There is more marketing activity in our industry than there has ever been before. More companies are spending time, creativity, and money on getting their message out to the market. This is a vast improvement over the way it used to be when people in our industry viewed marketing as some sort of mumbo jumbo that they didn’t need. In some cases, they actually viewed marketing as cheating.
About 20 years ago, for example, one innovative PCB fabricator started sending out postcards that included not only some promotional information about their company but also pricing for single-sided, double-sided, and multilayer boards. Egads! The gall! This had never been done before, and other shops were soon yelling, “Foul!” declaring that the postcard-sending shop was not playing fair. It was as if there was some kind of secret rule that said it was forbidden to do any kind of advertising or merchandising—never mind actually mentioning pricing.
In our business, these companies were once considered cheaters. And of course, as was to be expected, once the other companies saw those flagrantly exposed prices, they screamed with indignation, saying that they could not possibly make money at those prices and would soon be out of business.
I am happy to say that this company is not only still in business 20 years later, but it is one of the largest and most profitable PCB companies in the U.S. today. More companies are finally getting into the act. All you have to do is look around, and you will see that numerous PCB fabricators, design services bureaus, contract manufacturers—and their suppliers—are advertising. It’s not only a good thing but also an integral part of doing business. The rule is simple and, by now, almost a cliché: “In order for companies to do business with you, they have to know who you are, what you do, and where to find you.”
But before you advertise, you have to “discover” your story and what your company is all about. What do you specialize in? What kind of customer will want to do business with you, and why? And, most importantly, what makes your company stand out from your competitors?
I have helped a lot of companies develop their brand, and I believe the best way to get started is to find their story. It’s always there; you just have to find it. It reminds me of the Michelangelo anecdote that claims he was fond of essentially saying, when faced with a huge block of marble, “There is a beautiful statue in there; it’s just my job to find it.” The same applies to a company’s story.
I always start with an interview of 10–15 questions focused on the company. Here are some of the questions I ask the companies I work with:
- When was your company founded?
- Why did your company start?
- Who started your company?
- What was the plan?
- What kind of company buys from you?
- Why do these companies buy from you?
- What kind of product or service are you best at providing?
- What is your philosophy regarding quality, delivery, service, and customers?
- What makes you stand out?
The answer to the last question is one of the keys to their story: What makes them outstanding? I insist that my customers think about and answer these questions carefully. If the company is honest and open in its answers, by the end of the interview and project, we will have found that beautiful statue—the company’s story. You have probably seen some of these interviews in the form of my “Catching up With…” articles, which represent the first step in my clients’ branding process.
The story captured through this interview becomes the very foundation on which a company’s branding and, hence, its marketing/advertising program is based. From the story, we can build the following:
- The sales strategy: From the interview, we know the kind of companies they sell to. Now, we can develop a sales strategy that targets those kinds of companies
- The marketing program: We know what the company does best, and who wants it. We can use that information to develop the company’s marketing program
- The advertising program: Once we have the marketing program done, we will know what we want to say in our advertising and can start developing the most effective messages to relay
Do you see the process? Do you understand how important it is to know your company’s story before you spend any advertising dollars? This is why I like working closely with the I-Connect007 team. My company, client, and the team at I-Connect007 work closely together to develop and implement an advertising strategy that will be the most effective for my client; as a team, we work in accord to make the client successful.
In the end, it is the client who comes out the winner, with a complete, synergistic, and effective branding and publicity package that is worth its weight in gold.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.