The Countdown to MARCOM is on – and You Can Win a Free Registration

Just a quick reminder that MARCOM 2009 will be held June 3-4 at the Pearson Convention Center in Brampton, Ontario.  If you are in the sponsorship business, MARCOM has lots of learning content to help you be more effective at recruiting and retaining sponsors including intensive workshops, conference sessions and roundtable discussions on:

  • Advanced Sponsorship Planning (Pre-Conference Workshop)
  • Branding (Conference Session)
  • Municipal Sponsorships (Roundtable)
  • Promoting Your Organization on a Limited Budget (Conference Session)
  • Social Media Marketing (Pre-Conference Workshop and Conference Sessions)
  • Industry Best Practices on Sponsorship (Conference Session)

If you are not in the sponsorship business, but want to work smarter and get better results from your marketing communications initiatives, MARCOM offers a wide range of targeted content covering almost every major facet of marketing.

Plus, you’ll be able to share ideas and best practices with like-minded colleagues from across Canada.

Win a Complimentary Registration to MARCOM 2009!
To celebrate MARCOM’s first-ever launch in the GTA, I am pleased to announce that I will give away One Complimentary Registration (min. value: $825.00) to the event. Here are the details:

The Prize: One Complimentary Registration to MARCOM 2009, June 2-4 at the Pearson Convention Center in Brampton

The Rules: Leave a comment on this blog post on “Why Marketing is Important to an Organization’s Health”.  It can be one sentence or a novel.

The Deadline: May 27, 2009 (midnight)

How will I pick the winner? I will write down the name of each person that leaves a comment, put it in a hat, and pick a winner. I will announce this individual in a blog post on May 28, 2009.

To learm more about all the great content at this year’s MARCOM, click here.

Good Luck. I hope to see you at MARCOM 2009!



Call it whatever you want – I call it working smarter…

Too often I meet professionals from public sector organizations who tell me that they are not involved in marketing or point out to me that marketing is all about “promotion”. The fact is, if you are involved with delivering programs or services to customers, improving public health, safety or the environment, increasing compliance with laws, improving customer satisfaction, decreasing service delivery costs, increasing revenue or engaging citizens or stakeholders, you’re likely involved in marketing.

Simply stated, marketing is a process for working smarter. It provides an organized approach to adopting a customer-centered focus, determining who is most likely to respond to your offerings and communicating with them in compelling language that moves them to action, defining the environment and other factors that will impact your success, delivering a program or service at the right time, place and price and monitoring efforts so that continuous improvements can be made. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re doing one or any combination of these functions.

The recent economic crisis means that we all have to work smarter. We need to focus on the things that really matter and spend our dollars wisely. Marketing provides a systematic approach to meeting these challenges. Yet, I recently read about a public sector organization that was undergoing budget cuts and one of the expenses thrown to the wolves was the marketing budget. I thought to myself, how could you get it so wrong; this is the exact time to put resources into processes and activities that will generate better results for less money!

So, in defining what marketing applies to the public sector, let’s put some common myths to rest:

Myth # 1 – Marketing is for business

It is true that the marketing discipline came from the business world. However, in recent years, more and more public sector organizations are discovering that many of the same principles can apply to a public sector environment. If you replace the word “profit” with “impact” or “take-up on programs or services”, most of the traditional functions of marketing apply to a government setting. If you look at any successful public sector organization, you will see that they have a strong sense of who their constituents (customers) are, offer a unique product or service, possess a highly recognizable and respected brand and are dedicated to setting objectives and measuring performance for accountability purposes and continuous improvement. This mindset provides the basis for marketing.

Myth # 2 – Marketing is another word for advertising or promotion

While promotion is a legitimate function of marketing, it’s one of the final elements you consider when you are developing a marketing strategy. How can you possibly do an effective job at promotion when you haven’t identified your audience, customized your product offering (right product at the right time, place and price) to meet the needs of your audience, determined what mediums are most likely to reach your audience and how you will measure if your investment is working? From a promotion perspective, marketing forces you to stop being “all things to all people” by examining how you can reach your primary audiences on their terms and where they are more receptive to external messages.

Myth # 3 – Marketing is manipulative

Compelling yes, manipulative no. The point behind effective marketing communications is to highlight the benefits of a certain product, program or service to a specific target audience. If I’m looking to buy an automobile that can accommodate the needs of a large family and you present me with a message that speaks to high octane performance, it won’t resonate with me. However, if you speak to my need for lots of cargo space and superior crash safety ratings, my interest rate rises. And who can tell me that social marketing campaigns aimed at getting Canadians to drive more fuel efficient autos, stop smoking, visit parks more often or become more active aren’t aimed at changing behaviour?

Myth # 4 – Marketing costs lots of money

Marketing doesn’t cost money as much as it costs brainpower. It requires you to take an intelligent, organized approach towards your core business. It forces you to identify your strengths and weaknesses as an organization, prioritize and consistently deliver value to your audiences. It also encourages you to look beyond advertising to more effective ways of communicating with your audience through partnerships, social media, face-to-face marketing and other low-cost mediums. What costs a lot of money are big, expensive ad campaigns that are directed at no one in particular, and that is bad marketing.

Myth # 5 – Marketing is based on a sinister corporate agenda

It’s true – a business needs a plan to make money, otherwise they no longer exist. Just look at the mess in the auto industry and it’s quite evident that the Big Three automakers didn’t have a well-thought strategy for staying relevant to the marketplace. However, any successful organization will tell you that good marketing starts and ends with the customer. Today’s consumer has all the power. For the most part, they don’t need you or any of the programs or services you have to offer or they probably have several options for receiving similar value or even substituting your offering with some alternative. Good marketing starts with understanding the needs of the customer (e.g. citizen, stakeholder) and designing programs or services that meet their needs.

The bottom line is that whether you like the word or not, the marketing function is one that contributes to the success of any organization. So, let’s replace the word “marketing” with “spaarg” (Smart Process for Achieving Accountable Results in Government) and get on with the job at hand!

New Year – New Challenges – New Opportunities

While 2009 is expected to bring many challenges in the area of sponsorships, it also represents an opportunity for organizations to re-think how they approach their sponsorship program.

First, the bad news. The current economic situation has had a significant effect on corporate spending at all levels. Even if you have not yet experienced it, be forewarned, companies will be tightening their belts for the foreseeable future. For the most part, as companies look to manage cash flow, “soft” marketing expenses will likely be reduced or eliminated and this will likely impact many organizations that have historically relied on corporate goodwill as a means of generating sponsorship revenue. Even if there is a recovery, the markets are expected to be very volatile over the next few years, so there is no clear end in sight.

Now, the good news. By most accounts, the major damage has been done and markets are likely close to the bottom, meaning there is not much place to go besides up, albeit with much volatility over the next 12-18 months. The other piece of good news is that challenging times means that we need to be more innovative and value-driven to survive and so, it is a good opportunity to take our sponsorship approach to the next level by actively listening to the needs of companies and responding at a more strategic level in meeting their challenges.

Here are my thoughts on some key initiatives you can take to help you increase your odds for survival in this tough economic climate.

Take Good Care of Your Current Customers

If you haven’t developed a sponsor renewal strategy – do it!

Just think how much more difficult it will be to recruit new sponsors in this tough economic climate than keep the ones that currently support your organization.

  • Take the time to visit your sponsors, acknowledge their past support and use the opportunity to re-establish why you are important to them and how you can help them adjust to their new reality;
  • Set aside time for activation and encourage your sponsors to capitalize on all of the opportunities that are presented through the sponsorship. You should be prepared to allocate more of your sponsorship fees towards activation (15% of the total sponsorship fee in this economic climate would not be unreasonable).
  • Be flexible in payment terms e.g. spreading over two fiscal years or providing paperwork that allows them to allocate costs from different budgets.

Promote Your Strengths

This is not the time to be wishy-washy. Take a stand on who you are, what audience (s) you serve and why you’re unique in the marketplace e.g. we’re the only organization that brings together Canada’s top manufacturers.

Communicate your unique value proposition and competitive advantage in all of your print and electronic documents. This will help to position your organization in a very competitive environment and reinforce why a company should stick with you during challenging times.

Make the Shift from Tactical to Strategic Partner

To remain relevant over the long-term, you need to shift from being a tactical partner (focused on one-off deliverables such as signage, logo placement, etc.) to a strategic partner (focused on building meaningful relationships between your audience and your sponsor).

The first step in becoming a valued “solutions provider” is in understanding the real needs of your current sponsors or prospects. This can only be accomplished by talking with your sponsors and responding with sponsorship packages (solutions) that actually respond to their specific needs, whether it’s increased sales, product positioning, employee recruitment or retention, etc.

Focus on In-Kind Sponsorships

In tough economic times, everyone looks to reduce expenses to optimize cash flow. Look at how you can reduce expenses through in-kind sponsorships or increase impact through strategic partnerships or other forms of collaborative arrangements.

For example, if you are running a public event with a paid gate, instead of looking for a big cash sponsorship from a local retailer, why not make use of a sponsor’s distribution network to your target audience to help promote the event, thus increasing revenues through increased attendance?

Demonstrate Value and Impact

To avoid the “chopping block”, you need to clearly demonstrate the value that a sponsor has received through their investment, as well as the results that have been achieved by your organization as a result of their participation.

  • The first level is to demonstrate the actual quantitative value of the benefits that a sponsor receives through their investment. In these tough times, you should be aiming to provide at least $2.00 in value for every $1.00 invested by the company.
  • Secondly, you need to demonstrate how their sponsorship has helped influence customer buying decisions (e.g. increased product knowledge, credibility, acceptance, overall buying intent). This can be accomplished by tracking the numbers of samples distributed, web site click-thru’s to a sponsor site, number of customers attending the product demonstration, take-up on coupons or special offers, post event surveys, etc.
  • Demonstrate the impact of the sponsorship as it relates to achieving your organization’s goals. By linking their investment with something tangible that your organization (and audience) sees as valuable, you reinforce the fact that their investment has actually made a difference in the community, industry, etc.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

This is a good time to re-examine your sponsorship program to ensure that it is relevant in today’s economic climate. The most effective way I can think of to accomplish this is to put yourself in their position and ask “would I invest my own money in this sponsorship opportunity?” If the answer is “Yes”, then you likely have the confidence to respond to tough questions. If the answer is “No”, it’s time to adjust your sponsorship benefits program to the point where you would be willing to spend your own money.

Don’t forget to check out the CMG Canada web site regularly. We will be launching our 2009 workshop program soon and much of this year’s content will focus on specific strategies for today’s economic climate.

All the best in 2009!