Posts tagged ‘Branding’

Don’t choose potential customers over current customers (aka “Screw You” marketing)

Ok, I’m usually a pretty friendly, easy-going guy. But I gotta tell you… there’s a trend in some walks of life that really irks the hell out of me. Let me explain the nature of my consternation with a specific example…

My wife and I are in good shape, and like to exercise regularly. We’ve been members of various gyms over the years, but invariably return to our home gym after a while because of an incredibly annoying, insidious sales technique that most health clubs practice: the open house, followed by the trial membership. This usually takes place once a month, which means that for one week per month there are five times as many people in the gyms, and it’s virtually impossible to find an open exercise machine. What’s worse is that these trial members don’t know how to use the machines, so they take twice as long as they should. And to top it all off, they have no intention of joining the gym, but since it’s free they’ll cheerfully take advantage of the situation.

Bottom line: potential customers are provided the same privileges and accommodations as paying customers, but haven’t had to devote one dime. Conversely, current customers that are paying dues and keeping the doors open are not able to enjoy the services for which they have paid. I call this “screw you” marketing, for the obvious reason.

This is a very dangerous and inefficient practice for several reasons:

  1. You piss off your current customer base. Their experience is tarnished and they will most likely abandon the service sooner than they should. In the words of the marketer, this reduces the Lifetime Customer Value significantly. (Here’s one of Aximum’s success stories that focuses on Lifetime Customer Value.)
  2. You focus your energies in the wrong places. I imagine the conversion rate for open houses/trial memberships is very low, so it may behoove the gyms to concentrate on activities that collect customers with greater revenue potential and ROI. When you offer something free, you’ll get tons of action, but very little conversion. This is one of those undeniable truths of marketing.
  3. You don’t take advantage of repeat/renewed customers. These gyms spend a lot of time, energy, and money on developing the open houses. Curiously, not one ounce of thought or energy has been spent trying to get me to agree to a longer contract, sign up for other services, or anything else that would bring it additional revenue. This glaring deficiency in their marketing communication program shines out like a beacon in the night. If a company has proven, revenue-producing, long-term customers, it’s usually 3-5 times easier to gain additional revenue from them than it is to bleed it from the trick-or-treaters that sign up for the free stuff (sorry… I sounded a little bitter there).

When you’re seeking new customers, remember not to sacrifice your current customer base. If you abandon them, don’t be surprised if they abandon you.

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June 25, 2009 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

“Me too” marketing – develop your own Unique Selling Proposition

I’ve seen it happen a million times. A company sees their competition do something that’s different, and they immediately jump on the bandwagon. After all, if our competitors are doing it, they must know something we don’t, so we better get in on the action before it’s too late! Sigh… alas, copycatting is not a strategy. And the sad thing is that your competition probably doesn’t know any more than you do. Congratulations – you’ve just fallen for the oldest, least disciplined trick in the book and turned into a “me too” marketer.

You can see this happening everywhere you turn. Do the terms green, whole grain, sirloin, organic, and hand-crafted sound overly familiar? They should, because they’re everywhere, used for products ranging from food to shampoo to cars. If words or phrases or overused, they (and their associated products) suffer from commoditization. In other words, the message loses its meaning, and all the products in a certain category are perceived by the audience as being the same. Once this happens, customers no longer have brand loyalty, and the only differentiator they care about is price. A great example of this phenomenon is gasoline. How often do you choose gasoline based on additives? Or the ability to eliminate knocks and pings? Chances are you buy your gas based solely on its price. This is commoditization as its worst.

How do you avoid this pitfall? The best thing you can do is create your own Unique Selling Propositions (USP). Every company has strengths and weaknesses. Capitalize on your strengths by developing a messaging strategy that separates you from your competitors. Determine how your products and services can be presented to your audience in a unique, informative, entertaining, and compelling manner. Make sure that you’re clear, concise, and consistent in your application of the message. And above all, take the time to let your USPs develop. Like a flower, marketing is a process that needs a lot attention, a lot of love, and the patience to allow it to come to fruition.

Follow this advice and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can separate yourself from the “me too” herd!

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June 23, 2009 at 12:50 am Leave a comment

Your business’ secret to success: do one thing and do it right

Colonel Sanders was a master of business. He took a product that virtually everyone in the south made for themselves — fried chicken — and decided to sell his own version. The Kentucky Colonel outfit, the secret recipe, the bucket, and his self-promotion all contributed to his uniqueness and aura. However, his true secret to success was a simple philosophy: do one thing and do it right. He made better fried chicken than anyone else, and he focused all his efforts on building the business around his flagship product. His plan was to start small, gain a reputation, and establish a toehold in his local Kentucky community. From there, he wanted to conquer the fried chicken world, and use his market dominance as a springboard for other complementary products. Of course, we all know the rest of the story; his plan worked to perfection and the chicken industry has never been the same.

What’s the lesson that other companies can learn from the Colonel? Determine what your biggest strength is and focus your efforts on that. Perfect your product/service, establish a great reputation, use your revenues to invest in the company, and build your empire. Many companies try to become jacks-of-all-trades, but instead become masters-of-none. This mistake goes back to a previous discussion about market sizing vs. market segementation. It’s better to dominate a small market and branch out into other markets in time, rather than become a bit player in a larger, more competitive market. This approach will focus your internal resources in the places that maximize your profit potential, put your marketing communications plan on a path towards great success, and send a message to competitors that you have your priorities straight.

Don’t let the goatee fool you… Colonel Sanders was a brilliant businessman and a master marketer. Now go out there, focus on the one thing at which you’re best, and fry the competition!

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June 22, 2009 at 12:23 am 1 comment

Advertising 101: Know Your Audience

idhititEver seen this ad before? If you can believe it, it’s a McDonalds ad from a few years ago. In their effort to be really hip and cool, they accidentally offended and annoyed the very audience they were trying to impress. Unbeknownst to the out-of-touch marketing department, they were encouraging young men to copulate with hamburgers. Based on the guy’s expression, it appears that he was actually considering it. Those double cheeseburgers must be really good.

What’s the lesson here? There are far too many to list, but these are the ones that come to mind:

  1. Know your audience. If you’re speaking to a young, urban demographic, have some sort of knowledge regarding slang terms. Corollary: don’t encourage sex with your products.
  2. Know yourself. If you don’t have all the answers, it’s ok. Just don’t fake it, or you might end up looking foolish (and, in McDonalds’ case, creepy as hell).

Obviously, this was a big blunder, but McDonalds is so huge they were able to absorb the impact and not skip a beat. A smaller company, however, might not be so lucky, so unless you’re a behemoth like Ronald McDonald you should avoid these types of mistakes at all costs.

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June 17, 2009 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

Capitalize on your brand equity to gain market share

Frank Sinatra had a Vegas-inspired song called “Luck Be A Lady.” One of the lines in the song is:

“Stick with me, baby, I’m the guy that you came in with.”

In many ways, marketing is like Lady Luck that ol’ Blue Eyes is singing about, especially when it comes to branding. This is one of the trickier subjects to explain to someone new to marketing. In a nutshell, branding is the sum total of experiences and perceptions that a company has with its customers, competitors, and marketplace. The tactical elements of marketing — websites, brochures, advertising, etc. — are physical manifestations of branding. There’s also something called brand equity, which is not only a perceived value of a brand, but it can also be a tangible value. In fact, many organizations carry their brand as an asset on their balance sheets, with an actual dollar amount attached to it. Google has the highest brand value in the world, which is estimated to be worth more than $100 Billion. Software giant Microsoft has the second highest rated brand in the world, worth over $76 Billion.

There’s a reason why I mention these two examples together. You’ve undoubtedly noticed the “Bing” logo at the top of the entry. You may also be asking yourself, “what the hell is Bing?” As it turns out, Bing is the newest incarnation of Microsoft’s search engine, renamed from Windows Live Search. In my opinion, Microsoft made a big mistake and squandered a golden opportunity. They took one of the most high-profile aspects of the Internet (search engines), went up against the 800-pound gorilla, and didn’t take advantage of the Microsoft brand equity. Even worse, when you go to the Bing home page, the Microsoft name is nowhere to be found, so they can’t springboard their new brand off the established Microsoft name. How can you realistically pit a $100 Billion brand against a brand with zero equity? Frankly, you can’t. Microsoft doomed Bing to the ash heap of history before it even launched, just like another one of their infamous failures. The rest is just an exercise in futility.

What’s the lesson here? The Microsoft branding team should have told the Bing team, “stick with me, baby, I’m the guy that you came in with.” The only thing left is a roll of the dice and the hope that Lady Luck is on their side. I wouldn’t bet on it.

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June 15, 2009 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Get the most out of your trade shows

If your company participates in trade shows, you know there are many differing opinions about whether or not you should be there. There are probably even more opinions about how to define “success” when you are there. I’ve managed, attended, and participated in more trade shows than I care to mention, and I’ve discovered there are some undeniable truths when it comes right down to it:

  1. If your upper management is either undecided or split regarding whether to attend, you have no chance of making your participation as successful as it should be.
  2. Anything less that complete support from your senior management team spells doom. If their heart isn’t in it, if they’re just going through the motions because “that’s what we’ve always done,” others in the organization will recognize this lack of enthusiasm and follow suit. Given the fact that you’re probably spending a good chunk of change, it’s in the best interests of upper management to buy in and embrace it.

  3. If you have not created a specific set of goals that are clearly identified, communicated, and understood, you can guarantee yourself a below-average experience.
  4. What do you hope to accomplish by attending the trade show? Why are you going to this particular show rather than another one? Is success measured in revenue, leads, news articles, brand awareness, internal perception, or something else? You can’t provide an answer without first knowing the question, so lay this all out beforehand, solicit feedback, engage all groups within your organization, and use all means at your disposal to promote your attendance.

  5. If the management and participation of your trade shows is solely in the hands of your marketing team, whether by autocracy or by disinclination from other teams, you will not achieve the buy-in or participation required to succeed.
  6. Marketing people are great… heck, I’m one of them. But I also know they are single-minded when it comes to execution. Without participation by other teams, marketing will invariably defer to marketing-specific goals, which most of the time are functions of larger goals. Consequently, they may not achieve everything that other teams, like sales or product management, would have hoped for. If you are one of these other teams, I suggest that you get involved early and often so that you’re not disappointed.

  7. If you focus more on number of leads, rather than quality of leads, you are destined to waste massive amounts of time chasing people that will never generate a dime of revenue.
  8. In an earlier blog entry I discuss how to identify and focus on hot leads instead of sheer quantity. Just remember that all leads are not created equal. The best rule of thumb is to focus on your target audience, develop good incentives to encourage continued conversations, use best practices to qualify your leads, and create programs that will fill, but not overwhelm, your sales pipeline.

  9. If you do not have a strong events manager firmly in charge, your salespeople will spend more time on their Blackberries than on the trade show floor.
  10. I love salespeople. I really do. But I know they have a tendency to be a bit, um, ornery. Let’s be honest… without a strong personality keeping them on a short leash, most salespeople will walk into the trade show booth, zoom over to the first empty chair, and start answering emails on their Blackberries. They tend to view trade shows as a waste of time that’s cutting into their ‘face time’ with customers. The truth is that they can engage more customers spending 3 hours in a trade show booth than they can if they spent a week on the road. A strong-willed events manager can help them remember this and keep them on-task. Remember, the booth is there for the benefit of sales more than any other team, so they should learn to take advantage of it.

  11. If you do not reserve a meeting room, you will lose out on many important opportunities.
  12. The noise of the show and the buzz in the booth can make it difficult to engage in deeper conversations, the kind that close deals. Your solution is to reserve a meeting room when you purchase your booth location. The meeting room can be used for prospects, interviews, PR functions, and a variety of other high-quality activities. The booth brings ’em in, but the quiet meeting room helps to keep ’em.

  13. If you don’t choose your booth location carefully, you might as well not even be there.
  14. Whenever possible, do an on-location reconnaissance as early as possible to determine the best location for your booth. If you can’t do this, or if you don’t have enough budget to get into the highest traffic areas, don’t worry. The next best places are: near the meeting rooms, next to the bathrooms, near the concession stands, and close to the sitting areas. Another trick… if your booth has a place to sit down and/or offers food & drink, you will probably double your traffic.

You’ve spend a lot of money on registrations, booth design, marketing, and T&E, so follow these tips to maximize your ROI. Happy hunting!

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June 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

Secrets to a great webinar – Part 3

Here’s the third and final segment to running a successful webinar. In the first two parts, we discussed some helpful hints and best practices for preparing and presenting your webinar. Today we’ll discuss what you should do after your webinar to help you achieve your desired goals.

  1. Always have a post-webinar discussion. In Part 2, I discuss the fact that you always want to make your webinars one hour long. However, many times you’ll find several attendees that want to talk beyond the stopping time. No problem. Invite those folks to stay on the line for a post-webinar discussion, which can last as long as they want. You have a motivated, interested, and invested audience just sitting there, waiting for the next step, so take advantage of it.
  2. Have a demo, sample, download, and trial ready to go before the webinar starts. Assume that every attendee will want to take the next step (“Call To Action“) and be prepared to share/send your customary giveaway, whether it’s a demo, product sample, software download, online catalog, etc. Webinars are all about capitalizing on the buzz of the moment, so be sure to accommodate the needs of your attendees without making them work for it or making them wait.
  3. Measure. This goes all the way back to the first point I made in Part 1: Determine your goals. Keep track of attendees in your sales management system, and actively track their activity over time. Depending on your products and sales cycles, the realization of your goals may either be immediately known, or it may take some time to determine. Either way, be diligent and keep accurate records of interactions, activities, and purchases.

I hope you found this series to be helpful, interesting, and entertaining. If done correctly, webinars can be tremendously beneficial for lead & revenue generation, and can set you apart as an industry thought leader. With proper planning, goal-setting, and execution, you may find yourself taking your company to the next level faster than you thought possible. If you’d like more information, or would like to utilize a consulting firm to help you with your webinar needs, please contact me directly or though our web form.

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June 10, 2009 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

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