Monthly Archives: November 2008

Lure Prospects With Free Info

marketing-tip-11-08

There are two primary ways to get leads – push marketing and pull marketing.

A push strategy consists of pushing your message to the market through advertising and direct response campaigns. A pull strategy involves pulling prospects to you through PR, free content, word of mouth, and referral programs.

Both methods can drive excellent response rates, especially when used in tandem, but in a down economy, pull tactics are particularly effective. Why? Because right now, prospects are carefully managing their budgets and don’t want to be “sold” to. Instead, they want access to valuable information that will help them make the right choice about where to spend their money.

So the best way to leverage the current market to your advantage is to make your website an oasis of knowledge that will pull prospects to you. It will pay off!

Courtesy of InfusionSoft.  Automated Follow-up Marketing.

Using PR to Build Trust In Tough Times

Over the past several weeks and months, industry gurus have offered an abundance of advice about how to refocus and weather the current economic tsunami and keep management or clients from cutting back on PR programming.

If you think I’m going to suggest that PR and marketing are not where you should seek to belt tighten, you’re right. But what I really want to focus on is trust and “keeping the faith” with stakeholders and employees during these troubled times.

The challenges of building trust have never been greater. The Wall Street meltdown, bail out, and lowest all-time approval rating for our government have lead to a prevailing sense of betrayal felt by voters, consumers, customers, workers and investors. We are living in a unique time where an unfortunate confluence of economic, social and political issues has eroded people’s trust in companies and institutions.

Public relations is the communications discipline that is critical in this environment, because the most credible source of information about a company or brand today is coming from people talking to people – peer-to-peer dialogue among stakeholders sharing personal experiences. According to Dan Gillmor, director of the Center for New Media, smart companies recognize that “PR is the new advertising and conversation is the new PR.”

To read this full article, CLICK HERE. Courtesy of PR NEWS ONLINE.

Just Tell the Truth

schultz-starbucksThe media metaphors were flying after Starbucks’ latest quarterly announcement:

“Starbucks Cools Way Off”

“Starbucks Losing Its Buzz”

“Starbucks’ Bitter Results”

And yet, in the obligatory press release, CEO Howard Schultz put a positive spin on what was unequivocally a horrendous quarter. The big question, of course, is should he have done that or not? Let’s first take a look at his quotes from the release:

“With a re-architected cost structure at the close of fiscal 2008, we began the new fiscal year with a healthier store portfolio that will allow for operating margin expansion,” commented Howard Schultz, chairman, president and ceo. “Despite a global economic environment which shows no immediate signs of improvement, the steps we took in FY08 position us to deliver EPS growth in FY09.”

Schultz continued, “We appear to be more resilient than many other premium brands. And while we cannot call isolated signs of improving sales a trend, we are encouraged by our ability to drive increased traffic at a relatively low cost, as we did on Election Day. As we head into the holiday season and Calendar ‘09, consumers are looking for value and we’ve been pleased with the steady progress of our Starbucks Rewards program and the enthusiastic reception to the Starbucks Gold Card. I am optimistic we are well positioned to weather this challenging economic environment.”

While I applaud most of Schultz’s efforts, the last line of both paragraphs seems a bit over-the-top. I’m not sure any retail companies should be optimistic that they’re well positioned to weather this economic environment, let alone one that’s several quarters into an attempted turnaround.

In contrast, Fortune editor at large Patricia Sellers had this to say in her post “Starbucks’ Schultz needs to get real:”

“Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz needs less optimism and a stronger dose of reality in his brew.”

“The entrepreneurial optimism and clever marketing that Schultz used to create one of the world’s best brands now seems to be interfering with Starbucks’ turnaround.”

Investors didn’t seem to agree with Schultz’s optimism, driving down Starbucks’ already depressed shares another ten percent.

As a former marketing executive with more than his share of communications experience, I take a decidedly pragmatic view of positioning, messaging and spin. Of course, company and product positioning should be positive, but only if it meets these five criteria:

It must be true, omissions notwithstanding
It must be straightforward and crisp
It must be ethically unchallengeable
It must be credible, which means that big elephants in the room should be dealt with in a proactive manner or it won’t pass the laugh test
It can’t come back to haunt you later
Just to be clear, I don’t hold morals and ethics above business success. Rather, I consider them necessary for business success. In my experience, if positioning doesn’t meet these criteria, there is a high probability of it backfiring and actually harming the company’s brand.

Most executives have a relatively straightforward time with the first three criteria, but it’s the last two that trip them up.

In the case of Starbucks’ announcement, I think Schultz could have dealt more effectively with the elephant in the room – namely a prolonged and challenging turnaround during a brutal market climate. And because he didn’t, it might come back to haunt him later, depending on Starbucks’ performance in subsequent quarters. My tone would have been more on the neutral side, but that’s just me. What do you think?

Courtesy of BNET.