I wrote a column for Plastics News' Feb. 9 issue with tips for successfully marketing your company during the recession. I pointed out some common mistakes that I see companies making, and offered some advice from a recent story by our sister publication BtoB. First, here are some of the mistakes:
- Intentionally avoiding marketing. The plastics industry is full of companies that want to fly under the radar, cultivating reputations for being mysterious. It's like a spy novel - only plugged-in people know which firms are the really big players. Who are companies hiding from? Union organizers? Competitors? IRS agents? Try potential employees, customers, partners and investors; this is Marketing 101.
- Companies with confusing or misleading marketing messages. How many companies claim to be "global," but really aren't? Or use terms like "full-service," "customer solutions" or "total systems," but don't define which services, solutions or systems they offer. Don't make potential customers guess what you do!
- Web sites that leave out crucial information. One of my pet peeves is visiting a site that assumes visitors know where the company is located. Yes, most people will contact you by e-mail. But why not include a mailing address, telephone and fax number on your site?
- Mishandling significant announcements. Our reporters repeatedly receive news releases when the contact persons are traveling or unavailable - and no one else at the firms are authorized to answer our questions. This is frustrating!
- Digital content. Invest in the quality of your content and drive costs out of the production and distribution of your marketing materials. Tools such as videos, podcasts, webcasts and online newsletters have become ridiculously cheap. Leverage your customers—one of your greatest assets—whenever feasible to be your spokespeople. They are your most effective (and least expensive) advertising. Invest in a low-cost, in-house video studio and utilize talent within your organization; use qualified interns to fill the gaps.
- Social networking/collaboration. Keep in touch with your customers, partners and co-workers using such free social networking sites as Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Collaboration tools such as wikis are valuable for internal communications and many are free.
- Blogs. Encourage your co-workers to blog on your company's Web site, create their own blogs or comment on industry blogs. Blogs are not only the most authentic voice of your business, they are also cheap to write and publish. Microblogs such as Twitter are beginning to find their way into the enterprise, so get familiar with them.
- Virtual events. Travel and conference budgets will be one of the biggest victims of the current downturn. This represents a huge opportunity to reach your target audience through virtual trade shows and interactive webcasts. Additionally, conduct internal and external meetings remotely via videoconferencing.
- Search engine marketing. This has emerged as one of the most cost-effective marketing tools. Optimizing your Web pages to your messaging/communication strategy is easy and cheap. Paid search is cost-effective. However, make sure you are purchasing the right terms for your business. The keywords that target your market and differentiate your products will have the highest ROI.