Content over Process? Process over Content?
Ascendant is about business savvy with creative marketing. Let’s chat to explore the ideal approach.
Great product? Great service? Both?
Let’s connect and begin. Plan. Execute. Deliver. Smile. Still – we keep working.
What is Low Cost - High Yield Marketing?
Lower costs. Increase reach and frequency. Tighten messaging. Measure results. Let’s connect to further the understandings and opportunities.
Plans & Pricing
We are NOT a menu of options at a price. Instead, Ascendant Advertising & Communications customizes your resources commensurate with your budget, objectives, challenges, opportunities, and deliverables. Yet – economies of scale do exist and the following chart affords some initial insights as well as general overall guidance.
Basicmonth/ hour/ and or job(s)
Personalmonth/ hour/ and or job(s)
Developermonth(s) and or retainer
What Our Customers Are Saying
Don’t just take it from us, let our customers do the talking!
We prioritize listening to you. All of us at Ascendant greatly value understanding your business and your actionable opportunities. Another priority is collaborating with you to establish measurable, defined goals before beginning work as your consultant, as your creative spirit, and as your marketplace voice within selected channels.Ascendant Advertising & Communications
I have known and appreciated this group for a very long time. The leadership is insightful, creative, patient, and progressive. Plus – not only do they do transactional, valuable creative work – they understand we are a small business that has to be mindful of budgets and time even though we are generating a lot of revenue. Rarely, do I experience a source than can make so much good happen not matter the situation and challenges they are addressing. And it starts at the top + with their culture.George E.
The good folks of Ascendant are committed to delivering results. Their standards exceed the norm, yet – our yield in return per dollar invested exceeds expectations and prior experiences. Moreover, they know how to work with printers and other resources to keep our costs to appropriate levela without compromising the solutions, deliverables, processes, and results.Kim W.
Frequently Asked Questions
CLIENTS OFTEN ASK HOW TO SET AN IDEAL MARKETING BUDGET?
Clients often ask us how much they should budget for marketing each year. Our initial response is: ideally, wouldn’t it be great to budget as little as possible to get the most results possible for the shortest amount of time. Yet, while this is always our heartfelt goal for our clients – in actual practice going the “as cheap as possible” approach can readily prove counterproductive and detrimental in the long term. It’s a known fact that many businesses have failed because they were unwilling to properly budget for marketing communications. Even though some rare enterprises exist that do not need a marketing strategy, we have observed that most growth oriented companies reach a certain point via word-of-mouth promotion only – then they are significantly challenged by marketing oriented competitiors – and this situation becomes more difficult when they don’t have a meaningful and consistent marketing approach themselves.
So – since there really is no single or universal answer – at least some basic standard and established marketing industry guidelines might be a good place to start the budgeting process. Please note: there are a few stipulations to these recommendations and we have found for many businesses that theoretical, ‘ideal’ budget numbers will be outside their operating comfort zone.
The first qualifier is that the guidelines are based upon businesses that average at least six-figure revenue.
The second: smaller businesses and or companies with slim margins should allocate a percentage of their net revenue (total sales) based upon estimates of what is typical in their market segment. Keep in mind, setting a budget to equal what you think your competitors are spending could be misleading because most competitors don’t openly share their budgets or even provide general details.
The third: The marketing budget allocation includes all marketing communications expenses – for instance, the cost of marketing staff and their overhead as well as the cost of printing, advertising, and outsourced talent, etc.
As described at the beginning, typically, there is no quick answer when setting a budget.
Now for the more fundamental guiding considerations and baselines:
Before finalizing an annual marketing communications budget, numerous influencing factors should be considered by most businesses. For instance, the amount to budget for marketing can be greatly influenced by a company’s tenure in its marketplace and its industry segment. Along these lines – industrial corporations typically market their goods and services via business-to-business. They also often spend less than 1% of their net revenue (total sales) on marketing established offerings and or products. In contrast, many consumer products companies are known to spend at least 50% of their net revenue on launching new offerings and or products.
Marketing spends can also be set commensurate with how much and how quickly you want to grow. It’s a bit cliché, but we’ve all heard the saying: You have to spend money to make money. This is perhaps best illustrated by what successful marketing and communications strategies deliver for their businesses.
Additionally, your marketing budget should be adjusted after taking into account new product and or service launches – new locations and or expansion plans – new market entries/ competitors or competitive alternatives – and significant market changes, such as mergers and acquisitions or even legislation.
One guiding recommendation widely applied for marketing budget estimates is that a business should spend 10% of their annual gross sales on marketing communications for each new product or service – or, another approach is spend 20% of the new service’s sales and revenue target. As suggested earlier, and in our experience, consumer products and retail businesses should always spend a higher percentage of revenue that business-to-business companies.
Prior finalizing any marketing budget – we firmly believe that performance metrics and deliverables need to be set. This is important to measure and understand the effectiveness of the strategy and its elements. We also believe in monitoring market allocations for diminishing returns. Plus, we put much value on the meaningfulness of aligning the marketing communications strategy with your business strategy.
The ideal budget estimate. Again, though there are many influencing factors that shape a marketing budget and strategy – in an ideal realm – the following simple ‘napkin math’ formula can be used to start calculating your marketing budget for optimal success:
Total Revenue x 5% = Your ideal marketing budget required to maintain current awareness and visibility
Total Revenue x 10% = Your idea marketing budget required to grow and gain market share
Again, as said earlier, your budget is situational and should be based upon mitigating circumstances for your business and strategy. We recognize these budget estimates, for many reasons, are not practical for many businesses. We also acknowledge that we have delivered great returns to clients that chose to spend both more and less than the guideline standard.
ROI. Forward thinking businesses will ask how much they can expect to get in return for their marketing investment, and how beneficial spending the maximum possible will be. These are great questions that – unfortunately and like the aforementioned one – have no single answer. A marketing strategy focused on branding, for example, requires a longer term process to gain widespread and measurable traction than quick-hit lead generation strategy. The good news is that professional marketing communications strategies often involve multiple priorities and – when done effectively in a coordinated, on-going, and diversified manner – over time, marketing communications will provide exponentially increased returns – at less average cost per deliverable.
ThinkAboutITsm Then consult with us to begin getting best and smartest return on your marketing investment.
Content Marketing in Healthcare?
Content marketing has been called the newest trend in healthcare. We struggle with affirming that declaration since Ascendant Advertising & Communications has been leading this approach for many years. Yet, are you ready for it?
Not many physicians have heard of content marketing. Frankly, in our view, it’s a new term–probably created by social media and Internet marketing types–for an already established way to keep current patients engaged while also attracting new patients.
Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of content for the purpose of acquiring customers. It is the art of communicating with customers and prospects without selling.
We appreciate the designation ‘content marketing’ and believe the attention it’s getting is justified – especially in healthcare. In fact, Ascendant Agency is very experienced with content marketing and we have been delivering measurable performance results for medical practices commensurate with this approach for many years.
Having so much technology and so many channels of influence today, consumers are now less motivated by promotional marketing than they were in the past. They routinely ignore advertisements- whether those are on-line, on the radio or television, or even in magazines and newspapers unless those ads have immediate relevance and or are catchy. Plus, most of our clients don’t have the resources to over saturate running their promotional communications as is done by the likes of GEICO, pharmaceutical companies, Unilever, and others.
So, how does content marketing work?
Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if you (as a company or medical practice) deliver consistent, ongoing, and valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward you with their business and loyalty.
Large consumer companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, John Deere, and even Weber Grills have embraced this option. Small businesses and independent entrepreneurs are benefiting from it too.
Still, the boom in the public’s dependence on social media, the Internet, and smart phones has given content marketing a major boost. It is now easier than ever to develop relationships with existing and prospective patients. Not only is it efficient and effective–this type of marketing is also one of the least expensive options, when applied correctly. Conversely, it can quickly prove detrimental and costly–if done unprofessionally and or if the approach/ strategy is misguided.
Yet, in our opinion, healthcare is the most ideal environment for highly valuable content marketing. Those practices that seek to become established and or those that have a plan for meaningful growth most certainly should have a strategy that includes allocation for content marketing activities.
While executing a good content marketing plan for healthcare may seem simple: Buyer beware. Interacting with prospective, new, and existing patients is different and often more delicate than a typical retail or commercial environment. Not only is every one of your patients unique in how they listen, learn, and respond–the regulatory environment (for example, HIPPA requirements, etc.) is unique and exacting as well. Most marketing agencies can (and will) claim they provide content marketing solutions for their clients, but few can confidently share-when it involves healthcare and medical practice marketing-that they have the proven results and experience of Ascendant Advertising and Communications.
That said, how can physicians use content marketing? Perhaps the easiest place to start: develop content (and creative) that is valuable and relevant to your patients and add it to your web site, blog, social media, and or patient newsletters. There are many additional and more effective approaches as well that we’d welcome discussing with you directly. While not all content marketing applications are a fit for every practice or healthcare system, you might find the following simple examples interesting and worthy of further consideration.
Practice changes: Keep your patients updated on any practice changes, such as adding a new physician, change in office hours, new practice services added, etc.
What you do: If you are a family physician and you offer sport physicals for students, explain what you look for during a sports physical. If you offer travel medicine exams and immunizations, explain why these are important.
FAQs: Keep track of the questions your patients ask and answer those in-depth.
Video: People read less and watch more. YouTube is now the number two search engine, after Google. And patients are searching for videos to answer specific questions, such as “What can I expect after my colonoscopy” or “Should I have a PSA screening?”
Health in the news: Let’s say a new study has been published on colon cancer screening, and the study has been misconstrued by the media. Set the record straight for your patients by posting the correct information about the study on your web site and encouraging your patients to see you if they have any concerns about colon cancer.
Health topics relevant to your patient base: Think about your patients and what most concerns them. What top 10 patient conditions do you treat? Write a short blog post about each of them and encourage patients to seek treatment for these conditions from you.
Importance of immunizations: There is a lot misinformation about vaccinations. Explain to your patients why vaccines are important and how they should discuss their concerns with you. Provide links to reputable web sites and credible information about immunizations.
Again, pros and cons exist for each of these content marketing elements and we advise against trying to apply those that are not central to your practice and specialties. Misguided communications can prove costly.
While we also believe there remains value in promotional marketing, that too should be applied with selective consideration and its cost-benefit should be understood.
ThinkAboutITsm Then consult with us to fully understand how to apply professional, successful, and transactional content marketing and promotional marketing for your practice.
What is Good Public Relations?
Good Public Relations vs. Bad
Okay. You’re sitting there comfortable and confident one minute and then – boom! Something unexpected happens. You’re a good person and intended well, so why are you suddenly a media villain? Are you in politics? Are you a physician? Do you run a car company? Or do you lead an entire country? Something bad has happened or at least some media type (professional, paparazzi, even social Joe Q public’s tweeting) thinks it has… Now what? You’ve worked many, many years with a good heart and performed – always – to a standard of excellence. Regardless, it is all in jeopardy of becoming nothing and you feel doomed. Without warning the down side risk appears much greater than the upside potential. Here comes the shortness of breath and the sleepless nights.
OR – how about this? – You’ve just done something spectacular and no one cares! For example, there is compelling evidence that the Wright Brothers were not the first in flight – still, who gets the kudos?
Which company do you think invented the first smart phone?
Welcome to PUBLIC RELATIONS.
The answer to addressing each of the above: the ones with the BEST Public Relations prevail and succeed…
Public Relations is not just crisis management. It’s also relationship management. It’s promotion and awareness. It’s communicating and connecting with the public and or your targeted audiences. Moreover, good public relations wards off potential trouble.
Enter one more factor: the pendulum effect. What is okay today is bad tomorrow. What was bad yesterday is now relevant. Whether we are discussing a vegetable, an ingredient, a medical procedure, promiscuous consumption, recipes, music – almost everything in public view has a “shelf life.” Still, you’ve got to get the word out to be significant, to be an influence, and to become known and to be known.
While being visible contributes to success, it also makes you vulnerable. Others in your sphere of affect may feel threatened. You might be perceived as counter-culture. You could inadvertently make established competitors appear foolish, etc. – whatever the potential indentation to your greatness, Public Relations is way to influence how public perception validates your reality and genius.
Success is about longevity of creditability. Like big wave surfing is perhaps. Adaptability is great and central to being great.
To an extent, marketing communications are also – when the timing is ideal – a component of Public Relations and vice versa.
Let’s be realistic though, while Public Relations can soften bad news or validate good offerings – it should be embraced as a process and NOT a bandage (except in emergencies). Your ‘go to source’ for Public Relations has to have relationships that have been vetted by experience – and here we say again, creditability and legitimacy.
If you have read this summation thus far, then you are either in marketing, Public Relations, eager to expand, and or dissatisfied with something that has happened. So we will get to the point. Good PR v not good PR. Recent examples can include:
Tesla – ELON MUSK; MALAYSA and its Prime Minister; or even the BP oil spil. Who gets the gold and who loses it?
Each has national politics as influences. Yet, by comparison, one is tragic and we are saddened by the reality of what to expect. The other is bad in a different way. One threatens the status quo of automobile dealerships. One seems indifferent to the loss of life. One embraces solutions. Each understands that they are being victimized by the media and Joe Q public. Still, they all have completely different responses. The benefits and costs of their Public Relations approach/ expertise is apparent.
BP has not recovered from their mishandling of the oil well catastrophe and their insensitive, glib response to it. In fact, BP’s public relations were so misguided that it even cost the BP CEO his job. Additionally, despite their billions being spent on damage control – whether that is in remunerations, community involvement after the incident, or via their frequently aired ‘feel good about us’ television commercials – the company remains viewed as disingenuous.
Another example of how bad public relations can skewer reputations and dampen future investment is happening within Malaysia. The world is increasingly critical of that country’s lack of effective and creditable communications regarding the search for a missing commercial flight. Likewise, the outcry over their appearing indifferent to the grief of others has strained cooperation between nations.
Finally, a current example of effective public relations: Tesla. This company has received awards and accolades that are the envy of all its competitors. The stock price for Tesla reflects a strong following and positive outlook. Its cars have been tested extensively. Consumers and the media rave about the performance. The only major barrier for Tesla seems they are at odds with the Automobile Dealers Association (due to Tesla choosing to sell its cars directly to customers) and, as such, also they are also sideways with state politics. Then, not long ago, two cars were destroyed by a battery fire. The political machine pounced abruptly. Investors ran. The media, in contrast, reported somewhat softly. Still, all the attention given to the two Tesla occurrences proved challenging to the company’s viability and existence. Keep in mind that than were the 200,000 gasoline engine vehicle fires in North America alone that also happened in 2013. None of these has received media or government attention for those respective manufacturers. Clearly, the new technology of Tesla is threatening the status quo.
Fast forward to the current results: Tesla embodied good public relations – prior to, during, and since the incidents. When bad news arrived, they already had a strong brand established that was known for being creditable and customer centric. Tesla leveraged their legitimacy as a way of addressing the issues. They welcomed an investigation, gave new cars at no cost to those affected, and involved their CEO – whose empathetic and direct communications provided reassurance that all would be fine. While the government singled out Tesla for an investigation – nothing material was uncovered. And the manner in which Tesla is handling the sensationalized news – by confidently leaning into the alleged problem and embracing the opportunity to display its emphasis on quality, performance, and value – they have actually strengthened their position and advanced their reputation. In fact, soon after the government investigative conclusion – Tesla gained approval to sell cars directly to customers in New York State. It was a compromise deal, but it’s a win nonetheless. Tesla and its CEO turned what could have been a catastrophic occurrence – the car fires -into a showcase opportunity to further its demonstration of the Tesla commitment to customer and performance excellence.
When it’s your turn in the spotlight and especially when it’s bright – Public Relations has to step up and public relations should, wherever possible, be a component of your marketing communications strategy.
ThinkAboutITsm Smarter is Better. Consult with us to discover how Public Relations will benefit you.
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Tactical or Strategic Element?
In my office are several corrugated boxes in my office that are filled with files of magazines, newspapers, and direct mail. These are not taking up space because I like having ‘stuff’ around – they are there because I refer to them as examples of just how boring, uninteresting, confusing, pointless, and in the end, a waste of money so many ads are. This often includes small companies and even large ones too.
As someone I agree with on this matter once declared, all the noise and mundane copy is at best “marketing by accident. The placement source and the business involved hopes and prays that on the very day they run their ad, a prospect in immediate need of their product or service stumbles across it and takes action.”
In other words, “A qualified prospect happening upon the right ad at the right time sometimes results in the happy accident of a sale taking place.”
Some of these placements are – and the creative is – mostly driven by the over-reaching advertising ideals of small businesses with limited budgets that want to get the most “communication” for least amount of spend. This tactic more often than not; however, proves to have the opposite effect. Instead – the ad is generally ignored, the enterprise the ad represents is discredited and looks desperate, and even if the ad were inexpensive – the results don’t justify the spend. Research has proven that this advertising approach also damages the brand, undermines the relationship with customers and loyalty, and it can be confusing to prospective new contacts.
So what are some of the common elements involved? If you look through each – you are likely to find over and again, regardless of the business, the following on each ad:
– Company Name (of course this makes sense)
– Company Logo (again, seems logical)
– A laundry list of services offered
– Claims of best quality, best service or best prices
– Offer of a ‘free quote’
– Some supposedly clever tag line or catch phrase
– A coupon discount for a ‘free quote’ or meal or standard ‘rate’ service
– Contact details
Still, it can be readily decried that if these “accidents” never happened then only the strategic would ever advertise. Yet – more often than not – this approach tortures business owners to death because while the ad(s) generally loses them money, they fear not running it because some dribs and drabs of new business have come out of the expense and effort – and who knows next week it may bring in that big sale they’ve been hoping to achieve. Plus, the format provider (and even the agency advisor) keeps reinforcing their hopes for that big win by playing off the limitations of not doing anything – especially if their competition is making noise.
In some respects, it’s like these businesses are visiting a slot machine in a casino. They put their money in, pull the handle and hope for a jackpot – but most of the time the house just takes their money. Occasionally they’ll get a few cents on the dollar back which raises their hopes and emboldens them to continue. At best, it’s “ready – shoot – aim.”
I completely agree with getting the most for your advertising dollar – regardless of the scale of your campaign dollars and the size of your organization. I don’t support advertising being used as a “must do evil” tactic. Instead, your advertising should be part of a holistic strategy. That’s why working with an experienced business oriented marketing agency such as Ascendant Advertising and Communications is worth the short-term difference due to the transactional and longer term gain.
If you agree and this has been your approach then it’s time to start marketing on purpose – treating advertising like a vending machine where the results and value generated are predictable, rather than like a slot machine where the results are random and the odds are stacked against you.
To start marketing on purpose we need to look at a few critical questions that you need to address; namely,
– How does it reflect your desired image?
– How does it fit your objectives?
– How effectively does it deliver the desired results?
– How well does it connect with the customer expectation and experience?
– Could it perform better?
– Should you contact Ascendant Advertising and Communications to explore?
ThinkAboutITsm Then consult with us to fully understand how to apply professional, successful, and transactional content marketing and promotional marketing for your practice.