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Marketing Communications
Selecting the Right Marketing Tools
By Jim Schakenbach, Managing Partner, SCT Group, Inc.

"Which works better - print advertising or direct marketing?"  To a casual listener that seems like a logical question. But think about it for a moment.

Over the past twenty years I have occasionally had clients pose questions similar to this: "Which works better - print advertising or direct marketing?" To a casual listener that seems like a logical question. But think about it for a moment. That's like asking "which works better, a hammer or a saw?" There is no correct answer to a question like that because they're different tools. Whether it's media or hand tools -- each has unique features and functions and can be effective when used correctly.

To take our metaphor one step further, does a properly stocked toolbox contain only one tool? Of course not. Neither should a marketing program. To rely solely upon, say, direct mail or telemarketing, would be as foolish as filling your toolbox with wrenches and then heading out to replace your roof. Instead, you need to properly assess what it is you're trying to accomplish, and then fill your toolbox accordingly. The smart marketer, like the smart craftsman, fills his or her toolbox with a wide variety of tools to make sure the proper one is available to get the job done right. For example, if your new product is designed for a vertical market with only a few prospects, the broad reach of a print campaign might not be an effective use of your marketing money. Instead, a highly focused direct marketing campaign using direct mail, email, fax, or telemarketing might be just the ticket (or, in this case, tool), enabling a tightly focused, cost-effective campaign to be developed with little or no waste.

On the other hand, if brand development is important and you've got a very horizontal market to reach, targeted direct marketing could very well break the bank. Instead, you might get more bang for your buck with a well-conceived, broader advertising campaign using as few general or B2B publications as possible to reach the largest appropriate audience, maximizing impact while minimizing expense. This also enables you to take advantage of something called affinity - the favored status readers bestow upon publications they like and respect. Affinity for a publication rubs off on the companies that advertise in it, helping them gain potential customer approval as well. Ideally, you want to be able to put all your tools to work - if your budget and marketing goals warrant it, use print advertising to build broader brand awareness, targeted email and direct mail to focus specific product pitches to key decision-makers, and PR to build credibility.

Of course, these are dangerous generalizations; each situation is unique and requires specific, careful planning. But the premise still holds - use the right tool for the right job. So, when it's time to say "OK, we're ready to go to market", carefully evaluate your marketing goals and message and select the medium or media that will deliver that message to your target audience as effectively as possible.

The SCT Group Inc. is a marketing communications agency specializing in science, communications, and technology accounts. For more information, please visit our web site at or call 508.919.2092. Technology Spoken Here.

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