ARCHIVED  December 1, 1997

When do you need marketing?

After four years in business, elektravision has established a thriving marketing and communications enterprise focused on electronic media. Revenues are growing, and work is steady, but a significant portion of the company˜s CD-ROM and Web-site production business is centered on one client — Hewlett-Packard Co. With some ideas on how to expand and diversify its client base, but no time to implement them, the Fort Collins-based firm decided to get some help. Company officials hired Isis Public Relations & Marketing to put them on track and help them accomplish their marketing goals, and the resulting partnership, said Phyllis Shaeffler, who works in business development at elektravision, turned out to be exactly what the company needed.
"We˜re in the marketing business ourselves, but it was a case of the cobbler˜s children who have the worst shoes in the neighborhood," Shaeffler said. "Our marketing consisted mostly of answering the phone. We were growing, but our potential was much greater than what we were able to take advantage of on our own."
Isis helped elektravision develop and produce an online newsletter the company had been talking about for more than a year, Shaeffler said. The public-relations firm also prompted the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper to write a story about the company, which led to several phone calls, and Isis˜ work to revamp elektravision˜s image includes an award-winning web site.
"We wanted a fresh perspective from someone who˜s not wrapped up in the culture of elektravision and skewed to our point of view," Shaeffler said. "Our partnership with Isis gives us that and motivates us to do more."
Elektravision˜s decision to seek professional help for its marketing woes is one that companies of all sizes face at some point in their development. To determine if your company could benefit from the services of an advertising, marketing or public-relations firm, Isis co-owner, Melissa Katsimpalis, suggests you ask yourself these questions:
n Is your company as profitable as you would like?
n Do you have a healthy volume of repeat business?
n Do you know how to find and reach out to new customers?
n Do you know what your competitors are doing?
If your answer to any of these questions is no, it might be time to seek out the help of a marketing or PR specialist.
"What you˜re asking is, are you OK, or do you want to grow," Katsimpalis said. "If you want to grow, a marketing or PR firm can help your company better communicate who it is, what it has to offer and why its product or service is better than the competition˜s."
Companies often look to a marketing or public-relations firm when they˜re first getting started or when they begin to experience rapid growth, Katsimpalis said. These are times when setting goals and creating a strategy to meet them are crucial.
A marketing plan is as important as a business plan," concurred Karen Hanson, president of Invision Marketing.
Hanson operates one of the larger firms in the region tailored to bigger clients who often spend tens of thousands of dollars on long-range, multiple-piece marketing plans. However, Hanson said that a company of any size can benefit from a good marketing/communications plan — one that includes an overall objective, a strong strategy that addresses how to position your company in the market and how you want your company to be perceived and some well-thought-out tactics.
"The question isn˜t whether or not you need a marketing firm; it˜s whether or not you believe you need one and whether or not you can afford one," Hanson said.
Costs for advertising, marketing and PR services are all over the map and depend on what services are provided. A marketing project consisting of a brochure and other materials designed to build name recognition might cost $3,500 to $5,000, while a long-term campaign consisting of advertising, printed materials, video, CD ROM and Web-site development might cost $50,000 or more.
A public-relations campaign might include an entirely different set of services and costs.
The difference between public relations and marketing, Katsimpalis explained, is that public relations focuses on building relationships with customers and maintaining them using media contacts, special events, speaking engagements, fund-raising campaigns and other means.
Marketing, on the other hand, is a strategic effort to make a transaction occur using a full range of media. Both marketing and PR projects start with a detailed plan and use integrated communications to execute it.
Some firms will write a marketing plan as a separate service, while others tie the plan and its implementation together as one project, said Bonnie Dean, president of Bonnie Dean Associates, an advertising and marketing firm in Greeley. Often, the firm˜s involvement depends on the client.
"We may act as an arm of the company˜s marketing department in some cases and in others work on a project basis," Dean said.
Dean recommends that a company make the investment in a marketing or public-relations firm right from the beginning.
"A new business is besieged with opportunities," she said. "Those that invest in a plan early probably make better choices and make better use of their resources."
Some might question the need for expensive, professional marketing or PR services — especially for a small company on a tight budget. If you have a graphics-software program, you could create your own ads, and there are dozens of books available on how to market a business and write a good press release, so why not do it yourself?
Perhaps you can, if you have the means and the expertise, but Katsimpalis cautions that the business climate in Northern Colorado is no longer one where a business is the only one of its kind on the block. A company needs the ability to influence buying decisions effectively through communications, she said.
Hanson noted that the scope of marketing has changed dramatically and now includes CD-ROM, Web sites and other technical wonders out of reach for most amateurs.
"I survived the desk-top publishing wave of the ˜80s, when people made a whole lot of ugly really fast," she said. "Now that˜s happening with Web sites — a lot of them aren˜t very good."
If a professional image is what you seek, perhaps it should be created by a professional, she added.
As with any major investment, Hanson suggests you shop around for a good company before you commit.
"Talk to other clients, look at the firm˜s past work and talk to the people who will be working for you," she advised.
And if you˜re looking for a less-expensive way to go, Dean recommends a trip to the library to bone up on the subject and make some changes on your own. She also suggests enlisting the help of a university business class. The University of Northern Colorado˜s managerial business classes work with real companies and offer a good way for a company to gain insight on its direction, she said.

After four years in business, elektravision has established a thriving marketing and communications enterprise focused on electronic media. Revenues are growing, and work is steady, but a significant portion of the company˜s CD-ROM and Web-site production business is centered on one client — Hewlett-Packard Co. With some ideas on how to expand and diversify its client base, but no time to implement them, the Fort Collins-based firm decided to get some help. Company officials hired Isis Public Relations & Marketing to put them on track and help them accomplish their marketing goals, and the resulting partnership, said Phyllis Shaeffler, who…

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