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This Week's Dilemma

Conducting marketing without an advertising budget

I've been asked to promote a product without using advertising, such as in industry magazines and newspapers, and without knowing my marketing budget. I've been told to get creative and submit a proposal. We sell only to end users and have an internal literature department. How do I promote a product with my hands tied?

—Sidney, product manager

Previous Dilemma

Distinguishing an effective marketing kit from a caboodle

We are a small serviced-based business, and most of us have multiple roles. Based on requests from customers and seeing what others do, I suggested we look into developing a marketing/media kit. I have done research, but it isn't clear what makes an effective kit and whether it should go to anyone else besides prospects. What are readers' experiences with kits?

—Kristen, Owner

Summary of Advice Received

A media kit and a marketing kit are two separate things, but both are great to have on hand. The most important thing is to avoid overwhelming the recipient with either kit.

  1. Use a basic kit and build on it.
  2. Include what a recipient needs.
  3. Provide an online kit

1. Use a basic kit and build on it

Start with a basic kit and modify it as you go. Note that it is always changing, and you can adapt it for various needs.

Neil Williamson, president of The Trellis Group, says a properly designed basic kit can be a flexible document to give to prospects, the press, investors, distributors, end users and others:

Most of my work has been in the wine industry, where marketing kits typically include recent vintage tasting notes, a couple of recent press clips, background on the history of the organization, history of the vineyards and information on the founders and winemakers.

These marketing kits are often the launching board for small clients to realize they do have a story to tell and an appreciative audience. With the addition of a few pages on facility specifics and a couple of other cosmetic changes, the marketing kit becomes the client's special event marketing kit. It is important to keep your basic marketing kit basic, but have the prospect-specific tools on the shelf, ready to be added, to clearly address the prospect's key area of interest.

Dumisani, with Fundani Computer Systems, suggests developing a textbook-style kit with a letter to the recipient, brochures, testimonials or reviews, and a business card: "Next, open a book for recording the requests you receive. At the end of each month categorize and prioritize the requests. You can start creating kits for your audience that look more at the type of information they need."

2. Include what a recipient needs

This sounds like basic advice, but some businesses get carried away or treat a kit as a one-size-fits-all compendium.

Judith Sult, president of Here's How Marketing and Research, recommends treating the media kit as an instruction booklet—that is, include everything a customer needs to know about how to use your services:

List your services, guarantees and policies. Prices are a little tricky when services are complicated. At least, give some prices on basic services. Don't be afraid your competition will have an advantage if they get your prices. Putting out your prices shows you know you are worth the fees.

Anna Barcelos, marketing director at OpenBOX Technologies, explains the different purposes of marketing and media kits:

Here are examples of my successful use of each. My experience with media kits has been primarily for communicating with the press. I develop these myself to give to editors and journalists at events (tradeshows and press conferences) as well as frequent mailings to my PR list. I put together a cost-effective media kit on a CD. The press loves me for it because everything is right there in digital format, making their lives easier while increasing the chances of my information being published for free.

The main contents of the kit should include a press backgrounder (corporate profile one pager), the latest news releases and product graphics (minimum 300 DPI) with descriptions.

A marketing kit is a different animal and for a different purpose. These are packages you give out to leads/prospects that should only contain information relevant to the prospect's needs. They should contain items like a corporate profile, relevant white papers or article reprints, and product sheets, all items you possess, which build credibility and advance a prospect down the sales cycle.

Personalization is key in the above cases. The last thing you want to do is waste money sending out information no one will look at. Digital formats are the most cost-effective. You can burn CDs or e-mail documents in PDF format. You can also make these items available on your Web site.

Andy Montone, vice-president of marketing corporate communications, advises not to overwhelm the recipient:

It should include enough information to be compelling, but not your entire collateral portfolio. Make it relevant. The kit might include an outline fact sheet about your company, service, product and experience; a list of key corporate execs (profiles only); one or two current brochures; and one or two current articles, if any, written about your company/product/service.

Perhaps as important as the content is the presentation. If the information is randomly thrown together, even though it might be informative, you stand a good chance of being ignored. I like to use a two-pocket folder and organize the information in a logical progression of what I want the recipient to see first. Make it look and feel "important" and ensure that the pieces all fit. It's your brand that you're sending out in these kits, so be sure that it's attractive and everything is coordinated: paper stock, logos and colors, for example.

Finally, send it to a person—not an address—and include a response mechanism (business reply card, phone number, URL and email address). Some of these sound basic, but I've created and used these kits many times with very good success—both to prospects and to the media.

A reader assumes that Kristen has diverse areas that need highlighting:

When your business is not as simple as "We are ABC Company that produces X commodity," it complicates how you promote yourself. What is your main, primary service? Who is your main audience? Design your material around that, and then allow for some complementary flyers and inserts to show the other facets of your services.

KISS is a good acronym to keep in mind—Keep It Short/Simple. Don't put "fluff" text in just to have text. Use the famous five—who, what, where, when, and why to define key areas. Add some "How" for detail. A kit doesn't have to be huge—it needs to be informative and useful. That can be as simple as a tri-fold or as complex as a one-inch folder.

3. Provide an online kit

Adding a press section to a Web site is invaluable, because anyone can review the media or marketing kit without requesting it. Having it readily available removes the barrier of a person trying to find a contact within a company to get a kit. Furthermore, it's instant—no waiting for a kit to arrive in the mail.

Abbi Irelan of corporate communications with JPL Productions is a proponent of an electronic marketing or media kit:

It's cost effective and you'll probably get much more use out of it (not to mention better results) if you put it on your Web site. Also, with media/marketing kits—a good rule of thumb is to keep your audience in mind. What does a customer or prospect want to know about you? What separates you from the competition? How much experience do you have? Why should they choose your company? The items that you choose to include in your kit may vary, but if you address your audience's needs, you'll have an effective tool.

In my organization's case, we include information about "Who We Are," "What We Do" and "How We Do It." We also include a fact sheet, a timeline, biographies of our executive team and videos about our company. If you're looking for ideas—look at some of the top companies that get lots and lots of press—HP & IBM come to mind as good starting points. Finally, almost anyone who is a prospect, customer, partner/vendor OR media may be interested in the information contained here. Make it useful for all audiences without overwhelming them.

Another plus of an online kit is not having printing costs.

The options for creating a media/marketing kit are many and easy. Having a flexible kit is little trouble with the technology we have today. Start with the basics, include what the recipient needs and nothing more, and make it available on your Web site.

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Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.