Small Business Integrated Marketing: More Focus Is Needed, Especially in the B-To-B Space

Small businesses who operate in the business-to-business space do a lot of things right, but marketing is not one of them. This article will explain why this is the case and explore associated pitfalls and opportunities, as well as give you a definition of b-to-b (business-to-business) marketing and suggest some effective solutions to the problem.Typically, companies with 20 to 100 employees or so who are in manufacturing, distribution, professional services and the like do not have a marketing manager, and rightly so; these firms are simply too small to justify that position. So the president or general manager is responsible for marketing. This doesn’t work very well because that person has more important things to do such as keeping the place running and keeping the doors open. So, there’s little or no time for marketing planning or to implement a plan consistently.First let’s define “marketing” as it applies to the b-to-b space. Simply put, marketing is not advertising. Advertising is part of marketing, but a small part.The correct definition of b-to-b marketing is that it’s the integration and orchestration of all of the tactics that go into bringing a product or service to market: marketing research and competitive analysis; face-to-face selling; online support including an optimized website with an SEO (search engine optimization) strategy; downloadable white papers and how-to’s; email marketing; trade shows; sales lead generation; a customer retention strategy; sales tools such as brochures and literature and testimonials; online and offline press and publicity. You get the idea: it’s not just advertising.Most small business owners and general managers know they should be doing something to generate business other than shove their salespeople out the door. But they don’t get around to those other things, meaning marketing. Suddenly a year has gone by and their sales and market share have suffered. So they scramble to do something like build a new website or try some online advertising. But they have no plan. As the saying goes, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”On the other hand, with a well-crafted marketing and advertising plan the business can actually have a strategy to develop a consistent market presence, generate sales leads, create a better brand and retain existing customers. But can the business afford to do this, and how does it get done?The first part of the answer is, they can’t afford to not put a marketing plan in place because their market is full of competitors who can and will beat them in the marketing arena. It’s a market-share battleground out there and the best marketer wins.Another argument for investing in an integrated marketing plan is this: companies pay for legal, IT and accounting services, right? Marketing expertise is no different.In terms of cost, it comes down to needs. If there hasn’t been a formal marketing plan in place for some time and if the company doesn’t know where it stands in terms of its status (market share, perception etc.), some research will be needed and a marketing plan should be developed.The plan will comprise three main components: the company’s business objectives; its sales and marketing strategies; and the tactics and media spend necessary to achieve the objectives. Depending on where the company goes to get this done, the cost will probably be between $3,000 and $7,500 for a plan. Then the plan must be implemented.Where does a company go to get this done? For smaller businesses, it’s best to avoid larger ad agencies; those with 50 employees and above. They’ll want to work with big marketing budgets, say, $500,000 at minimum. It’s also better to work with an agency that specializes in the b-to-b space; they understand the integration referred to above. While it’s handy if the agency is local, it doesn’t have to be. It’s more important that the agency is a good fit for the company.Another alternative is to contract a good b-to-b marketing consultant to do your research and draft your marketing plan. But have the second step lined up, too: an agency who can implement the plan, ideally a smaller agency specializing in b-to-b marketing. Check their work and get referrals from their clients.Whatever route you choose, make sure the firm you choose is very knowledgeable in the online space. Today, almost all marketing in the b-to-b space occurs online: information gathering and downloads of white papers and how-to’s; organic search results, online ads, web engagement, SEO, email marketing, press, articles, etc.Actually, this is good news since online marketing and the analytics associated with it are far less costly than the traditional methods b-to-b marketers have been used to such as trade magazines, lavish literature, direct mail and trade shows (not that those traditional tactics should be abandoned.)So what is the cost for a full-blown integrated marketing plan, media spending and implementation-management by an agency or a consultant?The best budgeting method is the “task method”, meaning determining what tasks need to be done considering your market circumstances, then assigning costs to those tasks and their associated media. It varies by company. That’s something a good marketing agency can do for you. If you have a very limited budget a good agency can develop your plan and focus on its most critical tasks, working with a first-year budget as small as $50,000.But a full-blown integrated marketing-media plan is highly recommended if you want to be a market leader. As a rule of thumb, the higher your gross sales, the less you’ll pay as a percentage of your sales. Roughly, if you’re a smaller company, say, sales of $5 million or so, count on spending about three percent of your gross sales, or about $150,000. At $10 million in sales, perhaps two percent, or $200,000. At $20 million, probably between one and two percent, so about $300,000.One thing is certain: a well-planned and well-implemented b-to-b marketing and advertising plan with a strong online component pays off. It helps you compete better for market dominance. However, marketing planning and implementation takes focus, consistency and the help of professionals.

Healthy Competition In Team Sports Teaches Life Skills

The word “competition” brings to mind images of athletes or sports teams striving to do their best and working hard to accomplish significant goals. For most of us, achieving goals and enjoying life is at least partially dependent on working together and getting along with others. Many of these essential relational skills are learned in the developing years as children move from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Given the importance of these key life skills, our society would benefit greatly by ensuring that kids are provided with ample opportunities for working together and getting along with people. Such relational skills can be effectively taught (and caught) in the context of an organized sports program.It seems that kids are born with an innate sense of competition and a desire to win. Our society, schools, and sports programs all cater to this inclination to compete with various games and challenges. Such challenges have been a part of human society from the beginning, and this competition develops a number of important skills for use throughout life.As an example, the desire to be the champion and top dog often pushes people further than they would choose to go on their own. This dogged determination to win is what drives Olympic athletes, CEOs, and many leaders to attain to lofty positions. However, the downside of unchecked competition is that negative traits including roughness, a domineering attitude, and unsportsmanlike conduct can develop and can take over a person. Such negative traits can be very harmful, and if not kept in check, can lead to damaged and broken relationships.


This danger for unguided winners to develop poor attitudes is precisely the reason we should encourage children to get involved in team sports programs and other organizations where healthy competition is encouraged and promoted. It is often within these organizations that essential life skills are taught and where the development of proper attitudes can be nurtured.By participating in organized team sports, kids can begin to truly experience the thrill of winning and the pain and discouragement of defeat. By experiencing these emotions in the context of their sports community, children can begin to understand the roots of their emotions and how their emotions can affect others. In addition, parents and coaches can observe how kids react and can provide encouragement and guidance as needed when and if inappropriate behavior and reactions are observed.Within the context of an organized sports program, a skilled coach can help and encourage the winners to revel in the victory, and yet do so in a way that does not put down the losers. In fact, if the kids on the winning team can learn how to reach out and encourage kids on the losing team, they have learned an extremely valuable lesson that will serve them well throughout their lives. In the same way, the losers must learn the essential skill of losing well and not withdrawing in self-pity or lashing out at the winners, their teammates, or their coach. Winning and losing are a continual part of life, and developing key skills to cope with victory and loss will go a long way in helping young people cope effectively with the ups and downs of life.In developing life skills, there is a significant difference between team sports such as basketball, baseball, and soccer and individual sports such as tennis and racquetball. Individual sports typically focus on developing the competitive side of an individual, but organized sports programs can teach so much more. On a team, the children learn to work together to accomplish things that they could never do on their own. In addition, the coach can provide encouragement and direction, and the kids themselves can encourage each other when they are down. On a team, kids can also develop the confidence to try new things that they might otherwise not try. Such an encouraging and supportive environment is rarely found in an individual sport, but can be commonly found on sports teams. Out of necessity, teams learn to work together to accomplish mutual goals and such skills will help carry them through life and work.


In summary, the competition and cooperation that occurs in organized sports programs can be very healthy and helpful for developing essential life skills. In a well-run program, team sports encourage children to work together, encourage one another, and get along with others. A quality and gifted coach can develop these skills in children, and our children would be well-served into adulthood and our society would benefit by having these skills engrained into our children’s character.

What Makes Horse Riding Different From Any Other Sport?

So, what’s the big deal with horse riding? Why do so many claim that it is so much different from any other sport? If you’ve never ridden or been around horses, questions like these are probably running through your mind. Don’t worry, you are not alone.Read on to find out what you have been missing… There’s Just Something About Working With a Horse:
Perhaps the best part of horse riding is the interaction that the rider has with his or her horse. Unlike spending time with a cat or a dog, interacting with a horse tends to feel very different; when people are riding they get the distinct feeling that this is not their pet, but instead their partner.


Also, the fact that we build these partnerships with an animal that is undoubtedly much bigger and stronger than we are can be intimidating at first, but then becomes just another wonderful aspect of the sport.In fact, the teamwork aspect of riding a horse plays a significant role in making this sport so different. In addition to having to work with their horse, riders have to have a positive relationship with a variety of individuals that help both them and their horses moving forward, an aspect of the sport that brings us to the next unique characteristic about horse riding. Teamwork Is The Name of The Game:
While mainstream sports also require teamwork, horse riding could be considered to require the most teamwork of any sport out there. Although riding per se is not usually a team sport, as most riders compete individually, the amount of people it takes to keep a horse healthy and ready for competition is astounding. Most riders will have a farrier, vet, barn owner, and trainer to work with in order to keep their horse in the best shape possible and riders are also especially concerned about pampering and keeping their horses happy, too. For this reason, horse riding creates a unique team atmosphere. Not Just a Sport:
For most riders, the experience isn’t just about participating in the sport, winning competitions or getting the job done. The majority of horse riders end up spending numerous hours at the barn or stables; a rider’s relationship with his or her horse is often significant.


When it comes to trying to demystify the lure of horse riding, a rider’s relationship with their horse is the biggest difference between horse riding and other sports.Last, but not least, the sport of horse riding is surrounded by a strong community of individuals that share the same passion. For this reason, the sport of horse riding has a supportive and unique atmosphere that welcomes anyone, young or old, looking to get started in the sport.

Budget Travel and Hotel Considerations – Travel Industry Making Changes To Compete For Consumers

If you are like most Americans, you having difficulty saving money while prices are rapidly increasing; things like college tuition, food and fuel. So, when it comes to traveling you are looking to shave off costs and find ways to travel on a budget, and well, no one can blame you for that. What you may not be aware of or have not considered is that in the travel business; everything from airlines and rent-a-cars to tourist destinations and hotels are trying to find better ways to accommodate the budget traveler.


For instance, many airlines have had their fuel prices boosted to record costs and many family budget and business travel hotels are making changes in management and in their operations. Recently, Choice Hotels named a new COO and President; Stephen P. Joyce, 48. Additionally they named a new Executive VP of Global Branding. Why, because they know that they must hold their American clientele and find ways to cut costs, while still attracting their overseas travelers who are paying in high valued currencies.There are many ways to cut costs in traveling and staying on a budget and hotels, rental car agencies and airlines are working very hard to compete for fewer travelers with fewer dollars, while still retaining a profit. Easier said than done, especially when jet fuel has almost tripled in cost since 2000 and recently the number of families traveling on vacation is being cut by a good 35% this summer, all due to cash strapped consumers, credit crisis and outrageous fuel costs. Airline Industry analysts are predicting one or maybe two major airlines filing bankruptcy in 2009 and some hotel chains have pulled back construction of new hotels in many locations.