Are you maximizing the ROI of Your Marketing Spend?

Your organization quickly expanded as a result of the people you have hired, most notably the handful of employees who have worked alongside you since the beginning. Naturally, you feel a great deal of loyalty toward these employees. After all, you want to keep the people around that helped you bring the company to where it is today.

In the early stages of any business, you often have to find people who can do a little bit of everything. This is especially true for marketing. If you did not hire a person (or two, for that matter) with at least a base knowledge of how to engage consumers and build brand awareness, you could easily count yourself as one of the nine out of 10 startups that fail.

As your business grows, your marketing needs will inevitably become more and more specialized with each passing year. Every campaign must deliver greater insights, results, and returns. Otherwise, your products or services could easily fall off even the most loyal of your customers’ radars.

This is not to say that you should replace all of your generalists with specialists. When industries shift, as they often do, it will be your generalists – and their innate ability to pinpoint issues and adapt – who will enable your business to come out on top. Their broad knowledge and problem-solving can piece together the big picture for the rest of your organization, helping predict the best next move.

As a marketing leader, you must build an organization that can support a rapidly evolving landscape. You must balance developing in-house talent against partnering with external providers. With each hiring decision point, you should evaluate whether you are striking the delicate balance with your in-house team or if an external agency can fill any gaps in executing your marketing strategy.

Effectively Assess Your Needs

You do not need to have all of the answers — and even if you do, team shakeups can still feel uncomfortable. Often, it can be hard as an entrepreneur to know when to bring in a new perspective. Fortunately, you can turn to a consultant to assess your marketing team, map them against your goals, and provide an unbiased recommendation for what to do and how to get everyone on board. However, you must select an advisor that brings first-hand knowledge in aligning a marketing organization with corporate strategy to get a real return on investment.

While advice will vary from business to business, here are four steps to set yourself up for growth:

  1. Gain a brutal understanding of the competition.
    You may be surprised by how much is learned through a competitive analysis. In addition to positioning, you can uncover where the competition devotes most of its time and budget. This can signal which channels and outlets allow consumers to interact with brands similar to yours.
  2. Look at your customer.
    For example, say your target segment spends limited time on Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels. It would not be a good use of your resources to hire a social media specialist, then — or even an outside agency to work on your social messaging. If the reverse were true, we would encourage you to find a resource to handle these social media tasks.
  3. Address structural gaps.
    Map your staff’s collective skill set against to your future marketing needs. Dive into performance metrics and speak with your team to assess how to best allocate your bench strength. If necessary, you can bring in specialists and leverage your current generalists as strategic coordinators and project managers — the glue that holds everything together.
  4. Start planning.
    After assessing your needs, determine whether the projected workload warrants having a full-time hire or part-time support. Also, make a call on whether you want to develop the expertise on your team or lean on niche partners. It can take months to hire the right people or tap the right partner who can both fill in the gaps and fit within your culture so start moving.

Here is an example: With mobile phone penetration expected to hit nearly 83 percent by 2020, this channel will serve as the primary path to purchase for many customer segments. As you map the opportunity, you have to understand how consumer behavior differs across devices. This presents a golden opportunity to strengthen your team with expertise in mobile marketing. If you lack this expertise, your business likely will not see the same results for this marketing effort as competitors who are prepared. After you find skill gaps on your team, you must answer the following difficult questions: If you were to bring someone in to handle mobile marketing capabilities, would that person have enough work to fill up a 40-hour week? Or, would a better option be to hire a freelancer or agency to execute this task?

If a time comes when you need an unbiased opinion, you can rely on TBGA’s proven track record of improving marketing ROI and implementing time-tested solutions to get the most value out of your marketing spend. Get started, and reach out today for a free consultation.

Categories Marketing, Operations, StrategyTags , , , ,

Expanding Into the US? Here Is Your Guide to Thrive

You have reached a momentous decision: to expand your business into the U.S. market. Now is an exciting time to be venturing across the ocean. The U.S. economy shows promising signs, and the GDP growth rate is expected to hold strong at 2 to 3 percent this year.

Besides economic prosperity, the U.S. holds other charms for business owners. Its single prominent language and relatively relaxed data laws mean that expanding into North America can seem like a smooth sail when compared to venturing into Europe or other continents.

But to dive in headfirst without testing the water could be a costly mistake for your business’s bottom line and reputation. After all, the U.S. is a large and complex market, and a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy will soon fall short. You need a guide to help pioneer your business’s American adventure.

How to Transition Wisely Into the US Market

There are some adjustments that entrepreneurs must make to their marketing and growth strategies to ensure they can thrive in the U.S. market. Here are the top three I learned from my years of experience:

  1. Take time to understand the cultural landscape.
    The U.S. has a single prominent language, but it also has approximately 325 million people living on its soil. Each state has its own culture and subcultures. The differences between the groups that live there can be vast. So it is vital to understand this cultural landscape in all its diversity before introducing your product to the market.

    This includes adjusting the tone of marketing materials to an American audience’s sense of humor. There are certain things that might sound OK in Europe but can rub people the wrong way in the U.S. For example, a British customer might love an irreverent jab at his own expense, while an American customer could be offended.

    Even basic words and phrases can cause confusion. For example, a company trying to bring the British dessert sticky toffee pudding to the American market had to explain to many people that the “pudding” was not the cold custard that an American would expect.

    For a more successful approach, invest ample time in reading and researching, and then compile a set of words and phrases that sing the praises of your business without confusion.

  2. Build up a picture through target testing.
    In a market as huge as the U.S., you have to get specific about your buyer persona. This means getting close and personal with some actual Americans.

    Begin by determining where to test your product. You can focus on East Coast cosmopolitan hubs like Boston and New York, families in the Midwest, or health-conscious individuals in California. Whatever the case, test in smaller geographies before going big to make sure your product’s features and benefits are not getting lost in translation.

    If you do not know where you should be testing, that might mean you are not acquainted enough with your buyer persona. This can be resolved by acquiring some guidance to see how your product translates to a U.S. buyer.

  3. Get to know your competition.
    It is always wise to examine your competition when expanding or diversifying into new markets. It is especially important in a crowded and ever-changing market like the U.S. Do your homework before you make the leap by building a profile of your competition. Who are the big players? Who are the emerging challengers? And when compared to those companies, what differentiates your offering?

    When companies fail to assess their competition, the results can be disastrous. For example, a Japanese telecommunications company decided to enter the wireless market in the U.S. It tried to copy and paste the retail and distribution strategy that had worked in Japan onto the U.S. market. If it had looked at where its target customers were purchasing their phone plans, the company would have realized that a pure distribution strategy is not ideal for its growth.

You have your bags packed for a new frontier, but before you set off on this exciting adventure, take some time to translate your business into the best American version you can. In addition, having someone to show you the best path for your product and how to tell its story on this new stage can support this market transition in many ways. For help with your international expansion, do not hesitate to reach out to us for a one-hour consultation.

Categories Branding, StrategyTags , , , ,

How to Prepare Your Business Model for International Expansion

As an entrepreneur, you are in an exciting position. You have successfully grown and are ready to expand in the U.S. The new opportunity is a different environment — and one that should be approached with caution to maximize the chance of success.

Opportunity is intoxicating, and many entrepreneurs find themselves rushing headlong into a situation that they should have approached more thoughtfully. It is true that successfully tackling the U.S. market can quickly scale the revenue side of a business, but the operational side must be ready for the increased demand placed on it by the larger market.

Tweaking Your Business Model

When operations fail to keep pace with demand, businesses that once had great potential will struggle to maintain the market share gained after their reputation is tarnished and their credibility is lost. The good news is that entrepreneurs who are knowledgeable about the weaknesses of their business model will be able to not only increase revenue but also improve their overall business operations by entering the U.S. market.

To ensure the transition goes smoothly, keep these approaches top of mind:

  1. Remain Connected
    One of the hardest parts of running a global business is keeping everyone on the same page. When teams cannot work together properly, friction leads to finger-pointing. Generally, there is some validity to claims made on both sides, but a lack of context keeps people from developing a clearer understanding of the issues.

    Keeping different locations of a business tightly connected can strengthen communication and improve business models. Weekly meetings, especially using video conferencing, will ensure specific departments are not siloed from the overall business. If it makes sense, consider implementing a program in which employees or leadership members rotate into the U.S. office to help connect the team to the new market. This arrangement can provide valuable networking opportunities that help encourage continued growth. Stakeholders based in the U.S. should also travel to corporate headquarters to observe the business in its home country.

  2. Be Aware of Changing Differentiators
    Different geographical areas have varied competitive differentiators. To secure your company’s valuable differentiator, research the U.S. market before taking the leap. If your differentiators in your home country no longer set you apart from other companies in the U.S., you will need to find new differentiation to pursue. It is undoubtedly best to begin this process beforeyou make the move to your new location.

    A multinational corporation in Europe, for instance, may not be allowed to move a customer’s personally identifiable information across borders. As a result, a company with a solution that allows them to analyze data while keeping it in the country where it originated from is equipped to be successful because it has a leg up on the competition. On the other hand, most American companies would be less concerned about transporting customer data if their data and analytic tools are based within the U.S. What was a dominant differentiator in Europe has little to no advantage in the U.S. market, illustrating that the challenges of operating in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. have limited similarities.

  3. Understand Marketplace Success
    It is vital to understand the differences in how businesses approach the American market. It is understandably tempting to rely on the tactics that brought your business success in the first place, but there is no guarantee that this approach will translate to the new location and new customer base.

    In Asia, distribution is everything. Consumers purchase goods from retailers, so breaking into the retail market means a company has made it. On the other hand, in the U.S. market, awareness is the basis for business success. Getting a product onto retail store shelves does not mean that consumers will buy it — they need to know what it is.

One way to better position yourself for success in the U.S. market is to have someone on the ground who can help guide your decision-making based on his or her knowledge of the lay of the land. Getting help with your international expansion before you enter the market is critical because it can ensure a smooth transition and keep the costs associated with international moving operations to a minimum. To learn how we can help, do not hesitate to reach out to us for a consultation. Not only do we provide the strategies you need to ensure your business’s success, but we also help you implement them one step at a time.

Categories Branding, Operations, StrategyTags , , ,

Simple Market Research for Your Business

Whether you are a massive corporation or a fledgling startup, understanding your market is absolutely essential. Without a deep understanding of your industry, your competition will quickly outflank you and leave you wondering where it all went wrong.

Fortunately, there are more resources for conducting business research than ever before — provided you know how to use them. The following is a basic roadmap that can help you analyze your industry and draft a coherent business strategy that you can use to grow your business as fast as possible.

Before investing in any strategy, conduct market research.

Would you play a game like Risk without knowing the rules? A few might decide to do so, but those are the people who often find themselves outmatched by the people who spent the time to understand the mechanics of the game and perhaps even some possible strategies.

Business works the same way, except, of course, for the fact that the stakes tend to be much higher — your career and your money, your investors’ money or both. It makes sense, then, that you should spend some time conducting market research on your particular industry, which you can then use to inform your overall business strategy.

What does market research actually entail?

Often, you can get a fairly clear picture of an industry by reading company blogs and publications to which industry experts frequently contribute. Browse through the news for stories about market strategies that other companies — in other words, your competitors — have utilized. If you have access to industry analysts from firms like Forrester and Gartner, leverage them. At a minimum, answer the following questions:

  1. What competitors are doing and saying?
    Instead of wasting precious time and resources learning from your own mistakes, you can instead learn from the mistakes and successes of others in your industry. Right off the bat, this will help close the gap between you and the more established players in your field.
  2. How the industry itself measures success?
    What does a promising and/or successful company look like? How did it get to where it is? What are the key performance indicators that are used to measure one company’s success against others?
  3. What is the size of the overall market and any specific or related sectors that could come into play?
    Knowing whether and where the industry is growing is important, as well.
  4. What are the regulations on the federal, state and local levels with which you will need to comply?
    Not only that, but in today’s politically volatile environment, it’s just as important to stay abreast of where the political winds are blowing with regard to your industry, so you can be prepared if and when regulatory changes come knocking.
  5. What is the minimum amount of resources required to successfully compete in the market?
    Do you need investors? How will operating costs change as you grow? What expenses will increase with size, and which will benefit from economies of scale?

Once you have analyzed the answers to these questions, your business strategy should start to naturally take shape. Of course, it can be helpful to consult with an expert (or a team of experts) that really knows how to market your business, so your business strategy can be leveraged within your particular industry.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources on the Internet, as well as marketing experts available for hire, who can help ensure that your business is as successful as it deserves to be.

Categories StrategyTags , , ,