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Marketing To HR

(March 12, 2004) - We are unabashed fans of the services provided by HRMarketer. Today's article is a piece by their president, Mark Willaman.

Sergio Zyman, former chief marketing officer at the Coca-Cola Company, once said the purpose of marketing is to sell more of your product [or service] to more people. You cannot argue with Mr. Zyman. Regardless of what you sell or to whom you are selling, you have no business if you don't make sales. And without good marketing, you cannot have sustainable sales. The two disciplines go hand in hand and it all starts with marketing.

Too many business people, especially small businesses, ignore basic principles of marketing. They view marketing as an unaffordable luxury - something that when there are a few extra dollars lying around, they spend on sporadic marketing communications and tactics that are often inconsistent and ineffective.

Whether you work for a large multinational employee benefits firm or you are an independent recruiter, the principles of marketing are the same. What is different are the complexities of your campaigns and the resources available for these campaigns. And while there is some truth to the saying "you have to spend money to make money", you'll be happy to hear that it doesn't necessarily have to be a lot of money. What is important is that you (a) allocate some funds for marketing and (b) take the time to develop a well thought out tactical marketing plan.

Before embarking on the creation of a tactical marketing plan you'll need a corporate identity and a clearly stated value proposition.

Your Corporate Identity and Value Proposition - The Precursor To Any Effective Marketing Initiative
Before engaging in any marketing or sales, you need to establish your company's corporate identity and value proposition (positioning strategy). There is no excuse for having an unprofessional and inconsistent corporate identity. With services like eLance (www.elance.com), it is easy and affordable to locate a talented graphic artist who can help create your logo and identity. Once created, your identity should be consistently applied to all your marketing and sales communications (collateral, sales presentations, web site, etc.). These same communications must clearly and consistently state your value proposition. In other words, what makes you different? This is different from simply stating the generic benefits of the product or service "category". It is assumed the buyer has already determined they need the service your company is selling. Now, explain why the customer should purchase YOUR company's product or service versus that of a competitor?

When determining your value proposition and positioning strategy consider:

  • Key customer purchasing drivers: what's important to your buyers?
  • Competitive analysis: what are your competitors offering and how can you improve on these offerings?

It may also help to perform an industry structure analysis or SWOT analysis. And remember, your value proposition may slightly change for each buying group. For example, the value propositions for selling to a distributor (i.e., employee benefit broker) may be slightly different than the value proposition for a direct sale to a human resource professional.

Marketing Communications - The Basics
Now that you have your corporate identity and value proposition, you'll need some marketing communications that effectively communicate your message. These communication materials will be used throughout the "buying process" - to generate awareness and interest in your services (lead generation), to follow-up with sales leads and to present your products and services to prospects. Some basic marketing communications you should invest in include:

1. Marketing web site

The first impression a potential customer has of your company is often formed after viewing your company's web site. At a minimum, your web site should be easy to navigate, clearly state your value proposition, provide information on your products and services and provide your contact information - including a phone number! Other things to consider are an eNewsleter (great way to collect emails of potential sales leads), downloadable sales brochures and useful information (industry statistics, articles, etc.) that improves the chances of your site showing up in search results. And keep the site current. For example, if the last press release your company released was in 1998, it's probably not a good idea to list "press releases" on your web site.

2. Marketing collateral (i.e., brochure)

You'll need an eye-catching brochure that differentiates and effectively communicates your company and the value proposition of your products and services. Consider developing a brochure that can also be used as a self mailer for your direct marketing campaigns. This will reduce the need for envelopes and cut your distribution costs considerably.

3. Company Stationery

Your company's stationary will leave a lasting impression with contacts, prospects and customers. Your stationary should have a consistent look and reinforce your company's value proposition. You may even consider listing your products and services on your letterhead.

4. Proposal

Whether sent to a prospect in print or via email in PDF format, a well-written proposal can be a very effective sales tool. And even if a prospect requests a print proposal, always send an electronic version - they are easier to share with co-workers and peers, thus increasing the chances of multiple parties seeing it.

5. PowerPoint Presentation

In addition to your face-to-face sales presentations, a well-designed PowerPoint presentation is an effective presentation tool for online presentations (i.e., using services like www.placeware.com) and can be integrated into your web site as an additional communication tool.

Developing a Tactical Marketing Plan
OK. You have a creative design, a powerful value proposition and both have been effectively applied to your marketing communications. Now you're ready to develop a lead-generating tactical marketing plan. The key phrase is lead generating. Marketing is all about getting your company's name and message in front of buyers and generating leads.

The first step is to identify all your potential customer "contact points". In other words, what are the opportunities to get your message in front of your prospects? Virtually all your possible customer contact points will originate from one of three sources: (1) publications (what your prospects read), (2) conferences and tradeshows (where your prospects go) and (3) professional membership associations (what your prospects belong to).

1. Publications
Publications provide you with direct mail lists for your direct mail campaigns (assuming the publication rents their subscription list), advertising opportunities, bylined article submission opportunities and key editors that you can submit relevant press releases to. Many publications also have editorial calendars that present additional opportunities for editorial coverage. Also consider eNewsletters and other web-based publications which can often be the the most cost-effective way to reach your future customers.

2. Conferences and Tradeshows
Conferences and tradeshows provide you with exhibiting and/or networking opportunities (sometimes just attending these events can generate valuable sales leads), speaking opportunities, sponsorship and advertising opportunities and attendee lists for direct marketing purposes.

3. Professional Membership Associations
In addition to often sponsoring their own membership publications and tradeshows (see above), joining membership associations provides you with national and local chapter networking opportunities and the ability to better understand the needs of your buyers.

Now that you have identified your potential customer contact points, it's time to build a twelve-month tactical marketing plan. At a minimum, consider the following marketing tactics over a one-year period:

Press Releases
Try to generate at least one press release per quarter and (a) distribute it over a wire services, (b) send it to key editors and staff writers covering your industry and (c) place it on your web site. Chances are a few of these will make it into key industry publications and be viewed by your target audience.

Direct Marketing Campaigns
Consider at least one direct marketing campaign per quarter. In addition to always including your own prospect list (i.e., from ACT) you should experiment with renting mail lists from key industry publications.

Just because you may not be able to afford full-page 4 color ads doesn't mean you can't benefit from advertising. Consider sponsoring a targeted eNewsletter or purchasing a product listing advertisement in a popular industry publication.

Tradeshow Attendance
Many vendors only attend the tradeshows that they exhibit at without realizing that equal value can be obtained by just attending a conference or tradeshow. Exhibiting at a few major tradeshows a year is great if your budget permits it, but you should also consider attending (not exhibiting) at least four other regional events per year - especially if you have sales personnel in these regions - in order to conduct competitive intelligence and network. If you do exhibit, consider implementing other marketing tactics around the event. For example, you may do a direct mail campaign prior to the event inviting attendees to your exhibit, advertise in the conference program guide, sponsor's magazine or other industry magazine that has increased distribution at the event, place a promotional "door drop" in attendees rooms (if permitted) at the hotel during the show and do a follow-up direct mail campaign using the attendee list.

Speaking opportunities
Most major conference organizers accept speaking proposals from HR practitioners and vendors - so long as they are not promotional. Keep your eye out for these opportunities and apply - it's a great way to promote yourself as a trusted opinion leader and indirectly generate leads.


Locating all the industry publications, conferences and tradeshows and then identifying and maintaining key editor lists, editorial calendars, advertising rates, bylined article opportunities, list rental policies and fees, exhibiting costs, speaking opportunities, etc. is a time consuming task but critical. If you are fortunate to have a pr firm under retainer, they will do most of this for you. If not, there are services available to help you. One is HR Marketer (www.hrmarketer.com), a web-based marketing and pr service for companies who sell to hr professionals. And finally, it's all about execution. Once your tactical marketing plan is developed, put your tactics on a calendar and execute, execute and execute. The leads, and business, will follow.

Thanks, Mark.

John Sumser

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