26 September 2008

Full Steam Ahead

With many businesses slowing down as a result of the current economic conditions south of the border, there is a lot of uncertainty and with both Canada and the US in election mode, I think many people are holding off on many large decisions to see how these play out.

Our company seems to be unaffected by this for the time being and continues to grow - which is exciting. If you think about it, now is the time businesses need to get their marketing house in order.

Some businesses prosper when times are a bit tight and other not so much. I think this is a direct result of marketing - doing it right and doing it wrong. Another way to look at this would be is your marketing changing with the times or is it status quo?

In past recessions, consumers became a bit more cautious in their spending and spent more time deciding on major purchases - when times are good, these decisions can be fleeting and are not met with a second thought. When consumers begin to analyze their options in a purchase is when your marketing and messaging needs to be it's sharpest. This is good news for companies that are using the web to its full potential (few are).

Understanding your customers motivation for purchasing a product and what will influence their decision may help in crafting your message to be more relevant and poignant.

So, what can you do?

1. Know your brand. You must fully understand your brand - and I don't mean memorize your pantone numbers - you've got to know your brand intimately, it's personality, it's purpose, it's relevance and it's appeal.

2. Correct your messaging. Ensure every single thing that you do is branded properly and that the relevance and appeal that brought consumers to your door sells them on that decision by reassuring them that you are the right choice for them.

3. Be flexible. Subtle changes in the market may dictate the priorities of the consumer and the ability to change focus and market other attributes of your brand may help you be more targeted by being more relevant for the changing times. This does not mean wholesale brand make-overs; if your product tastes great and is less filling, maybe you need to change it to less filling and tastes great.

4. Networking. Some call this advertising, I don't. You need to get your brand into numerous venues, mediums and social environments - integrate with consumers. When the time comes that they need your product, they should know you are there. There is more to it than just selling your product to the end customer - there are influencers and the end purchase may not be a direct result of your direct offer, but through an intermediary.

5. Strategize. If you want to win a game, you need strategy. Same thing in marketing, if you don't know what your end goal is how are you going to get there? Craft a plan that will take you to your goal, set a budget and review it regularly. A watched pot does boil.

There you have it - 5 useful points that you should implement right now.

If you're boarding up the windows and waiting for the storm to blow over you might as well close up shop now. The companies that sharpen their marketing and stop taking their customers for granted are the ones that will come out as the market leaders when the sky is blue again.

20 September 2008

Son of Shoemaker Gets New Shoes!

Well, it's official - Francomedia launched its new web site September 15th. You may think that this was easy, after all, Francomedia launches web sites all the time.

It wasn't.

Version 1 of the Francomedia site, which was launched in October of 2003 was pulled down in October of 2007 by yours truly. I was embarrassed of the content, specifically, the portfolio was about 5 - 6 years out of date. Leaving just the opening page and the contact page didn't do a lot for our credibility but I had no idea it would be almost a year before a new site would take its place.

In March, we took down old site completely leaving a talking fish and a dead PEZ dispenser, it was very amusing, but was up waaaay too long. This new look was to mark our transition to our new branding.

The design of the site was completed rather quickly, the development and content took forever (often the case for unorganized clients, such as ourselves). We contracted out the CMS for our backend in hopes that it would speed up the project, it didn't. Gathering samples of work is an arduous task and requires time, and time is one of the commodities that we are short on - our customers work always comes first.

So, version 2 of our site is up, it's clean, it's fun and demonstrates our abilities as a first rate creative shop. Our new look focuses on the fish, representing the idea - not too abstract, not too 'out there', but that's the point of good marketing, non? Get people to understand our offering - we help clients capture the right idea.

If there is anything to be learned about this internal project it's that you need to put someone in charge of it - make it their responsibility to complete it and give them the authority to make it happen. For several months the project just limped along and slowly progressed, but after putting an intern onto the content and giving her the direction and tools to make it happen, it quickly took shape. It meant taking her off of client work for 2 weeks and treating ourselves as a client which sounds selfish, but if our clients want us to be around in the future, we need to do our marketing right, and it must be a priority.

A simple look at what our clients pay for can be summed into two services;
1. For us to provide immediate help in their marketing.
2. For us to be around in the future to help in their marketing.

Without a continued focus on internal marketing efforts, we can only satisfy the first service and that can only last so long. By also putting attention on the second service, it ensures we will be around for many years to help our clients.

In my opinion, we have done a pretty good job of marketing ourselves and have built a solid reputation in the marketplace over the past 5 years. Until recently, we have slid under the radar, however, our cover will be blown this fall with the launch of some high profile projects, some media coverage and the launch of our new site.

If you haven't already, I urge you to visit our web site, you'll like it.

14 September 2008

Golfing with the Flames

So, this past week a good client and friend invited me to join him at the Calgary Flames Charity Golf Classic. This is a real first class event and a lot of fun.

Each team draws for a Flames player, alumni, draft pick or coach to play with them. You have no idea who you are going to get on your team.

Last year, we got Johnny Negrin, a 3rd round draft pick of the Calgary Flames and a star defenceman for the WHL's Kootenay Ice. It was his first training camp and I'm sure he was nervous as hell, but we had a great time with him and hope to see him wearing the red jersey soon. It was great playing golf with him and hearing his stories of getting through the draft and onto training camp.

This year, they made the draw and we got Todd Bertuzzi. Wow. Calgary's newest trade - a great goal scorer and without going into details, a bit of infamy. I really hadn't thought much about the trade nor did I know much about it. I just new he was a big guy and that every time I've seen him play live, he's scored on us. So, it took a bit to warm up to the guy that was a buzz kill at more than one Flames game. Not long mind you, he was very personable.

So, we got to spend an entire day with him golfing.

Our golf team couldn't have been better - it was a great group of guys and we golfed not too bad - and, every time we left Todd hanging, with pressure to make some ridiculous shots, he came through for us. He sunk a chip shot from about 80 yards for an eagle! I think he had fun with us, despite having to save our asses on more than one hole.

You can tell that most of the players at these types of functions want to talk about anything but hockey, but it's hard to restrain yourself in that situation.

There's no doubt, Todd Bertuzzi will make a great addition to the Flames line up and I'm excited to see him in action and, from what I heard from a lot of other people, they are too.

At the dinner I sat beside Anders Eriksson and compared our iPhone apps - it was determined that the 'More Cowbell' was indispensable.

That's enough fluff for now - I'll get back to some marketing blogs in a bit.

Go! Flames! Go!