I meet with many businesses that do not have a marketing plan but are spending money on websites, brochures, promotional material and advertising. Frequently, there is no centralized agency providing these materials since their procurement comes from scattered sources that negatively impact the brand and cost more money with less return on investment. Those businesses that operate without a plan usually proceed as follows:
The company decides that they need a website or website upgrade so they initiate a search for a web design firm. Many times the project is shopped on price alone, without considering the company’s marketing needs. Most often the branding is not successfully integrated throughout the new site, thus diluting company identity. Other issues may be ignored, including the decision to employ a professional copywriter, search engine optimization, and the proper selection/creation of unique imagery for the site.
Several months later the company wants to create a brochure so they shop for a print designer, who is unaffiliated or coordinated with theweb design firm. The outcome is a brochure that is not consistent with the website branding which further dilutes the brand.
Now the serious damage and waste escalate as different peddlers of ad specialties (pens, key chains, letter openers…) directly sell to the company and guess what happens? — the brand is once again diluted because there is no marketing plan in place. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen companies purchase custom printed pens that only have their name, address and phone number. There is no logo and even the pen is the wrong color (the company has a red logo and they buy purple pens). This is a complete waste because the brand has now been completely compromised and the main reason anyone will ever look at the label on the pen is when it stops working — that is not the time to make a lasting impression.
Media vendors these days solicit company owners instead of marketing and advertising agencies because they can pressure owners more effectively than experienced agency media buyers. Company owners are convinced to appear in journal ads, trade publications, local newspapers, circulars, direct mail pieces, coupons… These vendors tout circulation statistics and include free ad design. The ads, however, are designed by underpaid and often under-talented staff artists who have no interest in preserving a company’s brand and maintaining consistent corporate messaging. Furthermore, they do not offer any mechanisms for tracking response rates. Without tracking the company has no hope of realizing whether they showed any return on their investment.
The solution to all of these problems is to work with an ethical marketing firm that company owners trust — one that can create a mutually agreed upon marketing plan. The marketing firm should be unbiased when selecting appropriate advertising media. They must be able to provide metrics on every advertising and communications effort to insure more profitable results with each campaign. All creative efforts should be geared to defining, preserving and strengthening the brand. Money that is invested in this kind of business relationship will lead to achieving real and measurable returns on all corporate communications.