Planning your Marketing Budget

market 1

market 1 (Photo credit: tim caynes)

Today’s guest blog is written by Mindy Jeffries of Stealth Marketing. She will be writing a series of blogs that will appear here occasionally for a while. If you want to contact Mindy you can call her at 314 880-5570. Tell her you saw her here!

It was much easier in the past to plan the marketing budget. But today there are many more choices of how and where to spend your budget.

From a bird’s eye view, let me show you how we do it at Stealth.

First we ask, what is the plan for next 12 months?  We chart or ‘brown paper’ the desired customer gain and then define the tactics needed to achieve that goal.

There are many levers to pull in order to achieve the desired customer acquisition goals. The first one is usually marketing spend.  As you spend more money, more people will hear your story and more will sign up (assuming the story is a good one).

But we marketers are always trying to be efficient.  So our next set of questions look something like:

  • “What kind of offer can I afford?”
  • “What is the best offer available to me?”
  • “How can I package that offer to look better than the competition and to get noticed?”
  • “Where can the offer be seen?”

This is a process that we go through freshly each year.

Next we build tracking methodologies behind each and every tactic.

Planning for Direct Mail

Many marketing tactics are extremely quantifiable, for example – direct mail is extremely easy to track.

While industry standards tell us to expect only a .5% to 1% response from direct mailings– we think an achievable goal is 2%.  This is achievable today, but takes focus, control groups and testing.  We call this, “Deploy, Measure, Adjust, Redeploy.”  It is a constant cycle that works hard to achieve success over time. If you pay attention to what works and doesn’t work your direct mail gradually elevates to good levels of pull.

Planning for Digital

Digital marketing is a great tactic to use in selling telecom products. It’s very targeted. You can deploy different messages to different customers and it’s cost-effective. And just like direct mail it gets more cost effective over time as you “Deploy, Measure, Adjust and Redeploy.”  Fortuitously, you can decide how much you want to spend and then you adjust the plan to fit.  As your efforts prove successful, you can add more money to a campaign. The challenge of digital marketing is finding a trusted advisor who really understands a complicated space that is changing daily.

Also, think of planning and executing tactics within social media. This still takes planning and dollars, but can change your marketing and even your customer service. Customers and potential customers can learn about you before they jump on board with your company.

Planning for Media

Media buying in telecom is another good tactic when and where it is available. But done poorly it can be a waste of budget. I once worked in Salt Lake City and there was a smaller operator in the suburbs. They couldn’t justify the media spend to buy the Salt Lake market, but our two firms together had a substantial piece of the market. They ended joining us as a partner to be able to afford the media buy. Ask yourself if there is a creative solution that makes sense in the media world.

At Stealth, we have algorithms to determine efficiency in the television medium. Don’t overlook your own channels for cross promotion.  How efficient can you tell your story with cross-channel advertising? There are still many ways to produce very good quality spots today.

Planning for Print

Small town papers can be a good medium to tell your story. They generally have loyal and devoted readership and you can creatively tell your story.

Have you ever thought of using movie posters? That’s a way you can put your information into the space in a creative manner. There are traditional and non-traditional places to buy or place movie posters. Also, in your local paper, buy a panel and tell your prospects what is on your service in a unique creative way.

Finally, we look at the budget last year. 

It’s always tempting to jut budget this year on what was spent last year. But you should always look to see if there are reasons to increase or decrease spending? More digital marketing might expand your spend for a few years, but start becoming more efficient over time. What is the competition doing? Are you expanding to new areas?

As you ask the right questions you can begin to plan your marketing spend and can design a marketing plan that fit your budget. But as you achieve success with  marketing you can have more confidence each year to spend more.

Competitive Telecom Marketing

Today’s guest blog is written by Mindy Jeffries of Stealth Marketing. She will be writing a series of blogs that will appear here on Fridays for a while. If you want to contact Mindy you can call her at 314 880-5570. Tell her you saw her here!

Welcome to the new world of competitive targeted marketing; a world where you put each of your current customers and potential new customers into a bucket that best describes them. This may sound complicated, but competitive targeted marketing fits easily into budgets because you just manipulate the buckets one by one. What this means is that if you can afford to market to only one bucket of customers this month, you do that.  If you can afford several buckets, then you can market to more. In order to market to all of your buckets over time you have to generate a viable telecom marketing plan.

The first step in this process is to get your customers into the various buckets. To do that you need to put yourself in your customers’ place and examine the choices every customer has sitting at home at the end of your lines. What are they evaluating each month? Since you don’t know what your customers are thinking this becomes a series of riddles as you try to get into the customer’s mindset. And you should have a solution for every riddle. If you can’t answer the riddles posed by some of your products you should be using that product yourself to see it from a customer perspective.

Here are some of those riddles, meaning the questions that your customers are probably asking:

  • How much will this cost?
  • Can I rely on their customer service?
  • What’s best for me – a local provider versus not so local?
  • Programming choices?
  • Who has the channels I love?
  • Are telephone services limited to cell only?
  • How critical is 911?
  • How is reception on the various carriers in your area?
  • What Internet speeds do I need?

As you answer these riddles from a customer perspective you have your matrix!  Now, how do you shape the marketing messaging to compete against your competitors? In order to figure out how to shape your marketing messaging, you must ask yourselves questions about your products.

For example, let’s evaluate your Internet product. How competitive are the speeds? Usually, speed is where telecom companies can be very competitive. What service has greater reliability during a storm? Which service in your area is back in service quicker after a storm? Reliability is an area that is hard to beat in telecom companies. Ask yourself the hard questions and evaluate your product honestly compared to the competition.

Telecoms own the information channels, but most of us don’t think that way. We derive messaging from the fact that we open the information channels back up quicker when you need it. Still haven’t found your marketing edge? Examine some other aspects.

  • Are there unique ideas for pricing that fit local niche markets?
  • Can you undercut the competition by bundling?
  • Packaging? Buy the fastest Internet and get phone for free?
  • Are there areas you can serve that can’t get Internet any other way, but can get video and phone other places?
  • There are lists available of phone or Internet customers by competitor as well as satellite lists. You can buy those lists and then you can mail just those specific customers with a compelling offer. Show them how you can compete!

Once you form your matrix you can put each of your customers and potential customers into a bucket. You then decide what product you are going to offer them at which compelling price and how are you going to tell them what you have to offer by which medium.

Telecommunications Enters a New Marketing Era!

Today’s guest blog is written by Mindy Jeffries the President of Stealth Marketing. She will be writing a series of blogs that will appear here on Fridays for a while. If you want to contact Mindy you can call her at 314 880-5570. Tell her you saw her here!

In this blog post, my intent is to examine the history of telecommunications marketing so we can all have an appreciation of the work we have today, the products and the marketing solutions in the fast paced environment we find ourselves. From the day I started in 1978 until today, one thing is certain and that is change. So this post will provide solutions and ideas on how to make that change fun and manageable.

Cable started as a technical product that solved a problem for people in places that could not get the new invention called ‘television’.  The cable industry solved a need. Today those needs are rarely present with products that telecommunications companies market. So, what started as a technical-needs-based product became more of an everyday consumer product, and a story had to be told in an effective and compelling manner which would help new consumers choose which product fit their needs the best. This is when it got a lot more fun for marketers.  But wait, telecom companies had no marketers!

Telecom began to get more competitive and a need emerged to tell the ‘how are we different?’ story in an increasingly compelling way. Competitors came in on the television side, on the phone side, and on the Internet side. All of a sudden, telecom companies had competitors emerging at every door.

In the early days of cable television we told the story through products. HBO, ESPN, and other similar companies would help pay for the marketing. Our competitors started marketing with those same brand names. Cruel. Products became ubiquitous, available through all competitors. Those premium product offerings were no longer a differentiator.

Of course, a few other things happened in the world of marketing in the last 30 years. A truckload of marketing options started to become available to us. The marketing industry was introduced to new technology, new research entities, new methods, new philosophies, etc. In the end, that yielded options, more than one way to skin a cat. More marketing options means more places to spend your money with a lot of variation in response rates to different audiences with different marketing methods.  Sophisticated, targeted, analytical marketing became very important.

The problem became: how do we effectively differentiate in a quickly emerging telecom world . . . how do we tell our story, what is the target market, who is the target demo and what is the best way to place that communication? How do we utilize all of these marketing innovations? Those are the questions we will answer over the next few weeks. Hopefully these blogs will explain the process behind the curtain and I hope to show you the processes and strategies behind effective marketing.

Are You Spending too Much on Mailings?

English: First 4 digits of a credit card

English: First 4 digits of a credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I look at client’s books, one expense that I almost always think is too high is what companies spend on mailings for billing and marketing. Every carrier has tight budgets these days and so it is important to get by with less. Anywhere you can cut back on an unnecessary expense goes straight to the bottom line. There are some fairly easy things that can cut down on the postage, supplies and labor that goes into the mailings you are doing today.

Simplify Billing

Go Paperless. One of the first questions I always ask is if a company has given their customers a chance to go paperless for billing. I know in my personal life that I have been able to go paperless for every monthly bill I get except my electric bill. And even they let me check my balance on-line. I am sure that a number of your customers now pay their bills by electronic checks and don’t return a payment in the envelope you provide for them.

So you need to give your customers the option of going paperless.  Most companies who have done this have been able to cut down on the number of bills that they mail out by 50% – 70%. Some companies have carried this to an extreme and now charge extra for a paper bill as a further incentive for customers to go paperless.

Bank Debits / Credit Cards. You might also want to consider giving your customers the option to pay by bank debit or credit card as a way to get more of them to go paperless. This also improves your cash flow significantly. But it also means you have an extra obligation to keep their banking information very safe.

Typical credit card fees are around 3% of the bill, so take that cost into consideration when looking at this option. The credit card fee is a bargain compared to cost of mailing for a customer with a $50 bill. It’s not much of a bargain for a carrier paying for a DS3.

Portal. I recommended in an earlier blog that you create a portal so that customers can look up their current and past billing and payment history on-line and also can add or drop products. Such a portal makes it easier for customers to pay you electronically and will help you go paperless.

Simplify Your Products. I never miss a chance to say that you should simplify your product offering to make your billing easier. The easier the billing the easier it is to go paperless.

Marketing and Mailing

A lot of carriers still use mailings as their primary tool for marketing. What they fail to recognize is that there is a large percentage of their customers who never read bill stuffers. And so they end up spending a large portion of their marketing budget trying to sell to only a subset of their customers while another subset of customers never even gets their message.

I am surprised by the number of companies that don’t take the time to measure how successful their mailing campaigns are. It’s easy to tie specific mailings to offer codes so that you know where customers got your message.

I am not saying to not conduct mail campaigns, but also to email these to customers when possible. Emailing cuts down on postage and printed materials and means you can do more campaigns for the same money. And you will reach more customers.

Bill Stuffers and Newsletters. Companies often say that they don’t want to go paperless because they want to continue to send bill stuffers and newsletters to their customers. But bill stuffers and other marketing materials can all be sent to a lot of your customers electronically.

One thing to remember is that today a lot of people are looking at emails on smartphones. Your web page and any advertising materials need to be put on the web in both normal html and also in a phone-friendly format. Otherwise you will have ignored a percentage of your customers. Your bills, newsletters, portal and everything marketing related needs to be able to be seen at a decent size on a smartphone to be effective.