The Marketing Guy

Rooting for Good Marketing Since 2009

Take Time to Recharge the Creative Batteries!

Sometimes the best marketing ideas don’t come when you’re standing in front of a whiteboard, listening to a focus group behind a 2-way mirror, tossing a squishy ball back and forth, or conducting a meeting on your feet. They come when you least expect it—when your brain is occupied on navigating the hairpin turn on the coastal highway, when you’re watching that movie you’ve been meaning to see for months, or in the quiet reflection of waves hitting a beach.

It’s in that spirit that I sign off for a few weeks to recharge my batteries and get ready for a great September—thanks for your readership in the past few months and talk to you all again soon—aloha!

Advertisements

Can you Name your Customer?

Lots of times when companies are doing the nuts and bolts of marketing like messaging, positioning, and targeting, there are a lot of competing goals and ideas about who you should sell your products and services to, who the primary buyer is, who the competition is targeting, etc.

Often times the most simple and primary (meaning in this case “the first thing you should do”) exercise to distill all of these competing thoughts is to put a face to the primary customer you’re after. What’s their gender? Their title? Their name?

Now when I’ve suggested this to marketers, often times the feedback I get is “their NAME?” What do you mean their NAME?” What I mean is, what’s their name? Is their name Eunice or Brandii? Are they a Wilbur or a Chip? Yes, we do have stereotypes with names out there. Names that were popular when our parents were in the mainstream of the workplace is way different from the 18-22 year old workers now (trying) to enter the workplace.

So their name will connote a lot about them, as will other characteristics like their role in the company, hobbies, income, purchasing power, and their influence in the marketplace. Are they a “thought leader” or a “fast follower?”. And you can’t afford *not* to build a profile of these people first. Yes, there can be more than one person you go after. Yes they can be different genders. But you need to know who they are, their habits, likes, dislikes, and how they consider your product or service. You need to know them so well you can pick them out at the drop of a hat.

Then, and only then, can you start the work of building a marketing plan around them. You can tailor messages to them directly; you can build events and offers, and campaigns that appeal directly to them. But believe it or not, it all starts with a name—can you put a name to your customers today?

Are You Taking Advantage of The Down Time This Month?

The dog days of summer are clearly upon us with heat wave after heat wave bringing lots of fun in the sun and time away from the office with family and friends. As it should be. However…

That doesn’t mean that you can’t use this time productively. As a marketer there’s nothing more I like than do have the August block of time to myself, without meetings and interruptions, to recharge my batteries and hone my insights for the Labor Day-New Year’s rush. Spending time surfing blog sites I’ve bookmarked, researching competitors, going through my team’s development plans. All these are tasks that I never seem to have enough time for during the year. But now’s the time to allow yourself to be creative, find out what others are doing, follow some Twitter feeds, and get creative.

Because you know what? Your competitors are definitely doing this now. They’re plotting their fall campaigns, their offers, their prospect targeting and outreach activities, and finding out what your latest marketing plans are as well. And while we all need vacations and a break, don’t take your eye off the ball totally—get sharp and get ready.

What Happens When You Can’t Keep Up with Your Customers?

It’s virtually impossible to keep up with all the new technology available to marketers these days. I somehow am on the subscription list for Chief Marketer Magazine, and while informative on specific issues, it’s about as up to date on what’s happening out there as last Sunday’s New York Times. Technology is moving so fast that in some cases, while companies are just figuring out what their social media strategy should be, their customers have already moved 2-3 programs beyond Twitter and Facebook. There are so many geo-locator apps on the marketplace now that they too have their own aggregation applications like TweetDeck and Tweetmeme have done for Twitter followers out there.

Which raises an interesting question for marketers today—how “current” do you need to be with your marketing to stay ahead of your customers? We always talk about marketing where your customers are, but what if you didn’t even know that “where they are” even existed? What if they’ve moved onto where you’ve just arrived?

Now this doesn’t mean that you should attach yourself to every fad and new product that comes on the market of course. The Silicon Valley graveyard is littered with “the next big thing” when it comes to finding customers. But it also doesn’t mean just doing the same old webinar and direct mail piece with the expectation that your customers will always respond because they have in the past.

With Facebook being used as a search engine as much as Google in some months, and word-of-mouth instant reviews affecting restaurant menu’s on a daily basis, customers and prospects are moving faster and faster these days—you need to make sure your marketing strategy keeps up with them, lest the competition do your job for you!

How “Baked In” is Marketing to Your Product?

I found a really interesting article on line at warc.com (a great marketing clearinghouse website) today entitled “Brands seek to create “product experiences.”” It’ definitely worth a read, and brought up a great point that I’ve seen repeatedly in companies of all types—that being that it’s much easier to market your product or service to the customer if marketing is not treated as an afterthought or an add-on to the go-to-market process.

Too often a product is devised and readies, and *then* marketing is brought in to somehow figure out a way to differentiate it in a very crowded marketplace, where the average consumer has the attention span of a flea, given the sheer number of messages they’re bombarded with all day long.

I’ve talked to lots of marketers who get incredibly burned out by being called on to rescue a product launch or come up with a new tagline or positioning only when the product or service isn’t doing well in the marketplace or when it’s too late to change anything about the offering that may help it be better positioned to the prospective customer base. As we all know, if you’re coming into the game that late, the cause is likely already a lost one.

Instead, and as the article points out with some classic consumer-oriented examples like Apple and Virgin, consumers today respond to experiences, not just features. They want to be associated with products and services that speak to their aspirations, values, or personal view of themselves or the company they represent. And it’s marketing that’s ultimately responsible for creating the image and the feeling that the customer ultimately responds to, that provides what I call “the compelling reason to purchase,” whether you’re marketing to a consumer, a business, or a governmental agency.

To really achieve its potential then, marketing can’t be an afterthought, and it can’t be something that’s tolerated just because it’s the vehicle to launch a product or service into the marketplace. Instead, it needs to be “baked in” to the product development process, to ensure that the experience you’re trying to create for the consumer goes hand in hand with the promise of your product from the outset, not when it’s too late to make any difference to the marketplace.

Turning on a Dime to Land Effective Marketing

Sometimes the best laid plans end up being just that—plans. It was supposed to be sunny for the BBQ; the flight wasn’t supposed to be two hours late; the customer swore they had budget this quarter…you get the picture, and we’ve all been there before.

Whatever the reason things go wrong, it’s rare when things turn out exactly as we have them scripted out. And the realities of our marketing plans are no different. Gone are the days when you can publish the entire calendar for the year ahead of time and ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of what is going to be executed in the field. These days it’s enough to be able to look a quarter ahead with any certainty, given the budget crunch and speed of the changing competitive landscape we all face.

That’s why it’s super important to ensure you have a firm “north star” in mind for where you want to be at the end of the period/year/timeframe for your marketing. Ensure you have the big things tackled that are going to need to occur no matter what happens in the marketplace. Focus on the product launches, the new campaigns, the expected competitive moves, and make sure you have your tactics in place and ready to go. These are the critical few things that need to occur in the coming year.

And then…take a breath and start asking the “what if?” questions. What if the product is delayed, what if the budget goes away, what if we don’t get the venue?—all the things that have the potential to sink your best laid plans. Then start building in some contingencies, some “plan B’s,” some back-up ideas that will allow you to stay on course but stay nimble and quick on your feet. Does your plan have that flexibility today? Chances are your competitor’s does. We all need to make sure our plans allow us to turn on a dime and land great marketing in this environment. It’s not just our jobs that depend on it these days, but our credibility as marketers in this fast paced environment in which we all operate.

What Local Marketing Resources Are You Missing Out On?

My friends and I are currently running an experiment this month to see if we can eat all of our food locally through the month of August. There are the usual caveats on what *doesn’t* have to be local, including coffee, spices, etc., but the goal is to see if we can not just live off the land, but find foods to eat where we know the growers, the farms, the producers, instead of just doing our usual pass through the Safeway without any regard for the ingredients in what we eat, or the length or complexity of the supply chain that it take the food to get to our shelves (you can actually chart our progress and follow our escapades at our blog “Backyard Eats” if you’re so inclined.)

So this got me to thinking about how to apply this challenge to marketing as well. Often times in my job I’m contacted by firms around the world that want to contract their services to me and my team. They’re in different cities, sometimes countries, and yes, their work is often fantastic. But what about “marketing locally” and doing business with a local group or agency?

While there’s great benefit in scale and reach, there’s also something to be said for shortening your own marketing “supply chain” and tying together your creative source with your marketing outcomes. Not only will you likely get a stronger say over the direction and the final product of our marketing materials, you’ll be helping out local businesses and firms that are needed more than ever right now to keep our economies above water.

There’s always a rush to bigger and better, faster and more efficient. But like the food supply chain, ultimately that can bring you to a place of very impersonal, cookie-cutter marketing that looks and feels and sounds like everyone else’s because it’s kind of designed that way. As I mentioned in yesterday’s column—don’t be afraid to knock down a heretofore unbreakable barrier and take a meeting with a local vendor or agency. You might be surprised at their skill and ability to not just produce good marketing for you, but a great relationship that you can count on when you need it most!