GUEST COLUMN: How to Take Your Marketing and Communications Strategy to New Heights in 2013 (For Practically Free*)

Eileen Rivera

By: Eileen Rivera

As a government services MarCom executive, it’s likely you’ve been in ‘2013 mode’ for a while.  Over the past few months, you’ve submitted, fought for and defended budget requests to support your company’s marketing and communications activities this year. Throughout your budget planning process, you’ve been eyeing opportunities and new ways to deepen your company’s brand visibility, jump-start a lead-generation campaign, upgrade your company’s digital presence, diversify your company’s participation in trade shows and conferences or perhaps create a totally new outreach strategy combining social media and traditional marketing techniques.  You may be in an even bolder place with a greater headcount to augment your already over-stretched staff to more effectively support your company’s efforts to win new business and grow revenue during challenging times.

Depending on your company’s appetite for investing in branding and digital marketing, your role as a MarCom executive will differ in range, scope and influence.  With many government services providers reporting flat to negative growth in 2012, the MarCom budget will undoubtedly face scrutiny by executive management who will decide if doing the ‘same old, same old’ with the current level resources will suffice.  Or, you may be in a position to convince management on how an infusion of new marketing dollars could boost revenues and give your company a leg-up over the competition to differentiate your company’s solutions, expertise and results.

“Show me the money” is the memorable yet overused Tom Cruise movie line sometimes used by CFOs and executives when trying to justify the extra-spend for overhead and G&A expenses.  More than likely, your ability to effectively demonstrate the return on investment of your company’s MarCom activities is directly related to your success in realizing a greater budget.  The age-old debate on the ROI of marketing and communications activities is the quintessential question every MarCom professional attempts to answer.

There are many schools of thought on this important question. My belief is that while it’s not totally black and white, it’s critical to regularly measure and report on the results of your company’s investment in marketing and communications activities. Thanks to some free and easy-to-use tools, it’s become a whole lot easier.  Here are five tools which should be in every MarCom executive’s portfolio to take your marketing and communications strategy to new heights in 2013:

SlideShare:  Think of it as a YouTube for content and a gold mine for new ideas to create killer presentations. SlideShare’s tag line is “Market Your Content Better.”  It’s a gigantic virtual storefront to show off the best solutions your company offers.  You’d be amazed how many people first come to SlideShare before they discover or visit your website. Today, many companies load their presentations, white papers and marketing slicks on SlideShare and cross-link them to their websites.  Why?  SlideShare’s lead generation and analytic tools are dynamite and help you see who’s looking at ‘your stuff’ so you can capture their contact information before you give away your premium content for free.  You get this feature when you sign up for SlideShare Pro for a nominal monthly fee.  And guess what happens?  You become your company’s gold mine for new leads and potential new business opportunities.

SurveyMonkey: Because data matters, I’m a big believer in getting feedback and collecting information from your customers, employees and teaming partners.  While commonplace in the commercial and retail world to send online surveys after purchasing a product or servicing your car, why hasn’t it become routine in the government services world? Thanks to a free and easy-to-use tool called SurveyMonkey, that whole paradigm is thankfully shifting.  In a matter of minutes, you can create relevant questions, custom-brand a survey, load email addresses to reach the right people, send a survey while meeting Section 508 accessibility standards (bonus!), collect responses and create robust reports with nifty charts and graphs.  Gone are the days when it took weeks and endless conference calls to decide what to ask, who to ask, how to collect the information, analyze the results and ultimately create the reports.  Go ahead, take SurveyMonkey’s free online tutorial and become your company’s survey-guru.

MailChimp:  Most likely, your role as a MarCom executive includes employee communications and creating customer newsletters.  On top of developing compelling content and packaging information in a way that avoids the urge to hit the delete button, MarCom executives also need to make sure information can easily be delivered, received and accessed on mobile PDAs.  Look no further than MailChimp.  I discovered this fabulous free tool when I revamped my prior company’s employee communications programs.  While MailChimp has been used for years by non-profits and political campaigns, it recently has become better known and used in the government services world.  In a matter of minutes (really), you can create a customized template known as a ‘campaign’ to develop an attractive newsletter complete with photos, videos, icons, embedded URLs, images – whatever you want.  MailChimp’s moniker is “Sending email newsletters doesn’t have to be a headache. It can be a delightful experience for both you and your subscribers.”  When you try it, I think you’ll agree.

Great Place to Work®: It’s every CEO’s dream for their company to be known as a Great Place to Work™ which has become corporate America’s Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

For government contractors who work hard and creatively to go beyond the expected health insurance and 401K benefits and also offer their employees a healthy working environment, ‘skin in the game’ through shared ownership opportunities or stock incentives, strong support for work/life/family balance and creative professional and career development programs, they usually enjoy the benefits of low-employee turnover, high retention rates and ultimately strong brand recognition.

Employee salaries and benefits represent the highest costs for today’s government services providers.  Therefore, it’s vital to institute a regular feedback mechanism to understand employees’ needs, interests and ultimately to build a strong corporate culture. The Great Place to Work® Institute offers a variety of free online surveys, including the Trust Index® Employee Survey and the Workplace Culture Assessment.  Depending on your company’s employee headcount, you can implement the Great Place to Work® survey during a designated window during the year.  You’ll need to coordinate with your IT department to ensure a complete list of your employee email addresses is received by the Great Place to Work Institute® before the survey launches.  The Institute will collect and compile the responses and provide a basic analysis on how your company fared compared to like-size companies.  For an additional cost, you can order customized reports that drill deeper into employee responses and comments.  In my opinion, the value of employee feedback is priceless toward not only building a great place to work, but a more valuable brand.

Google Analytics: It’s fair to say that just about every MarCom executive is intimately familiar with Google Analytics which is one of our most trusted and reliable tools to report traffic on our company’s website and social media channels.  Google Analytics’ range of tools measure which pages on your website are performing better than others, how visitors interact with sharing features on your site, how they engage with content across social platforms, how many people your site is attracting, how they get to your site, where they live, how long they stay on a page and what devices they’re using to access your content.  It’s amazing all of this data is free, but the really good stuff comes from upgrading to Google Analytics Premium where you get customized, high-touch support you can’t get from anyone else.
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Eileen Cassidy Rivera is former vice president of marketing and communications at Cognosante.  Previously, she was vice president of communications and investor relations at Vangent, a General Dynamics Company.  Eileen can be reached at eileencrivera@comcast.net.



 

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