Marketing & Public Relations Firm - Verasoni Worldwide

All posts tagged strategic marketing

Several weeks ago I posted about the comeback of the American consumer and its impact on the financial services market. Since then, I’ve engaged in the same discussion with healthcare device makers and distributors who are also wondering how a stronger consumer will impact their business.

The obvious reality is that every sector in the United States ought to be positioning itself in light of strong consumer sentiment and data.  Let me quickly set the table by restating a few key points from my previous post about market conditions and business climate that are relevant across industries, but are certainly applicable to healthcare equipment makers, manufacturers, and distributors:

  • The stock market is at or near an all time high
  • The business media seems to be whistling a happy tune about the comeback of the American Consumer
  • Earlier this year, according to Bloomberg.com Macys’, Target and Gap reported sales that topped sales estimates in January, 2013
  • This past February, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment climbed to 76.3 from 73.8 in January
  • Ernst & Young cited stronger global markets and calls the US markets “very positive” in its most recent forecast.
  • With property values rising and the job market strengthening, Americans seem to be poised for an uptick in wealth

So, what does the comeback of the American consumer mean to Healthcare consumption? From 10,000 feet, two things: 1) The American healthcare consumer will have more money and more confidence to spend it and 2) that confidence and willingness to spend will be tempered by impact on the collective psyche still felt from the 2008 market crash.

Who will benefit from this consumer wealth effect?  Consumer medical specialties, like dentists and cosmetic dentists, plastic and cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, fertility specialists, bariatric surgeons, and those companies who are selling to them, as well as hospitals and surgi-centers who will deliver care in these service lines. We believe that other specialty areas will also see benefits such as certain areas of orthopedics, We see a healthy return of discretionary income spending in the aforementioned areas. At a recent meeting of Plastic Surgeons in New York City, a Baltimore based doctor said: “we’re seeing people coming off the street and dropping a $1,000 to $1,500 on procedures, and that hasn’t happened in a long time.”  As I write, there’s a strong bi-partisan push in the senate to repeal the medical device tax. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I am a device manufacturer or distributor. Just as a reminder, the 2.3% excise tax is on the gross sales price of taxable medical devices. Regardless of whether the medical device tax is repealed or not, companies who better position themselves in this climate relative to the American consumer, will have a whopping advantage over those who don’t.

Here’s how healthcare device companies and distributors can better position themselves in light of the coming wealth effect:

1. Down-line Education – Three pronged approach: 1) Get out in front of the market by arming your buyers with the information they need to make an informed buying decision for your products. Include information on what the wealth effect could mean for both their business and patients.  It is likely that they themselves are feeling the wealth effect personally. Of course, buying certain equipment will put your buyers in a better position to serve the needs of their patients who will now feel more comfortable in spending discretionary dollars on healthcare services. 2) Consumer down-line education through web and digital strategies will provide fertile ground to drive consumer education and show buyers your commitment to their success.  3) Peer-to-Peer education for buyers of healthcare devices and products. Down-line education must have a strong digital component, especially with the rise of mobile and the coming of Google Glass, which will once again revolutionize mobile. [A quick aside: I was one of the privileged few to recently accompany a Google employee on a Google Glasses tour and indeed healthcare must be prepared for the coming revolution, but that's a post for another day.]

2. Brand Like You Mean It – This is a great time to get back into the market with a healthy respect for your customers. Communicate with them on a level that they come to expect and specifically communicate value.  Your visuals must be stunning, your value lasting.  Now, I have been on the record and continue to be by saying that branding is “not what you do,” it’s a “result of what you do.” For those companies who have been lacking in promoting their products and services to exceed market expectations, the time to start building a foundation for your brand has never been better than right now. This is especially true now because some of your competitors will inevitably continue to rely on the same strategies, thinking the same old ways, or their size, or whatever will produce results in this environment. Good, let them. For companies who consider themselves brand leaders in their space, don’t rest on your brand laurels, because your customers will now need more information to make buying decisions, and have more access to information about your products and your competitors’.

3. Mobile & Digital Will Drive Marketing Strategy Linkedin just surpassed 1 million doctors and nurses worldwide. Our own proprietary research shows that as of January 27, 2013, there were 500,000 people who have identified themselves in the United States as “dentists” on Facebook and 33,000 in the same category on Linkedin. There were 2,918 people who identified themselves as “general dentists” on Linkedin. Combine that with Healthcare topics being the most consumer-searched subject online in the United States, and you now have an idea of how important the digital environment is to your business. Educating the consumer and the market about the value of your products in the digital world is crucial to building consumer awareness and driving demand to your customers (doctors, dentists, hospitals, surgi-centers, clinics). Web and digital content must meet the expectations of the market, and if it doesn’t your company risks brand erosion. Positioning your products juxtaposed against value – remember, your customers and the consumer is once bitten and twice shy by now – will go a long way to making the case for your products. Your digital reputation and your customers’ must be spotless, because it is your reputation. So, move away from creating social pages and posting to meaningful digital strategies. Location strategies relative to how you sell should play a critical part. For example: if you’re selling an intra-oral camera, or gastric sleeves, you may want to share with your customers who else the in the area is using your technology via a mobile map application.  The very least you ought to do is mobilize your websites to make it easier for your sales force and your clients to access your products and services.

4.  Be a Category Creator – In Why It Pays to Be a Category Creator (Harvard Business Review, March 2013), the authors found that “category creators experience much faster growth and receive much higher valuations than companies bringing only incremental innovations to market.” Researchers found that category creators, while only 13% of the companies studied, accounted for 74% of the group’s growth. Consider the dental industry’s fore into sleep medicine. It was a blue ocean strategy, which opened up a new market for dentists and provided patients with yet different way to utilize and view their dentist. Whatever category you choose to create, and at the risk of overstating the obvious here, it has to be both ethical and make sense for the patient. So, be creative, you may surprise yourself.

It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare. Being nimble and entrepreneurial and taking advantage of selling into the current climate no matter size of your company is a virtue and highly accretive to growth in this environment.  So, jump right in, the water is fine.

Abe Kasbo is CEO of Verasoni Worldwide
Follow @akasbo or facebook.com/verasoni


At the time of the writing of this post, the stock market is near an all time high and the business media seems to be whistling aAbe Kasbo happy tune about the comeback of the American Consumer. Earlier this year, according to Bloomberg.com Macys’, Target and the Gap reported sales that topped sales estimates in January, 2013. This past February, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment climbed to 76.3 from 73.8 in January. Ernst & Young cited stronger global markets and calls the US markets “very positive” in its most recent forecast.

With rising property values and the job market strengthening, Americans seem poised for an uptick in wealth. In normal times, a wealth-effect makes things interesting for financial services firms. It gets more interesting when we couple it with the JOBS Act, which will provide hedge funds and other financial service firms the ability to market and in the process giving investors greater transparency. This will thrust more managers into the public and media spotlights, raising awareness of their firms and products. Public spotlight will also make it easier for investors to compare managers and options within their global investment strategies, heightening the competition for investment dollars between mutual fund families, private equity firms and hedge funds – including fund of funds.

While The JOBS Act is creating an unprecedented environment for hedge funds to market themselves, we believe there will be an indirect impact on related financial services industries like Mutual Fund Families, Wealth Advisory Firms, and perhaps even banks because the JOBS Act thrusts hedge funds into a more open market where they may have to compete with each other and other investment vehicles outside their class.  Whether you’re a hedge fund, Fund Family, or wealth management firm, you may already know that institutional, accredited and non-accredited investors remain cautious because lessons from 2008 continue to loom large in the collective psyche. Those firms who understand how to develop effective strategies, and not simply employ marketing communications tactics and ride the American consumer comeback, will surely come out ahead.

Below are six ideas to help your firm navigate the tricky intersection of the JOBS Act and the American Consumer Comeback.

1. Brand Wisely Not Quickly – Financial services firms will now be enticed and encouraged to “brand your firm.” Keep in mind that savvy marketers understand that branding is a combination of “what you do” from a marketing communications perspective, how you perform, how you treat clients and a multitude of other variables that translates into how clients feel about you…this only happens over time. So “branding your firm” is not a product that you can or should purchase as a “branding program”. Branding is a multivariate process, but only those who understand this point will truly be on the way to effectively branding their firms and separating themselves from the competition. Keep in mind that it took decades for Vanguard, Blackrock, Fidelity, TRowe Price, The Man Group and others to become a brand. So, the time is now to build your brand’s foundation through strategies rather than tactics. As for hedge fund of funds, “Niche oriented hedge fund of funds that differentiate themselves by either focusing on a specific strategy, region, fund structure or investor type [and] …those fund of funds that can clearly articulate their differential advantage will be able to not only grow their assets, but command premium fees,” said veteran hedge fund marketer Don Steinbrugge of Agecroft Partners in his January 2013’s Post on AllAboutAlpha.com.

2. Be Ready To Compete Publicly and Transparently – Work from the digital world backward and understand that your web reputation is largely your reputation. So ensuring that your website speaks to the breadth and depth of the aspirations of your clientele and that your website is mobile ready is paramount to the success of your marketing efforts. Your collateral, key marketing messages, media and conference appearances, sales presentations, your website and social media platforms must be integrated. We would argue that outperforming your competitors is no longer based upon your market returns; it’s also based on how you are perceived in the marketplace, which has a direct impact on growth and asset under management.  Certainly in the case of hedge funds, as the qualified investor pool grows, the more attention the media will pay to the industry, the more questions people will have. Consider Timothy Spangler‘s latest column on Forbes.com entitled The Simple Truth About Hedge Funds. The column attempts to introduce hedge funds to the general public by casting light on some of the perceptions or ideas that the public may have about the industry. It’s a natural cycle, as the media focuses more on hedge funds, hedge funds will have to provide answers – publicly in the media and in conferences – and privately as more potential investors are subjected to the same media messaging.

 3. Be a Category Creator – In Why It Pays to Be a Category Creator (Harvard Business Review, March 2013), the authors found that “category creators experience much faster growth and receive much higher valuations than companies bringing only incremental innovations to market.” Researchers found that category creators, while only 13% of the companies studied, accounted for 74% of the group’s growth. Think of Bank of America’s highly successful breakthrough “Keep the Change Program” campaign. E*Trade and Raymond James, both of which are attempting to re-categorize their market based on the new investor and consumer realities. While there are plenty of reasons to discount this approach if you are a hedge fund, private equity or wealth management firm, consider that Fidelity recently went to market with “Get More Out of Your Investment,” where the investor can earn “up to a $2,500 deposit bonus when you open up and fund a Fidelity IRA or brokerage account or add to an existing one.” So, be creative, you may surprise yourself.

4. Marketing Is Here To Stay – Everyone will be marketing, it’s a matter of how you define it and make it work for your firm. For hedge funds and private equity firms for example, your digital reputation must be spotless because you may or may not have a front facing advertising campaign. Though, if you appear on CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg or speak at a conference and happen to catch an eye of an investor, be assured that it is highly likely, if not a certainty, that they will visit your website and Google your firm and you personally to learn more; this behavior works across the board from institutional to individual investors. Capitalizing on traditional media through digital redistribution of print, video and audio is one way of doing it. So are your integrated digital strategies in order? If not, take a look at PIMCO (yes the link to PIMCO’s twitter feed is intentional) as a best practices model.

5. Reposition for ValueE*Trade is doing it, so is Raymond James. Both firms seem to have understood that even with an anticipated wealth effect looming, the individual investor, and we would argue institutional and the accredited investor, are all demanding value. In their recent advertising campaigns both firms are appealing to the value-based investor suggestion that the firms will “keep less” and so “you, the investor will keep more.” We believe that the experience of the recent downturn continues to drive investor behavior from institutions to individuals. Just because the JOBS Act has opened the door, it does not mean that investors will be lining-up at it ready to do business. Investors will ask more questions and demand more clarity. Your firm’s value statement should be at the core of your marketing strategies.

6. Media: Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile – While the traditional media still has its lure providing a valuable platforms for financial services firms, the move to digital and self-owned media creation and distribution is the way of today and the future. Investors will seek information on their time and at their pace, something television and newspapers – at least in their current form – are not able to do yet.  Also note that stories on the web, positive and negative, can go viral quickly, affecting your firm’s reputation as is the case with the New York Times most recent story about LPL Financial. In this new normal of mobile media world, firms who strategically position themselves for this reality and execute against it will outpace those who don’t.

Abe Kasbo is CEO of Verasoni Worldwide a fiercely independent marketing and public relations firm in Montclair, NJ.

 

 


GLSIssue: Global Linguist Solutions (GLS) in Falls Church, Virgina is a provider of linguistic services to the United States Government.  GLS needed a marketing firm who understands both the Middle East and The Arab-American Community because of its focus on Arabic language speakers.

Idea: Verasoni’s creative team developed culturally appropriate visual and written messaging, identified media outlets in the United States and around the world to distribute GLS’ brand.  Verasoni Worldwide carefully crafted language in English and Arabic to ensure that GLS made appropriate cultural connections which were the first and important steps to helping GLS achieve its goals.  Stories were placed on air and in print in various cities around the US including New York and Detroit.

Impact: GLS saw a significant increase in the target market interest in its services and brand. Verasoni achieved over 2 million impressions within three months.


By Abe Kasbo and Kim Reydel

Social media was a huge buzz word in 2009 and the hype will undoubtedly spill over into 2010.  Without a question, social media is now the new mass media (television still dominates…for now), and while businesses are still scrambling to figure out how to maximize their investment, social media delivered the following important points to the market:

1. Aggregation

2. Segmentation

3. Revelancy

As companies continue to embrace social media to grow their businesses, expand their brand footprint, and utilize the medium for PR purposes, some are still struggling to optimize social media to its full potential. According to the Social Media and Online PR Report, 86% of companies plan to more money on social media in 2010. Conversely, 54% of those surveyed say the biggest barrier to better social media engagement is a lack of resources. So, although many are plugged in to various social networking outlets, about half of them see a hurdle in using the tools to their full capacity. In addition 60% of companies say that they have gained “some benefit but nothing concrete” from using social networking. Let’s be honest, when using a tool to grow your business it’s crucial to see the results and reap the benefits. Until you know how to properly engage in social media, it’s not an essential tool for your business.

According to a survey by Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia in the B2B world 11% of respondents were heavily involved in social media while 23% were not involved and 65% experimented only. In the retail business 10% of respondents were heavily involved, 27% not involved, and 63% of retail respondents only experimented with social media. Like any other business strategy you must follow through with a plan, and a short presence on facebook is sure to generate zero business for any company. The concept of social media may have been an experiment, but building your company’s presence on a social network is a business strategy that requires a commitment and understanding of the platform. The majority of companies agree that major benefits of social media include; increased brand awareness, customer engagement, communication with key influencers, and better brand reputation. Additionally 54% of supply side respondents say their clients are incorporating video and video sharing in their use of social media. It’s superb that so many companies have hopped on the social media bandwagon but truth be told, it might as well be obsolete unless you are using it as a tool to engage your audience.

So, although statistics show that companies know how to use social media, there is a lack of understanding when it comes to the value of engagement. In other words, any company has the ability to create a fan page on facebook and populate the group, but often times it stops here. Companies have to keep in mind that those who join your network on twitter or facebook or linkedin are looking for something and it’s your responsibility to give it to them. The social networking platform allows you to offer coupons, contests, news, videos, promotions etc to ENGAGE your audience. It’s important to bring people together via your social network but it’s crucial to keep your site functional and relevant. As another year is about to begin, let’s make a resolution to remember to engage engage engage!


I find myself broaching this important subject again. Where ever I speak, during client presentations, in the coffee shop, online forums, list-serves, etc., the hype about social networking continues.  Sure, in many important ways, social networking lives up to the hype, given the sheer numbers (people participating and their activity of course). Sadly, living the hype is not like hyping the hype, living the hype is less glamorous, I can assure you.

Here’s Why. It makes all the sense in the world to play in this space, but what good is it if you are not growing your network. Yes, there is value in being in touch with your customers, and social networking, gives you the opportunity to be exposed to your clients’ network. But isn’t the idea to grow your potential network so the influence of your brand, ideas, products, and organization grows?

My next post will be on the idea of dependence on social networking and the implications / complications that may arise…I’m also working on 10 ways to grow your network.

More to come…


I started my career working for legendary stock picker and investor Mario Gabelli. In my brief stint at Gabelli’s Rye, N.Y.-based firm, I learned much that has stuck with me to this day, including the basics of value investing. Value investing is about kicking the tires, doing your research from the ground up, and carefully evaluating a company and its stock based on its intrinsic value… before you pony up one dime for shares.

Value investing also looks at businesses in their totality and, just as importantly, over the long term. No flipping stocks, no short-term trades; value investors are overwhelmingly in it for the long run.

The era of managing quarter to quarter is over. If you’re in business, surely you’re in it for the long term, right? So your business, including your marketing approach, ought to reflect that reality. No one doubts Gabelli’s success, just as we all love to hear from Warren Buffet, the renowned value investor, pontificate about his latest corporate conquest. Both Buffet and Gabelli run their businesses the same way they invest: with an eye on value and for long-term success.What can we learn from these legendary investors about marketing and promotion? Here are four suggestions to include in your marketing plans that will deliver real value for your business:

Kick the Tires: Do your homework on marketing, including media. Not all media are created equal relative to your products, services, customers, and geographic service area. Take time to review all options before investing a medium. And because media companies are recognizing that we are in the age of engagement, many are providing advertisers with more venues to reach customers. They may include websites, networking opportunities, and direct mail, in addition to its core business offers. So do your homework on media and negotiate a good deal.

Avoid Marketing Bombs: Without a marketing plan, you’re dropping marketing bombs and wasting your hard-earned money. Recently, a CEO of a $500-million firm that sells telecommunications equipment said of his marketing: “Yeah, we got that idea, we tried it, and it didn’t work.” When I asked him about the context of that particular tactic within an overall campaign and why it did not work, he replied, “What campaign?” A tactical approach to marketing is far less effective than a strategic one, so invest in and employ market-driven strategy. Then measure your strategy in its entirety; don’t simply examine one tactic, no matter how important.

Know that People Buy From People: Bring your business out of the office. Target trade shows that have a close affinity to your firm. Investing in trade shows goes far beyond having a nice booth. It’s a great chance to network with other businesses, each a potential client. Trade shows allow you to measure yourself against the competition.

In addition, invest in opportunities to make personal connections, such as the simple act of taking potential clients to dinner. It may sound clichéd, but it’s the blocking and tackling that allows you to move down the field with consistency, and not the 60-yard “Hail Mary.” Very often, personal connections win more business than 9-to-5 sales tactics.

Do Good, Do Well: In the 1980s, American Express developed a unique campaign for their customers to help restore the Statue of Liberty. A penny for each use of the American Express card and $1 for each new card were donated to the Statue of Liberty Restoration campaign. In four months, $2 million was raised and, more importantly to American Express, its transaction activity increased by 28 percent. So integrating social causes into your marketing strategy will surely allow you to “do good”—while doing well.

PLAN FOR THE LONG RUN: The above are value-based tactics that should be included in your overall marketing plans. Don’t rely on one approach. Delivering value through marketing is ensuring that you integrate your tactics with business-driven strategy. So, if you agree with me that we’re in a new era of customer engagement, you’ll give your marketing plan a second look. If you don’t have a plan, build one around adding value to your business. And remember, that plan must deliver value to your market not just for now, but for the long run.


Here’s a brief interview with FIOS1 about social networking.


Last Wednesday’s train ride to DC was bumpier than usual, it breezed through the Philadelphia 30th Street Station when I decided to call my friend and journalist/writer/managing editor of TheDefendersonline.com and all around gal TaRess Stoval.  We chatted about my morning status update on facebook to which she replied, and then she asked me about my trip to the Capital. I told her I was basically heading there in search of business. I told her that I will also to talk to anyone who will listen to me yap about how build their social networking strategy through content distribution (as part of a larger marketing communications plan of course).  “Yeah, content is the new currency,” TaRessa hollered into my ear piece.  “You know what, that’s the title of my next blog, I’m stealing that..yeah, that’s right content is the new currency,” I replied.  So, now that I’ve given proper props, I’m taking it a step further, content and content distribution is the new currency. Here are three simple, but key thoughts…

Websites Are About As Obsolete Typewriters

Businesses put up websites, people engage in social networking. The Huffington Post, NPR, and some writers like Nick Kristof (who at the time of the writing of this piece has 118,937 fans) of the New York Times, deliver content on their websites, but engage readers on other sites by distributing the same content that’s on their website to other sites like facebook to reach readers, and listeners that would have otherwise would have never visited their website proper.  So clearly, creating content isn’t good enough, strategic distribution is vital.

Relevant Content Engages, And Invites

Businesses of all sizes must recognize that the social networking sites have done the work of aggregation, and now it is their responsibility to work with the golden opportunity in front of them. Frankly, no one cares that you have a website, people care about what they care about, so your business’ relevancy is about them, not you. Why should they join your group or fan your business? What will they get? Prestige? Coupons? Offers? Special content that no one else gets?  Insider scoops? Invitations to special events? Whatever it is, it must be relevant and frequent.  The frequency is important because it shows your network that YOU are engaged with them as well, which adds significantly to your online reputation.

Content Comes in Many Forms

Let’s not forget that Youtube is the world’s largest search engine, so utilizing video can be highly accretive to SEO and SEM. So integrating video, blogs, news articles and other forms of content, as long as it’s relevant, is the way to go.  Again, we’re vying to keep our network engaged through content.

Now, I am going to publish this piece, email it to my network, and share it with my facebook friends…because, content is the new currency!


A discussion about the American Auto Industry's recent marketing, advertising, and public relations efforts in response to the industry's troubles. Read more

I am pleased to bring you an interview with Laura Occhipinti, entrepreneur and CEO of New Jersey Young Professionals. With over 800 members and growing, New Jersey Young Professionals takes social networking to a different level, allowing members to meet and connect both on and offline…

AK: So Laura, tell me about New Jersey Young Professionals?

LO: I tell people that NJYP is a social networking group but in real words it is for helping people to make friends.  I basically bring people together, stir them up, and in the end friendships are formed.  It would be impossible to tell you how many friendships were made over the last 5 years but I am sure the number is in the thousands.

AK: How did you get the idea for the business?
LO: I was 27 and living in Bergen County, where I grew up.  Then I got a new job and moved to Somerset County where I knew no one.  I wanted to have friends right there, where I was living so I search online for something to join and nothing came up so I started a group on Yahoo to make friends, and it worked.

AK:  From what I gather, you’re in the social networking sense in the true of the term. Tell a bit about how you build a network like yours.
LO: No one has ever asked me this.  Basically I go to many events and can easily meet 100 people a week.  People then connect to me/and vice versa via email, facebook, twitter, linkedin, and even via the NJYP.org website.  I have a great memory so I bring people together who should know each other.  Being self-employed you also attract others who are self-employed and those who want to “pick your brain.”

AK: Aside from your website, what online properties or websites have your used to grow or promote your business?

LO:  I do not think I’d be where I am today with out craigslist.  It is where I first listed my group and where I continue to post events.  I used Facebook a lot as well as LinkedIn and I just started to use Twitter.  Other than that I post events anywhere I can for free.  It’s easy to get stuff out there for free.

AK: What the main keys to the success and growth of your network?
LO: Word of mouth!  If you provide a good, quality service people will natrually tell others.  Young Professionals hang, almost exclusively, with other young professionals.  They’ll email each other about NJYP, share an event via a link, share via Facebook. It’s great!

AK:  What are the lessons that you have learned about online social media?
LO:  It’s a lot of work to keep up with everything!  The key is to be current and that means daily maintenance, sometimes hourly updating!  One day I’d love to hire a 20 year old intern to take care of all the online social media that drives traffic to NJYP.org.  They’d be so much better than me at it and they’d probably have fun too.

AK: What is your personal definition of social networking?
LO: Groups of strangers coming together at a set time/place for no other reason than to meet “strangers” and in most cases food and alcohol should be present:)