Saturday, June 4, 2011

Stop Wasting your Money on the Wrong Tools
Do it right or go home

You know how sometimes we’ll buy the cheap knock-off version of something, thinking that we’re saving money? Then, after we realize our mistake, we go out and buy the better and more expensive version that we should have bought in the first place. That happened to me last week when I bought a no-name, inexpensive roll of silver/gray tape. Today, it’s in the bottom of a trash bag.

The same thing is true in the marketing communications business. A company or community in need of a new web site or brochure shops around for a bargain. Sometimes, they even send out an RFP, firing up some competition in hopes of getting the lowest price.

We got a great deal!
In the marcom business, there are bargains at every turn. There’s the kid with a shiny new Macintosh computer who has an eye for design. He has no understanding of the principles of design but he’s willing to do the work for a fraction of a professional firm. There’s also the “web designer” who didn’t go to design school but knows how to use the latest software and how to find a web template. He also knows about all of the really cool web apps that serve no purpose but make people say “wow!”

The problem is that neither of these wannabes knows the first thing about marketing strategy or message development. They work real cheap, though!

Poorly written RFP’s
I see countless RFP’s (Request for Proposal) that are so poorly written that it’s often hard to know exactly what the sender wants. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the opportunity to submit a proposal, but many RFP’s are written by a purchasing agent or novice who has no idea how to specify the work. Simply put, their vision is unclear, their expectations are undefined, and they don’t know what they are asking for.

A couple of years ago, I received a call from an economic developer who was clearly upset and was hoping I could help her out of a very difficult situation. She was understandably fearful that she was going to lose her job. She had just taken delivery of her county’s new web site and was shocked at what she received.

It was a beautiful design. Unfortunately, her RFP had asked for someone to design a new web site and failed to specify the numerous other critical parts, such as message strategy, copywriting, and programming. What she received was a beautifully designed template with no copy, photography, or programming. Ouch!

Think this is an isolated incident that couldn’t happen today? Wrong! Just last month, I received an RFP for the design of a new city web site. The RFP included three pages of guidelines about the city’s purchasing procedures. It also included one very short paragraph about the web “design,” and another section about how to submit the anticipated proposal. There was no mention of the target audience, who would write the copy, the programming needs, or the host server platform. These are all key things a professional marketing communications provider would need to know.

How do you think their new web site is going to work out? Do you think they’re going to end up with the right tool for the job? It’s doubtful.

Cool clothes, work clothes, and quality tools
When I was a child, I was often jealous of the cool kids who wore the popular clothing brands. My parents had different ideas, though. They could not have cared less about the label on the back side of my jeans. They cared only about buying clothes that would wear well and last a long time. Of course, they always bought me shoes and clothes that were about two sizes too large. They had to last, you know.

As I matured and experienced life, I learned a lot about buying quality, especially when it came to clothing and tools. Since my company works in the construction industry, I spend a lot of time on construction sites. It’s a very cool part of my business and I just love it. It’s a great place to learn about quality and workmanship. Construction workers are passionate people. They take great pride in hard work, doing the work right, and having the right tools. The good ones refuse to cut corners. Their attitude is to do the work right, with the right tools, or go home. Their clothes and boots are made by companies like Carhartt and Red Wing. Their tools bear names like Dewalt and Milwaukee. They know these brands stand for something and are a good investment for their hard-earned money.

Reliable marketing communications tools
As marketers, your tools are important, too. Web sites, brochures, ads, and even your business cards had better be done right. They are often the first things your prospective customers see. There’s no room for cheap knockoffs, here. The competition is tough so you’d better be just as tough. To be anything less is unacceptable. If your inexpensive bargains don’t grow your brand and help you close deals, you’re wasting your money.

When I started Brand Acceleration, I swore to myself that we would strive to create the best marketing tools in the business. We work only in three industries; AEC (architecture, engineering, construction), economic development, and real estate. When we produce work for our clients, we bring a depth of knowledge and counsel that they can’t find elsewhere. We’re part of their team and just as passionate about growing their business as we are our own.

We’re not the cheapest provider of marketing tools. We don’t want to be. But, we do darn good work, creating tools that work hard. If that appeals to you, then we should talk.

Brand Acceleration is a full-service advertising, brand management and public relations firm operating from Indianapolis, Indiana and Charlotte, North Carolina. The agency’s focus is on economic development, architecture/engineering/construction, and real estate.

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