Sunday, February 15, 2009

Marketers stay in the conversation with PR

By Sean Callahan
Story posted: February 9, 2009 - 6:01 am EDT

As the recession shows few signs of receding, machine tool manufacturer Makino plans to cut portions of its marketing budget for fiscal 2009, which starts in April. But the company's marketing manager, Mark Rentschler, said that at least one marketing budget line item will remain intact.

“We're going to continue our PR efforts,” he said. “I don't see a significant downturn in our investment in public relations in 2009.”

Rentschler said case studies, which Makino uses in its PR efforts, remain central to the company's sales process. “In our industry, people research more than ever before in this type of economic climate before they make a purchase decision,” he said.


Many b-to-b marketers are turning to PR as their budgets are slashed and they struggle to maintain a marketing presence in their industries. “In a recession, people who take a meek approach to marketing, they're not going to inherit the earth,” said Nick Ludlum, VP of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. “They are going to be buried six feet underground.”

Ludlum pointed out that the umbrella of PR now includes more than press releases and media relations. The discipline also includes, among other things, presenting companies as thought leaders, making the best use of new media, helping marketers develop useful content for prospects and communicating with employees.

EthicsPoint, a provider of software that enables employees to report fraud or harassment where they work without fear of reprisal, is boosting its PR efforts despite the economic climate. It helps that the company's business grew more than 30% last year, said Bill Piwonka, who joined EthicsPoint as senior director of marketing last September.

Piwonka plans to cut trade show expenditures and maintain ad spending, while boosting investment in PR. EthicsPoint hired PR firm Edelman last month.

PR is the best tactic to communicate the company's strengths, which include a healthy customer retention rate, Piwonka said. “Having customers who are happy and see value is one of the best ways to drive business,” he said.

Piwonka hopes to drive media coverage with case studies. “We have over 2,000 customers, but we had just four case studies we could talk about,” he said. The company now has 20 new case studies approved by customers. Additionally, Piwonka has Edelman working to raise EthicsPoint's profile with analysts.

Piwonka believes EthicsPoint can gain an advantage by increasing PR spending in the recession. “You want to use this as an opportunity not to hunker down so much that we're weaker when [the recession] is all over,” he said.


The particular nature of the current recession may make PR efforts even more effective. First, there's the changing character of media, driven by the Internet's rise and the related decline of print advertising. Even if falling ad pages have shrunk the news holes at magazines and newspapers, new-media outlets from blogs to YouTube crave content. More here.

Development Authority works on marketing to lure industry

By Jeff Bishop
The Times-Herald

With the slow economy, now is not the time to throw in the towel when it comes to battling for industrial and business prospects, Coweta County Development Authority members feel.

"We're having kind of a hard time, economically," said David Brown, heading up the marketing committee this year for the board.

"But this is really the best time to let everyone know we're available," Brown said. "Sometimes you make your best licks when everyone is down and out."

Bill Harrison, president of the development authority, agrees.

"Now is the time to maximize your market share. It is not the time to pull your horns in and do nothing," said Harrison.

"I am fully convinced that in 18 to 24 months this thing is going to come roaring back," said Harrison. "Those who are prepared for that will be in the best position."

Toward that end, with the guidance of the marketing committee, Harrison and his staff have "begun a more aggressive campaign, with emphasis on updating and improving our Web site, increasing our contacts with all our statewide partners and participating in appropriate joint marketing missions with them."

In this era, communities have to make sure that their Web sites pop up on Google when prospects go searching. Otherwise, they'll be passed over.

Relationships with utility companies and Georgia economic development groups are also extremely important, Brown said.

"If you don't have those relationships with Georgia Power and EMC, you might miss out," said Brown.

"And when prospects go to the Georgia economic development office, we want them to say, 'Hey, make sure you look at Coweta County.'"

Harrison agreed that beefing up those relationships "could be our best dollars" for investment this year.

"We have kind of backslid in that area," Harrison said.

Maintaining a presence ensures that these groups won't forget your community when prospects come knocking, Harrison and Brown said.

"If they see you, they're going to be talking about you," said Harrison.

It's still important to reach out to other counties, like China, he said, but not at the expense of maintaining relationships with entities such as the Metropolitan Atlanta Area Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.

Ariz. groups unite to woo Calif. firms

by Chad Graham - Feb. 13, 2009 12:00 AMThe Arizona Republic

Phoenix and Tucson's regional economic-development groups launched a $100,000, six-month pilot program on Thursday to try to attract companies looking to leave California.

The campaign, called "Arizona Sun Corridor: Open for Business," will focus on the aerospace-defense, health care/bioscience, transportation/logistics, renewable energy and information communications technology sectors.

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. will hire an on-the-ground contractor in California to find specific companies that could be expanding or relocating.

The groups are pitching Arizona as a low-cost alternative with a favorable tax climate.

California is the world's eighth-largest economy and the world's fourth-largest solar market. The state has had its fair share of recession- related problems, and some companies have already left.

Last month, Neptune Orient Lines, a Singapore-based container shipping company, announced plans to move its Americas regional headquarters from Oakland to Phoenix during the second half of this year.

In a statement, the company's regional president deemed Phoenix a "cost-effective base of operations."

Economic-development officials also hope to duplicate efforts like last month's Catapult Bio announcement.

The biotech organization launched with a $14 million investment from a Los Angeles-based bioscience company and its chief executive. It hopes to fund Arizona bioscience startups to develop products such as new drugs and medical devices.

Still, "when companies leave California, Arizona is not one of their top two or three choices," said Barry Broome, president and CEO of GPEC. "A lot of it has to do with a lack of state economic-development incentives. A lot of it has to do with not having a state agency focused on a state strategy."

He added that "states like North Carolina and Tennessee are actually starting to outperform Arizona as a location decision for California companies."

Arizona's economic-development officials have struggled to diversify the state's economy, which has been heavily dependent on housing and growth-related industries since the end of World War II.

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-8577.

Denver economic development push targets California companies

California business is the target of a Valentine’s Day marketing effort from the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

The Metro Denver EDC’s “COlovesCA” campaign is focused on California companies identified in research as being in growth mode and ripe for expansion.

Components of the campaign:

Starting the weekend of Feb. 14-15, ads will run in newspapers in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, inviting California companies to expand to Colorado.

Valentine-style marketing pieces have been sent to senior executives at 500 California companies.

A plane with an 80-foot-long “Colorado Loves CA” banner is flying Friday over Los Angeles.
The thinking behind the effort is that Colorado has lower taxes and lower living costs than the Golden State, as well as high quality of life and an educated work force.

“Shared companies and similar economies closely link our two states. Our economic cycles are different, so we trade workers back and forth,” Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver EDC, said in a statement. “Right now, Colorado is in a stronger position. We’re offering an opportunity for economic growth that isn’t currently available in California.”

The EDC noted San Francisco-based brokerage Charles Schwab Corp.’s recent announcement that it will bring 500 new jobs to Colorado by 2011, even as it reduces its total work force.
The agency has created a micro-Web site themed to the campaign and is using the micro-blogging service Twitter to post announcements about it .

Going forward, the Metro Denver EDC plans to further the “COlovesCA” campaign via direct marketing, pitches to journalists and visits to California companies, site selectors and venture capitalists.

“We want to capture the attention of business decision makers in the Golden State,” Janet Fritz, director of marketing for the Metro Denver EDC, said in the statement. “And what better way to do that than to send ‘I love yous’ during tough economic times?”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to maximize b-to-b marketing spends in a tough economy

By Amy Syracuse
Story posted: February 2, 2009 - 6:01 am EDT

Whether your organization is cutting marketing budgets in the face of financial pressure or increasing them to overcome it, making expenditures work harder is essential to surviving the current economy. The challenge is how best to achieve this.

“Straight Line” spoke to several experts to get their advice on maximizing business-to-business marketing spends. Here are their top tips:

1) Don’t neglect the leads you already have. Many companies overallocate marketing dollars to lead generation at the expense of lead nurturing, according to Dan McDade, founder and president of prospect development company PointClear.

“Companies spend an awful lot of money creating an original demand, but they don’t have a good system to follow through when leads come in,” he said. “If you went from, say, a 90/10 to a 65/35 [ratio] of dollars allocated to original demand versus those allocated to nurturing the demand you’ve already created … chances are you could save money, increase results or both.”

2) Do it right or don’t do it at all. Marketing media are evolving at unprecedented rates. It’s tempting to seize on the latest trends without considering how they fit into a long-term multichannel marketing strategy. Social media is but one example.

“Everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon and say ‘I’ve got a blog’ and ‘I’ve got a Facebook page,’ ” McDade said. “Companies jump into it, … and then they lose attention and focus. Next thing you know, their content is four or five months old. It’s out of date, and they’ve moved on to the next thing.”

Half-hearted initiatives squander marketing dollars and can even be harmful to the brand. “Dad’s words are still true in marketing: If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all,” said Rodger Roeser, owner and president of Eisen Management Group.

3) Don’t overlook traditional direct-response media. The low-cost, trackable nature of online media is more attractive to marketers than ever before. In fact, BtoB’s “2009 Marketing Priorities and Plans” survey—an online survey of 211 b-to-b marketing professionals conducted in November 2008—found 66.5% of respondents planned to increase their online spending in the coming year.

The catch is that following the crowd doesn’t necessarily make your organization stand out in a competitive marketplace. To find the most effective strategy, Roeser recommended that marketers research their prospective customers’ media usage as well as what the competition is doing.

“If your competition has a well-defined social media strategy, do something different,” Roeser said. “The art of the phone call or simple marketing letter is quickly dying. That is still the No. 1 marketing tactic for b-to-b, bar none.”

4) Go online for the low-hanging fruit. Getting lost in today’s media clutter isn’t the only risk associated with prioritizing online media at the expense of offline channels.

“Some people just don’t want to communicate with you via online,” said MaryEllen Tribby, co-author of “Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business” John Wiley & Sons, 2009) and publisher-CEO of the “Early to Rise” newsletter. “By not doing other channels, you’re leaving money on the table.”

Tribby recommended organizations use online channels to convert the “low-hanging fruit”—in other words, proven online responders. “If someone is going to respond to you online, don’t spend the money sending them a mail piece. Don’t spend the money calling them on the phone,” she said.

Those offline expenditures are better used targeting offline and multichannel customers and prospects. After all, “most people need to see a direct response ad three times before they purchase,” Tribby added.

5) Test offline elements online. Testing is critical to maximizing marketing spending in any economy. But Tribby said today’s fiscally challenged marketers can trim budgets further by testing offline offers, pricing and messaging through pay-per-click campaigns, banner ads or targeted e-mail campaigns.

“There’s just no excuse for bombing in direct mail, or print ads or anywhere you have to spend more money,” she said. “You can test it online first.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Economic gardening: Can it bear fruit here?

BY MARIAN RIZZOSpecial to Ocala Business Journal
Published: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 2:54 p.m.

Some plant, some water and some reap the harvest.

That’s basically the picture of “economic gardening,” an economic development strategy that promises to grow and expand businesses within a community.

The success depends on having a variety of entities contribute to help a small business develop, said Philip Geist, area director of the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida.

An avid proponent of economic gardening, Geist said it differs from the traditional “economic hunting” most often used by the Economic Development Corp. to lure businesses from outside.

“We’re not replacing what the EDC is doing,” Geist said. “We’re supplementing it by helping to create business from within the community, as opposed to drawing business in from outside the community.”

Pete Tesch, president/CEO of the EDC, believes economic gardening, combined with economic hunting, has the potential to enhance the business climate in Marion County.

“I’m becoming a student of the concept and practice of economic gardening,” said Tesch. “It does resonate with people and organizations, in general, in that it is the concept of growing your own, working with individuals and entrepreneurs within the local business community. Buy local is a very strong concept. It’s really something that many individuals and businesses can actively engage in and impact the economy.”

Introduced in 1989 in Littleton, Colo., economic gardening involves a diversity of businesses, government entities and civic groups that come together to provide the tools and resources to help develop a small business. Similar programs already have found success in numerous communities across the nation, in fact, around the world.

The concept has two specific models. One is called the “gazelle,” a fast growing company that isn’t necessarily high-tech but has a product that’s in demand. The other is a demographic model involving a particular size of business, such as that adopted by the state of Georgia. Ocala’s demographics closely mimic those of Madison, Wis., where economic gardening has been successful, Geist said. More here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ga. 'peanut town' worries about economic future

By KATE BRUMBACK – 2 days ago

BLAKELY, Ga. (AP) — This rural stretch of southwest Georgia has long been tied to the peanut, and to give the region's famed cash crop due reverence, an 8-foot monument topped by a peanut carved from marble sits in the shadow of the town's historic downtown courthouse.

The legume's legacy is everywhere: Peanut fields abound, and about an hour and a half's drive away is the childhood home of the nation's most famous peanut farmer, former President Jimmy Carter.

But lately the self-proclaimed "Peanut Capital of the World" has found itself defending the peanut, not celebrating it. Blakely was thrust into the center of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has sickened some 550 people and prompted international product recalls. The peanut butter plant that produced the suspect peanut paste is a big employer here, and its workers are out of jobs.

"This is an unfortunate thing, and I hate that our community has become known for this," said Ric Hall, mayor of Blakely, a town of about 5,300. "But we're optimistic, and we're working just as hard as we can to get through this."

Even before the outbreak, there were signs in recent years that peanut fortunes were fading — and local agriculture specialists hope steps they've taken to protect themselves will be enough to pull the area through. While the region's farmers continue to plant peanuts, other crops and industry are gaining ground.

"We are certainly trying to bring more industry to the area because, God knows, we're going to dry up if we don't," said Olin Thompson, chairman of the Early County Development Authority. More here.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Editorial: 'Branding Falls Church'

The new "Brand Development Initiative" launched by the Falls Church Economic Development Authority (EDA) this week comes as a sight for sore eyes among those, most especially this newspaper, who have long been touting the need for an aggressive and comprehensive marketing strategy for the City of Falls Church.The most important step taken to launch this was the EDA's retention of a professional marketing firm, the Falls Church-based Smith Gifford company, to spearhead the effort. At last, the task of marketing Falls Church is not limited to the random musings of amateurs, no matter how sincere.

For better or worse, we live in an age of marketing, where some of the nation's greatest creative talent works at Madison Avenue firms that devise images and slogans with sufficient powers of persuasion to sell just about any product or service imaginable. Thanks to this, America has become addicted to the notion of paying $200 for a pair of prestigious, "sexy" sneakers instead of $7, and since this has become the staple of the entire economy, when things turn sour as they have, the sound of air rapidly escaping the national economic balloon becomes veritably deafening. Still, there is an upside to marketing, too, because in today's sensory-overloaded society, getting someone's attention requires such an approach. If the products or services are valuable and meritorious, and not simply "sizzle," then effectively marketing them benefits everyone. Such is the hope for Falls Church.

The problem for Falls Church is that while almost everyone who lives here knows of many good reasons for being here, there is no single, powerful way that anyone has found to express them. There is location, there are schools, there are restaurants and live entertainment venues, there is history, there is a sense of community identity. What is the most efficient, compact and graphic way of getting all that across to someone who doesn't know about any of that, such that they will come to Falls Church to live or spend money? That's where the notion of "branding" comes in. What is branding? When the words, "Skippy" or "Peter Pan" are evoked, a complete notion of factors associated with peanut butter, including smell, taste, texture, calorie content and more pops out of the memory cells in the brain. That's the idea.

We wish the new venture in Falls Church success. We take credit for having pushed, pushed and pushed for this approach in our editorial columns for years. Now, we are heartened by an EDA that "gets it," by the emergence of a local resident who owns and operates a highly successful marketing firm based in the City, and by the new Communications Director at City Hall, Barbara Gordon, who said explicitly upon her arrival at her new job a month ago that she wants to help develop and implement a marketing plan for the City. Doing so will bring dollars and provide great financial relief to City taxpayers.