The harsh demise of Internet companies that were built on ill-defined business models and powered by marketing dollars is well-documented.
In an effort to stake claim to new markets, Internet gold rush prospectors relied on well-funded advertising budgets — rather than defined business models or sales — to temporarily fuel business viability. Orphaned sock-puppet mascots and extensive Super Bowl advertising by business-to-business technology companies illustrate a disconnect between marketing programs and business objectives.
Today's refocus on fiscal responsibility and sales has caused many companies to cut marketing budgets. Executives are fastidiously watching the bottom line and are demanding quantifiable returns from each business function, including marketing communications.
Despite the do-more-with-less challenges facing many communications professionals, companies are strengthening brand equity by aligning marketing initiatives with business objectives, focusing on programs that yield measurable return on investment and capitalizing on market opportunities.
Riptech Inc., a managed security services provider, last year launched and implemented a focused, yet extremely successful marketing program. By maximizing a budget that paled in comparison to its publicly traded competitors, Riptech quickly established itself as a market leader while delivering straight-line support to business objectives.
Qualifying the business case. Riptech faced challenges in gaining mind share in a market crowded with industry heavyweights that included IBM and dozens of “point-product” information security vendors. Headquartered in Alexandria, VA, the 20-person firm was focused on developing outsourced security technology to reduce corporate vulnerability to increasingly insidious hacks and attacks. The challenge was to raise the organization's profile to support sales and secure venture capital investment.
Riptech's first action was to conduct a planning meeting with its agency O'Keeffe & Co. to clarify its business, revenue objectives, sales model, competitors and market trends.
For Riptech, determining its sales process and related business factors carried weight in determining which marketing programs to implement. O'Keeffe also researched competitors and learned that positioning varied widely. The fluctuation in market messages made customers skeptical of vendor product claims. In parallel, O'Keeffe's media and analyst audit revealed that while the trade press primarily covered point solutions designed to address specific challenges, the business press generally reported on information security from a high-level perspective.
Riptech and O'Keeffe then mapped a one-year media relations program to position Riptech as a leading information security solution provider. We then built Riptech's media relations campaign based on the following strategy:
· Stress Riptech's extensive U.S. Department of Defense experience to provide spokesperson credibility.
· Underscore Riptech's “holistic” information security market offering by promoting managed information security monitoring solution benefits.
Selecting the best marketing tool for the job. Riptech's diverse customer prospects and multipronged sales programs covered different markets, making advertising and direct response campaigns too cost-prohibitive to provide the reach required to support sales adequately. Further, advertising would not garner the immediate third-party validation that was critical to success. We then initiated the following multifaceted public relations and Web site development programs to achieve our communications objectives:
· Planning: O'Keeffe's public relations plan encompassed all 2000 Riptech activities, ensuring that it strategically aligned tactics against campaign objectives.
· Media training and messaging: O'Keeffe & Co. conducted executive media training for both print and broadcast interviews, thereby standardizing messaging and maximizing high-impact media opportunities.
· Press and analyst tours: More than 60 press and analyst briefings were scheduled, enabling Riptech to discuss its value proposition and gain mind share of market opinion leaders.
· Thought leadership development: Through a series of white papers and pitches, we quickly established Riptech's credibility and expertise.
· Customer reference program creation: We then qualified and secured more than 10 customer and partner media references, providing the critical third-party validation required for media coverage and analyst validation.
· Media outreach: In addition to mapping Riptech's news program and identifying all relevant feature opportunities, we quickly delivered Riptech as a source once new security breaches like the February 2000 denial of service became public. The combination of market education and opportunism proved tremendously effective in placing Riptech in mainstream business publications.
· Leveraging public relations success: Capitalizing on stand-alone Riptech features in leading trade publications and inclusion in influential business press, we ordered reprints of key articles for use in targeted sales and funding activities. Riptech media coverage was also included in the corporate Web site to reinforce market traction.
Web Site Initiative
· Design: We revised the Web site's look and feel to reflect corporate repositioning. Additionally, the easily navigable Web site architecture provided distinct resources for current customers and partners, prospects, potential investors and other key Riptech audiences. Interactive Web site capabilities enabled Riptech to capture leads and followup with visitors' queries.
· Content development: O'Keeffe revised Riptech's existing Web presence to underscore business benefits of its offerings and highlight technical capabilities to engage Web site visitors.
O'Keeffe leveraged strategic planning and aggressive media outreach to generate nearly 400 Riptech media placements, repositioning the company as one of the premier information security firms. Riptech coverage included stand-alone features in technology trades (Computerworld, Network World, Network Computing, [email protected] Partner) and inclusion in influential business outlets (CNN, Business Week, Newsweek, The New York Times, Red Herring, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal).
According to Riptech's executive management team, media presence was instrumental in securing $23 million in venture capital and fueling triple-digit growth during 2000.
By charting a marketing program that maps to corporate initiatives, communications professionals are able to calculate the value of specific marketing communications programs. Working within the confines of constricted marketing budgets, a strong public relations program establishes corporate brand equity while arming the sales force with the independent corporate validation that is essential to overcoming purchasing reservations that are common in the current economy.