The economy has significantly changed customer and vendor behavior. Spending marketing dollars in the wrong place limits the information available to your prospective customers. Making sure you are connecting well with your customers is the ROI that will truly fuel your company's growth. Before you allocate your reduced marketing budget, make sure you are connecting with your prospective customers online. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Mary Van Zandt explains how to use online communities and social media sites such as Twitter to maximize your company's marketing strategy.
"Our marketing budget was just cut!" These
are words that every marketing person hates to hear. Unfortunately, in these
current economic conditions, these words are being heard in nearly every
company around the world. Even information security vendors-whose job it is to
protect against computer threats that can bring companies to their knees-are
not immune to budget cuts.
Too often, marketing is viewed strictly as an expense,
instead of as an investment in positioning, promoting and educating customers.
When it comes to marketing, it is always easier to figure out where to spend
money than to determine which marketing campaigns should be cut.
During a management discussion, the first question
typically asked is, "What marketing programs or campaigns are not
delivering a solid ROI?" While this seems like a reasonable and simple
question, we must not forget that our world has changed drastically in the last
six months. There is a growing communications gap between vendors and customers
that has a negative impact upon both groups. Spending marketing dollars in the
wrong place results in lower revenue for vendors and limits the information
available to companies when they're making buying decisions.
At a time when marketing dollars and resources are
scarce, a better question to ask is, "Where are my customers going in
order to learn about products and services?" The first step is
acknowledging that a potential communications gap may exist. Closing this gap
will provide the marketing ROI and make more information available to help
companies make better buying decisions.
Taking steps to better understand your prospective
customers is not as difficult as you might think. The following are four tips
to help you close the communications gap and set the right course during this
Tip No. 1: As a vendor, understand how your company
will respond to marketing budget cuts
In a recent survey of vendors and enterprise
customers, 49 percent of vendors said they rely on their business partners to
provide information about products and services. Too often, training on
products and services is limited to the technology. If this is part of your
marketing strategy, review your partner training materials. Make sure they
clearly define the problem that your product solves, how your product solves
the problem, how it differs from the competition, and the top benefits the
customer can realize. A product or service that is well positioned and easily
understood will help ensure your partners are more effective in educating and
selling your solution to customers.
Tip No. 2: Understand how your customers will be
impacted by budget cuts
With less information available about products and
services, 35 percent of enterprise customers surveyed said they feel that they
will have to rely on their peers to get information about security solutions,
and 24 percent said they will have to do more product trials.
This year, online communities will take on a
substantially more important role in bringing together and educating not only
customers but also prospective customers. Companies are creating their own
online communities and making these communities open to everyone. If your
company has not yet created an online community, make it a priority to create
one as part of your 2009 marketing plan.
For the 24 percent of customers surveyed who said they
feel they will have to do more product trials (but may be constrained by
resources that are already stretched too thin), an alternative is to seek out
published, third-party product reviews.
Mary Van Zandt is Vice President of Trainer Communications' Information Security Practice. Mary has over 25 years of experience in various technology sales, marketing and public relations leadership positions, with companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Sybase, Sterling Commerce and Platinum Technology. Mary is well-recognized within the security industry, speaks at industry events, has published several articles, and is a contributing author of the ICSA Guide to Cryptography and Commercial Computer Security Systems. She received her Master's Degree in Business Administration from the Lake Forest School of Management at Lake Forest College, Illinois. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.