When The Cirlot Agency founder Liza Looser huddled with fellow students to conduct research in Harvard Business School’s executive education program, a common thread emerged.
After preparing solutions for issues facing 119 diverse corporations, a consistent strategy ran throughout: companies needed to be taught how to better leverage their products or services.
“During my second year at Harvard, I began thinking of companies that come to my firm looking for marketing help that simply cannot afford our services due to budget limitations,” recalled Looser, who completed the three-year program last June. “That was the genesis of Your Ad Department, a product that utilized The Cirlot Agency’s professional expertise in a way that would help small businesses, as well as company owners and marketing directors of larger companies, successfully market themselves.”
Developed specifically for Mississippi businesses that need to handle advertising, marketing, public relations and research on their own, Your Ad Department is a how-to guide designed to reveal ways to create value for customers and promote business growth. The Mississippi edition, which includes a resource directory customized for the Magnolia State, sells for $395.
“Your Ad Department is literally like having your own in-house ad agency for less than the cost of one newspaper ad,” Looser said.
Out of the box
The kit includes an interactive CD that serves as a step-by-step guide to conducting market research, writing marketing plans, creating advertising campaigns, buying media and organizing public relations efforts.
The market research section gives small business owners tips on how to develop their own mystery shopper program used successfully by national companies, conduct focus groups and employee satisfaction surveys, profile ideal customers, capitalize on competitive advantages and learn research-savvy lingo.
The advertising portion explains how to determine the best use of media mix (radio, newspaper, magazine, billboard, television and/or direct mail), how to correctly complete a media insertion order, how to create uncluttered ads and write compelling copy and how to transform a Web presence into profits.
The public relations module shows entrepreneurs how to successfully “pitch” a story with the right “spin” to get their company noticed, how to determine when it is better to hold a press conference or publish a press release, how to entertain an audience while selling their company and how to manage crises.
“One bad story, one misspoken word, one false allegation and a company’s reputation that has taken years to build can be destroyed,” explained Looser. “A Crisis Communications Plan is the best thing your company can have in its arsenal that you hope you never have to use.”
Losing potential business?
Looser, who hasn’t spoken with other advertising agency executives in the metro area for feedback on the program, isn’t concerned about the possibility of the “How To” guide cutting agencies out of potential business.
“Your Ad Department was developed … simply as a heartfelt desire to help smaller businesses grow,” said Looser. “It’s for those companies that are either in their earliest stages of development or are looking to expand their business. It’s for any growing company that has not yet matured to the level of being able to afford outside expertise.
“We do feel that this will help those businesses reach that level, and when they’re ready for a firm like ours — or even some other firm — they will be educated in the process. We always say: an educated client is a better client.”
Step-By-Step Communications, the Jackson-based producer of the business growth tool, recently rolled out the product on a national scale, allowing companies across America access to demographic information, media news directors, advertising managers, associations and other needed sources.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.