Conventional wisdom states that when times are bad and sales are down, management should cut all expenses except sales and marketing. And when things get really bad, management must cut everything but sales because selling is the fastest way to increase revenues.This business-to-business case study illustrates how, if executed properly, strategic marketing can sometimes be a quicker, more efficient and more effective way to grow sales.The Situation A manufacturing firm’s brand enjoyed high name recognition, and the longstanding business had survived and often thrived through multiple business cycles during its storied history. A competent management team had been assembled and was balancing operational needs with cash-flow requirements.However, sales of the manufacturer’s primary division were declining and the market for its products was in a severe depression. The lack of volume meant the company was not covering its overhead. Escalating energy and raw material costs were eroding profit margins.Product and Distribution ChannelsMarket perceptions of its products were mixed. The company had a strong reputation as a manufacturer of “green” building products, but it was not well regarded for solving end-user problems. The firm was not in a position to compete on price.Although the company’s products were esteemed by specifiers and designers for being sustainable and other specific performance attributes, many end-users were put off by the high cost of the products, and sometimes found these products to be difficult to work with and of questionable quality.Low sales volume and slow inventory turns decreased the company’s value to channel members and kept new distributors from taking on the line. To cut costs, existing distributors reduced their inventories of the company’s products, and dropped slower-moving niche items manufactured by the firm entirely.In response, management hired a full-service marketing firm and undertook a full-blown marketing and advertising campaign. The marketing message trumpeted the environmental friendliness of the firm’s products but failed to communicate their other performance values.Choosing Strategic PrioritiesRather than simply initiating a typical marketing campaign, the company needed to find:· A high-volume application…· In which it could be cost-competitive…· In which it had a different story to tell…· In an expanding market, enabling growth without having to take market share…· And reestablish its value to distributors.Internal AssessmentThe company’s primary product is a fiber board used for various purposes by construction trades. Reducing sound transmission in buildings appeared to be the company’s best opportunity to generate volume. Multi-family projects that required sound reduction could require multiple truckloads of product. The firm already marketed this application but was not emphasizing it.The company’s sound-reduction product performed well and was cost-competitive in flooring applications. It was installed very differently than the products dominating the market. Competing products were sold directly to specialty contractors, bypassing traditional distributors and contractors.The housing market had collapsed with no recovery in sight. The lack of money for down payments, overly strict mortgage requirements, and fear of declining home values crippled demand.Still, people needed places to live. Apartment construction, while also down, remained viable, and increased demand was forecast for the foreseeable future. Demographic changes predicted surging demand for student housing and assisted living. Changing consumer tastes were boosting the desire for urban living. The Federal government’s spending on affordable housing, often in the form of apartments, was increasing in an effort spur economic growth.Executing the Strategy A volume application had been identified that met the company’s strategic imperatives. The marketing group now needed to focus all its resources on implementing the initiative as quickly and inexpensively as possible against larger, better-capitalized competitors that dominated the market. Every problem perceived by customers that could hold back sales needed to be solved.HowThe marketing team implemented a wide array of tactics to support the new strategy:Brought It Inside. To reduce cost, the firm terminated its engagement with the full-service outside marketing agency and brought marketing in-house, with assistance from independent professionals.Aligned the Messaging. The marketing team developed a compelling tag line aligned with the new strategy. The message was simple and specific, yet universal to the company’s other product lines.Developed Aligned Materials. The team conveyed its solution and addressed all known obstacles through new marketing tools in a wide variety of mediums, including video, website, packaging, sales aides, installation graphics, product sheets, trade show booths and more.Accessed All Available Channels. The team tapped all available cost-effective channels to disseminate the message, including the company website, YouTube and industry related third-party websites.Quality Improvements. The marketing team communicated quality improvements needed to increase market acceptance to operations. The Operations Department innovated and made improvements. Third-party testing labs were engaged to refute end-user performance concerns and induce confidence.Bottom LineThe shift in marketing strategy contributed significantly to turning around declining revenues into consecutive year-over-year sales increases of 20% and beyond. Identifying and targeting an expanding market segment supported this growth in sales. Increased market share remained a goal but was not required for significant recurring revenue increases.Companies that follow conventional wisdom run the risk of leaving core problems undiagnosed and fail to turn sales around. The strategic marketing process avoids this pitfall. Strategic marketing effectively gives the sales force an improved product to sell and a better market to sell it into, thereby propelling increased sales at a rapid rate.The company could not have sold its way out of declining revenues without first changing its go-to-market strategies. It needed to find a market opportunity that met its strategic imperatives and provided a focus point for success. Compelling marketing messages provided efficient market penetration in a way that selling by individuals or teams could not.If done innovatively, with an eye on costs, strategic marketing can be the fastest way to spur sales growth.
Here is something many entrepreneurs need to understand when it comes to marketing: there is no such thing as guaranteed results.There are too many factors about your marketing campaign that no one can control. Among them, there is the behavior of the overall market, competitive pricing, demand for offers like yours, current events, and others.It would be anti-ethical for any marketing agency or freelancer to guarantee ABC results if you invest XYZ amount of money. But it does not mean that there are not ways to get the most out of your marketing budget (according to the circumstances).Here are seven ways you can maximize your marketing efforts – whether we are in a recession or a booming period.Do Not Confuse Marketing with NetworkingIf you are marketing your business, you need to understand the difference between connecting and communicating with your community and sharing / promoting your business.Do not take to social media or networking events to present your sales pitch right away. People do not like it when you sell stuff to them. Instead, connect first by hearing about their problems, and communicate with them in ways they can solve those problems.There will be time for you to promote and share on social media and at networking events. But you need to build a relationship first. That way, your audience would not feel like you are selling to them, but that they are taking advice. Because they trust you.Market EfficientlyI am a firm believer in A/B testing. It is the best way to keep your marketing campaigns rolling and not waste your budget.You do not want to throw money away with marketing that is not appealing to your market. That is why it is imperative that you constantly test your letters, ads, and emails to see what is getting the attention of the market, and what is persuading them into buying.Cut What Does Not WorkOnce you start testing your marketing efforts, you will know what to keep and what to drop.You do not need to be everywhere at once. You need to be where your market wants you to be.Do not waste your time on Facebook if the people are not responding. Stop sending letters if there are no sales coming from them. And please, do not waste two million dollars on a TV spot that won’t produce any ROI.Inbound Marketing vs Outbound MarketingI believe both inbound and outbound marketing have a place and are beneficial to every business. But they have their place in the marketing process.Outbound marketing should be the focus when you are starting out. You need to let people know that you are there to help them. Thus, you should be sending emails, making phone calls, and making the first step to connect with the market.Once you have set up a reputation for your business, then inbound marketing takes over. Because people will be looking for you. They will look at your website, your blog, and your social media channels.So, do not disregard either marketing strategy. Just place them correctly according to the level of growth of your business. Outbound marketing when you are looking to prove yourself, and inbound marketing when you have an established name in the market.Cold Calling as a Marketing TacticMost people are afraid of cold calling. Honestly, I believe “terrified” is a more proper term.That is the reason many dismiss this tactic from their marketing strategy. But I think cold calling is as practical a marketing tactic as any of the others.You need to make that first connection. And if the market is not coming to you, you might as well go to them.And cold calling is not as bad as people make it out to be.All you need is a good script and some thick skin (to handle rejection). And after a couple of times doing it, you will feel comfortable approaching targets and converting them into leads.Hire ProfessionalsYou can divide any marketing campaign into three facets: strategy, content, and design.If you have experience in marketing planning, website design, and copy and content writing – then, by all means, go for it. Although I would recommend getting a critique from a professional on each, just to go safely.But, if you are marketing your business, and have no prior planning, writing, or designing experience, your best bet is to hire professionals for each endeavor. They will know what to do to present your product in the most appealing way possible to your market.There is also the choice of learning things yourself, but if time is not on your side, then I suggest hiring the professionals anyway until you can take over after getting some marketing seasoning.Plan Your MarketingYou might have expected this to be tip number one. But I wanted to make sure you understood some things before we got into time management.But now that we got the small details explained, here is a template to develop a weekly marketing schedule:Mondays: Market research to find targetsTuesdays: ProspectingWednesdays: Content marketingThursdays: AutomationFridays: Website updatesEvery day: Networking on Twitter and LinkedInMake sure to separate (at least) an hour every workday to do your marketing. You can perform a marketing task each day to keep your efforts moving. Also, make room for at least half an hour of networking – online or in person.