I get excited about preliminary meetings with prospective clients. It’s not so much the possibility of helping solve their communications challenges – though I love that – but I like hearing folks tell us their story – how they were founded, what they do better than their competitors, how they came up with their latest big idea?
Inevitably, layered within that story are varying degrees of uncertainty. How can we do a better job at communicating who we are to our important constituencies, including sales prospects? How do we make the best use of our limited budget? What should our marketing priorities be? In what ways can we increase top-of-funnel sales leads? Which kind of communications tools should we be using, and how should we be using them? Are we staffed appropriately? What do you think of our website? Oh, and can you get us a segment on the TODAY Show?
As Roseanne Rosanneadanna used to say on SNL, “so many questions for someone from New Jersey.”
But I love these questions, and even more, I get excited at the prospect of trying to figure out the answers to them. After all, marketing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. Case in point: we had a client years ago who launched a life insurance company that introduced a progressive new paradigm for the industry. To market the new enterprise, the management team figured they’d do what worked for them at Capital One – a heavy direct mail campaign. But the company soon discovered that consumers do not react to life insurance offers from an unknown entity the way they do to credit card offers that happen to include your new credit card right there in the mailing. Despite being well-capitalized, the company went away. (And to be fair, I don’t know all the details surrounding those decisions, just that they learned a hard lesson about trying to replicate past success when the parameters have changed.)
We like to start many of our new relationships with a communications audit, which we call Hodges Insights. It’s a soup-to-nuts evaluation of a company’s communications efforts – strategy and tactics, messaging and market posture, audiences and competitors, collateral and digital platforms – all measured against a backdrop of industry best practices. We interview company leadership, front-line workers, clients, former and prospective clients. We review strategy and tactics, communications tools and staff, and we take an objective assessment of the competition. At the end of Hodges Insights, we not only land on a comprehensive appraisal of how the company is doing, but more importantly, a roadmap for where we think it needs to go.
If you are at a crossroads in your marketing or don’t believe your efforts are delivering the kind of return on investment that you have been expecting, it may be time for an audit, especially if you are seeking answers to questions like the following:
- What are my core marketing objectives?
- Are my current marketing efforts reaching the right audiences?
- What factors are most important to my prospects in making a buying decision?
- Are we spending our marketing budget in the right places?
- How effective are the various marketing tools we are currently employing?
- What are our competitors doing better than we are?
- Which media outlets influence your customers and prospects?
- What metrics are we using to measure success?
- What are the demographic profiles of our best customers?
- How can we create more legitimate leads for our sales team?
A communications audit will answer all those questions and more, even if you’re not from New Jersey.