Reaching out with Marketing

"You're in the security industry; you guys must be racking it in!"

How often have you heard this statement lately based on the post-9/11 media buzz and creation of the Homeland Security Department. As those is the industry know, this is simply not the case, various factor have limited spending and studies indicate that spending was limited to 4% growth in 2002. With clients demanding more productivity and trying to squeeze the moist from their existing resources, sales have become highly competitive and price sensitive increasing the demand for greater differentiation and value-added services.

Security manufacturers and service providers pose special marketing communications challenges. We are often selling products and services in diverse markets to multiple decision-makers from varied roles and knowledge of security. Depending on location, size, type of company, priorities and audience, security companies must develop concise and targeted messaging and help sell their products and services to senior management.

Security marketers also must often deal with an endless loop of sales initiatives, and conference and trade show planning. Somewhere in this daily drive for sales, initiatives remain incomplete or fail to meet important time deadlines, the continuous communications cycle with clients and prospects breaks-down and the company's message often gets lost. Business growth slows and sales initiatives fail to meet expectations.

Unfortunately, it's a frustrating and common scenario. Dealing with such obstacles often leaves little time and fewer resources to focus on what is already a difficult and time-consuming endeavor-your company's marketing communications program.

Security Marketing

Security sales for products and services is relationship-based, requiring continued interaction, service and communication with clients and prospects that foster trust and build dependence. The relationships you build with clients, prospects, business partners and peers are the keys to success on almost every level. Ongoing communications with your clients and prospects increases retention and new business by positioning your company as a thought leader and resource while cross-marketing and keeping your name in front of the client. In fact, if you had to pick one variable to predict the likelihood of a customer to repeat an action or prospect to take an action, how recently communication occurred, or the number of days that have gone by since a customer completed an action or you communicate with a client (advertising, newsletters, direct marketing, etc.). Recency, the measure of how recently communication occurred, is the most powerful predictor of the customer repeating this actions and prospects pursuing services.

As each day passes from an interaction, the target gets less and less likely to respond - plain and simple. You can run a variety of data-mining scenarios on "likelihood to buy" you want -- communications recency always comes up as the most important variable in predicting the likelihood of a customer to repeat an action. The more recently a target has interacted or seen your brand or message, the more likely they are to act. This and other factor necessitate that marketing communications must be:
* Continuous
* Consistent
* Concise, and
* Valued.

Strategic and tactical planning is essential to achieving these objectives and creating value in your communications.

Marketing Communications ROI: How to Set Goals, Develop Plans, Measure & Quantify Results

Many people believe that marketing, branding & communications are all about creating "buzz" or increasing visibility and awareness of an organization's product or service offerings -- an intangible "investment" that cannot be measured or justified. In fact, marketing communications must support the strategic direction of the organization, sales objectives and provide tangible, measurable results.

Marketing communications should support the business objectives and strategic direction of the company. These objectives are directly impacted by many factors, some in the control of the organization and other excerting outside forces. These factors include:
* Market - the target audience you compete for
* Marketplace - the environment or where you compete
* Validations - information to support your presence in a market or marketplace
* External relationships - trends, regulations, economic impact, etc.
* Internal structures - operations or product supply to support growth
* Messaging - targeted, consistent and value/benefit-oriented
* Marketing communications - positioning and creating awareness
* Sales - cultivating leads and closing the sale

Marketing and business development must take the lead from the companies senior management and built on the built on the foundation of the companies mission, vision and growth strategies.

Successfully overcoming the unique and significant challenges of security marketing often requires a thorough examination of your company, your previous marketing initiatives and a review of your company's marketing expectations. Do prospective clients know your company and products or services? How does your company position itself in its respective markets? Are you fulfilling a need or providing key services to clients?

Answering such key questions is the first step in implementing a successful marketing strategy, however, follow-through is crucial, and as already discussed, limited resources and time constraints often hinder effective follow-through. When internal resources keep running up against the wall, it's often necessary to look for an external solution. Whether operating as a full-service marketing department or on a per-project assignment, outside partners can play a key role in helping your organization effectively achieve your marketing goals. Utilizing an outside resource that specializes in your particular need can not only limit cost while increasing exposure, it allows association marketing professionals to more effectively utilize their time to concentrate on other core objectives. Vendor resources also can be a valuable resource for information and feedback about best practices in a range of areas beyond the specific services they provide.

Set Goals and Manage Expectations

Successful marketing communications plans must set reasonable, measurable and agreed upon expectations for each initiatives with buy-in from the senior management team-CEO, CFO, COO, etc. and the business development or sales force. The expectations should include accountability for deliverables that are both quantitative and qualitative. Examples include: number of leads generated, number of articles placed in targeted publications, number of speaking engagements secured, projects completed such as reorganization of business development collateral, website update, or white papers authored.

Develop and Execute Results-Oriented Campaigns

Before spending any resources, financial or time, allocated to marketing, you should analyze several key factors from previous initiatives and profile results, such as:

1. What campaigns / channel mix / initiatives / value propositions / key messages generated the greatest number of leads or media placements within the last 2 years?

2. What was the conversion rate for each of these campaigns?

3. Which campaigns netted the most revenue for the lowest investment?

4. Who is your target audience and has that changed due to economic conditions, pricing considerations or new product and/or service offerings?

5. Who are your most valuable customers? How and where do they purchase your product or service?

6. What is the average length of your sales cycle for your product or service offering?

7. What are your competitor's offerings and are you tasked with increasing market share, revenue, leads or business from existing accounts?

8. What are your organization's strategic goals?

9. What in-house vs. outsourced resources do you have available, including copy writing, design, list acquisition, web or database support? Are your expectations supported by these resources?

10. What is your overall marketing budget?

These are just some of the questions experienced you need to consider in the development of an integrated, multi-channel, marketing communications strategy. Other considerations include:

* Focus on business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), a mix, or marketing exclusively through distributor, integrator and/or reseller channels.
* Primary and secondary targets audiences and the impact or influence of others on the process, such as purchasing
* The level of awareness vs. education required in the messaging, and

In addition, each industry has its own standard benchmarks and best practices for marketing communications planning. For example, knowing what colleagues in your industry invest in programs as a percentage of gross profits or cost of sales serves as a guideline for your own planning. Ideally, one would have all the necessary information such as previous campaign results, conversion rates, industry benchmarks, sales projections and anticipated campaign costs in order to determine an optimal mix of programs & resources required to meet expectations and revenue goals.

Once an optimal mix of programs and campaigns has been developed, excellence in plan execution, as well as a process for capturing and measuring the results of marketing communications investments becomes equally important in justifying one's contributions to an organization.

Measure & Quantify Results

Today's customers are more complex, demanding and savvy than at any other time in our history, suggesting that fully integrated marketing communications programs are necessary in order to reach these customers at several touch points. The marketing communications mix may include: publications, direct mail, online, newsletters, trade events, analyst reports, briefing/seminars/webinars, advertising, promotions, channel programs, etc...depending on the type of offering and industry in which one is employed. In our recent past, tracking the success rate of various campaigns was a time-consuming effort within a resource-constrained environment.

However, many vendors now provide tools to aid marketing professionals in tracking and measuring results from marketing & communications programs. These include software applications such as: Marketing Automation, Customer Relationship Management (eCRM / CRM), Sales Force Automation (SFA), or Business Intelligence (BI).

As each organization is unique, selecting a "best fit" tool requires a broad understanding of: all the choices available, internal IT integration / support considerations, business processes required to track or analyze results and what measurement criteria are optimal for one's industry. For example, marketing professionals should:

* Decide what metrics need to be measured, for example: cost per lead, cost per channel, campaigns, sales cycles, conversion rates per campaign, etc...
* Determine how to measure these metrics via initiatives such as surveys, call center data, direct response, clipping services, click-through rates, etc.
* Develop a methodology or process to measure & analyze data for trend and/or actionable items
* Create a communications plan for disseminating relevant data to key internal stakeholders and/or decision makers.
* Build consensus and construct a revised marketing plan that leverages future opportunities based upon results measured.

Branding Your Message

Branding is a huge part of any organization's success. Each company has a story to tell. That story is the most powerful branding tool available and is a message clients and potential clients repeatedly need to hear. Perhaps in no other context is branding more of an emotional response. The branding process involves reinforcing or changing how client or prospects feel about your company and its products or services. This can best be accomplished through consistent and appropriate messaging through multiple communication channels.

A company's message is its promise to its clients and differentiator in the marketplace. The company identifies itself with a set of standards and services it intends to deliver and promises each client and prospect that it will work to achieve those goals. Branding is impacted by every contact with your company, from its marketing and sales to the support personnel and invoices. It is cumulative and linked to intangible factors and emotions, such as loyalty and honesty, further complicating branding success. Your company's message will hold different meanings for different clients. Its branding that gathers each of those disparate factors and unifies them. An effective branding campaign can often mean the difference between success or failure.

A Four-Part Process

For security marketers, a well-rounded approach to marketing is the best bet to produce long-term results and establish branding success. The approach involves four-steps: research, planning, implementation and evaluation.

Research and Planning. Research is the most overlooked, yet, most important aspect of an effective marketing campaign. Big money spent on an uninformed campaign is wasted money. With that in mind, a company should conduct an internal survey of its purpose, current and past marketing initiatives, and evaluate which campaigns and methods have been most effective in meeting that purpose. Companies must understand themselves, and every employee should be able to state the company's purpose and mission statement in one short sentence.

Strategic planning is the process of taking the data produced during the research phase and molding it into an integrated marketing plan incorporating several marketing angles: marketing each of the your company's products, services and programs in a single, cohesive plan; involving every division of the company in selling the corporate message; and targeting the desired audiences through the most-effective mediums.

Message Development. Once you have identified the proper audiences and channels to reach them, you must develop targeted messaging that addresses their issues, creates a story and differentiates your product or service. The landscape of the target audiences for security has and will continue to change as corporation demand more productive and diverse responsibilities from their employees. This means creating messages for the traditional security manager or director, human resource managers, facility and property managers. In fact, many others have influence over the decision, such as purchasing managers and C-Level management. Each of these audiences have different knowledge of security products and services, value and reasons for implementing security. These range of deterrence and confidence of the employees and customers to increased productivity and reducing liability. You should consider each primary and influencing audience individually when developing initiatives and create communications initiatives that support the decision to purchase based on their requirements and perspectives.

Implementation. Sometimes referred to as external branding, implementation of the marketing plan is the process of delivering the company's message to targeted market segments. It is important to employ traditional data mining techniques, polls and surveys during the research phase to extract significant data on the proper target audiences and to develop detailed reports based on that data used to formulate the most effective implementation strategy. In today's multi-media environment, companies need to deliver messages through a number of different vehicles: direct mail, print advertising, Internet applications, speaking engagements and trade show appearances. Such vehicles can be used for implementation of part of a company's message or the marketing plan as a whole.

Evaluation. By measuring member response, companies are better able to identify a campaigns' return on investment (ROI). Resistance to integrated marketing campaigns often comes from budget officers looking at the bottom line. But results-driven marketing with a positive ROI over the long-term is sure to please. During the evaluation process, companies need to be able to read, evaluate and adapt the strategic plan to increase productivity.

Long-Term Success

Getting a company's message to clients and potential clients can be an involved process. Messages must be sent out using a variety of mediums on a continual basis. Not only must messages be diverse enough to reach a varied group of people, but stay consistent enough to reinforce the company's core message.

Strategic planning is key. Unfortunately, situations and resources can at times dictate that a company's long-term strategy take a back seat to short-term priorities. While often a necessary evil, an intermittent or on-again, off-again marketing program is not only ineffective, it is a waste of resources and effort, and can neutralize effective marketing programs done in the past. A company's message must continually build upon each other, reinforcing the company's branding strategy. When in-house resources are taxed, outside partners can provide companies with a number of resources to effectively carry out research, planning, implementation and evaluation of the association's marketing strategy. Combining the flexibility of project-based or centralized marketing with marketing expertise means companies get cost-effective assistance for exactly what they need, when they need it, carrying marketing efforts through to completion and giving companies the best opportunity for long-term success.

About the author: Joseph Ricci has developed strategic and marketing communications plans for security companies for more than 10 years and is CEO of Ricci Communications, a full-service marketing and communications company providing consulting and integrated, marketing support services to the security industry, www.riccicom.com.

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