A Call to Action – Distracted Driving of the Integrated Marketing Plan

Exclusively for Fleet Management Weekly, December 1, 2014

By Ed Pierce, Principal, ITA Fleet Communications

An “integrated marketing plan” sounds like the natural result of a sound business process. Why wouldn’t a fleet provider’s marketing plan integrate all of the tactics in support of one set of goals?
Specifically, it makes sense that a company should use more than one medium to distribute a singular marketing message. A plan comprising different promotional methods ought to be designed so that each method reinforces the others. And, when there are multiple messages, distributed through multiple channels, they should relate to each other in support of an over-arching strategy.
Despite the methodical intent, however, many companies’ plans still suffer from marketing fragmentation. Since there are so many different marketing options available in today’s world, many companies find it difficult to select which media best fit their advertising and marketing needs. Then, they muddy the message in an attempt to address different targeted audiences.
But most of all, there are also a seemingly endless number of unplanned sales, operational and off-target marketing distractions that arise in the course of a year. These create havoc with the best-laid plan. Because budgets are finite, planned integrated tactics get watered down or cut. At the end of the year, senior management expectations of marketing aren’t met, and excuses built on a forgotten patchwork of compromises ring hollow.
Technology and consumerism in a B2B environment evolve, meaning the evolution of a fleet provider’s integrated marketing plan must adapt. Today’s customers and prospective customers want to be more engaged. They want more interaction with your company beyond traditional marketing channels.
General marketing, customer service, reputation marketing, technology and sales are transforming into one big entity – your brand — that needs to be defined, positioned, protected and massaged. All departments of your company, especially those that are client-facing or deal with a company’s other target audiences, should be communicating one consistent identity that is the face of your company. And, the only way to do so effectively is through an integrated marketing plan.
We will explore some new avenues on the fleet provider marketing map in the new year. Thanks for reading “A Call to Action” this year, and have a happy, healthy holiday season! As always, if you have a specific marketing issue or question, call me at 610–585-0801 or send an email to EdPierce@ITAfleetcommunications.com.

A Call to Action (For Fleet Providers): Einstein’s Rationale for Integrated Marketing

Exclusively for Fleet Management Weekly, November 3, 2014

By Ed Pierce, Principal, ITA Fleet Communications

As a provider of fleet services and products, you are well aware of the competitive nature of this marketplace. Making inroads is a laborious, time-consuming, and expensive proposition! A big part of that expense is marketing, for good reason.
Fleet managers already have a tough job choosing between all of the options available to them. Every day, they are inundated with marketing messages, delivered through fleet press, corporate communiques, social media, blogs, sales reps and more.
Standing out, being recognized, and more importantly, becoming known for the qualities your brand represents are challenging even with a large budget. Add in the dollars associated with a sales team that expects market pre-conditioning and continuous brand reinforcement, and it becomes clear that the impact of marketing is greater than many businesses believe.
Too many otherwise-successful B2B companies employ an ad hoc, approach to marketing that is inherently ineffective. Built on disparate, quick-decision, single-channel promotional opportunities, there is no way to measure success beyond the leads or call that are directly attributable to the ad. A quote attributable to Albert Einstein is apropos: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
Compared to a fragmented, tactically-limited marketing approach, an integrated marketing plan that explains why, how and in what mix tactics are applied can deliver meaningful results, ensure greater efficiency and the best possible return on a company’s marketing investment.
Does your company have a business plan? A five-year strategic plan? A sales plan? Do you regularly measure and update these plans? So, how can you not have a marketing plan? Not just a budget, but a detailed plan – situation analysis, market-awareness-perceptual research, competition, target market demographics, distribution channels, media, messaging, tactical review, and so on!
In the next column, we will dive deeper into the benefits of an integrated marketing program. If you have a specific marketing issue or question, call me at 610–585-0801 or send an email to EdPierce@ITAfleetcommunications.com.

A Call To Action (For Fleet Providers): Feedback Feelers

Exclusively for Fleet Management Weekly, October 6, 2014

By Ed Pierce, Principal, ITA Fleet Communications

Last month, I promised to address customer engagement. Of course, engagement begins with communication. And, true communication is two-way, give-and-take. Still, most marketing plans focus on the outbound design, the message, and the cost of running an ad, distributing a press release, or sending out an e-mail blast. Management wants to know cost and return.
Lost in the marketing-management discussion is the customer!
How do we know that the message will be effective with our prospect customers? How will we determine what went wrong if a mailer or e-mail blast has a zero response rate? How do we determine whether our market position and our branding messages are being received, understood and changing or opening minds? Feedback, of course!
A comprehensive marketing program must integrate “feedback feelers” both on a tactical level and a strategic level.
Tactically, marketing people tend to rely on quantitative measures such as cost per thousand, response rates, conversion rates, click-thru’s, and leads to determine success of the program after the fact. That’s a perfect approach for those averaging a 100 percent success rate. But, since a good direct mail response rate is 2 percent, feedback prior to tactic implementation is a smart idea. A/B testing of message, focus group testing, survey concept tests and other methods can help ensure a better result at the tactical level.
Strategically, awareness and perception studies, conducted annually, can help management understand the progress being made by the entire marketing program.
On a day-to-day basis, there are two other resources a B2B marketing department can rely upon:
1. Sales representatives can be the eyes and ears of a savvy marketing department. They can offer terrific insights during the development of a program or tactic. They can test messaging as they conduct their daily sales activities. They can provide an early-warning system related to issues, trends and even new opportunities as a result of their regular prospect and customer contact.
2. Customer service representatives, too, can bring the same feedback as sales and may provide a different perspective of customer relationships since they deal with others within a customer’s operations. In order to take advantage of this resource, the marketing manager needs to keep the customer service team to-to-date on marketing strategy and tactics.
In the next column, we will address the benefits of an integrated marketing program . If you have a specific marketing issue or question, call me at 610–585-0801 or send an email to EdPierce@ITAfleetcommunications.com.