I attended a really great marketing seminar yesterday held by the International Business Forum here in Prague, which was focused on the differences between starting a company and building its brand 20 or so years ago compared to doing the same thing today. Having started JWA 24 years ago now (so I can no longer get away with trying to pretend that I am still in my thirties…!), many of the things that the first speaker (who started his business at a similar time) had to say rang very true to me; here are a few of them:
(a) When we both started our companies our clients were nearly always international companies entering what was, then, a very difficult ‘East European’ market, and what we both were selling was our international know-how. We had no real competition and even if the local business community treated us with some suspicion there were so many foreign investors that we almost had to beat them from our door.
When I was trying to come up for a name for my company I asked my good advertising friend for some suggestions, and he asked what I felt I was selling. I went off about x, y and z and he answered ‘ah yes, but why would people come to you rather than another agency that appears to sell the same x, y and z?’ The answer, of course, being because of me! And as it was me that made the company different, the name needed to demonstrate that rather than what we were actually selling. Since I planned to employ a few people, however, I couldn’t imagine having everyone picking up the phone (yes, we used phones in those days!) and saying ‘Jo Weaver, good morning’ or words to that effect, so we ended up with JWA (i.e. Jo Weaver and Associates, even though I had no associates) with Prague added on for good measure.
The point: when you are thinking about the messages that you want to get over in your marketing, remember that it is important to keep in mind the reason WHY people want to use your services or buy your products above anyone else’s in order for your marketing to be effective, and that means keeping your ‘key selling points’ at the forefront.
(b) Having said that, however, what was also discussed was the need to remember that our key selling points (and, therefore, messages) might change over time – certainly in my case, the fact that I am English (which was enough many cases years ago!) is no longer such a draw, since most of my competitors speak English fluently now. But the fact that the agency has a proven track record with a lot of different industries IS something that can be pushed as a ksp now, and for that reason our own marketing has a different emphasis to the earlier days.
(c) I know I am always banging on about knowing who your target audience is when you are planning your marketing activities, but, again, that is something that can change. And if your target audience changes, your own marketing strategy needs to change too; in the case of yesterday’s speaker, his target audience changed to such a degree that he ended up opening several other offices across Europe; ours was not so radical! We did realise quite early on, however, that whilst in our earlier years we could depend, on the whole, on word of mouth amongst the foreign community, occasional advertising in English language magazines/newspapers and some PR, that is no longer the case. And our own activities have therefore changed accordingly.
(d) Everyone at the conference agreed that the tools that are available and useful to all of us now are completely different to 24 years ago. I recently spoke to a group of marketing students about our activities when we started out compared to today and one of them, who was in her early 20s I guess, looked at me aghast when I said that we didn’t have computers, internet or mobile phones, let alone social media, and said ‘but what did you DO?’. Well, we did quite a lot!! And I still think that we disregard some of those old traditional marketing tools at our peril. There is no doubt, however, that social media and on-line marketing is become ever-more important, and any good marketing campaign needs to incorporate at least some of these new activities.
I am off to buy a few Google ad words now…