Monday, September 28, 2009

Marketing in China in 2009

By Rodney Hiel

Writing this on a mid-September day from the vibrant city of Shanghai, China, there are a multitude of opportunities this market provides. So if your company is experiencing a difficult time in the throes of the western recession, why not try China? With the upcoming 60th anniversary celebration of the PRC in Beijing, the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai starting in May and drawing over 75 million people over a six month period, these events, among a variety of others, bring a multitude of reasons to be selling in China today.

With a 2009 national GDP growth rate expected to be around 8%, there are local markets such as Liaoning province that still today exceed double digits. In provinces that are focused on domestic production and consumption, these activities continue driving high growth rates and consumers of high end products such as McDonald’s and Starbucks have not faltered. Real estate continues to thrive in these areas, driving sales of a variety of industrial goods and building supplies. And by following these economic indicators, this will open many opportunities for downstream sales. In short, especially for small and mid size companies, targeting these tier 2 and 3 markets may provide quicker results and a calmer marketing environment. In addition, for a small company with limited capacity or inability to provide the demand output of the larger markets, targeting these markets may optimize your current manufacturing conditions without significant restructuring.

With the higher cost, highly competitive and noisy environment of the largest tier 1 cities of Shanghai, Beijing, or Guang Zhou, marketing your products in these conditions requires a precise and targeted message to penetrate the landscape of these markets. Although demographics here may signal a large market opportunity for your products, the cost of access to these markets may be more expensive and prohibitive. Therefore, a company should consider in its market entry strategy many of the large tier 2 and 3 cities which are the capitol cities in outlying provinces and have considerable disposable income that may generate immediate results at an acceptable cost.

With China having over 1.3 billion people, for B2B selling it only takes a few hundred customers, and for B2C selling it only takes a few hundred thousand units sold to significantly impact your bottom line. Why not target your customers that cost you the least to acquire? This provides the key to increasing your sales during this recession and a good foundation for future growth. Good luck!

Rodney Hiel is the Managing Director for Asia Business Consulting. Minnesota based Asia Business Consulting strategically researches, develops, and tactically executes a proven process to create cost effective strategies for market entry in today’s Southeast Asia and China.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Marketing Going Back to the Basics?

By Sabera Kapasi-Photographer

The recent months have seen changes in marketing practices that we have all been reading about. The economic situation seems to be driving a huge change in the way people are consuming brands and products. People are re-evaluating their purchases and are trying to garner higher value for every dollar spent. National brands are changing long-used tactics to appeal to a discerning customer. It may seem as though a new era in marketing is emerging.

What, in my opinion, is occurring in some cases, is that marketing going ‘back to the basics.’ A few things that lead me to believe so:

1. Higher sales of private label brands - Back in the day, grocers packaged loose goods and branded them with their store label, and people paid for the convenience and value this practice offered. Retailers now are cashing in on the mood, offering prices that are 25% - 50% lesser than name brands. Consumers are lapping up store brands and benefiting from better value for their buck.

2. Localization of services and community building – Historically, neighborhood bars and bakeries were trusted sources of daily events and gave people a sense of community. Amid falling sales and rising costs, Starbucks is cashing in on this very sentiment, and last month launched a pilot store in Seattle that will sell drinks without the Starbucks logo, feature live music and even serve alcohol. The name of the store is a street name, aimed to position itself as a neighborhood store.

3. Credit strapped retailers and manufacturers cutting back on brand and product variety – Long gone are the days when it was a simple task for people to pick a box of cereal at the grocery store. In light of the crisis, brands are finding financial merit in stocking fewer brands and cleaning up the clutter, all to the advantage of a budget conscious customer.

4. Customer Service taking a new meaning – It was as easy as walking down to your local grocer to talk about a grievance or a complaint before it became necessary to navigate through a maze of customer service representatives to get yourself heard. Technology has duplicated the former, via powerful tools such as Twitter. We’re all seeing how brands like Comcast and Zappos are using social media to fortify their brand, enhance the customer experience and understand their audience, all in real time.

It appears that in most of these cases, the behavior is a reaction to effects of the recession. Brands are getting back to personalized, relatable and compact service formats in a quest to clamp down on falling consumer spending and brand loyalty. If this is what it is then- a tactic to keep their heads above water- is it really going back to the basics? Will these practices revert back to the ones that worked in a better economy? Or will smaller brands emulate the actions of these large ones to change the marketing landscape for a new era of ‘going back to the basics?’ What do you think?

Sabera Kapasi-Photographer is a Marketing Communications professional with diverse experience in Marketing Analysis & Advertising Campaign management. She can be found on LinkedIn and on Twitter: @sabera

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Marketing to the Medium

by Scott Baird

So many people these days associate marketing in the world of social media with getting a business Twitter account or a Facebook page and advertising from those portals. Unfortunately this will get you about as far in social media as yelling about yourself to a group of people that don't know you. The actual applications (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) are nothing but tools that allow you to connect much in the same way the post office allows you to send and receive letters. The real potential of social media is within the plan that you develop to engage with your audience.

Marketing has always played a crucial element in print, online and telephone communications. It is present in social media but in most cases it hasn't been modified for the medium. In order to truly engage an audience, the marketing has to be designed to remain non-obtrusive. What this means is that you have to increase the potential for people to like or want to follow you by talking about things other than your business. This is the first crucial change that needs to occur in social media marketing mentality.

The second change that needs to occur is the actual engagement of your audience. Most businesses are used to sending out their message and crossing their fingers, but with social media this all changes. You now have the opportunity to listen to your target audience and what they like, want and need. Equally important are the things they don't like. So take advantage of this opportunity because if you aren't listening your competitors may be.

What I'm saying is that for the first time in quite a long time, you now have the opportunity to be ground level with your audience truly improving your business and product. I would just hate to see this medium wasted by companies only interested in the sound of their own voices. If we all take a moment to listen, just imagine the potential.

Scott Baird is the Creative/Integrated Media Director for Sterling Cross Communications. You can follow him on Twitter or read more from him on his blog.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

SMS Marketing: Start Simple

By Drew Dahms

Okay, you’re a tech savvy marketer who is immersed in traditional and digital media to promote your business or your clients’ business. You’re using all the tools available. But now mobile marketing is the new kid on the block. You’re hearing more about it and seeing more brands using it. Maybe your clients are even asking how you plan to integrate mobile into their strategy.

Mobile marketing---like the proverbial camel sticking its head in the tent---is here to stay and can’t be ignored any longer. You’re excited about making the leap but unsure about what sort of mobile strategy to implement--SMS, MMS, WAP, mobisites, iPhone apps, IR, 2Dbarcode, Bluetooth. Yikes-it’s enough to make your head spin!

My advice is to start simple. Success will hinge on launching a mobile program that is 1) simple to manage and 2) simple for your audience.

Text message (SMS) marketing is the place to start. It’s a simple, low cost point of entry for most marketers and businesses. Think of SMS campaigns as snack size bits of time sensitive information that your audience receives almost real-time on their mobile device. Everybody gets texting and every mobile device can receive them. And text messaging is affordable unlike many sophisticated options. For less than a few hundred dollars a month a business can own—yes own-- all the tools needed to launch and manage effective SMS campaigns.

Don’t think of mobile as a stand-alone channel but rather as another “spoke” in your marketing wheel. You’ve already been crafting marketing strategies that play across multiple channels. But SMS offers distinct advantages over the others: messages are received almost real-time and read rates are 95%. This makes SMS perfect for sending time sensitive, relevant information & alerts that invite the recipient to respond in some way. Get an SMS call-to-action into all of your media, POP signage, newspapers, magazines, TV, website, direct mail, email campaigns, billboards, and social media sites. Invite the consumer to opt-in to your program. This takes time, so be patient.

Who is using SMS? Business owners send out alerts about upcoming promotions, sales, and special offers. They like the real-time & personal connection it gives them with their customers. Organizations, associations and venues use SMS to communicate special events, schedule changes or last minute alerts. Political candidates are also using SMS to connect with supporters and volunteers. President Obama used texting extensively during his campaign with great success. Marty Siefert is using text alerts in his Minnesota gubernatorial campaign.

So how do you start? Partner with a mobile marketing company who can provide the short codes, SMS gateway, easy-to-use campaign management tools and flexible messaging plans. Make sure they have a track record, credentials and a local representative who can provide support and expertise. Start with SMS, build your list and keep it simple.

Drew Dahms is a Relationship Manager with Sumotext. They provide short codes and SMS campaign solutions for marketers and business owners, and are a member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA).

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