A downtown Minneapolis street on Thursday, July 8, 2010. These general scenes of downtown Minneapolis have been photographed for the Opus College of Business Viewbook. See also assignment 10-238.

Out of Office Messaging

It’s summer, and the livin’ is… better than frostbite. But for the marketing communicator, these are troubling months, particularly for the B2B marketer.

I walk around the university and things are pretty quiet. Not just the students leave this time of year. Everyone is burning vacation. It’s a magnified version of what happens during summer at every firm in the country.

First, the marketing communicator needs to consider what channel might capture Bobby and Cindy’s eyeballs, even if they are on the beach somewhere (Because we all check email while on “vacation”). But the potentially bigger problem, and one left ignored - is there any point in reaching them during the week before and after Independence Day? Or even late August? Not only because their synapses are not firing in the work mindset, but even if the message hits home – will it still be in the neighborhood when they actually pull in the driveway.

Add to this the best case – Bobby and Cindy return to the office with your product or service USP etched in their souvenir shot glass, ready to pitch the team. But the team is fractured because of all the other people on vacation. By the time Labor Day passes and the last sunburn stops peeling, that shot glass has long since fallen off the desktop of their minds.

So what is a marketer to do?

Assuming you are in a relationship selling space, one thought might be to leverage summer as a time to connect with individuals with an incentive – but with the sights firmly on arranging meetings in the Fall. This represents an admission on the part of sales and marketing management that the decisions to buy are made by a cadre of influencers.

In that same vein, a good marketer will acknowledge that the “hook” for the IT lead will be different than that of the middle manager who will actually be using the product. Sending them the same communication with the same attention getting incentive pushes success to the borders on the impossible.

Along these lines from a consumer view, my youngest son just got a nice water bottle from the orthodontist. Nice enough to keep with the collection of a dozen or so on the top shelf in the kitchen. But to get that logo out there, and engage the whole decision-making family, the office devised a sinister plan. Every time my son has his picture taken in a new place with the dreaded canister he can send it in for an additional chance at winning a pair of uber-cool headphones. I can already hear the sobs after the bottle gets lost at the fireworks, but Orthodontrics (Name changed to protect the guilty) will be seen and engaged. And truth be told, they are helping us keep him from losing 4 bottles this summer – They can count that as a win when we get around to stage two of teeth straightening.

That’s great summer marketing.

Dr. Michael C. Porter, APR is director of the Opus College of Business MS in Health Care Communication.