Extending the Life Cycle of Your Individual Services Marketing Activities

(Originally published as a Marketing and Business Development column in the October 2001 issue of AFSMI's The Professional Journal.)

By William K. Pollock

There are two humbling truths of which all good services marketing managers are aware:

  • One, just because the organization offers a good services product does not necessarily mean that the market will beat a path to its door; and
  • Two, if it tries to market its services solely through a series of individual, "one-off" marketing and promotional "events", it will end up spending a great deal of money, over a long period of time, for a largely ineffective effort.
That is why it is so critical to maximize the impact of every marketing and business development campaign into one that not only works today, but also sets the stage for supporting future campaigns and activities as well.

The key to building an effective services marketing campaign is not only dependent on how much money the organization spends, but also on how well it leverages each of its otherwise individual marketing and promotional activities into a more cohesive and well-orchestrated marketing and promotional "package". For example, over the course of a year, many organizations conduct a large number of individual marketing and business development activities, including:

  • Making sales calls, or using direct mail or telesales to reach new market prospects;
  • Advertising in targeted industry trade publications, such as The Professional Journal;
  • Sending out press releases to announce new products or services, contract "wins", strategic alliances, acquisitions, company appointments and other company-related news items;
  • Exhibiting at industry trade shows, such as AFSMI's annual World Conference;
  • Writing articles for major industry trade publications;
  • Making speeches or presentations at key business and industry seminars/workshops, or sponsoring their own company seminars; and
  • Performing other related activities and events.
While each one of these activities, in isolation, is at least somewhat productive in getting the message out to a specific, targeted prospect base, the organization will likely not benefit from any cumulative marketing and promotional impact, or "punch", that could be otherwise provided by a more formal and structured effort. Further, there would be no real longer-term residual marketing and promotional benefits likely to result from such a series of "one-off" activities. In other words, each of these individually conducted activities would have its own, fairly short, "shelf life" that, once the "event" is over, the message "dies" along with the event.

If an organization's principal marketing and promotional activity during the course of the year is exhibiting at AFSMI's annual World Conference and, perhaps, one or two other major trade shows, it would be a mistake to assume that by focusing 100% of its attention to these conference-related activities, it is going to set the services industry world "on fire". While it is inarguable that the overall impact of the organization's presence at these shows will be positive, there are still many other related pre- and post-conference activities that, if executed as part of a longer-term "package", can substantially increase the overall outcomes of its participation.

For example, solely by exhibiting at one or two annual conferences, the organization may find itself merely "networking" once again with the same individuals who had visited their booths the year before. Every year, many of these same visitors stop back at the booth, so the organization can provide them with their annual "fix" of putting a "face" together with a "name", handing out its new and slightly revised marketing collateral, and telling them one more time why its services are better than everybody else's. This, even by itself, is by no means a bad thing, but it is essentially little more than annually "preaching to the same choir" with virtually the same materials.

However, by leveraging its schedule of trade show exhibitions into a more broadly defined and aggressive "package" of marketing and promotional activities, the organization can substantially increase the impact of its former "one-off" activities. One way to accomplish this is to use the annual Conference as the "focal point" of a longer-term marketing and promotional effort. As an example, instead of merely "appearing" each year at the scheduled shows, (i.e., manning the booth, making demos, and handing out marketing literature) the organization can easily turn its Conference appearances into a nearly year-long marketing and promotional "event" by executing the following complementary actions over an extended period of time:

Pre-Show Complementary Activities

  • Sending out pre-announcement notices, or "alerts", to past Conference attendees, past booth visitors, customers, prospects and the association's membership base (via direct and/or via e-mail) to announce not only the next upcoming show, but future show appearances as well;
  • Sending out press releases that combine the announcement of a show appearance with the pre-announcement (i.e., "official" announcement to be made at the show) of a new service product, customer support capability, strategic partnership, contract "win", etc.;
  • Sending out direct and/or e-mail "coupons" for customers/prospects to pick up a complementary copy of a relevant "white paper" or research report at the booth; and
  • Others (such as continuing show promotion via web site announcements, press releases, special promotional events, etc.).
At-Show Complementary Activities
  • Making a pre-scheduled press announcement at the Conference (e.g., AFSMI often works with its exhibitors to arrange for a joint press release/news announcement to be made at its World Conferences);
  • Handing out copies of article reprints, executive reports and other printed matter that contain more than just promotional materials; and
  • General networking, and full Conference participation and involvement (e.g., Conference Partner Program, Journal advertiser, etc.).
Post-Show Complementary Activities
  • Following up with booth visitors by sending them additional copies of articles, handouts, etc. that were not available at the booth; and, similarly, sending non-attendees copies of the most relevant booth handouts that they would otherwise not have had an opportunity to pick up;
  • Sending out advance notices/"alerts" of the next series of shows and conferences where the organization will be exhibiting;
  • Including the "tag lines" "Look for us at AFSMI's 32nd World Conference" or "An AFSMI World Conference Exhibitor since 1993" in all of its printed marketing collateral as well as on the web site; and
  • Generally preparing to do it all over again for the next series of shows.
As you can imagine, there are many ways in which to transform a one-time Conference exhibition into a three-, six- or 12-month marketing and promotional "event". The pre-show complementary activities can begin as early as three months prior to the show, and the post-show complementary activities can last up to a year or more. While the Conference itself only lasts two or three days, there is no reason why the cumulative, long-term impact of your appearance at the show should not last one year or more.

The same concept that extends the life cycle of an organization's trade show appearances into a year-long marketing event also works equally well with other marketing and promotional activities, such as any of the complementary activities described above. Just like the answer to the age-old question of "which came first, the chicken or the egg?", it does not really matter where you start - what matters is that you do it all together in a well-planned and highly integrated manner, and that you do not waste an opportunity by forcing each activity to work by itself.

In marketing and business development, there is certainly a positive cumulative impact gained by making all of your activities work together in getting the message out, "surrounding" the market with meaningful and not just self-promotional material, and coordinating everything to benefit from as long a life cycle as possible.

William K. Pollock is president of Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the Westtown, Pennsylvania-based services consulting firm specializing in strategic business planning, services marketing, CRM consulting, market/survey research, and customer satisfaction measurement and tracking programs. Bill may be reached at 610-399-9717 or via e-mail at wkp@s4growth.com.

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