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Practical suggestions on not behaving like a lemming.
by Andrew Szabo

(First published as an exclusive article for “Progressive Distributor”)

Few would argue that we are now in an economic recession. The pundits’ endless debate now centers on whether it’s going to be long or short, the landing hard or soft, the impact on the financial markets, the effect on other economies and their effect on America and so on. My first question is: so what? The problem of this macro-perspective is that it speaks little of your business or mine, yet we often wallow in the media’s doom-and-gloom forecast.

Like lemmings, too many business leaders accept these editorials as a foregone diagnosis of the state of their business. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: They become a contributing statistic to the depressed economy. Like lemmings mimicking another’s behavior, they react identically and fall off the cliff together.

Yet every downturn, crash, recession, or even depression has winners that succeed. Companies not only survive, but thrive, in the negative environment. What are they doing differently? If misery loves company, do the joyful seek a different path? I would suggest two key ideas that can significantly contribute to making this recession not your recession.

Stay out of it
First, resolve not to contribute to the recession. Make a choice not to suffer like everyone else. Instead, be proactive and prosper. Hyatt Hotels in the early ’80s is a classic case study in this behavior. The recession, never good news for luxury hotels, hit its peak during 1981-1982. Several cities already had a glut of hotel rooms but Hyatt resolutely went after new guests, rewarded loyal clients, made cuts only where they were not visible to the guest experience. They opened new properties, hitting the competition hard in several new markets where aging competitors were unable or unwilling to reinvest in their existing properties.

Get on the offensive
Second, take business away from your competition, which will increase your market share despite the total pie shrinking.

Sounds simple enough, but the challenge is in the implementation. There are only three effective ways to get more business.

  • Gain share of wallet. Increase business from your existing customers.
  • Promote loyalty. Encourage clients to continue to engage in profitable behavior.
  • Target customer acquisition. Acquire new business from your competition that looks like your best customers.

Effectiveness in each of these areas is highly dependent on the quality of the relationship. Customer relationships are no different from marriages or friendships. They require an understanding of the other party (which entails investing time and other resources). Understanding your customer requires knowledge – gathering comprehensive information, behavioral knowledge and transactional data. It requires a disciplined investment of time and resources in an intelligent process. The technology that holds this all together is often categorized as Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Practical solutions
Working with Sony soon after its successful launch of PlayStation, we ascertained that to increase market share and sell more games (their bread-and-butter in terms of margins), Sony would have to learn about their customers. Since it sold both the hardware and software through retailers, it had no direct contact or knowledge of its customers, except for the few warranty cards that purchasers returned.

By developing a cutting-edge relationship program that tapped into the psyche of gamers, we challenged the gamers to tell us who they conquered in what game. As a reward, they were admitted into the PS Underground, a “stealth” Web site and loyalty program that gave them inside information on new developments and tips on existing games.

Within 12 months, Sony built a base of 40,000 customer names into a comprehensive customer knowledge bank of 500,000 enthusiastic gamers with known genre preferences. This information was then leveraged into targeted, personalized, marketing campaigns that both gained a greater share of wallet and engendered loyalty, making them resistant to new game launches such as Nintendo 64. Sony crushed Sega, and greatly mitigated the threat from Nintendo’s launch of N64.

Although the implementation specifics are certain to be different from your industry, the underlying principles are directly relevant. Understand your customer by investing in the relationship: leverage the knowledge relevantly.

So how do you go about this?

  • Walk in your customer’s footsteps. What does a day (or days) in the life of your customer look like? By analyzing the interactions between your organization and the customer, you can identify key touch-points where data and information are gathered or exchanged.
  • What would the ideal path look like? Dialogues with an organization’s different stakeholders yield mission-critical customer knowledge requirements. Interviews with customers breed greater understanding of the customer’s needs.
  • Perform a gap analysis between the current and the ideal.
  • Throughout the process it is important to identify the systems (both processes and technology) that may aid or hinder the relationship and the ability to assimilate or leverage customer knowledge.
  • Finally, isolate key points of inflection, areas that are critically important and have significant economic impact. Improving these areas will yield the best return on investment.

Technology is not the ultimate panacea for cultivating effective customer relationships. Technology implementations, like CRM solutions, must be accompanied by a strategic process that examines the organization’s customer relationship practices and incorporates communication.

Whether you are a veteran player or a new entrant, experience reveals most have yet to master this combination of art and science called CRM. For example, the marketing department of a relatively new bank entered vital information about their customers into a contact management program. Loan information was entered into a custom-built system, and the regular banking information was entered into a third application. Despite professing a client-centric philosophy, the systems were disintegrated. No one performed a comprehensive analysis of the bank’s customers.

In summary, make this recession not your recession by choosing to grow your business wisely through the intelligent practice of effective customer cultivation.

Category : Informational

Firm To Provide Strategic, Integrated Marketing Communications Services for Leading Customer Contact Solutions Provider

DALLAS, TX (March 22, 2010) – Marketing Symphony LP, a leading, strategic integrated marketing communications firm, has been selected as agency of record by Fort Worth-based NOVO 1, a leading customer contact solutions provider. Marketing Symphony will provide strategic and integrated marketing communications services for the company, including strategy, marketing planning/measurement, website development, video production, and public relations/reputation management, among other activities.

“Marketing Symphony stood above and beyond the other agencies vying for our account,” said Jerry Confer, President, NOVO 1. “The agency’s impressive expertise, creative ingenuity, and professionalism are the perfect complement to NOVO 1’s philosophy and culture.”

“We are confident that Marketing Symphony will help us achieve our marketing goals as we propel NOVO 1 to our next strategic business level,” Confer added.

The first activity that Marketing Symphony will implement for NOVO 1 is a one-day, strategic off-site discussion with the company’s leadership team. This interactive session will explore all areas of NOVO 1’s business areas and be the platform from which to develop its core story, messaging, and, subsequently, other marketing activities.

“We are delighted to be working with NOVO 1, a true leader in its industry,” said Andrew Szabo, Founder and Chief Strategist, Marketing Symphony. “Our business and marketing philosophies are synergistic and we are poised as team members to help the company become even stronger and more visible in the marketplace.”


Marketing Symphony (, based in Irving, Texas, is a strategic, integrated marketing communications firm. The firm’s fundamental goal is to attain positive, measurable results and return on marketing investments for its clients. Marketing Symphony delivers positive results for their clients by delivering a strategic message through an integrated suite of marketing instruments, measuring results and efficacy of the components whether it is public relations, video, direct marketing, email or web site and optimization.


Since 1987, Fort Worth-based NOVO 1,, has dedicated itself to tailoring contact center solutions to support clients’ business goals in building customer relationships and growing their brands. The company delivers adaptable solutions implemented with proven processes and people for industries, such as healthcare, financial, retail, and logistics. Whether it’s a healthcare service, B2B logistics dispatch, or a retail customer retention program, NOVO 1 provides a scalable, safe, and seamless extension to any business.


Category : Outsourced Marketing | Video Production | Web Development

When starting a business, we have the temptation of jumping right in with enthusiasm and excitement.  We sat for months talking to our friends and family about our product and ideas.  While it makes us want to jump in quickly, we must be extremely careful not to jump in without first creating a foundation.   If we don’t have a foundation, we fall into a dangerous business deathtrap that could stop our success before it starts.  This week, we will help you avoid a marketing deathtrap and create a strong foundation.

What is your foundation?

YOUR STRATEGY IS YOUR FOUNDATION!  Do you think a restaurant without a menu could be successful?  Definitely not!  The patrons would be extremely confused, the wait staff stressed, and the cooks would live in utter chaos.  I don’t think the doors would be open for very long, and it would be miserable for everyone while it lasted, which wouldn’t be long.  We would never want to use this restaurant as a model for our business.  If you do not create a firm foundation by having a strategic marketing plan, your business will look like the restaurant with no menu and your doors will shut before you have a chance for success.  This situation is one we want to avoid at all costs.  How do we avoid this disaster?  We need a strategic marketing plan to define our marketing and our direction. It needs to include enough detail so everyone will know what to do.  Then, our business will be like our favorite restaurant: It has a easy-to-follow menu, excellent food, and all of our friends and community know it’s the place to be.

How do you create a strategic marketing plan?

You need TEN key components and actions to create your foundation:

  1. Articulate your mission, vision, and goals. How do they fit into your marketing plan?
  2. Identify your target audience.  If they are an organization, what type?  What are their characteristics?  What does a qualified prospect look like?
  3. Define your product-service offering.  What are the benefits and will your target audience like it?
  4. Understand your competition.  How are they similar and different from you?
  5. Define your EXTRA-ordinary value proposition.  Make sure it is extra-ordinary and NOT BORING!!  It should be unique and credible.  By credible, I mean you should always be able to back up your claims.  defendable and sustainable!  By sustainable, I mean this is something that should work today, next week and next year.
  6. Spend time characterizing your branding personality.  This is your business’s personality and character.  Don’t take it lightly.  Spend time on everything from your email address to how you answer the telephone.
  7. Know what marketing ingredients you will need to communicate your message, positioning, and brand.
  8. Prioritize your marketing ingredients in the form of a rolling 90-day marketing calendar.
  9. Delineate your marketing budget.  What are you going to invest?
  10. Develop your message and core story.  Be able to communicate it in 45 minutes, 15 minutes, 5 minutes and 30 seconds.

The Benefits

After you apply and implement the components and actions, you will have a plan to drive your tactical marketing actions, define who your targeting and why, with what message and through what vehicles.  The actions will take some time, but it is always better to spend the time in the beginning.  If you have already started your business and as you read, you are realizing your business is like the restaurant without the menu, you should stop now and establish your foundation before you fall more into the deathtrap.  It may not be too late, and with the right menu, you will attract the patrons you want.

Those of us with the courage and aptitude to start our own businesses are not lacking in new and revolutionary ideas.  Our minds work constantly, turning ideas about our businesses over and over in our heads.  As we do this, we have to remember to first establish a foundation before heading straight into action with great fervor.  This firm foundation, a strategic marketing plan, will ultimately make all the difference between success and failure.

Category : PR | Strategy

DALLAS, TEXAS (FEBRUARY 10, 2010) – Marketing Symphony LP, a leading, strategic integrated marketing communications firm, has been selected for inclusion in the highly-acclaimed PODi 2010 Digital Print Case Study collection. This collection showcases successful case studies in a broad range of vertical markets and business applications. One of Marketing Symphony’s client projects was recognized as an outstanding example of the immense capacity and potential of digital printing.

The client project named, “Resource One Credit Union Engages Young Adults,” addressed the financial services sector and involved a direct marketing and lead generation campaign. Resource One needed an effective way to market their Generation Y product suite, MyLifeMyMoney, to their existing member base between the ages of 18-30. Marketing Symphony developed a creative direct mail campaign incorporating personalized uniform resource locators (PURLs) as a response vehicle. With its casual look and messaging, this campaign attracted the attention of young adults and the number of MyLifeMyMoney account holders increased 273%. The campaign made full use of integrated cross media: transitioning from a static “interrupter” letter to a dynamic “information” video into an “interactive” micro website that generated content based, on visitor response.

“Both Resource One and we are thrilled to receive the PODi honor for the MyLifeMyMoney project,” said Andrew Szabo, Founder and Chief Strategist, Marketing Symphony. “The power of digital printing applications is unparalleled and we, as a firm, continually develop integrated marketing campaigns that demonstrate creativity and provide measurable bottom-line results for our clients.”

Download a copy of the PODi white paper today.

Category : Integrated Marketing | PODi

Everything we do in marketing sends a message!  Just as in a savory sauce, all of your ingredients should compliment one another and work together to create the perfect flavor.  I have talked to many clients who say, “Why do I need a logo?  My logo never game me any business.”  While your logo, your business card, or your tagline may never get you a piece of business, all of the ingredients used together can make a sauce with the perfect appeal for your target audience.  This week, we will cover how to use your basics in your marketing sauce.

Adding to the basics: Let’s say your basic ingredients are prepped and on the table—your business card, logo, tagline, URL, and so on.  Now, you need to combine them with another ingredient, a networking function.  At the networking function, you are trying to interrupt people, to get their attention.  When looking at the room of possibly 30 people, you may be overwhelmed at first.  Trying to sell your product/service to thirty people in a short amount of time can seem impossible.  You are right—it can be impossible.  So, what is my advice?  Don’t sell to the room. That’s right; don’t do it.  In fact, if people know you are not trying to sell to them, they may actually listen to you.  I know it sounds unconventional and possibly pointless.  Not only is it NOT pointless, it works.  You are not selling to those 30 people, you will sell to the people they know instead.  If those thirty people know 100 people, suddenly you are selling to 3,000 people instead of 30.  What a better use of your time and resources!

Using the basics: Now, you want to use your basic ingredients along with your new ingredient, networking, to begin creating the perfect sauce.  Let’s say you are able to give a 30 second commercial at the function.  First, make sure the people in the room have your business card that contains most of your basic ingredients.  What I do next is to say something like, “My name is Andrew Szabo.  I’m the Marketing Chef.  I speak to professional service senior partners or managing partners at law firms.  If you know such a person, please put their name(s) on the back of your business card and pass it to me.”  Of course, you need to specify your target audience when delivering your commercial. At this point, the pressure is off because the people in the room know you are not trying to sell to them.  In fact, most of them are probably not your target audience anyway. Before you read this article, you may have wasted hours and gas money going to functions that brought you little or no business.  Now, I am giving you a strategy that works!  You have business cards with names of people who are in your target audience.  Also, you have someone they know referring them to you. I ask the person referring me to their friend to please email them to introduce us and Cc me on the email. Now, members of my target audience are being interrupted by someone they know instead of by me. How are they able to make the referral?  They have my business card with all of the necessary information.  By themselves, business cards may not get you business, but as part of the sauce, they work as a key ingredient.  It is a perfect strategy, and it works!

Your personal touch: Even if you use someone else’s sauce recipe, you always want to add your own personal touch.  When someone follows through by introducing you to people they know, you should always send them a hand written thank you card.  It is an extremely valuable use of your time.  I guarantee it will impress the person who referred you, motivating them to give you more referrals.  Remember, our business takes off when people think of us first, often and well.  Write the cards—it makes a difference.  You should also send the potential client an introductory email.  They have already been interrupted; now provide them information about your business and establish credibility.  They will see your email signature, and you can send them an article. In your email, you should send them a link to your website too where they can find more information. You are now adding additional ingredients to your sauce to create the perfect appeal for your target audience.  Your unique sauce will assist you in building the relationship you need with your potential clients.  When they trust you, then they will be open to taste the sauce, to become a client.

The sauce you make is extremely important to the success of your business.   If you add just the right ingredients, I promise you will have more business.  When you establish a relationship with potential clients using powerful ingredients, they are likely to ask you for a proposal.  In this phase, make it as easy as possible for them by simplifying the process as much as possible.  You can do this through taking credit cards and offering prices you know your target audience can afford.  When you have done all of this, your sauce is complete.  It possesses a savory and unique quality that appeals directly to your target audience.

Category : PR | Strategy

Choosing the correct combination of marketing ingredients for your company can be extremely overwhelming.  Right now, I am compiling a list of what you can do in marketing, and I am already over 140.  Trying to do all 140 simultaneously would be disastrous and lead your business right to its death!  Choosing wisely is vital to the your business’s success.  There are about 15 fixed ingredients that all businesses must have—a name, business card, URL, logo, tagline, graphic identity, stationary, etc.  Then, you need to engage in about 15 or 20 other activities that are specifically based on YOUR business and YOUR identity.  So, how do you choose?  You must think of your target audience when making your decision.  This week, we will tell you four categories you should focus on while choosing the perfect ingredients.

Interrupting your audience:

Imagine you are at a restaurant and trying to determine if you want dessert or not.  You are looking through the menu but unsure if you will order the final course.  As you glance over the menu and chat with your friend, the waiter delivers a chocolate soufflé’ to the table next to you.  From the corner of your eye, it looks like something you may want to try and the smell appeals to you as well.  Now, you are no longer looking at your menu and have no idea what your friend is saying.  You have been interrupted.  In the same way, you must interrupt your target audience.  Get their attention.  Choose ingredients that will intrigue your audience even before they have tried or know too much about your product/service.

Conveying information:

After the waiter leaves the table next to you, you try to subtly take a serious look at the soufflé. You see it is beautifully presented and turning your head towards the dish allows you to take in the delicious smell.  Now, you know more about the dish—you have gathered information about it.  Some of the activities you choose should allow your target audience to gather information about your product/service.  Doing so establishes your credibility.  Make sure the information they gather will prompt them to take a closer look at what you are offering.


After you have looked at and smelled the soufflé, your waiter comes back to the table to ask if you would like some dessert and coffee.  You ask him about the soufflé, and he immediately offers to bring you a small sample.  You have been to this restaurant several times, and this is the first time a waiter has been so thoughtful of your wishes.  Him exceeding your expectations automatically establishes a relationship between the two of you.  After trying the sample and being more than pleased with it, you are now seriously considering ordering the dessert.  You must ensure some of the marketing ingredients you choose have the same impact on your target audience.  Like the waiter, you must establish a relationship with your audience and offer a sample of your product/service. Doing so will often times distinguish you from the competition.  Many businesses overlook the power of building a relationship. If you do this well, it will lead your audience to make a decision—into closing the deal.

Presentation, negotiation, and closing:

You are now ready to order the dessert!  Everyone is satisfied at this point—the waiter for making the sale and you for choosing the perfect dessert.  After you have eaten the soufflé, you leave the restaurant satisfied!  In marketing, some of your ingredients must move your target audience to do the same.  They should eagerly want to “order” your product/service and know exactly how to do so.  Just like at the restaurant, everyone should be pleased in the end.  You should be enthused that you have closed the deal and your target audience should be equally satisfied about purchasing your product/service.

When considering over 140 possible ingredients for your marketing, it is less overwhelming when you use the four categories while making your choices. Remember that your activities should uniquely reflect your business, and always think of how your activities will impact your target audience.  Then, you can be sure your ingredients will create success in your business.

Category : PR | Strategy

Every business has a unique story to tell.  Though our closest friends and we know the story, we often ignore the importance of it when marketing and fail to share it with our target audience.  What is our story? The history of our business; why we started, how we started; what influenced us to know our product or service’s importance in the marketplace.  For many, it is our compelling story that sells our product and/or service.  Our key message personalizes our business and adds emotional value. If we don’t take the time to think through our story and develop it thoughtfully from beginning to end, it will seem boring and not worth our listeners’ time—much like flavorless food at a restaurant we try only once.  When your target audience listens to your story, they should feel as if they are  sitting down to a fine multi-course meal where the food is enjoyable and worth savoring.  When people leave, they should remember how good it was long after their visit; they should eagerly invite friends, family and co-workers to return with them.  Your 45 or 15-minute presentation of your key message should leave the same lasting impression.   Your target audience should revisit your story in their mind long after hearing it and should share it with their friends, family and co-workers.  You already possess all of the elements of your story.  So, this week we will tell you how to develop it into a flavorful multi-course cuisine.

The Appetizer:

Your appetizer, the opening of your story, should peak the taste buds of your target audience and leave them craving more.  They need to enjoy it enough to stay for the main course but not be so full and satisfied that they could leave and not be hungry for the next two courses.  As you open your story, you set the stage.  You will communicate what need you are fulfilling in the marketplace.  Your audience should immediately see the gap between where they are and where they need to be as well as understand they need your product/service in order to reach their goal.  For them to be intrigued enough to stay for the main course, you communicate clearly to them why they are listening to you and the importance of what you are saying.  Like no other piece of your marketing campaign, your key message creates the emotional and logical appeal you need to authentically capture your audience.

The Main Course:

After the appetizer, you move into the main course, the meat and substance of your story.  Your main course should be flavorful, colorful and thoughtfully prepared.  The  target audience should be delighted they stayed.  Through the details of your key message, you should answer the questions: how, where, and why.  When preparing this course of your story, ensure your audience leaves with something  new to consider—an unexpected fact.  This should be easy for you, right?  After all, we do run our own businesses because we have a product like no one else’s.  There is something irresistible about what you have to offer.  Take this time to explain and persuade through a new revelation only you can provide.

The Dessert:

After a satisfying appetizer and main course, your target audience will be ready to sit back and enjoy a full flavored cup of coffee or cappuccino and a rich dessert.  This is not the time to send your audience out of the door just because they seem full and mostly satisfied.  The patrons use these moments to reflect on the meal and make plans to return.  This part of your story should give them the resolution.  Take the time to frame you, your thinking, and your product service offering.  Recount the key elements of your story and lay the decision path out for them. After they hear the story and finish the flavorful desert, there should be no unanswered questions.

Now, you have captivated your target audience with your story.  The emotional and logical appeal of your key message creates a compelling and relevant element of your marketing strategy.  They have loved and savored every course of your flavorful meal: your story. After they have heard your persuasive story—eaten the flavorful food, they will make a decision to become a customer, a patron and return promptly bringing their friends, family and co-workers.  Never underestimate the power of a flavorful message and the success it will bring to your business.

Category : Strategy