Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

Business continuity in a crisis – marketing issues

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

In the event of the unthinkable happening to you and your business, you will have many things to consider.  There will be the immediate practical issues and the security issues amongst others.  This article focuses on what you need to do from a marketing perspective.  This isn’t just about cancelling that new advert that you have booked!  This encompasses all aspects of communicating with your marketplace and what you need to consider in terms of tactical marketing activity.

First and foremost, you will want to reassure your key stakeholders that you have matters in hand and are able to continue, albeit in a reduced capacity, to supply and service their needs.

So where do you start?  Who do you talk to you first?  Unless you have previously encountered a major communication crisis such as this you probably hadn’t considered any priority order in which you might do this.

What do we mean by stakeholders?  These are your customers, your potential customers, your employees, your bank, your suppliers, the media etc…

There is an excellent stakeholder mapping model that I have used personally in times of crisis to decide quickly and confidently who needs to be contacted when and in what order.  This model is shown below.

 

As you can see, the model forces you to consider your stakeholders in terms of their power or importance and their interest in the current situation.  It is a good idea to ‘map’ stakeholders in 2 different ways –now and where you think they may lie after the crisis is over.  You can use the same grid for this by using different colours to show now and future.

Practice doing this –  imagine you are in this situation now –where would you place your various stakeholders? 

Keep this draft, it may provide a good basis for you at some future time.

You contact the key players first (bottom right hand box)  and provide the maximum amount of information, those with low power/ importance and low interest (top left hand box) do not require your immediate attention or a great deal of information either.

So having done this, in a real situation, the model helps by showing you who to contact , in what order and the level of information each stakeholder needs.  As you can imagine, every single stakeholder does not need the same amount of information!

Marketing tactics

Marketing theory can help us to think logically about the business and its marketing as a whole.  The 7 P’S-Product, Place, Price, Promotion, Physical Evidence, People and Process-enable us consider what we need to do within each element.

Some of the issues you may need to consider are as follows:-

PRODUCT

  • Are you able to deliver?
  • Has your stock being damaged?  What is recoverable?
  • Can you continue to deliver the service that you provide? 
  • If you’re involved in manufacture, how long will it be until you can re-establish production?

And so on…

PLACE

  • Are you able to continue to operate from your existing premises?
  • If not, where can you operate from the short term?
  • Will this have an impact on serving your current market area?

PRICE

  • The need to urgently source materials or products to satisfy customer demand may impact on the price you pay.  You may need to consider a price increase in the short or medium term.  Be open with your customers, explain the current situation and seek their support.  If they value the service or products that you supply they will want to work with you to get you over the crisis.
  • You may need to consider cash flow issues.  Consider adjusting your terms and, once again, ensure that your customers are aware of the current situation and your reasons for making changes.

PROMOTION

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.?
    • Use all media tools at your disposal to keep the market,  your customers and other stakeholders aware of your situation, your plans and what you’re doing to keep  your business going.
    • The best methods for communicating will depend on your market sector and are the  subject of a separate article in this series.

PHYSICAL EVIDENCE

  • This refers to all of the various physical aspects of your business and your brand.
    • Your signage
    • Your vehicles
    • Your literature
    • Your website
    • Your premises

And so on…

PEOPLE

  • Do you need to consider additional resource, in terms of help, to get you past this crisis as quickly as possible?
  • Existing personnel will need to be kept informed regularly.  If you don’t do this already, consider daily or weekly briefings to keep them fully up to date.
  • You may need to consider changing existing roles to meet the demands that you face.  Training and mentoring may be important here. Seek outside help if you need it.
  • Even if you don’t usually outsource, now’s the time to consider it.  Get some marketing help, get some help with your logistics and call in any favours!

PROCESS

  • It will be clear that you might need to change the way you do things following a crisis.
  • Putting in place plans for business continuity in the event of an unforeseen crisis is a very good idea. 
  • Think about some of the elements that have been highlighted above.  Think about your stakeholders.  Think about who you might call upon in a time of emergency.
  • Write these thoughts down.  Keep a copy away from your premises.  Tell somebody else where it is and if the time comes use it to keep a clear head and keep your business going. 

Bax Interaction fine tunes its own marketing with a brand new website

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Bax Interaction’s new in tune website goes live today!

Bax Interaction, a Cambridge based marketing research, strategy and training consultancy, has launched a brand new website to clearly articulate its key services and showcase its capabilities.
The new site launched today has been created by Nextnorth using new platform technology, graphics and site map.

The previous site had been in place since 2007 and was seen by the company as increasingly dated and out of alignment with current web and marketing thinking. Its extensive use of Flash meant that there were problems viewing it on any Apple based devices and some of the other ways in which the site worked did not meet current best practice.

A key objective for the new site is to reposition the company to more closely match its capabilities to the needs and wants of its marketplace. The overall aims of the business are to fine tune the marketing strategies and activities of its clients. This is shown visually in the imagery used within the site. For example, a set of bass guitar tuners on the homepage shows the tuning aspects of the company’s services as well as being a clear link to the musical passions of the company’s MD, the importance of accuracy and adjustment are depicted in kitesurfing and surfing imagery and the need for marketing research to be highly-targeted and focused is shown by an archer on one of the new services pages ‘The Quest’(a fast, cost effective, questionnaire checking service).

A further objective was to bring some personality into the design to avoid it looking like yet another corporate marketing consultancy site.

Steve Bax explained the scale of the task set for the web design agency. “This was a tough brief for Andrew Clark at Nextnorth to undertake. The need to bring the personalities of the people involved together with the services being provided is not easy from a design perspective. I think that Andrew has achieved exactly what was envisaged from the original brief. The use of imagery that reflects both the nature of the services being offered and some of my personal passions, that are reflected in the ethos of the company, brings the site to life and clearly shows why Bax Interaction is different.”

Andrew Clark from Nextnorth said “Steve presented us with an interesting challenge of communicating Bax Interaction’s core business competencies through a vibrant and highly personal interface. We are delighted that the new website delivers on this objective as well as providing a flexible platform to expand the company’s business reach through the use of social media and targeted online services.”

Unusually for a marketing consultancy website, there are a number of guarantees being offered to reflect the confidence that the company has in its services. Bax Interaction is prepared to guarantee that following its recommendations will result in measurable, improved marketing effectiveness.

As a specialist marketing company openly averse to what it calls “should do” marketing this is a clear endorsement by Bax Interaction of the importance of having an effective, up to date website in the promotional mix.

What is marketing anyway?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

What is marketing anyway?

Sounds like a line from an old Howard Jones song – “What is Love?”

There are numerous definitions of this word marketing. Here are just some of them.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines it as

The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably

What do we think of that one?

It sounds reasonable but does it set marketers aside in any way from anyone else in business?

A friend of mine, an ex Chairman of a board of directors that I sat on, said just this to me last week . He said “Isn’t that just good business practice? It is certainly what I do as a MD of a company. It is common sense to make sure that you are satisfying customer needs and doing so in a profitable way.” I have to say he is right so we need to look further.

The American Marketing Association revisits its definition every five years . Its last review was in 2007 and their definition is currently:-

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large

How about that?

Sounds a little closer to how non-marketers might think of marketing perhaps? Key words like ‘creating, communicating and offerings that have value’ all sound like how marketers might speak about their profession.

Still sounds like just good business practice though doesn’t it? What is marketing’s point of difference then? Where is there any mention of mutual benefit? A key missing element for me is the need for there to be some form of explicit mention of benefit to the organisation (institution(s)) that are doing all of this. Otherwise, for them, what is the point?

Philip Kotler stated ,in his book ‘Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control’ Seventh Edition published in 1991, “We like the following definition of marketing: Marketing is a social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating, offering and exchanging products of value with others.”

Very good but what does it mean to non academics and non marketers? For example, is there not a confusion between ‘need’ and ‘want’? There is much discussion recently that marketing aims to create ‘wants’ that might or might not address a need or needs. Do we really need an iPhone, for example? We can probably try to justify that we do but many of us just want one!


One of my key clients, in the professional services sector, recently stressed just how important this distinction is. She pointed out that many firms can provide what the client ‘needs’ e.g. audits, accounts, tax returns and so on and there is a tendency to focus on ‘selling’ these things to win new clients. However, she said “… the angle for marketing is to find out what clients want and then look at how the firm can deliver that better than anyone else.” This is finding a real point of difference.


So are we any closer to a definition that is crystal clear and explains what marketing is?

Perhaps we need to look elsewhere?

Malcolm McDonald stated in his book, ‘Marketing Plans: How to prepare them: How to use them?’ Second Edition published in 1989, that the marketing concept is “Basically, the central idea of marketing is of a matching between a company’s capabilities and the wants of customers in order to achieve the objectives of both parties.”

Any clearer?

I like the ideas of matching and of some form of mutual benefit.

He also wrote

“Finding out what the customer wants and providing it!”

Short and to the point but it could still be applied to a product development or sales person’s role couldn’t it?

My marketing lecturer , Stephen Godwin, back in the 80’s described marketing as:-

“Matching supply and demand for a mutually beneficial exchange”

As you can see this very much reflects a TWO WAY process

definition-vis.jpg



I like this too and have probably used this definition more than any others but does this really elevate marketing above good business management practice?


It may be easier to look at what marketing ISN’T!

Here is a short list

1. Marketing is NOT just about selling as Theodore Levitt explains:


”Selling focuses on the needs of the seller; marketing on the needs of the buyer. Selling is preoccupied with the seller’s need to convert his product into cash; marketing with the idea of satisfying the NEEDS OF THE CUSTOMER by means of the product and the whole cluster of things associated with the creating, delivering and finally consuming it.”


This is clear to me!


2. It is NOT just ‘promotion’ or ‘advertising’.


A number of my clients over the years have said to me words to the effect of “ Oh, I didn’t realise that you were going to advise me on what to do with my staff and my internal processes. I thought you were just going to advise me on my promotional activities!”

These comments are often made by successful business owners or directors so if they don’t fully understand what marketing is!.

3. It is NOT ‘rocket science’!


There is a wide array of models, many of which are very powerful in delivering effective marketing strategies, but they can cause non-marketers to see marketing as ‘smoke and mirrors’. The principles of good marketing i.e. establishing where you and your target market are now and what you can do to get to where you want to be are sound and no more complex than any other forms of planning.


4. It is NOT just jargon!


Experienced marketers do know what they are doing! They have learnt both from academics as well as from their own and others experiences how to match an organisation’s capabilities with its chosen markets. Like many other professions, we can suffer from overuse of jargon. This does not help our cause.


5. But..there is no magic formula!


I often find that clients expect a magic wand to be waved and then everything will be fine. This is unrealistic – marketing cannot work magic. It can help to prioritise what an organisation should and should not be doing to address the issues found from looking at ‘where are we now?’ (the marketing audit). But the organisation still needs to take decisions, act, review and adjust plans as needed and accept the core principles of good marketing practice into its culture. Not always an easy task by any means.


6. It is NOT ‘party planning’!


One of my favourites! Obviously said ‘tongue in cheek’ but it is clearly what some organisations believe the marketing function to be. If you have read this far you are probably staggered by this perception from non-marketers but it can be what marketers are up against. For the record, marketing is not just about organising small events at the whim of company management!


So what aspects of marketing actually work? Why is it so important? If we ignore definitions and perceptions for a moment, let’s think about this:-

a) Planning works .


It really does. How can we know if we have got there if we didn’t know where we were going?

b) Keeping to a long term strategy works.


Sticking to the plan is generally the best way to realise your goals as an organisation.

c) Ensuring that you recognise that marketing is not just about promotion works.


Again, it really helps to consciously try to change your own perceptions as to what marketing is and what it can do. Then try to educate others by example as well as with the theories.


d) Having the right products or services at the right price, at the right time, with the right people and skills and the right processes, being in the right markets and knowing what your competitors are doing works!


e) Creative use of communications really works


To try to summarise all of this


So over to the adapted Howard Jones song line once again “What is marketing anyway?”

Here is another attempt at a definition that still works for the 21st Century:-

Marketing is ‘Matching your capabilities to identified market needs and wants for a mutually beneficial exchange’


Do we really need to worry over complex definitions though? Perhaps the last few words should go to Peter Drucker which are still so relevant today.


“…the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

“Marketing is so basic that is cannot be considered a separate function. It is the whole business (or organisation?) seen from the point of view of its final result, that is, from the CUSTOMER’S point of view.”

Research Techniques 2 – How to choose a research provider

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

This is the second article in a series dealing with key research techniques. In the first article we looked at the importance of creating a brief to get the best from the research process. This time we’re going to look at what is involved in selecting a supplier and receiving research proposals.

    Why use an external supplier?

For most of us, most of the time, an external research supplier enables us to outsource skills and experience that are needed for our research requirement. More often than not, this is not available cost effectively from within our organisation.

Due to the fact that in most cases the costs can be agreed at the start in the form of a contract, and you do not have to go through the learning curve that you otherwise would then outsourcing can be much cheaper in the long term.

Depending on the research that you are doing, external suppliers may have special facilities or competencies to meet specific needs. For example, they may have viewing facilities, they may have experience in online panels, they may be experienced in moderating group discussions, have field based personnel, have a call centre, be able to handle international projects and so on.

It may be company policy to bring in external suppliers. Not a bad idea. An external research provider will bring all-important, objectivity to the process. As an experienced researcher, I would still always use an external research agency as a client. When I ran an exhibition business, for example, I used a very creative research agency to provide powerful insight into visitors’ experiences when attending our shows. This included being able to estimate with a high degree of statistical confidence the value of business resulting for the exhibitors as a result of the exhibitions.

    How to go about selecting a research supplier.

If you have the time, try to identify three or four agencies to send your brief to. There are various ways to do this – you can get recommendations from colleagues, existing marketing agencies you might use, current or previous marketing tutors and so on. You can search the Internet! You can look in the Research Buyers guide. You can even look in the Yellow Pages!

Whichever route you choose, you should be looking for one or all of the following things: -

Previous experience in your sector. This isn’t always essential and, actually, I often advocate getting at least one agency to pitch that does not have experience in your sector! My reasoning is that they have no preconceptions in terms of how to approach your project and may therefore come out with a new way of tackling the objectives.

The necessary experience and skills to address your specific needs. For example, if you need qualitative research undertaken using discussion groups you need a research provider that has skills in group moderation. If you need online research, you need a provider with experience in this methodology and so on.

Sufficient resources. Make sure that your target agency has sufficient manpower to deliver your project. This does not mean that the agency needs to be overrun with people; just that they are able to evidence that they can line up the necessary resources to do your research within your timescale.

References. Is the agency any good? Ask for references and take them up. Potentially, this is your organisation’s reputation on the line. The agency you choose will directly reflect on your organisation. Think about it – they will be talking to your customers and potential customers. The way they perform is crucial.

Stability. How long has the agency been in business? What is their turnover? Are they profitable?

    The Proposal

Successful marketing research can only take place when all parties involved in the process know what is happening.

The proposal is critical to this.

Your selected agencies should present written proposals for you to consider and it is highly recommended that you get them to attend what is called a ‘beauty parade’ to formally present it to you. More on the ‘beauty parade’ in a moment.

The proposal will be based on the research brief and should provide the basis for your final choice of provider. Once you have agreed a proposal this provides a basis for a contract between you and the provider.

So what should the proposal contain?

1. The background to the research project from the agency’s perspective. This should be their understanding of your organisation and the issues that need to be researched.

2. The rationale for the research. Again the agency should play back to you the key business decisions that you need to make as result of the research project .

3. The research objectives. These should be based on the objectives that you have given the agency but would usually also be enhanced due to the experience that an agency can bring to the party.

4. The method or methods that the agency is proposing. This section will normally be very detailed and contain how the research would be conducted. It would normally include secondary and primary research methodology. The proposal should justify the methods being suggested and explain how they will address the research objectives.

5. Reporting. The proposal will state how and when reporting and presentation will be undertaken. For example, will interim reports be given? (a good approach) …and will the findings be top line results or full analysis with recommendations?

6. Timing. A detailed breakdown of stages and timescales is usually given. This enables you to clearly see what will happen and when. And, of course, that your deadlines will be met.

7. Costs. The breakdown of costs by stage is, again, usually given with a total figure.

8. Personnel details and references. The proposal should give short backgrounds on the people who will be working on your project (these people should ideally attend the beauty parade too) as well as references to previous work conducted.

9. Finally, contact and contract details will be included. This should detail who will manage the relationship and project, payment terms, data ownership and so on.

    Selection

So, you will get your shortlisted agencies to present the proposals to you all on the same day. It is sensible to get the interested parties within the organisation to attend and to agree in advance the criteria upon which you will base your decision.

This enables you to score each presentation on the same basis.

So what criteria might you use?

1. How well the agency shows that they understand the brief and your organisation by converting it into a good proposal.

2. How well their personnel interact with you and your team during the meeting. Remember how important this is. If they get on well with you it is likely they will get on well with your customers.

3. How innovative are they? How well they demonstrate that they are not just going through the motions. I always like to see some evidence of creative thinking in terms of getting the best insight from research methodology.

4. Are they proposing a methodology that you think will work? Part of this tests whether the agency has explained and justified their suggestions sufficiently.

5. Does the proposal meet your requirements in terms of cost and the timeframes?

These are just a few of the criteria that you might consider as the basis for making your decision.

Ultimately, you need to be comfortable with the agency you choose. People do buy from people they trust. Given how critical research is to your organisation’s success finding the right research provider is vital.

Why research matters!

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Why research matters!,

I recently spent a long weekend in a hired VW camper van!

Yes it was wet and cold! I did wonder what an earth I was doing!

To the point though.

The hire company – who shall remain nameless – had a key selling point in all of their publicity material – website, brochure, mention in the confirmation letter etc… This was that they provided a tea-time hamper to all those hiring their vans which would include a homemade cake as featured on GMTV.

First of all the hamper did not contain a homemade cake. It did contain some 3 glass jars containing instant coffee, damp sugar and tea bags together with a bottle of apple juice. This hamper was a rectangular wicker basket as you might expect to get your Christmas selection from Fortnum and Masons in!

Ok but what is the point? Poor delivery of a USP?

No.

The key point is that although this may sound very appealing on a warm summer’s evening it is simply silly in a small confined living space such as found in a classic VW camper. You cannot put a large wicker hamper away anywhere! It gets moved from one end of the van to the other and back again causing considerable annoyance and using up valuable space!

So, I spoke to the company owners who saw their hamper and cake as a key offering to their customers and who were mortified that the cake had not been delivered. I accepted their apology but pointed out that their key feature was actually not a great idea in a campervan. This appeared to be a revelation to them.

The point is we need to find out from our customers what they think about our service and our products. It is not enough to wait until someone like me makes the effort to provide unasked for feedback on this and other issues.

What we think, as an organisation, is our special feature may be no more than an annoyance or worse.

It doesn’t have to cost the earth but do your research. It will pay dividends.
The VW Camper

Solution two of two!

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Solution two of two!

A Competitor intelligence service

– an individually tailored, cost-effective, monthly market intelligence reporting service.

After many years spending time in organisations of all shapes and sizes, monitoring competitive activity appears to be a haphazard activity for many of us! We are often clear about what is happening within our organisation and also what are customers needs are but somehow it seems that who are key competitors are and what they are doing is not seen as so important.

This service is aimed at those organisations who know they need to monitor what is going on from a competitive perspective but don’t have the time or people to do it!

A clear monthly report gives an overview of market and competitive activity and a set of recommendations for actions to be taken, where appropriate.

Don’t be overtaken by your competitors – keep your eyes on their activities with this service so you can stay ahead or overtake them!

For more detail download the presentation below…

Competitive Intelligence Service

To find out more call Steve on 01223 864011 or send an enquiry here

One of two core solutions from BIL

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

One of two core marketing solutions

Marketing Action Planning – A 3 step, cost effective, way to effectively match a given organisation’s capabilities to its marketplace(s)

Bax Interaction continues to focus on services that make client organisations’ marketing work.

These include:-

• Diagnostic marketing research. Depth interviews and focus groups to deliver actionable insight.
• Creating strategic marketing, corporate and internal communications plans and advising on implementation
• In-house, marketing training programmes
• Marketing and business advice on an ongoing basis to client organisations. This often includes assisting with recruitment and selection, one to one mentoring and recommending new approaches and agencies.

Now BIL has honed its offering into two core solutions to meet the needs of most organisations in understanding how to make marketing work for them!

There are two, scalable, core solutions for organisations of all shapes and sizes. These have been developed from market feedback and can be tailored to match the exact needs of a given organisation.

The first is a 3 step marketing action planning solution.

Step 1 Provides an analysis of the current situation
Step 2 Marketing research to provide insight on any knowledge gaps
Step 3 A marketing plan to address the agreed, identified priorities

Many clients will take Step 1 to inform their thinking and then review their overall aims prior to embarking on steps 2 and 3.
A presentation showing the features and benefits of each step can be downloaded and viewed here…

BIMAP – Bax Interaction Marketing Action Planning

To find out more now – call Steve on 01223 864011 or complete the enquiry form here