Marketing is an essential but often misunderstood part of building and running a successful business, said Rich Carango of Schubert b2b (Downingtown, PA). Carango, who led the first educational session at the 2013 Atlantic Coast Exposition in Myrtle Beach, SC, reported that owners and managers fall into three groups: those who fully embrace marketing, those who regard it as a part of doing business and those who don't believe that they really need it. "People in the third group often say 'I tried it and it didn't work,'" he observed.
And it doesn't always work. Marketing programs can fail for several reasons, of which the principal ones are a lack of focus, insufficient investment and simply missing the target. "It's not unlike technology," Carango pointed out. "And, as also is true of new technology, it's always easy to say 'I told you it wouldn't work.'"
Another similarity between marketing and technology is that the way to get off on the right foot with both is, first, to make a budget and, second, to put somebody in charge.
Companies that run consistently successful marketing programs almost always have established a marketing culture, an orientation that extends through the entire organization, Carango explained. The need for this can be understood most readily by looking at matters from the perspective of the prospective customer.
Briefly, the purpose of marketing is to prevent the prospect's saying, "I don't know anything about you. Now, what did you want to sell me?" Viewed another way, the ad executive added, marketing "makes cold calls into warm calls."
The questions most frequently asked by prospective marketers are "How do I make it cost less?" and "How do I get full value?" It is important to put these questions in context, Carango emphasized. Retailing innovator (and marketing pioneer) John Wanamaker famously said that half the money he spent on advertising was wasted -- the trouble was that he didn't know which half. "Don't get caught up in ROI," the Schubert executive advised. "It really doesn't apply in marketing, because you can't always tell what worked."
A better gauge is ROO, or return on objective, Carango continued. "Start by deciding what you want your marketing program to do: Get leads? Build traffic? Win bids?"
PLAN, EXECUTE and EVALUATE
Next, make a plan, he recommended; include print, online and direct mail, since it's likely that everything works together. "Then run the campaign, and evaluate the results. Did you get what you wanted?"
In conceiving a marketing campaign, the speaker explained, the imaginative effort begins by visualizing a blank page. "The space on that page has a cost, and the cost is the same whether you fill it with a killer ad that gets 50 leads for you, or with a dud," he reminded the audience. "What will you put on that page to get the kind of attention you want?"
Outdoor advertising confronts this challenge very publicly, and studying it can be instructive, Carango noted. "Outdoor advertisers strive for stopping power; the idea is to get people to stop and pay attention."
There are four requirements for a successful marketing campaign: "Know your audience, know your competition, be different and creative, and build your 'brand story,'" the speaker explained. An informed imagination is very useful in meeting those requirements.
"In imagining your audience, imagine one person; we market to people," he pointed out. "People have wants, needs and priorities; we have to identify those. And the human mind categorizes; it can deal with as many as three things at once, but not more."
A workable approach in crafting the message is to identify a "key persona," the characteristics of the kind of individual whose favorable response is desired. For a vending company, that "key persona" might be a generalized human resources manager at a prospective account; Carango suggested imagining a character named "Debbie." She is, among other things, very interested in employee wellness; she has no idea whatever about vending; and she does not know what vending might do for her employees. "Flesh out this sketch; discuss 'Debbie' and form a clear picture of her; ask what would interest and please her," the speaker suggested.
"And know your competition," he reiterated. "The Internet will help a lot in doing this. Once you have that knowledge, be different. Find the 'empty space,' an area that has been left open to you. Then 'own the concept' with which you'll fill that space; make it part of your brand."
It is helpful to come up with a certain number of phrases (perhaps three) that the operator wants to "own," Carango amplified. And this is where creativity comes in.
"What are the three phrases you want to own?" he asked the audience. "Start by erasing 'service' and 'our people,' because everybody talks about those. Instead, how about 'R.C.'s Vending: We Deliver Happiness on Demand,' or 'R.C.'s Vending: Freshness on Demand'? Either of those is better than "R.C.'s Vending: Snacks, Drinks, Food," he pointed out. "Or how about, 'TekVending: Better Technology, Better Service, Happier Customers' -- or, for short, 'TekVending: Technology, Service, Satisfaction'?"
Every company has a brand, Carango said. What is important is making sure that it's the brand the owner wants, and then telling its story. "The essentials are How, Why and Who," he said: "Why are you the company that will do the best job of delivering what they want? How will you do that? Who are your satisfied customers; whose problems have you solved?"
With that strategic foundation in place, the marketer can turn to tactics.
The tactical situation is conditioned by the sales cycle, which can be pictured as progressing through five stages for every account that's sold.
Those recurring steps are Awareness ("the prospect has heard of you"); Research ("the prospect needs your services or products"); Proposal; Purchase ("you make the sale"); and Evangelist ("the client will refer you to others"). Then the cycle starts over, with one or more of those others. "Be seen, be known, be wanted," Carango summed up.
Since vending and coffee service operations run delivery fleets, their vehicles are readily available media for generating awareness, he said -- but it's crucial to know whether the things that members of the public have become aware of are things that reflect the kind of company the operator wants to run.
The speaker recalled that a renowned package delivery service commissioned a famous graphic designer to create a new logotype, half a century ago, and was very pleased with the result. Some time later, confronted by slipping sales volume, the firm approached the designer again to ask for an update. He rejected that follow-up commission, arguing that the client did not need a new logo to refresh its image -- all it really needed to do was wash its trucks more frequently and regularly. This suggestion was implemented as a systemwide policy change, and sales rebounded.
That policy is even more important to a company that sells food and beverages; the idea is to keep the trucks outstandingly clean, so the public will look admiringly at them -- and see the operating company's name. The other side of the coin is that prospective clients will form an unfavorable opinion of the quality of the operator's services if they see dirty, dented route trucks on the road.
Beyond that, the opportunities for generating awareness of a company include not only display media, like outdoor advertising (which can promote the operator's brand and the industry too), but also activities, such as local sponsorships of anything from sports teams and civic events to scholarships and awards. It's worth exploring telemarketing and direct mail programs too, the speaker noted; of these, telemarketing is the more adaptable and self-correcting, when intelligently employed. "You can evaluate your results every day, and change the script if they're not the results you wanted," Carango observed.
A well-thought-out online presence is essential to building awareness, Carango continued, and it is well worth the operator's while to research the available options. Critical components include the company's website, which should be a "visible brand," and so must offer information of high quality and be easy to use. It's important to optimize the website for search engines, which involves making adjustments that will maximize its visibility to searches by people looking for vending and office coffee service -- "natural" or "organic" optimization -- and, perhaps, "pay-per-click" advertising as well, such as Google's AdWords program.
Social media, too, have grown in importance to the point at which businesses must deal with them, the Schubert executive said; "you need to do this." They are "hyper-local" and economical to use, he observed. Facebook is the most prominent social medium at present, but there are others with different strong points. The speaker reported that FourSquare is worth exploring too; among other things, it enables its advertisers to create their own rewards programs.
Blogs also can be very useful in establishing a brand, Carango said, although "they can be a lot of work, and you have to keep at it. But a blog gives you the opportunity to educate your prospects. A well-written blog can inform people, build confidence in your company and promote sales."
The image-building process continues through the proposal, Carango emphasized. "If you are making a PowerPoint presentation, be sure it's a good one," he advised. Even if the presentation is made with computer graphics, an attractive document should be prepared, to leave with the prospect. This hard-copy proposal should be attractively printed and bound.
TELLING THE STORY
Also important is the message that callers hear "on hold." It is a good idea to develop "content" -- such as success stories ("value-added tests") and client testimonials -- to flesh out appropriate communications with prospects and customers.
Of course, an image once built must be maintained, the speaker noted. Among many ways to do this are special events, like the time-honored "customer appreciation days" and newsletters, which nowadays can be delivered by email. Good relations are maintained and strengthened by frequent updates. Done diligently and sensibly, an ongoing client relations program can encourage the "evangelization" of existing accounts and, thus, generate referrals that can be used to win new ones.