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I recently conducted a customer satisfaction survey on behalf of a client who had never used that type of market research before. We wanted to know what the real customer experience was when it came to buying the company's products and services.
You may have noticed I used the word "real" above - it's an intentional use to highlight the fact that many business owners will tell you they know what customers think of them even though they have never asked. I've often found that sales and marketing teams will tell you they understand what the customer wants because they "know" why they come to them - this knowledge is often based on nothing more than intuition, gut instinct or, worst of all common sense.
It is a position underpinned by the belief that the advertising campaigns being used are working (overlooking marketing pioneer John Wanamaker's attributed quote that "half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."), that customers are buying products and services and that no one is making complaints - even though 94% of complaints about a company are never actually registered by customers.
This assumption that we somehow just "know" what the customer wants, is not only wrong a lot of the time it is dangerous, overlooks sales opportunities and leads to bad practices being continued.
The information we got back from customers did indeed reinforce some of the assumptions the sales team had made - "we knew they liked us for quality, we could have told you that" but the difference now is that the company really does "know" all the good things customers appreciate about it when they buy products and services. What's more, the company now also has clear feedback on areas where it needs to make improvements and is at risk of losing certain customers. By taking action my client was able to respond to weaknesses in its operations, strengthen challenged relationships it had (and in some cases did not know about) with existing customers and with the use of good PR, turn those customers into unpaid sales representatives as they now go out and tell others just how much they are appreciated are by my client.
Customer feedback is useless on it's own, it does nothing but provide you with information - it is taking action when you have it that matters. You can see how this is used by reading an article on another part of my website here.
The positive feedback and specific brand values that customers appreciate when buying from my client can now be used to promote my client to prospective customers. All future marketing messages will contain the truth of what customers get when buying from my client - supported and reinforced by third party endorsement.
That endorsement can be used in press releases, on websites as it is here for a totally different client, in above the line advertising or in a myriad of tactics using social media.
Back in 1597 Sir Francis Bacon wrote in his Meditationes Sacrae that "ipsa scientia potestas est" or "knowledge itself is power', now I don't want to argue with such a respected figure as Sir Francis, but how much more influence and power would that knowledge have if it was followed up with action?