Getting Your Marketing Mix Just Right

Getting Your Marketing Mix Just Right

An effective marketing mix is all about putting the right product, at the right price, in the right place, with the right promotion, at the right time.

With some knowledge about what the marketing mix actually is, and some handy hints on how to get your marketing mix right, you’ll be on the road to commercial success in no time.

A Definition of the Marketing Mix

Let’s go back a step. It’s fairly pointless launching into a long-winded explanation of how to get your marketing mix right, if we don’t first take a look at what the marketing mix actually is.

The marketing mix is a set of controlled variables that can, and should, be used to formulate the overarching strategic position of your product, service, or brand within the broader marketplace. These variables are often referred to as the four P’s of the marketing mix: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.

  • Product: As one would expect, the first variable is used to describe whatever it is that you are trying to market. This may very well be a physical product, but it could just as easily be a service, a brand, or an experience. Whatever the case may be, the term Product is used to describe all the characteristics of what it is that you are marketing: quality, benefits, packaging, after sale support, customer service. Product is the combination of all the features, advantages, and benefits that you offer to your target market.
  • Price: Funnily enough, Price is related to how much you intend to charge for your products or services. It can encompass recommended retail price, discount offers, special deals for industry or trade and credit or lay-buy terms and conditions.
  • Place: The third variable of the marketing mix is Place: where and how are your products or services are actually being distributed, bought and sold. Place includes everything from distribution channels, transportation, and logistics, right down to the extent of your market coverage. It really is everything involved in getting your product to your target market.
  • Promotion: Promotion refers to the promotional activities that communicate the merits of your product to your target market in an attempt to persuade them to purchase it. It includes a whole raft of options, from marketing and advertising, to promotions and social media.

How to Get Your Marketing Mix Right

Product

To make sure that your Product is the best possible version of itself, there are a number of questions that you should be asking yourself:

  • What is the core benefit of your product? For example, customers who buy mobile phones are purchasing so much more than just a phone; they are purchasing the ability to stay in touch with their loved ones. If you are unable to pinpoint the core benefit of your product, then your customers probably can’t either. No benefit = no sale.
  • What is it that your product actually includes? The answer to this question might include everything from branding and high-tech features to environmentally friendly packaging. You should be answering this question with a whole lot of features that the products of your competitors don’t offer. It is these points of differentiation that will ensure that customers buy your product, rather than that of your competitor.
  • What non-tangible benefits do you provide? Here you should include benefits like outstanding after-service and customer care, free delivery and extended warranties. Again, you should be listing benefits that your competitors don’t provide. Or, at the very least, matching competitor offerings.
  • Is there any potential for spin-off products or services? Could you be manufacturing a range of accessories or add-ons? Will have an updated version of your product in 12 months time? Think like Apple. They have a huge range of accessories, and release new hardware and software every year. It’s one of the reasons they are so successful.

Price

Price is a critical part of anyone’s marketing mix. Getting your pricing structure right will ensure that you maximise profits and build strong relationships with your customers. Depending on your position, product type, and brand image, you may opt for a number of different pricing strategies.

  • Premium (or Perceived Value) Pricing: this pricing model is usually used when a brand feels that it will provide a substantial competitive advantage for its products. Usually, premium pricing is used for luxury products, by luxury brands. For example, Mercedes Benz, Louis Vuitton and Chanel all employ this pricing method.
  • Penetration Pricing: this pricing method can be extremely useful if your product is new to the market. It is a somewhat sneaky pricing tactic: you set a price that is lower than that of your competitors, with the objective of gaining increased market share and securing more sales. Once market share is obtained, you then increase prices to their normal level. It is particularly handy for products that extremely price sensitive (ie. a small price change results in a large change in demand) like milk or bread.
  • Competition Pricing: involves setting prices in comparison with your competitors. This is quite a common pricing strategy, and is often used by small businesses in an attempt to avoid price wars with competitors, while still maintaining a stable profits.
  • Mark-up Pricing: some first-time retailers use this basic pricing structure. It involves including a standard mark-up on the cost of all products. It has some major drawbacks. It doesn’t take into account demand or competition or any other major economic indicators. We would suggest steering clear of this pricing method where you can.

For more information on pricing, check out our article Harnessing the Power of Pricing.

Place

When it comes to Place, you really need to determine what distribution method is going to be most effective for both your product, and your target market. Being in the right location, at the right time, can play a major part in a customer’s decision-making process. To find out where your ideal customers are buying from, it’s worth undertaking some market research.

Given the need for market research, Place is definitely not a one-approach-suits-all type of scenario. So it can be tricky to provide specific, tailored advice. Keep in mind that there is any number of distribution methods available, and you can use one or a combination of all of them:

  • Retailers: companies that sell direct to consumers and retain the option of determining the final price of your product. Retailers can be big (like Myer, or David Jones) or small (like the gift shop in your home town’s main street). There are advantages and disadvantages for opting for retailers. While they carry much of the risk for you (especially inventory overabundance), they can also jack up the price of your product and pocket the profits.
  • Wholesalers: these companies purchase merchandise in bulk and then resell it to other businesses and retailers. The pros and cons of opting for a relationship with a wholesaler are very similar to those associated with retailers. The only difference is the end buyer: consumer, or business.
  • Agents or brokers: these two entities never take ownership of your product. Instead, they act as intermediaries on your behalf, brokering the sale of your products and then collecting a commission upon the close of sale. Agents and brokers can add an additional cost to your marketing mix, but can also be highly effective in broadening your market share. The trick is finding reputable, effective agents and brokers.
  • Online: e-commerce is huge. Through the magic of the internet, you now have access to a much broader, geographically dispersed market. Businesses can reach an infinitely wider audience, with a relatively low setup cost and low ongoing overheads. There is no longer any need to rent out an expensive high-street shop and pay shop assistant salaries. Instead, have a reputable web development company build you a sleek online store and manage it yourself.

Promotion

So, we finally reach what many people consider to be the real (and often only) consideration when it comes to the marketing mix. How will you promote your business, product, service or brand? If you fail to promote your business, it is unlikely that your sales will skyrocket. Promotion is about using the right promotional tactics, at the right time, to attracting the right people to use and re-use your business.

There are two main categories when it comes to Promotion: push marketing (sometimes called outbound marketing) and pull marketing (sometimes called inbound marketing). The difference between the two lies in how customers are approached. As the name suggests, in push marketing, products are pushed onto customers (such as in television and radio advertising and billboards). By contrast, pull marketing is all about establishing a loyal following and drawing customers to your products. This is usually achieved through sharing your knowledge, providing useful advice and information that people want to willingly share. The most important thing when it comes to pull marketing is to ensure that you aren’t treating it in the same way that you would treat a traditional push marketing channel. If you use pull marketing channels (like blogs and social media) to bang on about your latest product, you risk alienating customers forever. Instead, focus on creating value and increasing engagement. There are a number of promotional techniques that can be used, and combined, to create an effective marketing program including:

  • Branding (usually push marketing): this is an important promotional technique. The way in which you package up and brand your product or service as a whole is vital. Premium brands will have very different target markets to budget brands. One is not better than the other, simply different. Branding can include any number of techniques, from display signage on vehicles and shop fronts to branded uniforms, packaging, stationary and collateral.
  • Public Relations (usually pull marketing): can be a highly effective way of securing ‘free’ editorial coverage. However, the time required to perform effective public relations (such as drafting and distributing media releases, and liaising with journalists) should be kept in mind.
  • Advertising (usually push marketing): traditional advertising avenues such as radio, print and television advertising can secure broad, blanket branding coverage for companies that have the budget. And, these days, online advertising avenues are equally as important.
  • Content Marketing (usually pull marketing): creating and distributing entertaining, informative or educational content (usually online) with the objective of changing customer opinions or buying habits. The most common form of content marketing is blogging.
  • Social Media (usually pull marketing): now a must-have component of any promotional campaign, social media is a popular online form of customer engagement. By now, everyone is familiar with the platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
  • e-Marketing (usually push marketing): this promotional tactic is often used in conjunction with content marketing programs these days; blog posts are disseminated, and delivered, directly into customer inboxes all around the globe every single day.
  • Search Engine Optimisation: with the meteoric rise of Google, SEO tactics are becoming commonplace in marketing programs for big name brands. This promotional tactic is particularly important if you rely on online leads to generate business.
  • Search Engine Marketing: is focused mainly on per pay click (PPC) advertising. In this model, website owners pay the search engines when users click on their ads and arrive at their website. Pay per click ads appear above, and to the right-hand side, of organic search results on a search engine results page.

For more information on Promotion, check out our Top 10 Promotional Tactics article.

A couple of bonus Ps:

People

Don’t neglect the People within your business. After all, they are the face of your business, your ambassadors. They can affect the way that your products and services are marketed every single day. Friendly, attentive staff contribute to happy, satisfied customers that are likely to recommend your business. Surly, unhelpful staff very quickly put customers off your brand. So, make sure that your team of People can provide a unique selling experience; take recruitment and training seriously.

Process

Process encapsulates the entire buying experience that every one of your customers has to navigate. Poorly executed Process can undermine all the other marketing mix variations in one foul swoop. For example, budget airlines often nail Product and Price and Promotion and Place. But, if right at the end of the sale, there are exorbitant fees for baggage and taxes and seat allocation, customers can end up feeling taken advantage of. The Process completely undermines all the other successful marketing mix elements.

If you need a little bit more help, take a look at our Marketing Plans for some more detailed tips and tricks.

International Marketing and Market Entry

International Marketing and Market Entry

Are you lucky enough to have conquered the domestic market? Thinking about going global, taking over the world? Before you embark on world domination, have a quick read of our beginners guide to international marketing and market entry.

Here at marketing.com.au, we find that a good old pros and cons list can be very helpful when making these big life decisions. Sometimes, you just need to simplify the situation. So, we’ve put together our own pros and cons list for international expansion.

Pros:

  • Some international markets present better profit opportunities than the domestic market
  • A bigger customer base will enable us to achieve better economies of scale
  • We will reduce our dependence on any one market
  • We will be able to counterattack some of the big, global competitors in their home markets
  • Our customers often travel abroad and require international service / presence

Cons:

  • We may not understand foreign preference fully and could fail to offer a competitively attractive product.
  • We may not fully understand the international business culture
  • We might underestimate foreign regulations and incur unexpected costs
  • We may lack managers with international experience
  • The international markets that we enter might change their commercial laws or devalue their currency or implement any number of other economic changes

The main point is, if you decide to expand into international markets, you must ensure that your products and marketing activities are consistent with the local market and local sensibilities. The best way to do this is to undertake in-depth research and analysis before committing resources to international expansion. You should research foreign culture, regulations and costs. It is also a good idea to recruit managers with international experience or to train your existing managers. This market research, recruitment and training all needs to be considered in the budget and needs to be weighed against increased profit and improved opportunities economies of scale.

So, if you’ve decided to embark on international expansion, the next decision will be which mode of entry to go with. There are five modes. We’ll go through each one in detail for you now.

  1. Indirect exporting: Usually, companies start off with indirect exporting. This involves working through an independent intermediary: domestic-based export agents buy your products and then sell them internationally, for a commission of course. Indirect exporting has two key advantages. Firstly, there is much less up-front investment required; you won’t have to develop an export department, an overseas sales force or international contacts. Secondly, there is much less risk; domestic-based export agents already have the local know-how and networks.
  2. Direct exporting: Alternatively, you might decide to handle your own exporting. Obviously, the investment and the risks are greater, but so is the potential return. There are a number of direct exporting models: domestic-based export department; overseas sales branch or subsidiary; travelling export sales representatives; and foreign-based distributers or agents. Many companies use indirect or direct exporting (or a combination of both) to test the waters before building a plant and manufacturing their products overseas.
  3. Licensing: This is the simplest way to establish a presence in an international market. If you go with this mode of entry, you would issue a licence to a foreign company to use your manufacturing process, or trademark, or trade secret for a royalty fee. You gain international market entry at little risk and the licensee gains the production expertise for a well-known product or brand. There are some obvious disadvantages though. You will have little control than over the production and sales facilities for your own product. Also, it means that you have surrendered the rights to profits and, if the licensing contract ends, you might find that you have created a competitor. To prevent this, you can supply some proprietary ingredients directly to the licensee (without giving up all your trade secrets). This is what Coke does. But the best strategy is to lead in innovation. That way, the licensee will always depend on you.
  4. Joint Ventures: You could join a local investor in a joint venture company. In this case, you would share ownership and control with the local investor. This mode of entry is popular in emerging markets, like China and India. A joint venture might be desirable for economic or political reasons. You might not have the financial, physical or managerial resources to undertake the venture alone (but the local investor does), or the foreign government may require joint ownership as a condition of entry. There are some drawbacks to joint ventures though. Partners might not always see eye-to-eye.
  5. Direct Investment: This is the ultimate form of foreign involvement. In this case you would buy part or full interest in a local company or build your own manufacturing (or service) facilities. If the market is large enough, direct investment has a wide range of advantages. First of all, you will secure cost economies, government incentives and freight savings. Secondly, your image in the host country will be strengthened because you are creating jobs. Third, you will strengthen relationships with government, customers, suppliers and distributors. This will enable you to better adapt your products to the local environment. Fourth, you retain full control over investment. With so many potential gains, you obviously open yourself up to an equal number of risks.
Thanks to Sally for sharing these great tips and insights with us on international marketing and market entry.

 

 

Core Marketing Concepts Refresher: SWOT Analysis

Core Marketing Concepts Refresher: SWOT Analysis

I know, I know. You’ve been waiting with bated breath all week for the next riveting instalment in our core marketing concepts series. Well, take a breath. There’s no need to wait any longer; it’s here! Today we are going to take a sneak peak at the concept of SWOT analysis (Note: this should in no way be confused with the burly-looking SWAT teams that arrive in full body armour in all American action film produced in the last 20-odd years).

SWOT analysis is a means by which to monitor both the internal and external marketing environments of a company, a person, a product, a place or even a whole industry. It is a structured planning process used to evaluate Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats:

  • Strengths: characteristics of a company that give it an advantage over competitors
  • Weaknesses: characteristics of a company that place it at a disadvantage to competitors
  • Opportunities: elements that a company can exploit to its advantage (increasing profitability)
  • Threats: elements that may cause challenges for a company (decreasing profitability)

Internal Environment (Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis)

It is one thing to be able to find attractive business opportunities, but quite another to be able to capitalise on them. To capitalise on available opportunities, a company must be self-aware; every company needs to evaluate both its internal strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths and weaknesses can be evaluated in a number of ways. A simple checklist (including items like reputation, market share, customer and employee satisfaction and retention, product quality, service quality, pricing effectiveness, distribution effectiveness and financial stability) can be quite effective, if the company (or the company’s owner or marketing team) can be objective and realistic.

A company does not need to correct all its weaknesses, nor gloat about its strengths. The big question is whether it should limit itself to those opportunities for which it already possesses the required strengths, or consider those opportunities that require new (or at the very least improved) strengths.

External Environment (Opportunity and Threat Analysis)

More often than not, companies that are ahead of the game monitor key macro-environment forces as well as significant micro-environment factors that may affect its ability to earn profits. This monitoring can be done in any number of ways. You can establish a marketing intelligence system to track trends and industry developments and their related opportunities and threats. You can implement employee and customer surveys. You can undertake competitor analysis. Whatever means of monitoring you go with, the important thing to remember is that good marketing is the art of finding, developing and profiting from the opportunities that arise from macro and micro environmental forces.

But what is a marketing opportunity, I hear you ask. Well, a marketing opportunity is an area of customer need or interest for which a company has a high probability of profiting. There are three main sources of market opportunities:

  • Offer a product that is in short supply: as you might expect, this requires little to no marketing talent; the need is fairly obvious and just waiting to be fulfilled.
  • Supply an existing product or service in a new or superior way: the best way to do this is to ask customers for their suggestions. Get them to image the ideal version of the product or service.
  • Create a brand new product or class of products: companies can use the consumption chain method to do this; customers are asked to outline the steps they usually take in acquiring, using and disposing of a product.

Once an opportunity has been identified, companies must undertake Market Opportunity Analysis (MOA) to determine the likelihood of profitability and success. This can be done by asking questions like:

  1. Can we articulate (convincingly) the benefits of our new and improved product or service to a specific target market(s)?
  2. Can we pinpoint the target market(s) and reach them through cost-effective media, marketing and trade channels?
  3. Do we have (or can we access) the capabilities and resources we need to deliver the customer benefits?
  4. Can we deliver the benefits better than our competitors?
  5. Will the financial return exceed (or at the very least meet) the investment we will need to make?

Now, onto threats a quick definition of threats. (We won’t go into too much detail as we presume you can probably work out what a threat is all on your own!) An environmental threat is a challenge posed by an unfavourable development that (without defensive action) may lead to a drop in sales or profit. Smart, forward-thinking companies will have contingency plans in place to deal with threats. Depending on the nature and size of the company, these plans might range from crisis communication strategies (think ExxonMobil oil spill) to alternate widget suppliers.

Marketing.com.au would like to thank Sally for sharing with us Part 3 of this Core Marketing Concept Refresher series. If you missed them, don’t forget to check out Part 1 Core Marketing Concepts Refresher: The Value Chain and Part 2 Core Marketing Concepts Refresher: Two for One.

 

 

Ad Spend or Editorial Placement – Advertising Versus Public Relations

Consumers are often unaware of product placement, of the use of integrated marketing campaigns, and celebrity and media endorsements to ensure a product’s success. These tactics are increasing due to difficulties capturing the attention of Y gen.

No matter how much public relations consultants want to believe it – there is no research to support the claim that PR-generated media coverage is worth two or three times more than paid advertising.

In 2005, David Michaelson and Don W. Stacks, professors at the University of Miami, tried to establish whether readers attributed greater credibility to news columns compared to advertisements. They looked at differences in credibility, message recall and interest levels.

In a nutshell, the researchers discovered that there were negligible differences between editorial and advertising. PR-generated media coverage and print advertising enjoyed equal credibility and both marketing mechanisms scored higher on the credibility and interest rating levels than online or radio advertising campaigns.

The professors’ results suggested that there is an enormous benefit to delivering marketing messages through a variety of communication channels. And (good news for PR professionals) with PR-generated media coverage obviously on par with paid advertising, it bolsters the argument for reallocating budgets into the public relations coffers (PR has always operated with considerably less cash than advertising).

There are some experts like Al Ries, author of The Fall of Advertising and The Rise of PR, that believe that most companies shouldn’t waste money on advertising until they have established some level of brand recognition and credibility through PR.

Al Ries states that all the recent brand successes have been due to public relations, not advertising; Red Bull, Starbucks, Harry Potter, The Body Shop, Google, e-Bay. Starbucks spent less than $10 million in advertising its first 10 years. That’s less than $1 million a year; a trivial amount for a national brand.

Some brand managers contend that an integrated approach is the best model; an integrated marketing plan delivers on PR, advertising and promotions. It considers all elements of the marketing mix. When only one element of the marketing mix is used in isolation; the message can be weaker. If you bombard your audience at every possible turn, eventually they will remember what you have been trying to tell them.

According to Advertising Age Magazine, the number one advertisement of the 20th century was produced by Rolls Royce: ‘At 60 miles per hour, the loudest noise in the new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock’. David Ogilvy took this catch phrase directly from the first paragraph of a road test in a motoring magazine; he reinforced the ideas already put into the consumers mind via public relations.

This need is increasingly poignant when the elusive Gen Y is marketed to (or at, as the case may be). Traditional marketing seems to have little or no effect on members of Gen Y which is unfortunate because, according to research from Lifelounge Urban Market Research, Gen Y spends $48 billion a year on entertainment, fashion, sport, travel and music.

In our ever increasingly fast paced society, marketers and public relations consultants will continue to bombard the consumer with product placement, celebrity endorsements via any tool plausible. After all, every company wants a slice of the $48 billion pie.

Marketing.com.au would like to thank Sally for sharing this with us.

 

 

Using Social Media in the Marketing Mix

In 2011, 80% of businesses in America with over 100 employees will use social media marketing. Compared with two years ago, when only 42% of companies were using social media, this is an enormous change (source eMarketer). As more and more people adopt the use of social media in their daily lives, marketers are being forced to recognise the potential of this communication tool and integrate it into the marketing mix.

Social Media is one of those mysterious (and slightly scary) terms in the world of marketing. When Facebook exploded on the world stage, followed not long after by Twitter, all those ‘slow adopters’ buried their heads in the sand and hoped (or in some cases prayed) that it would quickly evaporate. Surely this was just another passing Gen-Y fad? No such luck.
Social media has changed the way advertising and marketing is rolled out: bombarding customers with endless two-for-the-price-of-one email deals creates short-term leads but does not ensure long-term success. Social media allows two-way communication with potential customers and can generate online conversations about your brand between customers. So how do you integrate social media into your marketing mix? Make social media part of everything you do; social media is more than just another marketing tool.

It would be really easy to just create a Facebook page, update it perhaps once a week (or every other week if I’m busy). That’s social media isn’t it? Not quite. Consumers do not participate in social media so that marketers have another vehicle to deliver their two-for-the-price-of-one spam. Consumers want to communicate with other people, connect with their friends, their family, and gain an insight into the people behind the brand that they know and love. Marketing through social media marketing should enable this connection. It should create an actual, real relationship (and conversation) between the brand and the customer.

We’ll let you in on the secret to social media: draft, discuss and then implement a social media strategy. It can be a component of a marketing strategy or a stand-alone strategy. It’s up to you. But just make sure that you have one.
Choose a couple of key social media vehicles (those most relevant to your customers or audience). There is no need to use every social media vehicle. Unless you have unlimited resources, you will end up spreading yourself thin and doing all social media badly instead of a couple extremely well. There’s no point in having a half-baked blog, Facebook page, Twitter account and RSS feed. You are better off just having a top notch Facebook and Twitter account. Choose carefully though. Ask yourself: Who is my ideal customer? How and what do I want to communicate with them? Which social media vehicle will be most effective to do so?

Before you update your status, upload that photo or decide to tweet, think about how that action will be improving your brand. Social media is like a giant, expensive, online advertising campaign. As soon as you publish something online, it is visible to the whole world. If you wouldn’t want it on a billboard in Times Square, then don’t post it online. Every social media action should build the strength and value of your brand. It should not just be another excuse for verbal diarrhoea. Even if you are the CEO of IBM, no one cares what you ate for breakfast. And remember, social media should always use your logo, company colours, relevant pictures and any other branding vehicles available, just as advertising would.

Social media does have its limitations though. If your company has no brand recognition to start with, social media won’t really help. You can utilise social media to increase brand recognition, but not to create it. A Facebook page won’t win over new customers.

You can use social media as a vehicle for communicating with customers (particularly younger, Gen Y customers) or for retaining existing happy customers. But if your customers aren’t happy with your product, daily Facebook status updates will probably upset, rather than impress them. If your brand, product or customer service isn’t 100%, it’s probably better to work on business operations and improvements before venturing into the world of social media.

As with any marketing activity, you need to be able to determine how effective social media as well as calculate its Return on Investment. To fully understand the effectiveness of your social media marketing campaign, it is best to use both internal and external systems of measurement.

Internal measurement is much easier to gauge. It includes how many Twitter followers you have, how many friends on Facebook or how many people ‘liked’ your last status update. While all these elements will give you solid, quantitative evidence (your accountant or CFO will like these), they won’t tell you whether a social media campaign is actually working, or whether your key messages are being heard (and understood or acted upon) by your audience.

Don’t get discouraged though, this is the same of an above-the-line advertising campaign. You can run all the television advertisements you like (with information from the TV networks on viewer ratings and audience breakdown) but, how do you know that your target audience isn’t in the kitchen making a cup of tea during the ad break?

As such, you need to couple internal measurement with external measurement tools. External measurement is a bit trickier to gauge. It includes website traffic and customer enquiries. You know when companies ask how you heard about them? Well, this is why. They are trying to get an understanding of which marketing methods work best for their brand. If sales haven’t increased, then whether you have two or two million Facebook fans is irrelevant.

Marketing.com.au would like to thank Sally for her time and for sharing this great article with us.

 

 

How to Get the Best Results from Your PR Agency

So, you’ve decided that your brand needs a helping hand to get cut-through in today’s cut-throat consumer driven market. You’re set with the advertising campaign but a bit unsure on what PR even is, let alone what its benefits are. Isn’t it all just spin? Don’t today’s marketing savvy consumers see through PR fluff these days?

This is exactly the attitude that a switched on PR agency will dispel immediately. Good PR can boost your sales, increase your own profile (or that of your company’s) within the industry and enhance consumer brand awareness. If you approach PR with the right attitude (and know a little about it), it will become an essential element of your brand’s marketing mix.

When it comes to PR, and getting the most out of those monthly retainer fees, the most important thing to remember is: stories do not write themselves. Your PR agency should be able to come up with a few story angles and even organise a few promo events to generate coverage in the social pages. But, if you have nothing interesting to say about your brand, then what do you expect journalists to pen stories about? Unfortunately, PR agencies cannot manufacture stories from thin air. Newspaper column inches are highly sort after (and highly expensive if you are paying for them in advertising dollars); journalists will not give them away for fluff.

The key is to brief your PR agency thoroughly. Make sure they know what’s going on in your business. Make sure they understand your products. Make sure they know who your target audience is. Make sure they meet all your key staff. And, most importantly, make sure they know what is on the horizon for your business. Believe it or not, magazines often work up to three months in advance. So, if you want coverage in Cosmo for that new line of lipstick you are releasing in November, you had better have your PR agency hounding the journos in August.

If you are the face of the business, get media trained. There is nothing more frustrating for a journalist than going to the trouble of setting up an interview, doing background research and organising a photographer only to find that the subject is a dud. A dud doesn’t know what their key messages are, what they are trying to sell or what attitude they want to get across. If this is the case, chances are your interview will be boring (and go unpublished) or, even worse, you will do more harm than good to your brand.

Make sure you help give your PR agency the tools they need to do a good job. One of the most important tools for a PR agency is high resolution, print ready images. If a journalist is interested in running a story (based on one of your PR agency’s media releases), one of the first requests will be for an image to accompany it. So, if your PR agency wants to set up a product photo shoot or even a photo shoot to get some headshots of your key employees, this is not to create extra work for you. This is to ensure bigger, better exposure for your brand.

Be prepared to invest some of your time in the PR exercise. While your PR agency will be able to work autonomously for the majority of time, they will need your input. They will need approvals on media releases. They might need you to give an interview to a journalist. They might even need you to attend a photo shoot. Most of all, they will want to meet face-to-face on a regular basis; it’s the easiest way to find out what’s happening in your business.

Make sure you don’t set unreasonable (or simply unattainable) goals for your PR agency. PR is a long-term investment. It won’t happen overnight. You won’t be on television tomorrow. Journalists received hundreds of media releases every day. It will take time for them to get to yours. But a good PR agency will make sure that they do get to yours. If PR is used as a long-term marketing tool, journalists will inevitably start to approach you for stories and information. You might become their preferred industry expert to quote in stories. They might start asking you for product information (rather than receiving it unsolicited from your PR agency).

Employing a PR agency to raise the profile your brand should be one of the most beneficial marketing strategies you employee. If you follow the tips above, your relationship with your PR agency should flourish, alongside consumer awareness of your brand.

Marketing.com.au would like to thank Sally for taking the time to share this great advice.