Managing Those Difficult Clients, Part Two

Almost a month has gone by since we cut bait with our difficult client, the founder of the toner cartridge recycling company. But the frustration lingers, and new thoughts have popped into my head about the myriad of ways clients can kill even the most brilliant marketing initiative.

But let's first review last month's five points before tackling the next five sure-fire ways to kill marketing.

Everyone's an expert. Insecurity leads some executives to ask everyone, from relatives to the janitor, for their opinions on every program, line of brochure copy, and ad design.

Indecision. A cousin of insecurity, indecisiveness can be a delaying tactic or a tragic flaw in a leader, since it hinders progress and maintains the status quo.

Fine-tuning forever. While we all try for perfection, overworking a design or copy concept can be its death, especially if there are too many cooks.

Inability to focus. In my experience this is one of the most prevalent weaknesses of entrepreneurs. Meeting agendas are thrown out the window, discussions are all over the map, and, in the end, nothing gets done.

Lack of vision. Many executives earn their stripes by working their way up in an organization, often beginning their careers in production. Unfortunately, many remain task-oriented, rather than strategic in their leadership, leaving their companies bereft of passion and a tangible goal to hook onto.

The Other Five Ways You Can Kill Your Company's Marketing Efforts

Piecemeal marketing. The inability to stick to a systematic marketing program is endemic to many companies. Two postcards of a six-card campaign will get mailed out, and then the exec decides a newsletter is a better way to go. Or one ad is run and, when the phone doesn't ring off the hook, advertising is considered a bust. This approach will wreak havoc on your brand, not to mention the return on your marketing investment. Start with a campaign strategy and stick with it. Try to combine a minimum of three or four media touchpoints to make sure you're reaching customers and prospects at least monthly. The goal is to be top-of-mind when they need printing services. You can design a comprehensive program without spending a fortune. Ideally, you want to include a direct marketing component (direct mailers or eMail announcements/eNewsletters); publicity; advertising, if you can afford to run multiple times; sales tools (PowerPoint presentation, samples kits, sales brochure, etc.); and don't forget about phone-on-hold messaging. I just found a recent statistic that confirms that 16 percent of callers who hear on-hold messages make a purchase based on what they hear.

Short-term thinking. One would think we'd have learned this lesson after the dot-com blowout and the recent corporate scandals, but short-term objectives are still many an executive's top priority. While increasing sales is certainly marketing's ultimate goal, its true value is its long-term benefits ... building and sustaining customer relationships. If marketing objectives are short-sighted, chances are customers will be short-lived.

Thinking small. Fear of the unknown can paralyze even the most progressive marketing executive, particularly in this economy. But timidity does not a strong marketing program make. It may be more comfortable to "test" the marketing waters by sending out a single postcard, rather than biting off a coordinated, integrated program. However, one postcard will surely give you no return on your investment, whereas a well-conceived, systematic program will garner returns far beyond a quick revenue boost.

Wait and see. This was a favorite of printers during those scary dot-com years. Many froze in their tracks, ignoring the many positive benefits that Web-based print services provided clients. Smart ones tooled their websites to offer the same Internet-enabled advantages, such as online quoting, job tracking, and FTP file transfer. Today's slow economy has sprouted more fence-sitters. But curtailing marketing during threatening times can backfire, since your absence creates a perfect vacuum for competitors to fill. Wall Street is littered with the remains of companies who failed to act in time, preferring to wait and see what their competitors would do.

Too little too late. Turning to marketing when the bottom falls out gains little and can cost a lot. ItĚs a desperation strategy that undermines the very foundation of smart marketing, which is based on a thorough understanding of your clients and why they do business with you. Remember the auto makers' "zero interest" hype last Christmas to stimulate sales? It backfired on them big-time when customers found out most of the "zero percent" offers were phony savings scams.

Marketing is an essential component of a sound business. It is not a quick fix, and it should not be undertaken unless you're prepared to make a long-term commitment and to conducting it professionally. You entrust your books to a professional, why wouldn't you entrust your brand to one?


Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on http://www.traversant.com. Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte @traversant.com.

© 2003 Charlotte Mills Seligman

March 10, 2003
Print & Graphics
Column #48, 3/10
Printing Journal
Column #48, 3/10
Difficult Clients II
By Charlotte Mills Seligman

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