Marketing is changing. The mechanisms for positioning your company have morphed, but many companies have not shifted their efforts.
To complicate matters, the recession has caused massive retreats in spending of marketing budgets, which has left both the organizations and the traditional marketing vehicles (think advertisers, direct mail producers, etc....) hurting. Businesses are learning that they cannot save their way better brand recognition and lead generation. Being invisible in your business community does not bring new customers (or reassure existing customers that they are with the industry leader).
As the economic situations improve, and the money returns, will your company return to "marketing as usual"? If so, you might find yourself stranded on the credibility roadway while you competition speeds past you to new destinations of success.
I am not proclaiming traditional marketing as dead, it is just not longer enough. Buying an ad can be effective in helping establish name recognition, and with fewer companies advertising in print, radio and television.... NOW would be the best time to be spending in this area. It would be smarter to appear in these publications, and other venues, when there are fewer ads than waiting until there are more! Too many businesses are lemmings when it comes to such things, and copy what they see others doing. Once you see you completion advertising you are too late. Being part of the crowd is a lame marketing strategy.
Traditional marketing vehicles are no longer enough if you want to win business. To be the industry leader you have to have a credibility marketing plan that goes beyond branding your company. You must have a sincere "face of the firm" (or faces) who put a human touch into your reputation. People do business with people they know, like and trust. While certain corporations have transcended their brands into beloved icons (think Southwest, Starbucks, Harley-Davidson, etc...), few companies will ever have that level of love from customers.
However, all companies have people, and thus have the power to establish real connections and create expert persona's. When the business owner, manager, and employees create a credible and respected personal brand, they automatically transfer their image and trust to the organization.
I am amazed that smart entrepreneurs and other C-Level executives will invest large amounts of time into plans and strategies in other areas of their businesses, but fail to give any attention to the marketplace credibility that can be created by positioning people as the professional authority in their industries.
In today's highly charged social media arena, to ignore the power of connection is bad business.
Many companies who have seen the most success in the tough economy have done so because of referrals, repeat customers, and their strong positions in their industry. (These businesses have also had to reduce staff, and make other cuts, like others...but winners have not stuck their head in the sand). They have also embraced a "Credibility Marketing" strategy and been active in establishing their reputation.
Here are some ways to weave "Credibility Marketing" vehicles into your overall plan:
1. Write a Blog. Many have claimed blogging as a "fad". But those who have created successful blogs will tell you that it is an intricate piece of their image. A website is static (think brochure), but a blog is alive. When done right it puts a human face on the company and establishes the writer as an industry thought leader. Blogs must be updated regularly (think 3 - 5 days a week), and that scares many business people. But true entrepreneurs do not get spooked by hard work, thus if you are really one who makes things happen you will not shy away from this if you believe it will help you company succeed.
2. Speak at the Conference. Nothing creates your image as an expert faster than being a speaker or panelist at an industry conference. However it is more than just being asked to do this once, it is about repetitively showing up on the program. This takes effort on your part to secure the invitations to speak (this comes from actively networking in you business community), and being a good speaker. Just because you are smart will not guarantee the audience will find you knowledgeable. An unprepared and uninspiring speaker (who reads off their own PowerPoint) will bore the crowd and instead ruin their reputation. Learn to connect with an audience while sharing valuable information and you will have the highest levels of credibility.
3. Social Media. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media communities are emerging as valuable business tools. While they are still relatively new, and are not the "magic bullet" that many seek, they should not be ignored. It takes time (maybe years) to establish a strong following in social media circles. If you wait until everyone figures it out before you put your toe in the water, you will have missed out entirely.
4. Get Involved. To establish yourself in your industry you need to participate. Show up at the events where other executives, vendors, and others are involved. Split up the responsibilities for covering the plethora of events amongst your team. Assign everyone two organizations that their participation is a high priority (the mistake companies make is they have people join groups, but nobody ever show up, or they rotate who goes. It takes time to establish yourself in a group, so the same person must attend each month). When you divide up the participation, no one person ever has too many networking events to attend in any given month (thus eliminating the excused for not showing up).
Also, once you are "established" you still need to participate. Many senior executives take an attitude of having "paid their dues" and skip out on networking. Out of sight is out of mind, and your reputation can evaporate if you slow down on your involvement.
5. Write a Book. When you have written the book on your industry you will be viewed as the leader. Never before in history has it been easier to write a book, and when you are introduced as "author" it will position you above competitors. There are many ways to complete a book project, and there are many ways to get the finished product published. Traditional publishing, self-publishing, and several boutique publishers who will work with you for a fee, or a shared-revenue model. (For more information on writing a book, contact my publishing company: New Year Publishing)
Adopt a focus on "Credibility Marketing" as part of your overall business development strategy and you will leave your competition in the dust.
Have A Great Day.