FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
|By: Ron Brounes||
Some time back, I was meeting with a business associate who attempted to pay me a compliment (I think). He claimed that my monthly newsletter is the “absolute best piece of junk mail he receives.” I was very flattered to beat out such personal favorites as Publishers Clearinghouse and all those long distance carriers that give away frequent flyer miles. Then a few days ago, I received even more praise. I learned from another associate that my newsletter is quite appropriate in both length and content to read in the restroom. Again, I was thrilled (I think) for the feedback (though the comment came from a woman and it totally blew my image of her). In both cases, I am certain that the remarks were extremely well intentioned, though they were delivered with sarcastic overtones. (Personally, I’ve never been very comfortable in dealing with sarcasm.)
While I always enjoy encouraging words from clients and other readers (thanks Mom), I know not to expect them too often. Sure, there’s the occasional “what do you hear from Eunice?” that sends me back into therapy for another few months. Or “I really liked your last issue” that invariably relates to a topic I actually had addressed six months before. For the most part, I realize that not everyone is able to read each newsletter and those who do will not respond unless a topic really grabs them. Why should they? The newsletter is intended to serve a marketing function: it shows up each month around the same time and reminds people that my company and I are still around. Hopefully, it also contains some humorous anecdotes and useful business insight, but like many marketing projects, it is very difficult to gauge its true success.
THE FORGOTTEN DISCIPLINE
Once upon a time, I worked in the financial strategies group at an investment firm. Essentially, we served a marketing role, producing and distributing economic releases, investment spotlights, and other analytical presentations to help the brokers sell our securities. Yet, we were often considered a step-child group within the firm because there was no true tangible way to measure the success of our work. We could never determine how many securities were sold because of an excellent investment report or how many new clients were added because of an effective presentation we delivered at an industry trade conference. Our work never directly contributed to the bottom line of the firm’s revenues in the same manner as the brokers or traders who bought and sold the securities. While these professionals appreciated the services that our group provided, they were rarely interested in sharing the spotlight after generating a large trade (with a hefty commission).
In many cases, people underestimate the true importance of marketing. As accounting majors at the University of Texas, we often scoffed at the marketing students about the ease of their course loads. Ironically, marketing was actually my toughest class at UT. It fell opposite my intramural basketball game and created a big dilemma for me each week about which activity was more important: school or basketball. In most cases, the class lost out (as did my teammates). I carried a 1.5 point, .6 rebound per game average that season leading our team to a 1-5 record, while earning my worst grade ever in college. Today, I realize that marketing is every bit as significant as the other business disciplines. A company that has developed the most innovative products and employs the smartest accountants and financial gurus will not achieve success without effective message development, promotional materials, and media relations to educate, inform, and reach the target clients.
HAVE A LITTLE PATIENCE
Many companies have very unrealistic expectations of their marketing efforts. Consistent with the short-term “instant gratification” society that exists today, they fail to realize that marketing is typically a long-term proposition and the positive results will follow only after a consistent, effective message has been delivered. When they receive some media coverage or publish an article in a trade periodical, they expect the phone to begin instantly ringing off the wall from prospective clients. When they distribute their periodic newsletters or hold an open house to promote an opportunity, they believe that new clients will rush to stand in line to initiate business.
In reality, the follow-up to a marketing project may be more important than the project itself. Published articles and other newsworthy stories should be copied and distributed to all potentially interested parties. While clients/prospects may (or may not) have seen it while flipping through the newspaper/magazine, they will focus on it (and the credibility it brings) far more when they receive the piece in the mail. Likewise, marketing professionals should not be afraid to call their prospects to ask them about their reactions to a specific campaign. Just as sales people are taught from day one to “ask for the order,” these professionals may need to nudge their clients a bit to encourage them to respond. In fact, put the responsibility back on them by including a self-addressed stamped response card or providing a questionnaire or another evaluation mechanism with these distributions. The easier you make it for them to provide feedback, they greater the likelihood they will. And only after such feedback is received, can the true results of the marketing efforts be evaluated.
When I distributed my infamous “Stalking Eunice Brounes” newsletter last April 2000, I asked readers to respond with positive comments that I could forward to Eunice. I was quite surprised by the number of responses as well as by many of the actual people who wrote back. I learned that certain individuals were reading my newsletter who I may have previously considered removing from my mailing list. Had I not “asked for the order,” I may have very well deleted them from the database. (How devastated they would have been…Unfortunately, Eunice is dangerously close to being deleted herself if she doesn’t respond soon.) With that said, I’ll try again with a new section in this newsletter requesting your feedback/comments. Occasionally, readers have volunteered ideas for upcoming issues so I’ll let you guys tell me just which type of pieces you prefer. A simple email with the appropriate “lettered” response (from below) will be sufficient. A more specific comment or two is preferred. A few names and addresses of referrals for my mailing list (or business purposes) also would be greatly appreciated. Think about your answers carefully as the future direction of “For What It’s Worth” is in your hands. (Plus, I get a better idea of who’s reading.)
I prefer the newsletters that are…
A) more technical in nature and deal with investment, economic, and financial issues.
B) mere gibberish with self-deprecating anecdotes and a feeble attempt at business applications.
C) varied every few months like have been occurring in the past.
D) not sent to me at all. (Please remove me from your list.)
I’m looking forward to your responses and to measuring the success of these newsletter. This will surely be the best “junk (e-)mail” to be read in the restroom that I’ve received in a long time.
q Annual Reports
q Business Plans/Presentations
q Presentation Training
q Marketing pieces
q Op/ed. articles
q Position Papers
q Policy Manuals
q Financial Analysis
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH is a publication of Brounes & Associates focusing on business marketing and general communications strategies. Please call Ron Brounes at 713-432-1910 for additional information. Those of you who wish to answer “D” to the question above should not worry about hurting my feelings. The feedback will be very much appreciated. Plus, if you did respond in that manner, I will know that you must have read the entire newsletter and, thus, I would never consider actually removing such a loyal reader from the list.