With Q4 2012 somehow already staring us in the face (where did this year go?), the New Year looms just over the horizon. It’s time to get busy planning how to best leverage your communications efforts to provide maximum value to the organization. What’s the best way to maximize value out of your security brand next year? Transform the authentic “promise” of your company — who you are, what you stand for, why you’re different (and better) than competitors — into a realistic action plan. Official name: the Strategic 12-Month Marketing Plan. Let’s call it SMP for short.
A compelling brand acts as the foundation of your ability to realize value from every customer through their experience with your company’s branding, marketing and sales activities. The key to maximizing the value of your efforts is the development of a SMP. It’s where the rubber hits the road. An effective (and realistic) SMP serves as the roadmap for turning brand strategy into actual bottom-line results that drive success: increased sales, market share and brand awareness. It transforms strategy into action, theory into reality, wishful thinking into systems sold and RMR climbing.
Think of your SMP as the instruction manual for building the customer brand experience. It defines the specific initiatives, activities and materials through which you will interact with your customers, prospects and the world at large to communicate the authentic promise of your security brand. While it sounds like a tall order and can seem overwhelming, creating your SMP is pretty straightforward. The key is segmentation. By dividing how you sell (sales process) and the tools you use to communicate in order to do so (brand touch points), you establish the framework to create and execute an effective SMP.
Sales Process — The components of your sales process determine how you sell from initial contact through close of sale and beyond:
- Contact (lead generation): How to find potential customers and create interest in your brand
- Convince (lead conversion): How to convert prospects into customers and “close the deal”
- Close (customer care, retention and referral): How to keep customers happy and turn them into brand evangelists?
Brand Touch Points — The tools utilized to communicate throughout your sales process become the specific ways in which people experience your brand:
- Web & digital: Company Web site(s), E-mail communications, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.), online forums and advertising
- Space & environments: Retail space, company offices, tradeshow booth, special events, outdoor signage and graphics
- Print communications: Sales materials, annual report, corporate identity package, point-of-sale, direct mail
- Broadcast: Film, video, television and radio
This structured approach makes creating your SMP much easier and less intimidating. Simply determine which brand touch points you will use to best accomplish your business objectives throughout the three phases of your sales process. In the larger corporate “big picture,” strategic branding enables creation of this effective marketing plan, which drives sales performance and the achievement of your key business objectives.
While I’ve waited until the end to discuss it, budget is a critical parameter in determining the effectiveness of your SMP. Your budget defines the realistic scope of your marketing activities. An underfunded plan typically underperforms (you get what you pay for). Too large a budget often leads to wasted resources and lack of focus (the shotgun approach). The old rule of thumb identified 10% of gross revenue as the baseline for the marketing budget. Given today’s tough economic times, that figure should be revised to a more realistic 4%-7% as a basic parameter for development of an effective SMP that achieves desired objectives without breaking the bank.
Shandon Harbour is President of San Diego-based SDA Security.