Confusing. Intimidating. Overwhelming. Risky. Expensive. These are some of the fears and frustrations that small business owners share when it comes to finding marketing that works.
Deluxe Corp., a longtime trusted partner to more than 4 million small businesses, wanted to show entrepreneurs that marketing is necessary, not a necessary evil. So Deluxe and agency Beehive PR created Project REV – a yearlong, collaborative marketing lab designed to provide nine high-potential small business owners with the tools and expertise to attract and retain customers. In return, participants agreed to share their successes and challenges with each other and with a wider audience online.
Project REV allows Deluxe to continue to evolve from its roots as a check printer and financial services firm to be a force in the highly competitive small business services marketplace. The company also can create interest and glean feedback for its marketing products such as logo and website design, email marketing, web hosting and print collateral. Project REV has a strong news hook, with all eyes focused on small business as a key growth engine in a skittish economy. The result: This multi-faceted, multi-channel campaign has boosted Deluxe’s visibility in the small business space, earning nearly 378 million media impressions, creating a real-time product development and service-testing focus group, and supporting the company’s continuing expansion in the small business marketing arena.
In Deluxe focus groups of small business owners in three cities, participants described marketing, especially digital tactics, as a necessary evil – costly and unreliable. There also was mistrust of so-called marketing experts, who claim to be able to “do it all for you.” The entrepreneurs craved affordable, reliable and measureable marketing solutions and guidance to help them become better marketers.
Deluxe also conducted quantitative research that found nearly 80 percent of small business owners are frustrated with marketing because they too often don’t see results; 27 percent said their marketing results are hit or miss; 26 percent believe marketing that succeeds for other businesses won’t necessarily work for them; and 23 percent don’t know how to determine the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.
Key insights: Small businesses owners understand that they need to market online but are eager to find affordable, effective ways to do it. They also are fiercely independent and desire do-it-yourself solutions with helpful advice and support. Deluxe’s research both proved the market opportunity for Project REV and informed the development of campaign key messages and projectrev.com copy direction.
As a result of these key insights, Beehive developed the following strategy, objectives and target audiences for Project REV against an 18-month budget of $485,000.
? Appeal to a range of small business owners (industry, geography, experience) by launching a yearlong, collaborative marketing lab
? Develop an integrated communications platform to support ongoing media relations
? Leverage expert partners for third-party visibility and credibility
? Create in-person and online representations of the Deluxe brand and small business solutions to generate testimonials, content and feedback
? Integrate opportunities for real-time market research and product promotion
? Build credibility for the Deluxe brand in the small business market by generating at least 250 million media impressions
? Create excitement and grow awareness and preference for Deluxe small business products and services by attracting at least 250 Project REV applicants
? Small business owners and/or marketing decision-makers
? Small business influencers, including Deluxe partners SCORE and Kauffman Foundation (non-profits that support entrepreneurship)
? National and regional media, including print, online and broadcast consumer and trade outlets, as well as key small business bloggers
? Deluxe employees and executive leadership team
Deluxe unveiled Project REV in March 2010 with a national call-for-entries, supported by aggressive media relations, social media and the launch of program portal projectrev.com (created by partner Azul 7). To gain wider exposure, Deluxe teamed with national non-profit SCORE and entrepreneurial author and speaker Stephanie Chandler. SCORE highlighted Project REV in its member communications and Chandler served as a media spokesperson – holding a nationwide radio and Internet media tour and blogging at projectrev.com.
Deluxe selected nine entrepreneurs from across the country to participate in Project REV. Each received up to $5,000 in Deluxe products and services and was paired with a Deluxe marketing advisor and SCORE counselor to create and implement a customized marketing plan. A three-day event in Minneapolis kicked off the program and was an opportunity to gather interactive content such as introductory videos with the winners. Deluxe leaders met the participants during a dinner at Target Field, Minnesota’s new baseball showplace. Beehive has conducted proactive media relations throughout the program to targeted newspapers, magazines, broadcast, radio and online outlets (from the call-for-entries to ongoing local outreach).
? Objective 1: Build credibility for the Deluxe brand in the small business market by generating at least 250 million media impressions
Result: Since its launch in March 2010, Project REV has appeared in more than 4,000 news stories and 8,000 social media mentions directly linking the Deluxe brand to small business expertise. A combination of media relations tactics, including news releases on PR Newswire, a radio tour with Project REV spokesperson Stephanie Chandler, an authored article and participant stories have contributed to coverage reaching a total audience of more than 411 million. Key placements including USA Today, New York Times small business blog, Reuters small business blog and Entrepreneur.com are enclosed.
? Objective 2: Create excitement and grow awareness and preference for Deluxe small business products and services by attracting at least 250 Project REV applicants
o 414 small business owners applied to be part of Project REV; nine participants were selected, representing a range of industries, geographies and business experiences.
o Quote from the Q3 analyst call regarding small business: “Small business service revenue, excluding the portion of the contract settlement recorded in this segment, grew slightly over the prior year for the second quarter in a row, and sequentially over last quarter as well.”
o Quote from the Q3 analyst call regarding small business: “Our project reps, small business, marketing labs, sponsorships – designed to build marketing expertise for nine small businesses – successfully continued with favorable media exposure. We expect these initiatives will help us drive new customer acquisition and revenue growth over time as the economy improves.”
Next steps: The first class of Project REV participants will be in the program until summer 2011, blogging at projectrev.com and working with their marketing advisors to measure the effectiveness of the marketing tools/products/services they’re using to grow their business. National and regional media outreach continues, including the sharing of participant stories and results. Deluxe plans to emphasize its small business offerings with Project REV and other communications programs again for 2011/2012.