Take Control of Your Marketing

Val Jereb, VP/Marketing Director for Scott Valley Bank

I think youll agree that the marketing options available to you are changing everyday. Im pretty sure that once upon a time marketing was simpler than today. There certainly was a time with fewer opportunities and avenues to get your brand and message out there. Online advertising, social media, geo-targeting . . . today there are so many new choices, decisions, and marketing venues available that keeping up is enough to make your head spin.

Some of the abundance of marketing options are costly, some not. Some are truly worth the cost, some not. What options provide the best value? That is a complex question. The answer is unique for each business and wraps around industry, geography, sensitivity of your target clients, budget, and your positioning statement. That question is too large for this column, but if youve been wrestling with how to allocate your marketing dollars, I do have a few pertinent thoughts that may help your focus.

For starters, make it easy for your prospects and clients to find you, and to find out about your business, by placing yourself where they are looking. Absolutely every business needs a web presence. Your web presence can be a simple placeholder with business hours, a brief description of your services, contact information and directions to your location. If you do not know where to begin, check out your local community college or simply take a little spin on Wordpress.org where you'll find the tools you need to create a blog website. This type of website is cost effective and easily created, maintained and updated. One caveat: whatever web presence you choose, keep it current. After all, a significant key to success with whatever marketing you employ is consistency. Id like to share a little story about an inconsistent web presence.  A small high-end furniture store had a website for several years. They were never good about keeping the site current but it could be counted on to provide store hours, directions, links to websites for the brands they carried, and sometimes (yay!) sale information. Today the website is not to be found. There is nothing left but a trail of broken links. Has the store changed its name, changed ownership or gone out of business? (Given the recent economy, the latter is a reasonable conclusion.) Remarkably, a phone call (thanks to the good old telephone directory) confirmed that none are the case. Since there was a reason for my interest, (they carry a particular brand), I will be stopping in soon. This was a close call for that retailer as most of us, including me, have retrained to use a search engine rather than a telephone directory as our primary research tool. When your clients and prospects search online, be sure they find you.

What else from the cornucopia of marketing possibilities will best promote your business?  Image ads to promote your brand are worthwhile. Sponsorships are valuable and give back to the community while you are giving. After all, to bring business in, youve got to get people talking (and thinking) about your brand. However, before you make a marketing spend, consider this recent paradigm shift: Your brand is no longer what you say it is rather it is what your clients say it is.  What does it take to get your clients talking about your business in a positive way? Some of the above will help, but for the biggest impact, my best guess is service. Who provides that service? Your employees.

Whether you have 2 employees or 200, you should think of your employees as an extension of your marketing efforts. Engaged, informed, and appreciated employees are some of your best advocates. It does not necessarily take dollars to engender a sense of appreciation among your employees. Remember to thank them. Keep them as informed as possible. Its a scary economy and, in most industries, an even scarier job market right now. Even your most valuable employees may feel a sense of trepidation about their job security especially if you are keeping information about how your business is doing close to your vest. Even more so if how your business is doing is causing you to walk around with a scowl on your face. Remember, whether or not your business is currently as profitable as it may have been in the past is probably not directly related to how hard your employees have been working and in many cases, theyve been working harder than ever. Project your confidence in your long-term success to your employees in a way that ensures they in turn project it forward to your customers.

Your marketing should be a reflection of your long-term planning. If future success is in your long-term plan, be sure to acknowledge your best advocates and instill in them a sense of confidence in your business. Put a smile on your face and on theirs by making them feel part of the future.

The economy has been causing chaos. Overwhelming marketing choices can add to the burden. Dont let them. Take control back in a way that keeps awareness of your company top of mind whenever folks think about what it is you are selling. Good luck.

View Scott Valley Bank - The Vault - March 2011