This section will focus on ways marketing and communication in which is a special task compared to marketing and communication of most other types of projects.
Small companies are in general not used to seek advice, and the possibility of getting advice with a focus on crisis situations is new to them.
That means that knowledge of the existence of Early Warning does not automatically mean that the company owner seeks advice. Some of the most important issues to take into account are the following:
- A new Early Warning organization has no ‘proven record’ in this field. An image of competence and legitimacy to deal with these issues has to be created.
- A good reputation among other consulting companies, employer organizations and in general among company owners has to be created.
- Company owners are not willing to receive advice before they realize that they are actually in crisis.
- People around the owner are an important target group as it is often a spouse, a colleague, a friend etc. who convince the company owner to seek advice.
- Company owners feel they have tried everything possible, and then think ‘how should they be able to come up with something new?’
- Company owners, who are aware of big problems, often try to hide them, often also from his/her spouse. A dialogue with Early Warning will confront them and clarify how serious the problems are.
- It is of course difficult for a company owner to involve others in his/her problems, as he/she will find the situation stigmatizing.
The above-mentioned challenges mean that all communication should be based on a ground of respect, acknowledgement of their situation and their effort and solidarity with the owners of the small companies in crisis. You might condense the above in the following basic positions:
- Owners of small companies are the real heroes of business life
- The only thing Early Warning can guarantee is that ‘you will be met with respect, kindness and a sincere wish to help you the best we can’
It follows by the above that communication/PR and marketing activities must be seen as a whole. This mean that development of a comprehensive marketing and communication strategy and plan before the launch of Early Warning is very important.
8.1 The potential of advertising – direct search contact
To obtain results of advertising, SoMe, Google Ads etc. it is necessary that the advertising is supported by other communication activities, especially articles in news media and lectures in relevant assemblies.
As part of Early Warning Europe, the Danish Business Authority has, based on artificial intelligence/machine learning, developed software that predicts the likelihood that a certain company goes bankrupt if not helped. This results in a qualified list of companies heading towards trouble (with a certain probability). Due to the circumstances mention above it is not very likely that a company owner will respond to a written inquiry. The identification is only the first part of the chain.
The machine learning tool was tested in August-September 2018 on a typical municipality in Denmark before being rolled out in Spain, Greece, Poland and Italy. The list has been further qualified by two experienced Early Warning Consultants and after that each selected company is contacted by phone (by an experienced EW consultant) in order to make a meeting appointment.
Our experience of the above is very positive. A high rate of the contacted companies wants a visit, and the meetings are relevant and constructive. If these preliminary experiences prove to be representative, it opens new possibilities, e.g. to manage which companies we prefer to assist and to be involved at a much earlier stage than if we just wait for the company owner to phone us.
It should be mentioned that vi have earlier done some trails with this kind of approach, but based on less qualitative assessment and by use of telemarketing or junior consultants. The outcome of this has not been satisfying, primarily due to lack of motivation among the company owners accepting a meeting.
8.2 The Danish case.
You can find a paper describing the marketing and communication effort and experiences here
Futher tools from the pilot countries:
FFR- EWE vocabulary for external communication
The list of key terms for the communication with the company owners is intended as a help when raising awareness of the Early Warning mechanism and when diagnosing the problems affecting the individual company. It addresses a central problem to the assistance, namely the task of making company owners realise the immediate need for help while maintaining a constructive tone and formulation of the Early Warning message.
Good communication practice by EEA Greece
This compilation of good practice examples generated by the Greek Early Warning partner EEA highlights its experience of successful communication activities. Divided into four phases, it goes into detail with newsletter campaigning, the value of the focused use of real-life cases, outreach via traditional and social media as well as event making.
Info materials Poland:
- Interview with EWE mentee