Marketing Spend: Maximize. Optimize. Measure.

Companies have shifted focus from growth to sustainability as the economy rebounds and recovers.  As seen with the financial giants, even the largest and most powerful companies are searching for strategies to maximize spend across all business units, especially marketing/advertising.

Fortune 500 companies depend on marketing dollars to raise awareness, capture market share, and meet shareholder expectations. In fact, Forrester Research reports that by 2016, companies will spend more than $77B annually on interactive marketing alone.

It may be obvious that small and midsize businesses must tread particularly carefully during trying financial times, and yet even the largest and most powerful organizations are not immune from the effects of an economic downturn. The greatest issue facing well established businesses in the current recession is that traditional cost-containment approaches that have helped in the past have proven to be insufficient this time around.

As such, multinational corporations and even Fortune 500 companies have been forced to reevaluate their needs. By magnifying the focus on internal auditing, these large companies are seeking to streamline spending, attempting to develop solutions that are more thoughtful and proactive than reactionary measures such as layoffs.

As corporations meticulously examine their budgets, they are finding existing partnerships and processes that are costly and inefficient, which under normal circumstances would go unnoticed. The recession has uncovered these flawed relationships, compelling companies to seek more sustainable, cost-effective alternatives. Here is how:

  • Design newer, leaner processes to achieve effective result as a much wiser expenditure for the long-term.
  • Assess expenditures and compare against industry average.
  • Identify new partners who have billable rates equitable to the quality of the work.
  • Engage a partner focused on driving impact with effective solutions rather than taking a carte blanche approach.
  • Measure. Measure. Measure.

Operating under the constraints of a difficult financial environment can make a business more effective. A 2009 study by the Kauffman Foundation showed that more than half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list had been founded under gloomy financial circumstances. Such success stories illustrate that diligence in adapting, rather than slashing marketing spend has proven powerful for businesses both large and small.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Entrepreneurs are in the business of taking risks, whether investing in a start-up or reinvesting in an existing business.  Without a silver bullet for success, mitigating the day-to-day can present unforeseen challenges.  The job description of CEO can quickly become “jack-of-all-trades” and “expert-of-none.”

There is inherent and undeniable value in finding a good advisor(s) who can provide not only strategic direction but tactical assistance in moving the business forward.  An external strategic firm with in-depth industry knowledge and a diligent focus can be an indispensible ally for an entrepreneur, SMB, or large firm.  It can prevent failures in strategy or uncover important insights to ensure success.

Management consultants can provide information, resolution, implementation, and overall organizational effectiveness to move a business forward.  In order for the relationship to be successful, entrepreneurs must remember to:

Trust – Finding the right relationship with an advisor is critical.  Without trust, the relationship could prove to be detrimental and result in less than effective results.

Engage – Collaborating with an advisor is a key ingredient to the success.  Entrepreneurs must continue to engage and actively get involved with conversations regarding the business.

Execute – Listening and learning are important. Success, however, lies in the execution.

Understanding the value of consultation with a strategic firm can be a crucial step towards building or furthering a successful business. The proper course of action for bridging strategy and execution differs greatly for every business, and can be a difficult path to discover. Rather than play a guessing game, business owners should free themselves from the extreme demands of the “jack-of-all-trades” cliché, focus on driving the business forward as the CEO, and let the consultant handle the items that they don’t know.

AcuteCare Telemedicine Partner to Appear on The Business Hour

Dr. James Kiely, M.D. of Atlanta-based AcuteCare Telemedicine, an emerging leader in teleneurology services, will appear on America’s Web Radio on The Business Hour today, Friday, July 26th at 10AM. Dr. Kiely and host Ron Comacho will discuss how 4 partners from one of America’s most expert neurological teams have launched a business leveraging cutting edge telecommunications technologies to extend their reach, saving lives in the process.

The outcome of a stroke, the number 3 cause of death in the U.S., can be significantly affected by the response time of a qualified primary stroke center or the response of a remote team of neurologists like those from AcuteCare Telemedicine. On-call 24/7/365 to support hospitals anywhere in the nation, the AcuteCare neurologists are drastically improving the chances for patients in those critical moments when minutes and medical expertise matter, while driving down costs for the hospitals they serve.

The Business Hour offers a macroscopic and microscopic view of the professional world, as host Ron Comacho talks with guests about what non-profit and for-profit organizations do to survive and thrive within an ever-changing marketplace. Comacho drills down to have guests share the story of why they do what they do and how they do it.  Listeners get an inside perspective on what it takes to run a business and how to succeed in a highly competitive world.

Tune in at www.americaswebradio.com.

The Rise of the Grouponomy

In 1950, consumers across America were clipping coupons from the Sunday circular.  These days, couponing doesn’t require scissors but rather an internet connection or smart phone to access deal sites such as LivingSocial, woot!, Daily Deal, and Groupon, among others.  Businesses are looking for broader customer reach while consumers search for the best price.  Despite the popularity, businesses question if this new “grouponomy” can create brand exposure and positive revenue.

The need for businesses to capture and retain market share is as important as the consumer’s need for getting the best deal. For some, brand equity increases with as new customers are introduced to its services through this new form of couponing.  Partnerships with deal sites drive new business, improve customer loyalty, and result in increased profitability.

While success stories exist, many businesses have come forward claiming that deal site partnerships have negatively impacted the business. In the age of print coupons, offering discounts was a cheap and easy form of marketing which often blurred perceptions that lower prices equated to lower quality.  In the era of digital couponing, bargain hunters are more interested in a deal than becoming a loyal customer. The potential for long periods of thin margins or a case of increased demand leading to decreased quality, damages brand equity. A partnership with Groupon can, in fact, cost a business more than it will return.

With metrics being difficult to obtain due to inefficient tracking methods for a user or repeat users, companies must consider the impact of this growing “grouponomy” on brand perception and the bottom line.  In the end, businesses are looking for the best possible deal.

Success Isn’t Automatic

Computer automation has long since allowed businesses to replace employees with technologies to increase efficiencies in operations. Companies across industry leverage the seemingly effortless execution of technology, side-stepping the importance of a human intelligence to react and adapt to inconsistencies that could have immense impact to the business and the consumers it supports.

Online eTailers such as Amazon.com and Ebay.com have built enterprises with automated systems regulating the relationship with consumers.  Amazon.com, the largest online retailer in the world, provides ease of use to its customers with one-click shopping from selection through transaction.  This highly efficient system is not immune to pitfalls. Even the slightest performance issue can cause logistical and financial consequences that directly impact the end consumer.

Even more prone to causing a decrease in consumer confidence is the impact of technology used in the financial industry.  Financial markets in the digital age are sensitive to increased volatility, as scripts in programs violently trade equities at millisecond intervals in step with movements in the market, resulting in intra-day point moves on the major indices that have never been seen before.

The results of this process have major implications. “These sudden price swings, which may have absolutely zero fundamental basis, actually become a catalyst themselves for undermining consumer confidence and corporate willingness to spend, which results in slower spending and a slower economy,” remarks Stephen Ardizzoni, Global Head, Cantor Fitzgerald Investment Advisors. “This ‘negative feedback’ loop soon starts to take a life unto itself, and in short order a technical sell off can actually produce fundamental problems for the capital markets as a whole.”

Advancements in technology will continue to present businesses with incredible opportunities to maximize efficiency. However, the human element remains equally as important.  IBM’s Watson may have dominated his debut on Jeopardy, but analysts are rightfully skeptical about the long-term performance of such technologies. Although slower and more costly, human beings are still the masters of technology, and can provide complete control that machinery cannot. For driving real impact, people never go obsolete.

The Star Athlete’s Ace in the Hole

Professional athletes are some of the world’s strongest influencers.  With unparalleled media exposure, these athletes have a reputation akin to that of a celebrity. Even at the top of their sport, an athlete’s time in the limelight is relatively limited (3-10 years on average), as younger, stronger players enter the game to replace them.  Building long-term financial stability becomes critical.

Athletes like Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, LeBron James, Michael Phelps, and Maria Sharapova have seemingly figured out how to leverage status to endorse consumer products, champion for causes, and spread a sphere of influence far beyond athletic competition.

The Fortunate 50, published by Sports Illustrated, compares the salaries of the top 50 highest-earning athletes to the winnings, endorsements, and appearance fees earned. Tiger Woods maintains his number 1 ranking for the 8th consecutive year, despite his personal controversy with the state of his marital affairs.  Tiger earned only $2.3M in winnings, but tops the list with nearly $60M in endorsement deals.

The New York Times highlighted tennis star Sharapova for her success in establishing a financially beneficial brand. Her earnings, largely from off-court endorsement deals, are estimated at $25M annually, making her the undisputed highest-earning female athlete. The 24 year old Russian has developed a brand with an international appeal that resonates not only with tennis fans, but women all over the world. Even though she isn’t dominating the pro tennis tour as she once did, her appearance in print and film advertisements and product endorsement has catapulted her brand into the global market place.

The value of a brand doesn’t stop when the competition ends.   Businesses and individuals alike can learn from the success of these athletes.  Businesses may never attain $60M in endorsement deals, but leveraging a unique brand and positive reputation to generate long-term success can make even the rookies (new businesses) the most powerful.

Atlanta Shows Strong Support for Local Startups and Growing Businesses

With news that hiring had slowed, preventing unemployment levels from dropping as predicted, 2011 began with an inauspicious economic outlook. Georgia in particular entered the year seeking to end a three year slide of job losses. While the times have been hard on business across the board, startup and budding small businesses in the heart of Metropolitan Atlanta have continued to emerge, undeterred by the grim conditions.

Largely against what might be expected with the overall economic climate, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an Atlanta-based strategy firm, and its local clients have managed to show that entrepreneurship is alive and well. Driven by innovation and carefully executed strategies to overcome the volatility of the small business environment, both Junction and a number of its Atlanta-based clients are achieving unprecedented growth in the first half of 2011.

AcuteCare Telemedicine, an emerging Atlanta-based teleneurology services provider, has seen business grow 60% since 2010. The company has successfully contracted with both urban and suburban hospitals in the Atlanta area to provide expert neurology services through remote presence technologies. AcuteCare’s model drives down costs for medical facilities while effectively increasing quality of care, potentially saving lives in the process.

The 4 partners remain optimistic in the continued growth of their business in Georgia and throughout the Southeast as the company gains visibility in the industry. “Atlanta has long been a successful incubator for entrepreneurs,” says Matthews Gwynn, M.D., CEO, AcuteCare Telemedicine. COO, Keith Sanders, M.D. adds, “Even in these difficult financial times, the reasonable regulatory environment will help this city continue to lead the way as the economy improves.”

Competitive Sports Analysis, LLC (CSA), headed by serial entrepreneur Diane Bloodworth, launched a new interactive website integrated with its pioneering scoutPRO™ technology, designed to help fantasy football players gain a competitive edge. CSA has fostered growth throughout the first and second quarters by embracing a well planned business and marketing strategy.

Bloodworth is fond of the entrepreneurial environment in Atlanta, having moved from Washington, D.C. 6 years ago. “I am always impressed with the support of Atlanta’s community. We have received excellent guidance through initiatives like the StartupChicks Accelerator Program and the ATDC Angel Readiness Program.” Added Bloodworth, “With the resources available here to businesses such as ours, it has been very rewarding to see our ideas successfully implemented.”

Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner, Junction, says “We are fortunate to have clients who reinforce the core principles of our own business: authenticity, integrity, value, and most importantly, true entrepreneurship.” Junction has exemplified a strong belief in the power of the right planning for business. “Our firm is dedicated to delivering strategies that hold strong value for our clients, and we work diligently to practice what we preach.”

Gareleck’s firm and its clients take a measure of inspiration from each other to drive business, drawing insight from the attitudes and approaches displayed by one another. In its own strategy and execution, Junction is positioned well to creatively react to the constant changes surrounding the business environment.

Theory M, a software development and consulting firm that leverages new technologies to help clients implement multimedia strategies across multiple platforms, has valued Junction’s philosophies to capitalize on hidden opportunities available to them in Atlanta. “Like Junction, we recognize that we need to be flexible. Luckily, Atlanta is a growth area for new technology and is attracting the type of talented professionals that are interested in the challenge,” says Michael Mayer, Managing Partner, Theory M.

Coming from completely varied industries, businesses such as AcuteCare Telemedicine, Competitive Sports Analysis, and Theory M are showing that Atlanta is ripe with entrepreneurs and small businesses that are prospering with the right approach. “Despite the outlook, it is a promising time for an opportunistic business that knows how to acclimatize itself,” says Gareleck. “Atlanta is experiencing a boom of businesses that have come to this realization, and we’re so excited to be part of it.”

Mobility, Productivity, Birds in a Slingshot…

Mobile gaming has certainly gained traction with users since Tetris became the first game to go mobile in 1994. Mobile games are now fully integrated with social platforms, driving unprecedented user engagement. Global revenue from mobile gaming grew from $2.6 billion in 2005 to $5.8 billion in 2008. Assuming the same rate of growth, the industry could be bringing in more than $10 billion in 2011.

One game in particular has been successful in leveraging the power of word of mouth marketing and social media to garner ‘must download’ status.  Introducing Angry Birds, which started as a simple physics game, but has become a social phenomenon and launched a full-blown enterprise.

With more than 300 million downloads to date, Angry Birds has quickly become the single most used application in the world. The concept of the popular game may seem odd; players propel various birds using a slingshot to exact revenge upon green pigs, who have stolen the birds’ eggs.  Asinine as the premise may be, users have become addicted and are joining the global conversation. The game’s social impact includes a Facebook page with more than 5 million fans, as well as the Angry Birds Forum and Angry Birds Nest, dedicated social forums to discuss strategies, tactics, frustrations, and ideas.  Television personalities like Conan O’Brian and John Stewart are talking about the game on their programs. Companies such as Sprint have even licensed Angry Birds for use in advertising.

Angry Birds is the best example of how social gaming, leveraging the advantages of the mobile marketplace, capitalizes on the nature of its users to spread content virally. Other mobile games, like the popular Words with Friends, have exploited social engagement and gone viral, but nothing has come close to the wild popularity of Angry Birds. With licensed merchandise on store shelves and even a possible movie on the horizon, how big will the sphere of influence become? And beyond that, what will be the next big thing to hit social mobile gaming?

Junction Discusses Authenticity, Value on The Business Hour

Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions, recently joined host Ron Comacho as the featured guest on The Business Hour, broadcasted live across the web on www.americaswebradio.com.

The hour-long interview focused on topics related to Junction’s unique positioning as a valuable hybrid agency in the broad marketplace of firms offering “consulting services.” Gareleck described how every business has unique strengths and inherent weaknesses, but regardless of industry, well-researched and effectively planned strategy is a universal necessity for success. She illustrated how several of Junction’s clients, ranging in size from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, have leveraged sound strategy to thrive in a highly competitive, quickly evolving business environment.

Comacho’s questions drilled down to the details of how Junction, as a growing firm, can generate great impact and supply measurable return on investment by providing custom-tailored solutions. The conversation included an examination of how Junction capitalizes on its own core values of authenticity and integrity in this process. Founded on the same spirit of entrepreneurship that drives its clients, the company has been fortunate to have fostered a reputation for delivering real value in its services as it has grown from a one-woman operation to a team of 12.

The entire conversation is available for listening in The Business Hour’s Archive, at http://www.radiosandysprings.com/podcasts/BusinessHourJuly29.2011.mp3