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Marketing Matters: Businesses must better manage marketing dollars

Charleston Regional Business Journal

As home prices have dropped and gasoline prices have gone the other direction, many of us are pinching pennies. But in the past month, as the financial crisis worsened, consumers cut back more sharply. Tough news for businesses to swallow, and it puts all the more emphasis on the marketing dollar.

Consumer spending for the third quarter looks like it will reflect the first quarterly decline in nearly two decades. The financial debacle on Wall Street accelerated the pullback, as did some new limits on consumer credit.

Dreary reports showed jobs disappearing at a faster clip in September as retirement accounts contracted and getting a loan got tougher. Household net worth, which fuels spending, fell $6 trillion in the past year $1 trillion of that in September, according to a Moody’s report.

A Millard Brown survey of 324 baby boomers showed 77 are cutting back on spending, 58 say they have less expendable income than two years age, and 41have dipped into savings.

While consumers are trimming expenditures on cars, airline travel, clothing and casual dining, they still are spending on DVDs, entertainment, games, cable TV, beauty and dining in.

In business, layoffs might cause companies to turn to outsourcing for professional services, such as marketing/public relations/advertising. Or maybe your company is considering taking on an outside agency, knowing you need the edge an experienced team might provide during these tough times.

You might have a team of marketing professionals on call at an agency, but, more than ever, you have to manage them with utmost efficiency. Perhaps you’re considering, with their help, taking on a new campaign to spark sales. Be sure you’re making a wise investment and getting the best possible return.

Does the agency understand your business and your objectives? Educate them; it will pay off.  But don’t overload them with volumes of background. If they need more, they will ask.

After the information immersion, does the agency show a clear grasp of your market and the competitive environment?

Does the agency offer a plan/time line/tasks/responsible party document/guide that you review routinely as a team?

Do you have a system of measuring success and outcome — articles in the local papers, calls from an ad placement, increased referral business? Is someone assigned to track media coverage and referral sources?

Are you fully committed to the agency/client partnership? It’s a significant time and money commitment, and deadlines, information owed and promises made should be taken seriously. Anything less is wasting money.

How many people are on the assignment from the client side? It’s OK — advisable, even — to have a few weighing in, but, ideally, one person serves as the filter and primary contact.

Are you over-editing? We all have our own writing style, but your agency, well-chosen, comes with strong skills and knows the voice and tone the audience is seeking — whether in a journalist, consumer or business-to-business exchange.

Do you question the counsel of your agency? Know when to contribute and when to yield. Ask for counsel and you should get it. Often, the smart thing to do is to listen to the experienced marketing pros and go for it. Chances are, they have seen similar challenges before and have helped companies excel in spite of it.

What is the fee arrangement? Moving the needle takes time and money, and the most successful outcomes are derived from a realistic budget, thoughtful long-term planning and adjustments as needed.

Are you committed to this relationship for the long-haul? A significant portion of your investment will be on the front end (first three to six months), but the return measured over the long-term. Successful marketing and public relations campaigns take time to grow and flourish.

Is your agency made up of smart, strategic, creative thinkers? In an ideal, ongoing partnership, the agency is an extension of your company and your team and is always thinking for you and considering ways to move your business strategy forward.

As with most things, you get what you pay for, and the team you select should be smart, practical, full of positive energy and worth every penny — never more critical than in the times in which we find ourselves now.

Oct 13, 2008
By Elizabeth L. Boineau

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