Archive for the ‘Marketing planning’ Category
Too many small businesspeople get the relationship backwards between creative design (logos and other “identity” graphics, for instance) and “brand.”
I wrote about this on Forbes.com recently, but let’s review the proper relationship:
Brand ≠ Logo
Brand = Reputation
If you successfully build a reputation for delivering top consumer value for the dollars they spend with you, you will build a strong brand. And you can slap just about any logo on it you want (tastefully), and that logo will become representative of the value you deliver.
I am being a bit flip here: “Just about any logo” is certainly hyperbole, as everything you do has to reflect well on your business. But as a small businessperson, you must create a basic, enduring creative look for your business, and stick with it. Distracting yourself (and siphoning scare money) into a constant overhaul of your “look” is wasteful, and actually confuses your target audience.
Most consumers care little about logo design, and a lot about the quality of your product and service. So, if you had to spend one extra dollar on something, which should it be?
The next time any marketing guy tries to sell you on the idea that you need to “rebrand yourself” with a “new look” to “relaunch” your business, politely show them to the door. That is the last step in a “relaunch,” not the first, and may prove unnecessary at all if you fix the problems that may be hindering your value delivery!
Let me know in the comments if you disagree with me on this!
Here is another link to that Forbes article. Follow me there if you like it! (Share it, too.)
As search engines continue to refine their game, their goal (especially Google’s) is becoming quite clear: Get the SEO manipulators out of the game, and put the focus as close to 100% on relevance and quality of CONTENT as possible.
A recent article in Fast Company about Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm releases captures the dramatic shift in responsibility for search engine optimization (SEO) back to clients from agencies. Why? Because the search engine owners like Google and Bing are obessed with having actual online CONTENT drive search results for people surfing the web rather than just page structure and keyword tactics.
Less trickery, more content
Ostensibly, creating great content has been the goal of marketers all along, but up to today specialists who studied the way Google, Bing, Yahoo and others produced results could experiment with key words and phrases, and structure pages around a “keyword strategy” to drive their client’s web pages up the rankings to the “Holy Grail of Page One”.
Google in particular doesn’t like being gamed, however, and continually makes it harder to achieve Page One without actually creating fresh, relevant, useful content to engage the site/page visitor.
I post occasional articles for clients on a content publisher called ezinearticles.com, and I remember the reduction in page views for articles posted when Panda went live last year. All such online content publishers had to explain what was going on, and make the case that fewer page views did not mean fewer quality leads. (The hope was that Google’s upgrade actually reduced less interested click-throughs more than quality ones.)
The bottom line: The content you create is more critical than ever.
- You need a content strategy that keep you focused on those core product or service messages that best promote your value proposition.
- You need to create a steady stream of this content to stay fresh and relevant to search engines.
- It has to have immediate informational value for the reader even if they do not click through the content to your site.
- You must weave social media into your distribution strategy for this excellent content so that it arrives in front of the people you want to engage regularly.
There are fewer easy fixes in SEO anymore. It is the hard work of creating and distributing great content that will consistently drive your online sites and pages to the first page of search engine results.
- You still need a keyword/phrase strategy, because you need to track and analyze the search terms online searchers are using to find what they seek.
- Your content still needs to reflect those themes.
- However, search engines are a lot better at grading your page not just on the keyphrases you include in the copy, but the value of the information the entire page contains, and how the visitor interacts with that page (length of visit, clickthroughs from the page, etc.)
Fast Company Article Link:
It is tradition in Corporate America to view and accept Marketing and Sales as difficult partners. Sales has short time horizons (quarterly sales quotas) and Marketing doesn’t. Marketing takes a long view, Sales cannot afford to. Etc.
Organizations that work hard to bridge the chasm and truly establish a strong working relationship between the two organizations do gain a tremendous amount of productivity and net revenue, because they spend less money to gain each new dollar of business.
This takes dedication and hard work, however, along with a consistent willingness to compromise. Most critically, successful collaboration also demands a full acceptance by each party for their own responsibilities, and for their results:
- No blame games!
- A focus on finding true causes for failure, not assumptions or unsubstantiated claims.
- A focus on fixing problems, not using them as cudgels to “defend your corner.”
I wrote a recent Forbes article on the steps to take to achieve this corporate harmony. Here’s the nickel tour of my advice:
- Marketing and Sales managers hold mandatory quarterly planning meetings together, and sign off together on decisions made and tasks assigned.
- Sales must back off on quantity demands (“just give us the leads and we will close them”) as a seemingly simple solution.
- Both sides must sign off on the preferred customer profiles Marketing uses to set up their programming.
- Marketing management participates in the development of quarterly and annual sales goals.
- Sales must be honest about their lead closure rates, and about the issues that keep sales from closing. Solid, tracked reasons for failure are needed, not excuses.
- Sales commits to tracking all leads they receive. Reps who don’t must be trained and directed to perform properly in this critical area. No casual “marketing leads stink” proclamations!
- Marketing must analyze and report monthly aggregate lead nurture and closure progress to Sales, and meet with Sales to explore trends and raise issues.
- Marketing must take these results and refine their lead generation algorithms to better qualify leads up front.
This is a quick list just to get you started on how to configure your Marketing/Sales groups strategically so that they work together on commonly accepted goals, and recognize that one group’s problem is everyone’s problem, and needs cooperative efforts to solve them.
An employee development client of mine (Bovo-Tighe, LLC) has a simple mantra that senior executives must always keep in front of them:
Event + Response = Outcome (E+R=O)
Put simply, you cannot control events, but you can control your responses (individual and collective) to those events. You must select the responses that keep you all moving towards your goal, rather than responses that keep you simmering in a whirlpool of blame-throwing, production-sapping shouting matches.
- Keep communications between team members focused on actions that lead to mutually agreed solutions
- Solve differences of opinion with fact-based discussions
- Seek the truth underneath the events that occur before taking action. Assumptions must be challenged and confirmed!
- Trust that your peers, bosses and subordinates all agree that achieving corporate goals is paramount.
- Challenge all players to keep that action-oriented, forward-thinking mindset as their primary motivation.
The bottom line: All players must start with the assumption that both parties have the other’s best interests in mind and respect them, and roles must be clearly defined and adhered to. When issues arise, deal with the ISSUE, not some undefined suspicion of conspiracy!
I was sitting with a client recently, suggesting new methods for reaching out to his target markets. One of the “new” methods I trotted out what the idea of mailing key targets a traditional bulk rate mailer. His reaction was immediate, and strong:
“I can’t afford that! It doesn’t work anymore. Everyone is online!”
Yikes. Most people are online looking for information, but we must still drive them there, and get them to go where we want them (our websites rather than the competition, for instance!)
Direct Mail Still Works: Why do you think it keeps arriving in your mailbox?
We love new stuff in the marketing profession. (If it’s social, it must be good, right?) As a result, we can be guilty of neglecting the tried and true. Running print ads, mailing letters, considering radio and TV, are all still quite viable tools for raising awareness and/or generating trial of your product or service. In many cases with my own clients, they are still more reliably effective than many New Media tools.
Most businesspeople have a solid understanding of the mechanics of traditional marketing channels, and understand the trade-offs. This makes them less sexy, of course, and marketers selling services to small businesspeople are apt to emphasize the newer, more experimental social media and other online tools, because clients aren’t familiar with them and a bit daunted by them. Indeed, social-media-only marketing agencies have sprung up like mushrooms after a summer rain over the last five years to capitalize on this inexperience.
As a result of this obsession with what is new and exciting, great traditional tools are left unused, to the detriment of the business. Direct mail, in particular, has advantages that should not be forgotten:
- Highly targeted – You can target one block of one neighborhood, or one consumer profile.
- Full of space for making yourpitch, and fully developing your argument for action.
- Easy to personalize in lots of creative ways.
- Retainable by the recipient for later review – Unlike e-mail, the recipient might actually review it, too!
- Proven to work, if done right.
None of these attributes are shared completely with any other marketing tools. Google AdWords come close, but are limited in space and visual appeal, and disappear immediately if not clicked on.
The only downside: Cost, and this is manageable by starting with small target lists, tracking closely and adjusting future mailings based on what you learn.
So put direct mail back into your toolbox and figure out where it might fit in your marketing mix. Then test, test, test until you get a “champion” that performs well, and brings you highly qualified leads that turn into real business.
I am a “stick to the basics” marketer when working with small businesses. Chasing too many opportunities to communicate with a diverse set of target markets (which contradicts the whole idea of a “target market”) dissipates impact and drains away frequency. Without frequency, of course, there is no impact!
In order not to drain your marketing of impact, never add more than one new element to your marketing mix at a time! Focus your scarce resources on making that one new marketing avenue work well before diverting energy to a different opportunity. Too many small business people lose focus and chase new ideas like a butterfly flitting from place to place. You will note that it takes the butterfly a long time to get from point A to point B. Using a butterfly approach to marketing bogs you down the same way.
You have my permission to ignore “great new marketing tools” until YOU are ready to fully take advantage of the benefits they offer, having fully investigated their offering, and what it truly takes to make that new tool work effectively. NEVER commit money, time and energy to a new tool based solely on the advice of the person selling it to you!!! (This seemingly obvious mantra is ignored by more small businesses than anyone can count…)
For more on my marketing mantras, please read my most recent Forbes article. Let me know what you think in the comments section (here or on the Forbes site.)
One of the great ironies of marketing is that the part that is the most fun – graphic design – is the least important in terms of making your marketing more effective.
This is true in spades for logos. Rejiggering or redesigning a logo that is serving its purpose has to be one of the biggest time-wasters in business. In fact, constantly tinkering with it is a BIG negative in what it communicates to the marketplace.
Logos are important as a representative for your brand promise. You should invest a basic amount to have a nice one designed. Here are some guidelines that small businesses should stick to:
- Keep it simple – Fancy frills don’t age well.
- Make it fit the product or industry se - Block letters, as an example, imply heft. Script letter less so. Script letters imply elegance, block letter less so.
- Make it clear – Include the company name or nickname. You are not going to spend enough money to make a pure design immediately recognizable. Note that IBM, FedEx, Xerox stick to their names as their logos. You should, too. It maximizes its value on a limited budget.
- Make it timeless – Don’t adopt trendy graphics, even if they make sense today for your market. You want to be in business for some time, and you want a logo that can go with you into the future.
No small business can afford to spend the millions of dollars needed to cement its logo in their marketplace as a short-cut to it brand promise. So spending time tinkering with the logo is a waste of precious time, energy and money.
Logos are the face of the company. They come to be a short-cut for consumers to your brand promise (think of what the sight of the Golden Arches automatically makes you do – Whether you salivate or curl your lip, those arches mean something because McDonalds spent billions making them an icon for predictable fast food.)
A Quick Case Study of a Company Overthinking its Logo.
A while back, Starbucks announced (unilaterally) that its logo was now iconic: It no longer needed the name “Starbucks” within it. Nor did it need the company name next to it. I disagreed. I felt Starbucks was deciding for the consumer that their logo had become as iconic as McDonald’s golden arches or American Express’ blue box, and pushing it onto their customers unnecessarily.
Now let’s examine one of the results of that decision:
In my own community of Castro Valley, there is a Safeway that has a Starbucks within it.
They just took “Starbucks” off the building and left the new Mermaid logo to fend for itself in attracting business. How attractive is this to you?
Now consider that a competitor, Peets, sits just thirty yards away in the same parking lot:
If you are pulling into this parking lot and thinking “I need a cuppa Joe,” which marquee is going to catch your eye? Where might you decide to buy your beverage and pastry?
Starbucks is going “cold turkey” on its move to a new logo, and I fear they are overestimating the business-drawing power of a logo with no connection to the brand name.
What do you think? Am I off-base?? Will Starbucks prove me wrong??? They certainly have the marketing budget to pull it off…
Any logo becomes iconic if presented often enough in a consistent manner (and the company delivers on its brand promise.) Which leads back to my original position: If any logo can come to represent you, why waste time and money creating more than a basic, servicable, classic logo?
Sometimes odd statistics catch my eye and get my inner marketing analyst engaged. One Super Bowl Ad Spending article did that yesterday. The article focused on a recent history of ad spending during the Super Bowl, but one stat caught my eye:
Budweiser spent $239 million on Super Bowl ads over a ten-year period.
- My first thought: That’s a lot of six-packs.
- My second thought: Exactly how many six-packs is it? How much beer must the Budweiser brand sell to cover the cost of all those expensive “awareness ads?”
Two minutes of online searches got me the stats I needed. Follow how I analyzed it:
If you want to fiddle with the calculation, I uploaded the spreadsheet. Here’s the link:
The bottom line for this analysis: The cost of a Super Bowl ad is a rounding error in the marketing budget for Budweiser and the company has to sell about 0.1% more beer to cover the cost. Given that each ad is run to raise awareness, a direct tie to increased sales is not required. Plus, the event lines up well with their target audience so it makes a lot of sense to keep participating.
For smaller companies, this sort of analysis will be critical in deciding whether such an expensive time slot fits with their strategic marketing approach.
The rigor of analysis is a core fundamental of marketing. Running exercises like this keep my mind sharp and “in the game.” I hope you are running similar exercises on a regular basis for all your marketing initiatives!
If not, we need to talk.
Kodak has taken itself into bankruptcy, which highlights how this mighty brand has fallen from “iconic” and “powerful” to “weak” and “past it.” This is a classic tale of a successful, profitable company overwhelmed by the need to reinvent itself, and failing to take action fast enough to maintain its market position. Kodak as a poster child for a company that denied the truth, continued to “believe it own press releases” about its invincibility, and paid for it.
The Great Irony: Kodak invented the technology that destroyed it.
A Kodak engineer invented digital imaging in 1975. And unlike cases like Xerox failing to see the value of what it invented (see: the computer mouse), Kodak continued to set the pace technologically in digital imaging for decades. Yet the commercial successes accrued to the camera makers at Canon, Olympus and others, not Kodak. Why? Because they never truly changed their corporate mindset that Kodak was in the film business.
Kodak always had the technological capability to compete. Not only did they invent digital imaging, they were the first to stuff a high-resolution chip into a handheld camera, and were the first to get the price of a digital camera under $1,000. Here’s a great example: Astrophotography camera companies like SBIG makes cameras that are considered the top-quality choice for imaging distant heavenly objects by amateur astronomers. SBIG cameras rely on a Kodak imaging chip!
Somehow these technical accomplishments have not been leveraged to reposition the brand in the marketplace. Why? Blame poor marketing driven by the erroneous belief that the Kodak brand meant more than quality photo film to consumers.
What should they have done? Their best move would have been a shift in brand positioning: Redefine themselves as being in the imaging business rather than the film business, and put all their marketing resources to work to make sure consumers knew it. That clear change in positioning would have allowed them to retain their film business as long as it made sense, while simultaneously leading the move into digital. Ultimately they did try to expand what Kodak meant to consumers, but did it at the product level rather than the top brand level. Witness this list of product introductions since the mid-70s:
1975: Introduces plain-paper copiers
1976: Invents digital photography
1976: Introduces instant cameras
1984: Introduces videocassette recorder and cameras
1985: Starts selling floppy disks (a storage medium for images)
1986: Develops 1.4 megapixel digital sensor small enough for handheld cameras
None of these became a big commercial success. The idea that the Kodak brand was broad enough to ensure the success of Kodak-branded products like these tells me that they never truly understood how limited their brand was in the consumers’ minds.
In an e-mail just this week from i4cp, I found the following passage:
“We know from experience that sustained high performance is synonymous with, among other things, being ready for change – and having a degree of insight into what’s around the corner doesn’t hurt.”
That “degree of insight” was lacking at the top of the Kodak managment heirarchy. They were, in effect, in denial about the true strength of their brand.
The Truth: Digital was a Killer App
It is incredibly hard for an organization that is highly profitable to make dramatic changes. For Kodak, entire supply chains of chemicals, plastics and paper stood at the front end, and retail distribution at the back end. Add to that after-market film developing services, and you have a huge marketplace structured around the business of selling film. Actively taking steps to threaten such a profitable venture would have taken guts that most top managers don’t have in a publically traded company. Management cannot simply say “OK, now we are a digital imaging company” unless they drag the whole company with them. Only a strong leader with a real grasp of the truth about future prospects can pull it off.
It can be done, however. IBM has done it more than once. Xerox (ironically for Kodak) made the shift from copier company to imaging company, then on from there to “managed document services.” Apple has risen from the dead twice.
Kodak could have, too. The truth was that digital was eventually going to kill the film business, and Kodak management needed to internalize that reality and reinvent the company as the leading imaging company, grabbing the technology lead from their pals in the camera business. No one trusted this hard truth as the right path forward, and this led to poor strategic decisions that led to the sinking of one of the world’s strongest international brand into bankruptcy. Had Kodak bit the bullet and made digital technology leadership a central marketing tenet, I believe they would have retained a leadership position in the “Imaging Market” even while the film business faded away.
What truths are you denying in your industry? What external threats are you discounting because they don’t fit into your definition of your marketplace, or would upset your carefully crafted business plans? What are you in denial about???
If you want to find out, give me a call. We can explore your current brand mindsets and see where they do or don’t connect to consumers. What one of my clients calls “The Pursuit of Truth” mindset is the best defense against becoming the next “Kodak.”
I recently read a white paper that went into great detail about the “new psychology” of the 21st Century consumer. I am not sharing the link, because unfortunately the only enlightenment I got was about yet another way to put lipstick on a pig. The report didn’t reveal any insights that a diligent small businessperson will already have gleaned from his or her own experiences. Certainly, we have improved our measurement tools with top-flight optics and computer power, so we measure better what we already “know”, but basic human impulses have not changed. Here are some of the insights that the report “uncovered”:
- Windows displays need to reflect current tastes for graphics, and be instantly understandable for the passersby. Check: Don’t be dowdy or old-fashioned! This has been true since (fill in whenever you were born here), and so is not new!
- The next insight: People, especially women, don’t like crowded aisles and having to brush up against people when browsing. Really?
- A third insight: Opinion-leaders and mavens are gaining in influence and must be courted. Internet-based resources do allow for more of these people and their preferences to be found, but I argue that this has always been true. Why, otherwise, have celebrity endorsements been around for over a century?
My conclusion: Consumers have not changed as much as people think. Read the rest of this entry »
I recently completed a writing assignment for a good client, Bovo-Tighe. Dave Tighe and I worked over a number of weeks to put in print a core piece of his Foundations of Excellence employee development philosophy.
Here is the article link: Pursuit of Truth
His message has a strong connection to all businesses and their marketing efforts, including smaller ones, so I am sharing it here.
In short, You must know as much as possible about everything that affects your business. Examples:
- You cannot assume customers want what you propose to sell.
- Nor can you assume they are happy with the solutions you have provided.
- Plus, you cannot assume that your employees are efficient and always customer-focused.
Now replace “assume” in the above sentences with “hope”. Hope cannot be a business strategy, yet too many people adopt scattershot marketing initiatives and hope that they work. No forethought, testing, tracking, tweaking mid-stream. Just take a vendor’s advice and toss money or time at it (and skimp on the time needed, too!)
To quote from the article, a London-based professor of business named Donald Sull wrote:
“Managers and entrepreneurs walk past lucrative opportunities all the time, and later kick themselves when someone else exploits the strategy they overlooked. Why does this happen? It’s often because of the natural human tendency known to psychologists as confirmation bias: People tend to notice data that confirms their existing attitudes and beliefs, and ignore or discredit information that challenges them.”
As business owners and managers, we must challenge ourselves to accept that:
- We cannot already possible know everything that is going to affect our business over the next 12 months. If we want to “hope for the best” we must still “plan for the worst”, and try to understand what that “best” and “worst” could be.
- We must be wide open to bad news, and adopt a mindset that every bit of news (good or bad) is an opportunity to act in a positive way to achieve our desired outcomes.(To borrow another Bovo-Tighe training regime: E+R=O, which is “Event + Your Response = Outcome.” You cannot control events. You CAN control your response, and therefore the outcomes from the event.)
- We must seek out and reward those people who provide unvarnished truths, especially our employees who interact with customers most often. Teach them to share bad news just as they do good, and give them an “atta boy or girl” when they do.
- We must train our entire organization to have the same “Pursuit of Truth” mindset, especially with regard to customer prospecting and servicing.
The Pursuit of Truth is not just getting rid of hidden agendas and blame-games. It is instilling a relentless desire to know what is really going on both in the workplace and in the marketplace. As we said in the article:
“Cementing this ‘pursuit of truth’ mindset into the corporate culture means that problems and opportunities are willingly shared sideways and upwards, and not left buried to fester, or worse, be discovered and exposed by customers. Companies that pursue truth in every interaction respond better to customer issues, and seek to solve them, learn from them, and share that learning across silos and over cube walls.”
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6726458