Invest in people and exploit digital tools to understand your customers

| October 19, 2010
Nicola Feeney

Nicola FeeneyMarketing guru Nicola Feeney explains how mid-size companies can brand better.

‘Make sure you have a unsubscribe button’ is a key message marketing expert Nicola Feeney offers clients trying to come to grips with advertising in the digital age.

Telling potential clients to ignore you might sound odd, but with more than two decades of experience Ms Feeney’s approach of ‘communicate, don’t stalk’ has paid dividends for scores of organisations.

With clients including ALDI, Pantene and Adelaide Bank, Ms Feeney does plenty of work for the medium enterprise market.

She understands the challenge of developing a consistent marketing strategy without a dedicated department.

“You can’t bog mid-sized business down too much in a procedural capacity, they’re just too frenetic. That’s why you’ve got to have an organic marketing culture where everyone is on the same page.”

Ms Feeney believes medium-sized companies have a distinct advantage in out-branding bigger rivals.

“I tend to focus on anyone from $2 million to $100 million revenue. The medium players are able to get things in place and react much more quickly than larger companies. They are able to be more flexible, reactive and quick in terms of response to opportunities that come up.” She said.

One of the battles for this business segment is talent depth.  

“Mid-sized companies may have someone that has developed in a marketing role on a need-basis, and typically those people don’t have a huge breadth of experience in a marketing capacity. They’ve usually developed in the one company.”

Ms Feeney says this trend has been exacerbated by the financial crisis, as workers tended to stay put in the safety of an existing role.

But she says simple steps to boost skill-sets can be taken to avoid losing valuable organisational knowledge.

“If you’ve got someone with good ability, who understands the product, the business and the brand, then get them into professional development with other marketers from other industries, and get that cross-pollination of ideas happening.”

Ms Feeney urges businesses to come to grips with marketing in the digital era and look beyond the static website.

“Marketing is changing so much. Communication is fast and it’s frenetic, and customers want an immediate response. It’s faster-paced, and it needs to be managed really carefully, and really well.

So how do ME’s develop an online strategy?

“You can’t ignore the online tools that are available. They’re not going away. It needs to be completely integrated into your marketing strategy. That’s a challenge at the moment, because at a lot of companies you’ve got 40-plus senior managers, and this is really hard for them to get their head around, when they don’t have Facebook, or buy things online.”

The ability to track behaviour and build a profile of your clients are among the key strengths of direct e-news platforms.

“You can really start to understand not only the purchasing patterns, but the behaviour of the customer. CMTP, a packaging company client, sent out an e-news about styrofoam being banned in certain countries, and all these people clicked onto the benefits of recyclable bubble-wrap. So we thought, let’s do a special on that in 3 weeks time.”

Ms Feeney is quick to caution businesses not to stalk their customers.

“You have to have an unsubscribe. You have to have a good understanding your customers. Have something really decent to say, and something that’s really of benefit to them.”

She welcomes the marked shift in the importance businesses place on marketing in recent years.

“The big difference in marketing over the last 3 years is that marketing now stems over so many different silos of the business. It touches everything from HR, to technology, to frontline staff.”

 “I’m really seeing more demand from those mid-sized players saying, ‘Can you sit in a senior management role in an advisory capacity for our business, because we really value the marketing input’, which is really good to see.”


  • Professional development: invest in your people to boost skill levels
  • Get digital: use e-communications to track purchasing patterns, as well as wants and interest
  • Outsource expertise:make marketing a priority by get expert advice on strategy

For more: Feeney Marketing


Nicola Feeney was interviewed by Virginia Harrison, Editor First 5000