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Australia’s premier marine PR/media specialist Sandman Public Relations emphasises the importance of a balanced promotional mix…

With a number of long-standing Australian marine businesses having gone under during 2011, and with the New Year on the horizon, now is the time to set your business goals for the next 12 months.

In an effort to help ensure your business stays afloat during 2012 and beyond, ask yourself one question: “How many lures do I have in the water?”

How many different ways are you promoting your business? Are you targeting only new customers? What about your existing ones? What about the ones you haven’t even thought about?

If you were to ask the “fishing” question of the world’s most successful business people, they would rattle-off a whole range of promotional activities –encompassing PR, advertising, direct marketing and many others – that contribute to the success of their businesses.

In good times and bad, successful business owners and managers do everything they can think of to move their businesses forward.
 
No rest for the wicked
Despite a couple of fleeting purple patches, the marine industry – as a whole – has been struggling since the economic downturn hit in full force in 2008.

Arguably hit harder than any other industry, there’s no denying it will be some time before the marine industry is again confidently buoyant – and there’s a fair chance it will never be as lucrative as it once was.

No longer can companies rely on their reputations alone to ensure their future success. Generations have moved forward and all businesses must actively promote themselves on what they stand for today – not what they were last week.

In this light, attitudes towards promotion must change to reflect the situation. A business that limits its promotional activities to an advertising campaign on a website, for example, is seriously limiting its growth. The same can be said for a business that advertises only in print media.

A successful promotional mix blends both online and offline activities and is not restricted to just “being in the media” – be that in a magazine/newspaper, on a website, or social media interaction via sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Get out there
There are seven core aspects of a promotional mix (outlined in the fact box hereabouts) and all are equally important to your business. One activity shouldn’t be used at the expense of another.

It’s great if you’ve recently started using e-newsletters and social media in your business, but don’t forget the traditional activities of direct mail, information sessions and presentations… and, of course, the phone. Hearing a voice at the end of the phone or, even better, some face-to-face interaction goes a long way to winning new customers and retaining existing ones.

Some marine retailers hold customer information evenings throughout the year, which they promote in the lead-up to each event. Often as simple as a BBQ, followed by a guest speaker talking about something of relevance (fishing, boating, sailing), these popular evenings usually result in customers buying gear they didn’t even know they needed. Next time, they’ll bring their friends.

Similarly, manufacturers who host occasional social events for key customers, or open their doors for factory tours and presentations to potential customers, do very well in building relationships and increasing their sales.

Whatever you’re doing to promote your business, there’s always room to add something else. If you’re doing a lot of online promotion, try something offline. If you’re yet to enter the digital age, try some form of online marketing.

Throw another lure in the water and set a new spread. You’ll be surprised what you might hook…

PROMOTIONAL MIX

There are seven main aspects of a promotional mix…
 
ADVERTISING: paid promotion of goods/services/ideas – generally via ‘ads’ in the media, but also includes brochures, in-store displays, public billboards, etc.
 
PERSONAL SELLING: helping prospective customers in their purchasing decision processes to buy your product/service – can be face-to-face, via phone or email.
 
SALES PROMOTION: media and non-media marketing communication for a limited time to stimulate market demand – sales/bonus offers, cash-back/trade-in deals, other sales-related incentives.
 
PUBLIC RELATIONS: encompassing a wide range of communications activities, it delivers a specific message to the people most likely to respond – generating positive media exposure, charitable contributions, targeted events, social media interaction, etc.
 
CORPORATE IMAGE: an organisation’s image is crucial to its success – customers are less likely to buy from a company with a bad image than a company with a good image.
 
DIRECT MARKETING: direct communication with target audiences – e-newsletters, mail-outs, VIP incentives, etc.
 
EXHIBITIONS: getting your product/service right in the face of potential customers – boat shows, trade shows, etc.

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