Marketing Communications – The Cornerstone of a Growing Business

Successful businesses today must be extremely aware of their marketing communications. Reaching your customers is the most important step in growing your business, and in today’s 24/7 information society there are more marketing options available than ever before.

From television and radio commercials, to e-mails and banner ads, to product reviews and sponsorships, public relations is just as much about what medium you use to spread your message as it is about the message itself. A good strategic marketing plan should begin with an analysis of the best ways to reach your potential customers, and will end with a successful marketing campaign. For some businesses, the internet is the bread and butter of their strategic communications plan.

Many businesses have found that direct email campaigns to qualified leads is the most effective form of marketing communication for them. Potential customers receive an e-mail about a product, service or event that may interest them and they react positively. Other businesses may find that having their business or product promoted on another website is the most strategic marketing campaign for their customers.

Having someone else sing your company’s praises is often more enticing to a potential customer than praising yourself would be. Still other companies have found that simply advertising on popular websites is enough to generate additional business. Public relations firms specialize in determining what the most strategic marketing communications plan is for their clients. They know that in order to promote their client’s business, they must find the best way to reach their client’s potential customers.

A good firm will do extensive market research and determine what mediums their client’s competitors are using to reach potential customers. They will then develop a strategic communications plan that is custom tailored to their client. This plan may include running print ads in publications that their client’s potential customers are likely to read or buying advertising slots on TV or radio programs that the competition is currently appearing on or some combination of these different approaches.

Whatever the medium used is, the goal of marketing communications is always the same. To get your company’s name in front of your potential customers and to cultivate a public image that will help to turn all of that potential into reality. With a good strategic communications plan in place, your business will grow. Maintaining that growth requires constantly perfecting your marketing communication plan and managing your public relations every day.

Unified Communications Brings Real Business Value

The world of business communication and collaboration is changing at lightning speed. New communication capabilities, called Unified Communications (UC), are adding major value to both telephone and email systems.

One very powerful UC capability is Integrated Collaboration (IC) which delivers savings and value by bringing groups of people together to produce new ideas or products faster than ever before.

This is done by converting in-person meetings to instant virtual gatherings, and by merging unified communications tools with the documents and software tools that teams use to get their jobs done.

Almost every organization can benefit from IC. These new tools are changing how work gets done and how customers or clients are served. The results are significant savings and efficiencies, as well as the potential for increased business growth.

IC brings a new set of tools to communications. These include:

Presence: Software can now show you who is logged into the network, where the person is, whether they are busy (e.g. on the phone, in a meeting, away from their desk, etc.), and if they are available for questions, assignments or collaboration. Presence also helps your employees avoid wasting time on phone calls or landing in voice mail.

Instant Messaging (IM): it is now possible to communicate quickly, without the disruption of a phone call, using instant messaging (the office version of texting). Quick IM chats can replace up to 30 per cent of internal phone calls. Instant messaging is more flexible too: you can simultaneously IM with more than one person even if they are on the phone (e.g. checking facts while talking to a customer).

Virtual Meetings: These meetings are like being at the same table in the same room. These can be one-on-one meetings, where you and another person are looking at the same document while you are talking about it. You can even turn on video to be “in the same room”. These can be scheduled group conference calls, just as before, but now you can share presentations or documents, essentially from anywhere on the network.

Mobility: You can take these new tools on the road. Just as cell phones took voice calls on the road and smartphones took email on the road, you can now take IC on the road, having presence, IM, and virtual meetings from essentially anywhere.

These new IC tools allow work to be streamlined by using new methodology. This includes keeping people working productively wherever they are and helping teams collaborate to speed up project and service completion. It immediately finds the right resource for the task and enables you to respond to customers more quickly. You eliminate waste in space, travel and time and cuts costs for communication and conferencing systems.

These new methods remove communication barriers or “hot spots” that were built into the older ways of communicating and collaborating. With those problems gone, works speeds up, costs go down, customers are more loyal and your operations can grow and thrive.

Hosted VoIP – Changing the Business Communications Landscape

Every day, companies all across America are trying to accomplish the same thing to improve their businesses. Whether you’re a typical “Mom and Pop” SMB, a mid-size business with 250 employees or a Fortune 100 enterprise, you all share the same four basic goals. 1) Reduce costs. 2) Increase revenue. 3) Become more flexible to changing market conditions and 4) Reduce any risk of disruptions to your business model. In a nutshell, every business wants a better way to accomplish their “Business Continuity” strategies.

So, how are these various businesses accomplishing these lofty goals? One of the quickest and easiest ways to tackle all four items at once is to understand that technology has again changed the way we do business… for the better, and now is the time to embrace the change.

Businesses of today (and tomorrow) are changing how they communicate with one another. Gone the way of the dinosaur are the old, expensive models of communicating. For those of us who are willing to show our age, you can think back to the days of expensive long distance. Remember when you would ask to use someone’s home or business phone and the person paying the bill would always ask the same question, “Are you calling long distance?” Thankfully, with the breakup of Ma-Bell in the ’90’s, competition drove the costs down to a manageable $0.03 per minute from the norm of the era, where it was about $0.40 per minute.

Transition came again with the advent of the internet, and then email, and again with conference calling and mobile services. Each new technology certainly experienced its own bumps in the road, and each took time for the masses to adopt them, but ultimately, each new step brought us closer to the four goals noted above. Reduced cost, increased revenue, market flexibility and reduced risk of downtime.

Today, technology has blessed us with yet another advancement. Over the last decade or so, we have seen the advent of Cloud and Hosted technologies. What began as a slow paced crawl has sped up to an Usain Bolt paced sprint in technological advancements, thanks to cloud computing. As is the norm, it always takes a few years for the masses to understand and in turn, adopt these new technologies, but once it happens there is no turning back. That’s where we are today and thankfully, for businesses looking to ramp up their technology or capitalize on the very impressive catalog of feature sets (now standard in most offerings), your business continuity goals are finally within reach.

If you haven’t already begun the transition of replacing your old dilapidated PRI based phone system, then you are doing your business a huge disservice, and that is a delicately phrased understatement. Sure, you see your old phone system as an asset, something you own, that is tangible and yours, but if you think about it beyond the obvious, what has your phone system done for you lately? I’m sure it rings and can place a call for you, but what if you could have your extension ring at any location you are visiting for the day, or even ring simultaneously with your mobile device? Never missing a prospective customer’s call will drastically help you increase your revenue. Or, consider the amount of time it takes you each month to understand and rectify your paper billing. Are your rates all billing correctly for each type of call you place? Doubtful, but imagine having an online portal tracking each and every call, to and from (down to the extension level), so you not only know where your clients are calling from and who they are speaking to, but also ensuring that each outbound call is actually included, FREE of charge, with the system? That’s both cost reduction and flexibility.

Did you ever have to close during inclement weather? Your competitor who already uses Hosted VoIP services didn’t, because when they awoke to find 6 feet of snow on the ground, they simply opened up their smart phone, logged into the portal and with one click of a button, re-routed all of their calls to their predesignated emergency overrides, in real time! Guess what, they never lost a dollar in existing revenue and better yet, they even gained your lost revenue, because they were open for business while your company was closed for business.

The most common misconception when considering a Hosted VoIP PBX is the price. Most fear that such an advanced Unified Communications system (and that’s what it really is; this ‘aint your Granddaddy’s phone system) is priced the way the old phone systems were, with a huge capital outlay, strapping your business for cash until you got some sort of ROI. That is patently incorrect. Todays Hosted VoIP PBX’s cost little to nothing in upfront costs, and are simply charged monthly just like your phone bill of old.

Included in the monthly costs are your brand new phone system and handsets, all of the usage (domestic calls are usually FREE or UNLIMITED), dozens of features and voice mail options, auto attendants, software upgrades, break fix, installation, training, intuitive administration and user portals (to manage the service, pay your bill, chat, monitor extensions and even view trouble tickets in real time!) and a variety of other bells and whistles. Best of all, these systems, typically priced by the number of handsets ordered, are usually within 15% of your total current spend!

So, the next time that you have a staff or budget meeting and you are trying to determine how to hit your four main goals (again) – Increasing Revenue, Decreasing Costs, Becoming More Flexible and Reducing Downtime Risk – I would recommend that you take a good hard look at Hosted VoIP PBX as an option. The only downside is that you haven’t done it sooner.

About the author:

Jeff Keane, 38, is an expert in business telecommunications services, with over 15 years of industry experience. Jeff is frequently the highest producing sales rep in his company and over the course of his career has helped thousands of clients save millions of dollars annually by implementing his recommendations for various voice, data, VoIP, IT and Cloud services. Jeff lives in Southern New Jersey with his wife Brandy, 36, and two children, Ryan Christopher, 14, and Emma Grace, 10. Jeff is an avid sports fan and also enjoys a variety of music, art, food and technologies.