.

Learn from your customers. Growing (or just maintaining) market share doesnt happen without marketing. You can still grow in an economic downturn. This requires customer insight what do you have that your customers need from you and only you? Trust, transparency, confidence and stability are going to be key customer themes for 2009. Do you know what your customers are expecting on this front? Quick, cost-effective market research can get you the answers you need to plan.

Consolidate. If your organization spreads marketing dollars across divisions, departments or locations, its time to pool resources. Even with various divisional priorities, overriding core messages can be developed even from the most complicated structures. Strategically developed messages can serve many masters. While youre pooling resources internally, its also worth doing externally. Single-sourcing various communication and marketing efforts is a sure bet to gain cost-efficiencies.

Measure, measure, measure. Its hard to take success at face value, especially when budgets are under pressure. While there are fewer dollars for research, there are trackable ways to show results. You can count website metrics, click-thru rates on banner ads, press clippings, or just an uptick of incoming phone calls. Capturing soft results is important, too customer testimonials dont just make you feel good, theyre an excellent marketing tool to prove your value to prospects.

A recession is not a death knell for marketing. In fact, for smart marketers it can represent new opportunities to grow business. Strategically planned communications can be a brands lifeline, helping pull you through the down side of a cyclical economy. Better still, they can put you and your brand in the best possible light for a brighter future.


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