10 Ways to impact growth in 2009

15 12 2008

I can’t imagine a single educated person in a position of influence that hasn’t been affected by the negative news of late. Market volatility, political changes, bailouts and an overall uneasiness of stability has defined 2008. How will YOU prepare for a better 2009?

Things are no different here at The Impact Group. We are a full service marketing communications agency in Hudson, Ohio. We are experiencing clients and prospects that are taking a longer time to make decisions, shrinking budgets, disappearing cash flow.

The time is now to create a better growth strategy. Exclusively using the same marketing methods of the past and not incorporating “new media” will be a major mistake for organizations trying to thrive in this time of survival.

Understanding the shifts in the way people obtain and share information will be a critical component of marketing success in 2009. Being able to quickly apply that understanding into marketing outreach campaigns (social media marketing, online publicity, online marketing) that complement past / current methods (print materials, web, advertising, direct mail) is THE challenge for marketers in 2009.

The Impact Group has come up with 10 points to think about for a solid growth strategy in 2009.

1. Redesign your brand. What does a new car, new outfit, new haircut or a new coat of paint do to the psyche? The same thing a fresh corporate identity make-over can do to an organization. Even a modest change to an organization’s look can provide new energy to employees, media opportunities, excitement to current customers and new business opportunities. Check out some samples: Portfolio of work

2. Video Video Video!!! With the advances of video compression technology, video has never been easier to use for marketing purposes. Video is 5 times more effective than print for someone to remember your message, so throw away the print and replace it with video wherever possible. Use a video spokesperson to explain your website as people visit your homepage. (Sample: www.igpr.com) Incorporate video email for your sales and marketing outreach. Post video explanations and commercials of your products and services on your website (podcasts) and on sources like youtube. (Sample: www.trinitypension.com) 2009 will be the year direct mail will take a back seat to video email campaigns in cost efficiency and effectiveness. Get started before your competitors figure it out! More info on the effectiveness of video – http://www.vidpro.org/videomkt.htm

3. Listen to your customers. I can’t think of a better way to recalibrate your marketing message for 2009 than the recommendations from the customers buying your product in 2008. Do you have a simple print survey that can go in your invoices? How about an online survey that when completed, provides a coupon? We encourage gathering satisfaction data and recommendations year round. There are more comprehensive methods like focus groups, surveys, polls that can provide statistical certainty to strategic directions. I recommend starting with getting into your car to visit a few of your best customers, wish them a happy holiday, tell them why you appreciate their business and ask them for advice on how you might be able to grow into next year. Free marketing advice from the people that already buy your product can give you some good ideas for your 2009 growth strategy.

4. Social media marketing! The major trend in successful marketing is moving from the high impression factors of the past (one Super Bowl commercial brings 50 million + impressions on a broad audience for a 1 outreach : 50,000,000 target ratio) to the PERSONAL impression factor (1 personal trusted message : one target). This trend of one to one marketing can be most effectively done through online social networks. With the rapidly growing use of MySpace and Facebook and the ability to publicly follow a person or organization on Twitter, one to one marketing is ready for the savvy marketer to make an immediate and powerful impact. Read more on Social media marketing – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media_marketing and Social Media Marketing

5. Blog. 2008 was a year of exploring how blogging could impact an organization’s marketing efforts. Blogging (if done effectively) showed a powerful marketing ability to drive relevant traffic on a website, influence credibility for a product or service, grab mainstream media attention, and shape consumer behaviors. Blogging is providing the ability for the smaller company to have a louder voice. Read more on Blogging – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

6. Online publicity. The web has provided small and large organizations alike a wonderful medium for disseminating news. Public relations, which used to be reserved for mainstream media, is now more effective when implemented through online channels – called Online Publicity. Not only do the major media receive notice of your news, but individuals and organizations can receive info directly to their inbox through things like GoogleAlerts and RSS feeds. Getting your news online – through your website, blogs, news sites, social media, and others – can make a huge impact in 2009.

7. Hire experts. Most organizations trust a CPA for their tax filings, attorneys for legal issues and doctors for medical matters. The problem with “expert” marketers is that there isn’t a universal accepted and measured accreditation like the previously mentioned professions. Most marketing firms are a few folks that took a couple design courses and now lay claim to most marketing capabilities. On the other end of the spectrum are the extremely expensive large agencies that need their invoices to match their high rent and huge payrolls. Check out this article on small vs large agencies for some thoughts. http://adage.com/smallagency/post?article_id=111233  Marketing techniques have gotten very complex due to the reliance of new technology and the critical timing of delivery. The right marketing group will help you create and implement a growth strategy for your organization and allow you to streamline resources. How to select an agency – www.ehow.com/how_2052377_select-right-marketing-firm.html  Start your agency search – www.igpr.com

8. Redefine your marketing message. Is your marketing message brief, simple to understand, interesting and able to distinguish you from your competition? Is it easy for someone interested in your product or service to get information in order to make a buying decision? What are the sound bytes? Everyone is too busy and you are competing against a world of information being thrown at your potential next customer. Your message must be able to cut through and motivate specific action.

9. Rebuild your web site. Most web sites are now outdated in information, technology and appearance. With the low costs of web technologies and the high value a good site brings to an organization, your website has to be a top priority in 2009. The ability for your products and services to show up on the top of the search engines is so important for growth. Your website appearance and relevance will be one of the main factors of establishing credibility in your future customers. Your website should be the centerpiece of the way you market.

10. Get your story told in the news. I’ve already talked about getting your news on the web. But, print and broadcast PR opportunities still exist in a big way. There are niche magazines for just about every industry in the world. And, while most news in a down economy is doom and gloom, media outlets are looking for positive, uplifting stories to tell. Getting the word out about that new client you landed, the product launching or the new hire…all these things are welcomed good news to the media, AND your prospects, clients and employees!

2009 has the potential to be a banner year, if you approach it with enthusiasm and knowledge. Take these points to heart. And, let us know how we can help. www.igpr.com

Don
dpolyak@igpr.com

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Image Is Everything!

3 12 2008
Uh, yeah.
Uh, yeah.

 When running for the Senate from Georgia, it is important to uphold a certain image that reflects you as a candidate, and which resonates with your key targeted voters. Mr. Martin, this image has circulated across your state, across the country and, with the aid of the internet, across the globe.

Many of us recall the image of Governor Dukakis in the tank.  Or, more recently, Senator Kerry in the space suit that looked like he just came off the Hollywood set for “Outbreak”.  Or, how about George H.W. Bush throwing up in the lap of the Japanese prime minister??  Image is everything!!
Best of luck in your next career. I am sure the hip hop community will be very supportive of your endeavors.
-Kerry




“Searching for new targets……acquiring……acquiring…..”

19 11 2008

Elected Congressional Officials……You are the next target!!

I attended a meeting of elected officials recently where a noted political veteran gave an overview of the elections and predictions of things to come. Very enlightening, and quite a wake-up call to those in office today…..and hoping to remain there going forward!

Regardless of your personal political convictions, consider the following:  Ohio and Michigan’s economies are in the tank, and yet the Ohio Governor has a 60% approval rate, and Michigan voters just re-elected the majority of current elected Democratic leaders.  Their reason?  They are not targets.  Yet.

The 2008 elections were aglow with “Blame Bush” rhetoric.  Economic troubles? Blame Bush. War on Terror? Blame Bush. Gas prices really high? Blame Bush.  (Although when prices come down they Blame Bush and his “oil buddies” and call for increased gas taxes….go figure!)  In the end, the Call For Change that resonated across the nation resulted in significant election gains for Democrats, as well as the election of Senator Obama.  The problem for the majority, however, is that Bush will be gone soon.  Then who will people blame??  The target has been on Bush’s back for his entire 8 year reign will now be redirected.  At you??

As the American electorated realizes that the new administration cannot fix all our problems overnight, and with the inevitable stumble and mistakes that all new administrations make, watch the rhetoric turn ugly. And, quickly!  Congressional Democratic leaders are buzzing with their new-found strength and expanded majority. However, polling shows that Congress has an overall approval rating of under 30%, below even that of George W. Bush.  Plus, 50 million people did not “Vote for Change”, and they are now the rabid minority who will be quite vocal.  The target may quickly be on the new leaders…..and with the economic forecast for the foreseeable future…..I send a warning to ALL incumbents for 2010, Be Advised!!

Think this is empty banter?  Look at recent history:  In 1992, Bill Clinton came to power on the campaign of “Change”.  In his first two years in office he enjoyed a Democratic House and Senate, and a laundry list of special interests who wanted their issues addressed immediately!  What happened? A huge tax increase, which became very unpopular very quickly, the appointment of under-qualified cabinet positions that turned over quickly, scores of military bases closed and local communities impacted by the job losses, and, of course, the universal health care program which was built under secrecy and died a horrible death in 1994.  (It was the Democratic Congressional leaders that killed it, not the Republicans as many conjecture incorrectly)

Ther result??  In 1994, the relatively unknown Newt Gingrich and other Republicans overwhelming retook the House with the Contract with America. President Clinton, who was nicknamed “Teflon” for his ability to avoid blame, reached out the conservatives under the so-called “Triangulation” strategy of working with the opposition. Two years later, even with a travesty of a campaign which featured Bob Dole and his tired, old school rhetoric, Clinton was re-elected, but Republicans increased their majority again.  Why?  It was very easy to blame Congress and ineffective leaders.

In 2008, we are still at war in two countries, the economy is facing its largest challenges in two generations, scandals continue in corporate America and in Washington, and a relatively newcomer is taking over in the White House.  Senator Obama faces incredible challenges, but is very popular due to his brilliantly engineered campaign. So for the next two years? Again, current Congressional members…..you ARE the next target!

The elections showed that while Obama won the election handily, the country overall has not swung hard to the left, as some groups would like to think.  If massive tax increases and greatly increased government programs are the leading initiatives in 2009, I would not want to be in the congressional majority come election time 2010!  I guess we’ll see where the priorities are placed by Congress for the next two years.

Better start handing out the teflon…….

-Kerry





Within the Din: Get your message to your constituents

28 10 2008

Given the nature of this political season, messages from elected officials and wanna-be elected officials has become a steady blur, especially for those of us in the swing state of Ohio.  Every major network TV station and radio station is now an endless barrage of “Vote For Me” messages.  Frankly, I very much look forward to the election being over so we can back to commercials for beer, really bad car dealerships, and the inevitable “personal care” products. No, I do not have painful burning, itching and swelling, but thank you for running a thirty second ad to tell me what to do when this does happen!

It is under the environment of endless political talk that I am reminded, once again, how critically important it is for elected officials to Get Your Message Out!  Communications technology has changed dramitically over the past decade. E-mail, internet sites, blogs, webinars, Twitter, You Tube and endless other vehicles of electronic communication have made the basic land-line phone call just another tool of communication. Public officials must communicate with their core constituents, and in the manners that work for them, not for you. It is no longer acceptable to simply call a meeting at City.Village Hall and 1) Expect people to know the meeting is scheduled, and 2) To expect busy people to show up. You must reach out to your community in the broadest fashion to ensure you have an informed audience.  Get your message out!  Let people know what their government is doing, and the successes and challenges your community faces.  Sure, municipal business still must have public meetings for decion-making, but your constituents need to hear from you much more often. 

A great example of this level of communication has been the outreach efforts by the leaders of the Regional Economic Revenue Study (RERS).  RERS is an initiative of the Northeast Ohio Mayors & City Managers Association to enhance economic development across the region through a region-wide land use planning and new growth revenue sharing program.  Lead by Hudson Mayor William A. Currin, Pepper Pike Mayor Bruce H. Akers, and Richfield Village Mayor Mike Lyons, this initiative has now reached the public outreach phase. RERS leaders, including Kerry Smith, Don Polyak and Tom Speaks of The Impact Group, have been hosting and faciliating presentations across the region to get the word out.  This effort inludes e-mails to elected officials, inviation letters through traditional snail mail, phone calls to key stakeholders, press releases, and a website for more information (www.revenuestudy.org) Further, RERS is highlighted by our funding partners The Fund for Our Economic Future and Advanced Northeast Ohio. It is only through the combined effort of all these communications we are able to then sit knee-to-knee with a broad range of key constituents to get the word out. We are reaching them in the manner they best respond, not in the manner easiest or fastest for us. The response has been overwhelmingly supportive, with a highly-engaged audience learning of this important initiative.  The RERS presentations contain the phrase: “Be informed, Get On Board!”  This message is only possible through effective outreach and communication.

RERS has been featured in several newspaper articles across the region, and live on PBS 45-49 as well as the Dan Rivers show on WKBN in Mahoning Valley.  Through a sustained and consistent messaging campaign, the RERS initiative continues to grow in awareness and support.  Is YOUR message getting across effectively?? Or, is the idle banter in coffee shops and hair salons still the communication method in your town?  Better think about it!  Residents and business owners receive a deafening din of communication in this 24/7 news world. Your message needs to rise above in order to be heard. Let your constituents know you want them to “Be informed, Get On Board!”

Let me know how YOU communicate today!

-Kerry





Don’t Listen to the Mainstream Media, We Are Only 20 Days Away from the Election

10 09 2008

Martin Moleski
mmoleski@igpr.com

You may be asking yourself, “Twenty days? November 4, Election Day, is 50 plus days away.” Well, you are right. But perhaps you are not thinking about the estimated 70,000 voters – in Summit County, Ohio alone – who will cast absentee ballots beginning September 30. That’s right, 70,000 people (20% of the voters) who, right now, are researching the candidates in their respective area so when early voting starts they will be the first to cast their votes.

Ohioans like to vote absentee for many reasons:

  • No waiting in lines on Election Day
  • Take the time to research each candidate or issue on the ballot from home
  • AVOID THE INEVITABLE 35° FREEZING RAIN
  • Be at home when all those who promise to move to Canada when their candidate loses start hitting the road

So what is your campaign doing to influence these voters? As a campaign manager, I love absentee voters. I’m talking about the people who I know, for certain, are going to vote. Not only that, I can actually target them with a mailer or letter the day their absentee ballot arrives in the mail. Talk about making a last minute impression!

The truth of campaigns is that candidates like to crescendo at the end when voters are paying attention. This is especially true – and critical – in municipal races. But if you don’t have a game plan to reach the absentee voters, prepare to be disappointed on the real Election Day.





A House Divided…

18 08 2008

Martin Moleski
mmoleski@igpr.com

I read one of the most fascinating presidential campaign articles this past week. Having worked on many different kinds of campaigns, I do my best to pay attention to how the presidential campaigns are running, examine what is/is not working and offer my analysis to anyone who will hear it. That mostly falls on my brother and one of our graphic designers, both of whom are ready for “Change We Can Believe In.” I’ll get back to that in a moment. First…the aforementioned article.

It's YOUR fault!!

It's YOUR fault!!

Joshua Green of the Atlantic gives the best insight, so far, into the fall of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The article starts with this devastating paragraph:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign was undone by a clash of personalities more toxic than anyone imagined. E-mails and memos—published here for the first time—reveal the backstabbing and conflicting strategies that produced an epic meltdown.

How can you not keep reading? The e-mails and memos show a campaign in chaos that failed on multiple fronts. First, the Clinton campaign failed to establish a unifying message that eventually tore the campaign staff into two conflicting teams. Second, the campaign did not prepare for a primary season that lasted until June 3 and ignored warnings that Clinton would be unable to mathematically catch Obama after he won 11 straight contests following Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.  Finally, the campaign suffered due to a lack of understanding that tactical implementation is critical.

I’ve never worked on a presidential campaign, so I can’t even begin to imagine having to lay the groundwork for a nationwide campaign. However, if I was being paid millions of dollars to do it…i’d do my damn best to figure it out quickly. I have, though, worked on multiple campaigns in Northeast Ohio and two things never change. First, stick to your message. I’ve found great success by crafting a strategic message, based on polls, and never straying from it. Second, poor planning will eventually catch up to you. What this article shows is a campaign team that did not know who was in charge of making critical decisions and implementing the many tactics that go into running a campaign. Weeks would go by before a decision was made, and in a 24/7 news world we now live in, her campaign suffered immensely.

Back to Obama’s now famous tagline (no need to type it again). Do you now understand how important those five words are? If you don’t, try to remember Hillary Clinton’s message. Yah, I don’t know it either.

Click here to read the rest of Joshua Green’s article, The Front-Runner’s Fall.

On a side note, the article earned Green a spot on the set of Meet the Press this past Sunday. I thought he did very well, as did David Gregory, who hosted for the first time since Tim Russert’s death.  I’ve been disappointed by Tom Brokaw in previous weeks, and I thought Gregory did a good job preparing for the show and not letting his partisanship come through. He actually seemed to praise Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for how the administration was dealing with Russia’s involvement in Georgia.





Public Policy Advocacy – Special Interests??

18 07 2008

News media. Websites. TV/Radio. Public Presentations. Direct Mail. It never ceases to amaze me at the extensive level taken to influence public policy in our country. 

God Bless the Framers and Founders of our nation for the First Amendment right to free speech!  But, as importantly, the First Amendment provides our right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  In other words, as legal citizens of this country we have the right to influence public policy, laws, regulations and legal decision-making.

I spent nearly a dozen years in my career as the head of government relations for a financial services and insurance company.  There is no comprehensible way to calculate the number of trade groups, advocacy groups, ad hoc coalitions, think tank and policy wonks who are employed solely to influence the public perception and regulation of the health care industry.  I am sure someone has tried to calculate how much is spent on health care advocacy in a given year, but I would tell you to double that number….and then some! 

But, even as there are so-called “special interest” groups pursuing their specific niche piece of the health care industry, it is without question that just about every possible side is represented and every angle has been heard. We are familiar with free-market health care, single-payer health care, government-run health, care, managed care, etc, etc, etc.  All these initiatives have teams of people working daily to further their specific cause. This is what is both great, and at times unfortunate, about how public policy is created and decided in this country.  It is great that our free society provides for the open discussion of nearly every ideology imaginable.   However, it is possible the greatest idea ever imagined could never become public policy if enough money, groups, and organizations are opposed or see the idea as a threat to their ideology. 

Let me go back to the term “special interest.” By far, one of the most overused, and incorrectly used term in our society.  Folks, ALL of us have special interests!! Simply make a list of all your passions, interests, careers, families, religous beliefs, parenting styles, food choices, educational attainment goals, pet ownership beliefs, and on and on and you will quickly see that you, indeed, have a huge variety of special interests.  If you have a passionate opinion on big issues such as abortion, religous freedoms, education reform and health care reform, all the way to day-to-day issues like food labeling and school bussing, your beliefs put you in so-called “special interest” groups. 

By labeling people, it is easy to place them in factions and let them “go at it”!  The media loves to group people into “special interest” to watch them fight over issues like dogs over a piece of meat. As the old media adage goes, “If it bleeds, it leads”!  For instance, if they can get film of pro-life and pro-choice groups screaming at each other, it makes good press.  But, unfortunately, too often the battle is of far more interest to decision-makers than actually taking action on public policy. In other words, when an issue is so controversial it causes massive outcry from both sides, it often becomes too easy to do nothing.  Status quo is often easier, or safer, than making tough decisions.

I go on this rant for a couple key reasons.  One, absolutely speak your mind on public policy issues that impact your world!  Whether it is the illegal immigration, or the height of street signs in your community (yes, I was actually taken to task on this in my community), make your voice heard.  On the other hand, keep in mind that in a free nation, a wide variety of issues and ideologies will be shared from a wide variety of sources. Most come from a distinct difference of opinion, upon which we must agree to disagree. Unfortunately, others come from areas of hatred and malice, where the specific intent is to harm others. This is the crap that often makes the headlines.  Try to stay above the fray and use reason when considering facts. 

Make sure your voice is heard. But, let others speak as well. Hold public officials accountable, and steer public policy through level-headed debate. And, please, the next time someone uses the term “special interest”, feel free to slap them! Stupidity is a pre-existing condition.

Later  – Kerry Smith