When Do I Stop Marketing?

Marketing Mastication like incessant gum chewing

Is your marketing habitual mastication or deliberate observation?

 

Break the Marketing Mastication Habit

When do I stop marketing?” asks Ron, a friend of mine during a mastermind group I facilitate.

“What do you mean by that?” I reply.

“It seems easier to make decisions about new initiatives in your marketing, than to terminate existing ones.”

“Why do some people chew endlessly on a piece of gum?” I retort.

“Habit?” he ponders.

“Exactly.” I smile. “Sadly, there’s a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners still paying for some obsolete directory listing, or how about that annual order of cheap tchotchke pens? Maybe they can’t say no to that ad in the local high school football program. None of the marketing ingredients appear to yield anything of significance. We do it out of habit like some incessantly gum-chewing adolescent, we continue to masticate on something that yields no value.” [Read more…]

Marketing: Traditional or Social Media?

Macro Marketing

Kool-Aid or Cappuccino?

New vs. Traditional Media?” Is that even the right question?

… And the Marketing Micro Trends

I’m not sure which changes quicker; trends in food, fashion or marketing?

Debates rage on the merits of natural versus genetically modified foods. Are we moving towards South American or Middle Eastern cuisine? We diffract between local, organic and artisan. Really? Does anyone care beyond food consultants, critics and connoisseurs?

Similarly, over-active, hyper-caffeinated marketing mystics are quick to proffer their latest philosophical pronouncement on what’s in, what’s out, what’s dead and what’s not. And the new hot thing … the marketing dish de jour. [Read more…]

Marketing versus Sales

How Does Marketing & Sales Fit Together?

marketing versus sales like the chef vs. waiter

“Why can’t sales and marketing just get along?”

Marketing & Sales – Two sides to the same coin?

Sales and marketing,” a familiar phrase uttered in business.

But shouldn’t marketing come first?” bemoans the marketing department.

Why can’t marketing and sales get along,” laments the CEO.

Marketing versus Sales. Sales versus Marketing. Sales versus Marketing. Marketing or Sales? Two different sides of the same coin. One without the other… ineffective. Let me illustrate. [Read more…]

Measure Your Marketing

Meager Measurement

Measuring your marketing

Measure your marketing, and you’ll manage your marketing immeasurably better.

Major Marketing Malfunction # 7

I don’t like to bake and make cakes. It gives me headaches.

Why? When I cook I want to be merry and make a mess. Baking requires meticulous measurement.

However, we all know someone who likes to bake a lot. My friend Monse, appears to toss together ingredients and abracadabra, a cake, cookies or pie appear. But it’s not magic, it’s science. Mixing ingredients together to create chemistry; edible chemistry. And precision measurement is crucial to baking. The balance between flour and fat, liquid and leaven is paramount.

My style of cooking is freeform, spontaneous and subjective. So spicing up sauces, soups and salads are subjectively allowed. How about a freeform stir-fry? Or a spontaneous spinach and squash salad? I cook by mixing appropriate proportions versus measuring with absolute precision.

But cooking is my passion, not my profession. As a marketing strategist; I’m the complete opposite. I view meager measurement as another major marketing malfunction. Measure your marketing, and you’ll manage your marketing immeasurably better. [Read more…]

Effective Strategic Marketing Action Plans

Absent An Action Plan

Recipes are for cooking and marketing

Without recipes, implementation is inconsistent, loses focus & lacks accountability

Major Marketing Malfunction #6

A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Having performed numerous marketing assessments and marketing audits over the years, I often see good marketing intentions, (wishful goal-setting); deteriorate into a messy mixture of marketing initiatives with marketing ingredients impulsively amassed — in the absence of an action plan. Creating a strategic marketing action plan is akin to an Executive Chef’s key responsibility in creating recipes and menu planning that keeps guests returning for more.  [Read more…]

Select the Right Marketing Weapons, Instruments or Ingredients

Ineffective Integration

Select the Right Marketing Ingredients, Marketing Weapons, Marketing Instruments

Major Marketing Malfunction #5

Strategically Select Your Marketing Ingredients

Yesterday we discussed how marketing is not any one ingredient and that every touch point is a marketing opportunity. Since there are over 175 ingredients to choose from, the strategic selection of appropriate marketing weapons to maximize this marketing opportunity is critical. In evaluating clients’ marketing strategy, I frequently see that in the haste to “put something out there,” organizations undermine their marketing effectiveness by not being more discriminating and shrewd in their selection of marketing instruments.

Imagine walking into a kitchen, you survey the spice rack with its plethora of dissimilar seasonings, spices and herbs. The pantry is teeming with an array of ingredients of differing tastes, textures and aromas. The refrigerator and freezer contain yet more ingredients – dozens more. Each ingredient possesses distinct attributes. Some are sharp and tangy, some soft, sweet and seductive, some have more meat than others, and yes some are junk! [Read more…]

Marketing At Every Touch Point

An Apple - One ingredient doesn't

Marketing, like in cooking, isn’t any singular ingredient

Every Touch Point is a Marketing Opportunity

 “What do you think of Twitter?”

“Are traditional websites are thing of the past?”
“Should I be replacing my brochures and one-sheets with YouTube® videos?”

Three typical questions I hear when giving marketing speeches. But underlying these and many other similar questions is a mistaken singular focus on a specific marketing ingredient as if it’s going to be the panacea of one’s marketing. It would be like asking a chef,

“What do you think of pomegranates?”

Or, “Is goose liver passé?”

“Shall I get rid of the cauliflower and broccoli and replace them with broccoflower?”

Both sets of questions don’t make a whole lot of sense. Marketing, like cooking, isn’t any one thing you do. The power of marketing, as in cooking, is in the appropriate selection, combination and deployment of ingredients.

There are over 175 marketing ingredients in your “marketing pantry” – there’s plenty to select from! The key is strategically selecting the right ingredients for your particular business. Marketing ingredients are not just the obvious things like your business card, website or advertising, but everything in your business. Because everything you do, (and don’t do), sends a message: how you answer your phone, the quality of your service and the cleanliness of your facilities all send a message. [Read more…]

Mediocre Marketing Messages – A Major Marketing Malfunction

Mediocre Messaging

Mediocre Messaging is a Major Marketing Malfunction

Too many choices, too many options, it’s overwhelming …

Major Marketing Malfunction #4

Part 1 – The Issues

Your prospects, clients and referral sources are being bombarded with marketing messages almost every hour of every day. It’s worse than the cereal aisle in your grocery store. Too many choices, too many options, it’s overwhelming and more often than not, you end up sticking to your established preferences unless something irresistible cuts through the clutter.

  • In 1970, the average person was exposed to about 500 advertisements each day. In the early 1990s, it was 5,000.[1] Today it is estimated that people are exposed to close to 30,000 marketing messages a day.  [Read more…]

Positioning Products & Services Purposefully & Profitably

Profitable Positioning

Chocolate soufflé

Major Marketing Malfunction #2

Part 2 – The Solution

Yesterday’s post outlined how a poor positioning for your organization or offering without distinction or appeal is unappetizing and far from irresistible.  And positioning yourself with purpose and intention is not just a good marketing exercise – it’s a profitable one!

Positioning is as foundational to marketing, as a stock is to a soup or sauce. If your stock is rancid the soup or sauce will be unappetizing! And it’s not enough to just be differentiated – although that is important. What is the value you bring to your target market? The recognized value you bring to your clients combined with your novelty and differentiation will position you, your organization or your offering with the highest potential profit.  [Read more…]

Brand Baloney or a Bold Brand Full of Promise

Brand Baloney

Is your brand phony baloney or bold and full of promise?

Is your brand phony baloney or bold and full of promise?

Major Marketing Malfunction #3

 Part 1 – The Issues

Is your brand bruschetta or phony baloney? The first is appealing and appetizing; the latter is the definition of nonsense or “foolish or deceptive talk.” A brand is a set of promises and associations that a person (or group) perceives about an organization, product, service, or now with increasing frequency, an individual.

Your brand associations may be tangible, explicit and intentional – that is, they may be communicated through your graphic identity and other overt tactical marketing means. Or, your brand association may be more implicit and intangible, but still within your control: how you answer the phone, the cleanliness of your facility, or your follow-up, are simple examples. Sometimes they may be out of your control, for example a thumbs-down website review, a harmful press article, or negative rumors about you.

Brands make promises, build relationships and possess personality. They amply your value proposition and create a valuable asset that can potentially surpass the value of your individual offering.

“If Coca-Cola were to lose all of its production-related assets in a disaster, the company would survive. By contrast, if all consumers were to have a sudden lapse of memory and forget everything related to Coca-Cola, the company would go out of business.”~ Coca-Cola Executive

Brand Promise: If you think about taking a bite into a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate or a sip of Dom Perignon you probably envisage a specific sensory expectation. As you purchase an Apple iPhone, check into the Hyatt Regency or shop at Macy’s you probably have an expectation about the experience. This expectation, is essentially the promise of the brand whether based on your past experience, their marketing or someone else’s encounter. Years ago, I took my family on vacation to Italy, a culinary heaven. At the Spanish Steps in Rome, stands a world-renowned restaurant that constantly draws patrons. How can McDonalds thrive here? To Americans, Europeans and Asians, McDonalds delivers on a simple brand promise: a cheap, dependable, fast delivered meal in a clean establishment. What’s your brand promise?

Brand Relationship: Loyalty is the outcome of the strength, trust and depth of a relationship. But loyalty in a relationship doesn’t just apply to a person. It can be applied to an offering or brand that’s bold, holds strong values and is emotionally evocative. Are your followers loyal to your people, your offering or your brand?

Brand Personality: Every brand has a personality. For example, companies in the automotive, insurance and beverage industries have all very effectively crafted distinct personalities around their offerings. What’s the personality of your brand? What are the five words you want to be known by? Would they be the same five words your customers would give me if I asked them about you?

 

Positioning Products & Services – “The Battle for the Mind”

Poor Positioning

Unappetizing Positioning

Photo: Tobias Pohler

Major Marketing Malfunction #2

Part 1 – The Issues

Positioning your organization or offering: irresistible or unappetizing? No distinction has no appeal. Trout & Ries in their classic manifesto: Positioning calls it a “battle for the mind”. Furthermore, I would suggest if you don’t position yourself, the marketplace will position you … and it won’t be appealing! Just as a stock is foundational to making a soup or a sauce, positioning is foundational to marketing. In my thirty plus years of business experience I see poor positioning as one of the fundamental flaws in organizations’ marketing strategies.

Your organizations’ offering or your particular product or service offering must “own” a space in the marketplace that is uniquely yours. Your positioning must also be credible, defendable, and sustainable.

  • Credible positioning means when challenged with the words: “prove it!” you can back up your claims.
  • Defendable positioning means no one else can easily lay claim to your “space.”
  • Sustainable positioning means that it works today, next week, and next year.

A simply irresistible™ positioning starts with your Extraordinary Value Proposition; don’t just have an ordinary boring value proposition. Literally make it “extra – ordinary!” [Read more…]

Market Conversations – Listening to the Marketplace

Lackluster Listening

Lackluster-Listening-vs-Market-Conversations

Photo: Ryan Glanzer

Major Marketing Malfunction #1

Listening or broadcasting? Are we singing our praises so loudly to our target audience that we can no longer hear the marketplace conversation? To be effective in our marketing, listening is as important as broadcasting. In reality, not listening or just poor, lackluster listening damages your advertising, dilutes your brand, and undermines your marketing campaigns.

Effective listening in the marketplace reveals strategic answers about your target market, their core issues and decision-making criteria. Without this, your marketing – may turn into a futile investment. It would be like planning a dinner party without knowing who’s coming to dinner. Can you imagine the embarrassment of making a steak au poivre for a distinguished vegan guest! Irrespective of how good a cook you are – not taking your prospective guests’ (audience) preferences into consideration can lead to disaster.

Three causes behind lackluster listening [Read more…]

Tagline – Your Positioning Slogan

BRAND TAGLINES

Marketing Signature Ingredient #15

The Marketing Chef Logo

STIRRING UP SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE  BUSINESS

Part 2 – Tagline Keys

In the last post on marketing taglines and slogans we covered their importance as a marketing ingredient to position your product or service offering in the mind of your target market. To be memorable it needs to be:

  1. Short
  2. Distinctive – unusual combination of words, but
  3. General enough to be applied in different contexts

The Cornell University study also discovered that memorable marketing slogans, quotes and phrases use:

  •  More present tense verbs, versus past tense
  • Few pronouns (other than you),
  • The indefinite article “a” rather than the definite article “the”,

These all contribute to taglines that are more general than specific.

So let’s put this to the test. I took the first ten of Forbes List of 20 Best-Loved Taglines: [Read more…]

Brand Taglines – Your Key Marketing Ingredient to Position your Offering

BRAND TAGLINES

Marketing Signature Ingredient #15

Marketing Ingredient # 015 - Your Brand Tagline

Photo: M. A. Makky

Part 1 – Tagline Basics

When you think of a company, product, or service, what is one of the first things that come to mind?  Probably the tagline With so many business names out there and many more goods and services, memorable differentiation is key. Think about it, can you remember the name of your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant?  You will more than likely remember it as ‘eggs and bacon’, or ‘the nacho platter’.  This applies to many things we spend our money on.

Taglines that are memorable position your offering in the mind of your target audience.  Taglines are the key ingredient that will make your business, product, or service memorable above all others.  Taglines are what make certain cereals stand out and sell better than others.  Taglines position particular automobiles to be dependable: “Built Ford Tough” or perhaps the exceptional: Land Rover “Go beyond.

It’s unclear when the first tagline was ever used. However we do know that in 1907, a coffee company used a slogan stating their brand was “good to the last tiny drop.”  That slogan was used well into the 1980s. Maxwell House proved a great tagline withstands the test of time.  Others have had similar success stories following a few simple principles.  [Read more…]

Graphic Identity – Marketing your Brand Visually

Marketing Ingredient # 014 - Your Graphic Identity & Palette

Photo: Dave Di Biase

Food that’s colorful and visually appealing is more tempting.  Is your brand identity and color palette visually stimulating?  Or unappetizing marketing?

Your graphic identity is the visual representation of your brand.  It includes the logo, fonts, your color palette and any other tangible imagery such as photos, packaging and signage.  It’s visually marketing your brand through imagery. Brand identity reflects in every graphic display of your organization: Web site, printed materials, social media headers, golf shirts, and even your physical facility and vehicle fleet, (if you have them).  Your graphic identity is not your brand, (how you are perceived by the marketplace), but it is an important element of your branding.  Your graphic identity will probably be the first impression, the first message received by the outside world and your target market.

A strong brand has a graphic identity that is simple and distinct.  But is must also be consistent, relevant to your target audience and spark an emotional connection.  Think of robust brands such as Apple®, Starbucks®, Target®, Coca-Cola®, NBC® and Amazon®.  Can you see these brands?  What do you feel?  Each of these brands possess a level of simplicity combined with an instinctive emotion.

So what makes for a superior graphic identity?  [Read more…]

Andrew Szabo – Who is he? – Dallas? London? Hungary? …

Or, How Andrew Szabo – The Marketing Chef Came to Be! 

A short story

By Andrew Szabo

 

Andrew-Szabo-The-Marketing-Chef

Andrew Szabo – The Marketing Chef

As a professional speaker in America, the first words out of Andrew Szabo’s mouth immediately sends a message.  The audience recognizes that I speak funny.  I can’t help it … 18 years of English schooling resulted in mannerisms, turns of phrase, and an accent that makes me appear smarter than I am.  But there’s more.  Almost 20 years in Dallas have me comfortable with a more laid back style of living, deeply rooted in community and relationships.  But there’s a part of me that’s neither American nor English.  Its essence makes me passionate, it reveals my rebellious spirit, and fuels my fascination for food, wine and life.  It is the authentic underlying roots of my brand, my intensity and approach to business.

Each one of us brings value into the world with an uncommon uniqueness that is the essence of our “personal brand.” It sets us apart, and is often a combination of our experiences, our life history and the backstory that came before of us. The backstory provides a depth of realism, authenticity and credibility to the main plot, the central story of how or why we do what we do. What’s your backstory?  Mine starts in Hungary on a cold November afternoon in 1956. [Read more…]

Strategic Marketing Action Plan

Marketing Ingredient # 013

Your Marketing Action Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”, declares the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Marketing Chef states “too much marketing is wishful goal-setting.” Why? Absent an explicit actionable marketing plan, many well-intentioned marketing activities descend into a haphazard mixture of marketing ingredients hastily thrown together. A bizarre concoction – a quick repast to satisfy the immediate craving for more business rather than a well-planned, systematic formal spread that is “simply irresistible”. [Read more…]

Leverage the Power & Potency of Your Marketing Ingredients

 Spice up your marketing by leveraging the power and potency of your ingredients.

Spicy Marketing

There is Power in Different Ingredients

Just like in cooking, varying your ingredients will create a different taste to your marketing, making it more interesting and appetizing.

Marketing ingredients come in different flavors to add, subtract and make your “marketing sauce” more flavorful and ultimately simply irresistible.

The potency of marketing ingredients also varies.

Here are twelve examples: [Read more…]

Your Marketing Calendar Prevents “Marketing Episodes”

Marketing Ingredient # 012

Photo: Maxime Perron

The key marketing ingredient that facilitates the success of your marketing goals is your marketing calendar. It helps you prioritize all the other ingredients and sequence them just like a recipe.

After all what is a recipe? A list of ingredients in specific portions accompanied by a sequence of strategically oriented actions.

Implementing your marketing calendar effectively, will not only enable you to coordinate all your marketing, but also assists you in budgeting your efforts.

A marketing calendar will strategically systemitize your marketing efforts and eliminate “marketing episodes” – when the panic sets in and you say – “We need more business, lets _____(Fill in the blank)*___ “ and causes more wasted marketing dollars than anything else!

* Redo our website / do a direct marketing campaign / launch a Facebook page / create a marketing video / and many more!

What’s Your Story?

Marketing Ingredient # 011

Is your message as bland as spam?

Photo: Joe Gough

Every person, every business, every organization has a story to tell. Sadly, most are as bland as spam!

Children and adults alike, love stories. A good story is the underpinning to great movies, sermons and life! And your core story is a key foundational ingredient to your marketing, just as a tasty stock is foundational to an excellent soup or sauce!

Find your story. Structure it as a story. Begin with an irresistible set-up; the middle holds you with fascination or action, and the end builds to climax and resolution.
In addition, make sure it’s relevant to your target audience. Ensure it is persuasive (moves the heart, mind and soul), and it’s compelling  … ignites action!

What’s The Personality of Your Brand?

Marketing Ingredient # 010

Branding iron

Photo: Shutterstock F.C.G.

Every brand has a personality – what’s yours?

Every automobile brand has a particular personality … actors, singers and great speakers all have a distinct personality.

What are the five words you want to be known by?

Test it:

* Is it emotionally evocative?
* Is it authentic?

* Is it aligned to your vision?

Whether the brand is for an organization or for yourself – make it intentional and explicit – don’t let it be accidental and implicit!

Your Marketing Value Proposition – What Makes It Irresistible?

Marketing Ingredient # 009

Ahi Tuna & Wine - Irresistible

Photo: Shutterstock

What makes what you offer irresistible? A four part recipe:

  1. Novelty – What do you do or offer that is different and important to your prospect or clientele?
  2. Utility – What’s useful to your target audience about what you offer?
  3. Dependable – How can you demonstrate consistency & dependability to your target audience?
  4. Economic benefit – How does your target market gain an economic benefit from your offering?

Getting N.U.D.E. is the answer to your irresistible positioning!
(Acknowledgement: Adapted from Scott Degraffenreid’s research on referral marketing,)

Competitive Differentiation with Relevancy & Value

Marketing Ingredient # 008

Competitive Differentiation

Photo: Liz West

 

Competitive Differentiation – What make you different from everyone else? What attribute, specialty, service experience or customer preference uniquely belongs to you? Find it – communicate it – and you will command a premium in the marketplace … with a caveat.

There are many way to differentiate yourself: features, service, performance, pricing, target audience. BUT, it only matters if it matters to your client or customer. If they don’t appreciate the differentiation then don’t bother! Competitive differentiation is a step in the right direction – differentiators that your customer actually cares about and values is an ingredient to Irresistible Marketing™.

… I’m curious … what’s your competitive differentiation? Share here and pass it on!

Competitive Assessment – How do you rate relative to your competitors?

Marketing Ingredient # 007

Competitive Assessment

Photo: stock.xchng

A common pitfall among entrepreneurs and business executives alike is underestimating the competition. It’s a crowded and noisy marketplace – to be different you have to know what’s out there! (And please don’t tell us you have no competition!)
Also, don’t forget that two of the biggest competitors are apathy and the incumbent.
Key question: What are the key product – service attributes that are important to the customer? How do your competitors rate? How do you rate relative to your competitors? Plotting the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses relative to yours is a key marketing ingredient.

Target Market – Who’s The Ideal Target Audience

Marketing Ingredient # 006

Target on apple

Photo: Jay Lopez

Your target audience – Your best customers and clients are probably your most profitable … what attributes make them ideal? Who are your “ideal” customers? What do they look like? What are their attributes? Their needs? What’s their core issue? What is the fundamental problem that keeps them awake at night … which you can uniquely solve?

Irresistible Marketing™ starts here …
“To hit the target you must aim for the center – therefore start by defining the 100% ideal client – the bulls eye!”
Andrew Szabo – The Marketing Chef

Who’s On Your Marketing Team?

Marketing Ingredient # 005

Leadership in marketing

Photo: Svilen Milev

Your marketing team … your advisors … your marketing champion. Who are you listening to? Is the advice birthed out of strategy?
Be careful, everyone has a opinion about marketing, and you know what they say about opinions – everyone’s got one!

Also, do you have a champion that spearheads your marketing – the creation of demand for your offering? Marketing counsel needs to be strategic, profitable and proven!
“If your marketing champion cannot clearly clarify the distinction and the correlation between marketing and sales in a single sentence – fire them!”
Andrew Szabo – The Marketing Chef

(Photo: Svilen Milev  http://efffective.com )

The Totality of Your Product – Service Offering

Marketing Ingredient 004

A quality offering!

Photo: Daniel N. González

Your Offering? The quality of your product or service sends a message. How is it innovative? How does it address the customers’ core issues? Quality commands a premium and begins to create differentiation. Without a quality offering you have little to market. The quality of your product-service offering is in itself a powerful marketing ingredient.
Irresistible Marketing™ starts here …

“Everything you do and everything you don’t do sends a message.”
Andrew Szabo – The Marketing Chef

Your email address – What does it say about you?

Marketing Ingredient # 003

Email Address @ Symbol

Photo: Zoran Ozetsky

 

Your email address –  What does it say about you?
Does it support your personal brand?
… especially if you’re in business for your self?
Using @yahoo.com, @att.net, @gmail.net, @hotmail.com etc., while appropriate for a personal email, for business sends the wrong message! Invest the ten bucks – get an appropriate domain name (URL) and set up a professional email account.
Irresistible Marketing™ starts here …

“Everything you do and everything you don’t do sends a message.”
Andrew Szabo – The Marketing Chef

 

 

 

Effective URLs – Irresistible Marketing Starts Here …

Marketing Ingredient # 002

Your URL www

Photo: Svilen Milev

 

 

Your web address –  What does it say about you or your business or organization? Three things to consider:

1. Does it add or subtract from your brand?
2. Is it memorable?
3. Does it help with SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

Irresistible Marketing™ starts here …

 

(Photo: Svilen Milev)

Business Name / Organization name – What Does it convey?

Marketing Ingredient #001

Marketing Ingredient # 001 - Your Business Name

Photo: Bill Davenport http://lightnshadow.blogspot.com

Irresistible Marketing™ starts here  … Marketing Ingredient # 001 – Your name – What does it convey  about you, your organization or business?

 

 

 

Marketing, Innovation and the Branding Disasters of 2010

The power of a ubiquitous commanding brand is undeniable. It gets our attention. We find them irresistible. Large companies invest millions into building and protecting their brand. But in the “everything you do sends a message” department, the higher you climb the bigger the potential fall.

24/7 Wall St. published a list of top ten name brands that have appear to have lost over $100 billion, (yes that’s a “b” not a typo) since the beginning of the year. The selection criteria was based on evaluations from top branding companies: Interbrand and Brand Z’s brand valuation methodology and a whole host of other market and financial criteria.

There are the obvious reputation management disasters: the oil spill of BP (BP), Toyota’s (TM) vehicular debacle, the SEC investigation of Goldman Sachs (GS) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) recall calamities.

But then there are brands that have lost their way – companies once known for their innovation: Sony (SNE), Adobe (ADBE), Dell (DELL), Research in Motion (RIMM), Nokia (NOK). The lessons to their fall are a reminder to all of us, (in Peter Drucker’s words): “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.”

It is interesting that Drucker chose to put marketing ahead of innovation. After all, a decent product that is well marketed will always outperform a great product that has only modest marketing. A lesson for all of us. Pay attention to your marketing, especially your reputation. And never lose your streak of innovation.

Click here for the full article “The 10 Biggest Brand Disasters of 2010” in Daily Finance.

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management

This Recession is not My Recession

This recession is not my recession
Practical suggestions on not behaving like a lemming.

by Andrew Szabo

(First published as an exclusive article for “Progressive Distributor”)

Few would argue that we are now in an economic recession. The pundits’ endless debate now centers onwhether it’s going to be long or short, the landing hard or soft, the impact on the financial markets, the effect on other economies and their effect on America and so on. My first question is: so what? The problem of this macro-perspective is that it speaks little of your business or mine, yet we often wallow in the media’s doom-and-gloom forecast.

Like lemmings, too many business leaders accept these editorials as a foregone diagnosis of the state of their business. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: They become a contributing statistic to the depressed economy. Like lemmings mimicking another’s behavior, they react identically and fall off the cliff together.

Yet every downturn, crash, recession, or even depression has winners that succeed. Companies not only survive, but thrive, in the negative environment. What are they doing differently? If misery loves company, do the joyful seek a different path? I would suggest two key ideas that can significantly contribute to making this recession not your recession.

Stay out of it
First, resolve not to contribute to the recession. Make a choice not to suffer like everyone else. Instead, be proactive and prosper. Hyatt Hotels in the early ’80s is a classic case study in this behavior. The recession, never good news for luxury hotels, hit its peak during 1981-1982. Several cities already had a glut of hotel rooms but Hyatt resolutely went after new guests, rewarded loyal clients, made cuts only where they were not visible to the guest experience. They opened new properties, hitting the competition hard in several new markets where aging competitors were unable or unwilling to reinvest in their existing properties.

Get on the offensive
Second, take business away from your competition, which will increase your market share despite the total pie shrinking.

Sounds simple enough, but the challenge is in the implementation. There are only three effective ways to get more business.

  • Gain share of wallet. Increase business from your existing
    customers.

  • Promote loyalty. Encourage clients to continue to engage
    in profitable behavior.
    Target customer acquisition. Acquire new business from
    your competition that looks like your best customers.

Effectiveness in each of these areas is highly dependent on the quality of the relationship. Customer relationships are no different from marriages or friendships. They require an understanding of the other party (which entails investing time and other resources). Understanding your customer requires knowledge – gathering comprehensive information, behavioral knowledge and transactional data. It requires a disciplined investment of time and resources in an intelligent process. The technology that holds this all together is often categorized as Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Practical solutions
Working with Sony soon after its successful launch of PlayStation, we ascertained that to increase market share and sell more games (their bread-and-butter in terms of margins), Sony would have to learn about their customers. Since it sold both the hardware and software through retailers, it had no direct contact or knowledge of its customers, except for the few warranty cards that purchasers returned.

By developing a cutting-edge relationship program that tapped into the psyche of gamers, we challenged the gamers to tell us who they conquered in what game. As a reward, they were admitted into the PS Underground, a “stealth” Web site and loyalty program that gave them inside information on new developments and tips on existing games.

Within 12 months, Sony built a base of 40,000 customer names into a comprehensive customer knowledge bank of 500,000 enthusiastic gamers with known genre preferences. This information was then leveraged into targeted, personalized, marketing campaigns that both gained a greater share of wallet and engendered loyalty, making them resistant to new game launches such as Nintendo 64. Sony crushed Sega, and greatly mitigated the threat from Nintendo’s launch of N64.

Although the implementation specifics are certain to be different from your industry, the underlying principles are directly relevant. Understand your customer by investing in the relationship: leverage the knowledge relevantly.

So how do you go about this?

  • Walk in your customer’s footsteps. What does a day (or days) in the life of your customer look like? By analyzing the interactions between your organization and the customer, you can identify key touch-points where data and information are gathered or exchanged.

  • What would the ideal path look like? Dialogues with an organization’s different stakeholders yield mission-critical customer knowledge requirements. Interviews with customers breed greater understanding of the customer’s needs.

  • Perform a gap analysis between the current and the ideal.

  • Throughout the process it is important to identify the systems (both processes and technology) that may aid or hinder the relationship and the ability to assimilate or leverage customer knowledge.

  • Finally, isolate key points of inflection, areas that are critically important and have significant economic impact. Improving these areas will yield the best return on investment.

Technology is not the ultimate panacea for cultivating effective customer relationships. Technology implementations, like CRM solutions, must be accompanied by a strategic process that examines the organization’s customer relationship practices and incorporates communication.

Whether you are a veteran player or a new entrant, experience reveals most have yet to master this combination of art and science called CRM. For example, the marketing department of a relatively new bank entered vital information about their customers into a contact management program. Loan information was entered into a custom-built system, and the regular banking information was entered into a third application. Despite professing a client-centric philosophy, the systems were disintegrated. No one performed a comprehensive analysis of the bank’s customers.

In summary, make this recession not your recession by choosing to grow your business wisely through the intelligent practice of effective customer cultivation.

Discontinuous Change or Incremental Change?

Discontinuous Change or Incremental Change?
by Andrew Szabo

(Originally authored in September 2000)

Alvin Toffler, in his introduction to Future Shock, said, “Change is the progress by which the future invades our lives.” September is often a month of change, the future is invading our lives a little … our children are back in school a new year – new teachers – a new grade. You may find the rhythm of business changes, and of course, we have all been hoping that the weather would change!

Well we finally got a brief respite this week with our first rain in 70+ days! But then it went back to 90-degree heat and no rain – unfortunately that was only an incremental change – we went from the 100s to 90s. No inspiration on change there. A perusal through my collection of business and marketing books was a little disconcerting. The problem with books on change: books are static; change, by definition, is dynamic. There is, then, almost always a lack of synchronicity between what the reader knows of change in life, and what he or she experiences on the page. It does not help that the topic seems to attract writers who–in many instances–never oversaw any change efforts at all. Thus, most books on change are stern little sermons about pulling up your socks and looking for opportunities in adversity, peppered with snake-oil aphorisms, mantras of dubious efficacy (“Reframe, restructure, revitalize, renew,” comes to mind).

Another popular approach is anecdotal: a story of how people did–or didn’t–survive whatever grisly processes a particular company was going through. Many strategic leaders at companies, abetted by a sense of urgency and bevies of willing consultants, have convinced themselves that all they need to do to change is to decide to do it and then tell the troops, in the manner of “Star Trek’s Captain Picard, to “make it so.”

But isn’t the urge and the ability to “make it so” two separate things? Any kind of change is an organic process composed of many competing elements, an inevitable, unavoidable force with a life of its own. “Discontinuous,” as opposed to incremental, change is especially so. It is shaped by external forces–technological, competitive and regulatory innovation or the decline and rise of whole industries and regional economies–that engineer a radical break with the past. I have found that my strategic work in the last five years increasingly deals with clients facing discontinuous change brought on by external forces. Naturally, the commercial applications of the Internet have been a pervasive driver to change.

Why are we so resistant to change? Is it the fear of moving from that which is known to that which is unknown? I have seen many companies go through: “rational” resistance to change; the search for people to blame; increased informal communication, faction formation; the emergence of informal leadership; realignment of relationships, etc. However, the radical redirect that discontinuous change heralds, often requires a transformation of the culture in an organization. It means changing the values and worldviews of its people. People don’t come by their values lightly and they don’t check them at the company door, so they surely don’t give them up easily. Psychologists argue that people experience change as loss — even if they accept the need or inevitability of it. Change, like loss, requires time to repair.

An interesting collection of essays: “Discontinuous Change: Leading Organizational Transformation” was compiled by consultants from the Delta Consulting Group in New York. No one will be surprised to learn that C.E.O.’s loom large as change agents, though they might be surprised that the authors zero in on senior management, rather than the much- maligned middle management, as a major source of resistance to change. In addition, to believe they have a stake in the future and in not being an obstacle to change, middle-level employees must feel that the discomfort is being spread around equitably and that the company is willing to help them gain skills and opportunities they can use to move forward in their careers, wherever they end up.

In counseling our clients in branding and marketing matters, a quote from an esteemed colleague often comes to mind: “it’s like trying to ask a goldfish describe the water they are swimming in.” Discontinuous innovation compounds the problem in that they are often no longer in the gentle creek they knew so well, but they are about to merge into the perils of the Amazon River! Bon voyage — the future is about to invade your life!

Back to the Future

Back to the Future
by Andrew Szabo

Often I find myself counseling our clients to market with a customer-centric approach versus a product-centric approach. This thinking is supported by the results of a survey of global companies that I recently came across. The Economist Intelligence Unit and Andersen Consulting contend that “Customer Relationship Management” (CRM) is becoming central to corporate strategy. While only 18 percent of businesses surveyed are currently organized around customer type, the figure is expected to rise to 50 percent by 2002.

Since the Internet allows the (already unpredictable) customers to exercise even greater freedom of choice, major corporations must therefore craft a clear customer relationship strategy. Businesses are shifting their attention from attracting new customers to retaining profitable ones and fully realizing their profit potential. And, in some cases, they will “choose-to-loose” unprofitable customers.

“Focusing on customer needs seems the most basic, fundamental tenet of business. Yet, major corporations are just now beginning to blend strategic thinking, management resources, front-line support and technology to better understand and serve more sophisticated buyers,” said Dale Renner, global managing partner of Andersen Consulting’s Customer Relationship Management practice. “In the wake of relentless cost-cutting, organizations are developing long-term customer relationships as a path to enhancing profitability … this shift is nothing short of revolutionary.”

Other major findings of the survey include:

  • Companies are becoming more sophisticated at tracking customer profitability. Nearly 50% said that customer profitability would be a critical measure by 2002, up from 26% today.
  • By 2002, 83 percent of companies expect to have customer data warehouses, up from about 40 percent today.
  • More than 60% of businesses believe that “changing customer demographics and needs” and the “pressure to customize” their offerings in light of these changes, now have the most profound influences on their business
    strategies.
  • This new sophisticated approach will be aided by the evolution in interactive technology, specifically the soaring popularity of the Internet. Companies predict their use of the Internet to collect customer data will surge 430% by 2002.

Since not all customers are created equal companies need to build viable relationships to intelligently gather more data and discern the differences among customers. This “customer knowledge” can shape their offerings and marketing propositions based on the relative value these customers bring to the enterprise.

At The Marketing Chef we are particularly excited by the Internet’s capability to build customer knowledge. In my previous life in direct marketing we were able to build databases over a few months using mail, within weeks by telephone, but now with the Internet we can literally help our clients build at the speed of light! In addition, not only is it faster but also it is qualitatively far richer. New levels of customer learning lead to an increased ability to communicate with relevance to a targeted audience that is interested.

So the future lies in developing intelligent relevant relationships …  a premise that dates back to the prehistoric dawn of communication.  Back to the future.

Part 2 of My Interview with Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famer (& Creative Director), David Miner

INTERVIEW WITH ROCK-AND-ROLL HALL OF FAMER (and Creative Director), DAVID MINER – Part Two
585 words – approximately a 3 minute read


Today’s blog features Part 2 of my interview with David Miner, Creative Director for Marketing Symphony. In this part, David shares some lessons he learned from his days as a record producer and Minnesota Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame bass player. And, how those lessons can be applied to the creative process for marketing. My favorite? Use examples rather than descriptions to get your point across. To read part 2 of 3, click here.

AS: Welcome back, David. Last time, you were saying that communication was the crucial foundation to creating an end-product that your client is thrilled with. Can you recap that for us?

DM: Sure, Andrew. Basically, it all boils down to the fact that words mean different things to different people. The classic example is the word trunk: If a client describes an ad where a guy’s leaning on an old trunk, maybe you’re thinking of steamer luggage, I’m thinking of the back of a ’59 Chevy and he’s expecting a picture of a guy next to a large tree. You can’t be too confident of words.

AS: So what do you do, then? How do you communicate ideas so your advertisement or video or direct mail meets the client’s expectations?

DM: Well, as you know, I came up through the musical side. As a producer,

I started using CDs to show a group of musicians what I was after for certain songs.  Sometimes it would be a combination of things that I wanted to meld, so I would bring two CDs and show them rather than try to explain.

It worked so well that I started using it to as a safety check to make sure everybody understood the words we used in the same way.

AS: Like “trunk.”

DM: Exactly. Periodically, we’d listen to an example to make sure. And of course, whenever we came across a breakdown with words, I would ask the person, “Can you play that for me on the piano?”  or “Do you have a CD that illustrates what you’re talking about?”

AS: And this saves time?

DM: It saves time, money-it’s even saved projects. I remember one film score that was on the brink. I’d wasted an entire week on a complicated music piece that was several minutes long and needed to convey some very stark & deep emotion. The director listened to my third attempt and told me that I was even further from what he wanted with this version. Nothing he said to me made any sense. He said-and I quote:

“It needs more ‘ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum.'”

So I said, “You mean like percussion?”

“No, like ‘ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum'”

“I don’t understand-what kind of instrument is making that sound?” I asked.

His response: “Well I’m not a musician, I don’t know how you make the sound, I just need more ba-bum, ba-bum!”

Luckily, I remembered the CD trick and asked him to bring me some tracks. When he did, it took me about 5 minutes to know exactly what he wanted. I went back to the drawing board, and returned to him with a “rough sketch” for the scene.  His response: “Perfect!  That’s exactly what I was after.” We ended up doing 3 more films together, and he got very good at using CDs to help steer the process, and I got very good at creating ba-bum ba-bum.

AS: One of our maxims at Marketing Symphony is that “creativity is birthed out of strategy,” but without good communication and syntax for community ideas. There will be no ba-bum in your creative!

~

So that’s part two of our interview and more to follow.

Interview with Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famer (and Creative Director), David Miner

INTERVIEW WITH ROCK-AND-ROLL HALL OF FAMER (and Creative Director), DAVID MINER
615 words – approximately a 3 minute read


Recently, I sat down with David Miner, Creative Director for Marketing Symphony, to discuss the creative process within the context of a marketing firm. David is an accomplished graphic artist, videographer, record producer and Minnesota Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame bass player, and is one of the most creative people I know. This is part one of our conversation.

AS: Good morning, David. Thanks for joining me.

DM: Good morning.

AS: I wanted to sit down with you today to shed a little light on the creative process within the marketing industry. It’s quite different from creativity for creativity’s sake. In your opinion, what is the biggest difference in the two?

DM: There are obviously several differences, but in my opinion, the biggest — and most crucial — difference is communication. In order to facilitate the best use of resources, time, and talents, I need to put more time and effort into communicating than almost any other part. To satisfy the client, being creative with the end product starts by being creative with communication.

AS: “Being creative with communication”? So it’s more that just the amount of communication.

DM: Oh, yeah. Even in the best of collaborative relationships you can veer off course with each other due to nothing more than an unintended miscommunication.

A lot of creative or artistic elements are abstractions — they’re just ideas. Taking abstraction and putting them into words that objectively communicate your idea can be a very hit-and-miss proposition. You’ll go back to your notes later, and your own words don’t make sense even to you.

AS: How do you keep this from happening, or even know it’s happening? I mean, if both people at the table think they’ve communicated, but they each have a different idea in their head, there’s going to be big impact on the deadline, on the budget, and whether or not the client’s happy with the product.

DM: That’s so true. You can believe that the words you’re using to describe an artistic idea make perfect sense, and clearly convey what you want to communicate. And, to make things worse, the person hearing can believe the same thing — that it is all very clear, and makes perfect sense. But they each may have a completely different picture in their heads. The result can be that the person carrying out the creative assignment is creating something not even close to what the client thought they described.

AS: So what do you do to prevent that?

DM: First of all, you can’t depend on words. Descriptive words like WARM or INVITING — even universal words such as: CONTEMPORARY, BOLD and COLORFUL — can mean such different things to different people. Without some printed examples of what you’re trying to describe to accompany your presentation, you can really waste a lot of time.

Of course, bridges of communication will develop quite naturally once people have acquired some working history together. But even then, you can’t just take it for granted. You always need to pay attention.

The second thing you need to do is commit to invest the time at the beginning. To keep things on track in terms of timeline, budget & accomplishing the intended goal or message of a creative piece, you’ve got to pay attention to whether or not the methods of communication are working. Time for the mis-reads and for establishing a workable vocabulary have to be figured into the timeline as part of the process. You can’t rush those.
~

So that’s part one of our interview. Next time, David will give us specifics on how to get over the communication breakdowns, plus tell us some pretty interesting stories from his music and soundtrack producing and playing days. Confirmation Code: ADHKV3434264

Advertising that Clicks!

Advertising that Clicks!
by Andrew Szabo

If the “Internet changed everything,” then by definition, advertising on the Internet changed how we market. Brand-building is passé and straight selling is in; we’ve moved from “spray and pray” to ROI; from boring banners to targeted, content-rich communications; users tune out the irrelevant and engage in “permission” marketing.

“Like almost everyone else, advertisers are logging on. Advertising spending on the Internet will rise from $3.3 billion in 1999 to $33 billion by 2004, roughly 8% of all advertising, according to predictions by Forrester Research, a high-tech consultancy. A third of this will be spent outside North America, compared with 15% today. Whereas television audiences are falling, the popularity of the Web is rising rapidly. Three years from now, as many as 250 million people may well be online around the world.” – The Economist, October 1999

Everyone in marketing today is talking of the Web as a new advertising medium, but few appear to know how to make the best use of it. Most still “spray and pray,” throwing money at the Web in the hope of reaching a mass audience and building a brand, just as they did in the broadcast world. Unfortunately, this diminishes one of the Internet’s most powerful attributes: that it is interactive and relational by nature. By allowing users and marketers to talk directly with each other, in real time, advertisers can discover what someone browsing on the Internet is looking at and, by tracking such behavior, what their real interests might be. They can instantly put forward a custom-made offer. It is my contention that the Internet will on an unprecedented scale become for many organizations the delivery mechanism that truly delivers on the original 1:1 marketing promise.

The Internet may also instantly reveal whether an advertisement is working. Although this idea terrifies some agencies and marketing consultants, not The Marketing Chef! We are eager to measure something that has in  traditional marketing been largely guesswork. For the first time, we can truly  measure a client’s marketing return on investment. And by more effectively  communicating the right message, to the right target audience efficiently,  you should also save money.

How people use the Web is changing. Now that the novelty of randomly exploring the World Wide Web has diminished, “click-through” rates (CTR) on banners have dropped to as little as 0.5% of the times a banner is displayed. Susan Bratton, a vice president at Excite, a Web portal, complains that the worst advertisements are “endlessly looping, strobing, cheesy banners that obnoxiously scream out a free offer.” But users are more interested than ever in content. Some of the most effective advertisements are such examples as links in book reviews to the website of Amazon. People are starting to use the Internet with more purpose.

Yet novelty on the Web is easily imitated and soon wears off. Most marketers will continue to rely on offline media to build their brands. IBM, the second-biggest advertiser on the Internet in 1998, says that those who think the Web is for building brands are “kidding themselves.” Dot-coms and Dot- bombs especially, found that branding needed coordinated on- and offline campaigns. New brands need to be promoted where most of the people are:  offline.

In addition, we are beginning to see a new phenomenon: “Website distribution.” Instead of attempting to lure users to one’s website, marketers are placing the relevant parts of their site in a rich-media banner or an e-mail sent directly to the target audience. The banner, e-mail or content/link is the “electronic envoy” of your business. For example, users can see video clips and views of the different Lexus models, get a brochure and find the nearest dealer, without ever visiting Toyota’s main website. Similarly, Sony Pictures promoted their film, “Muppets from Space,” using a banner that allowed users to download a free Muppets screensaver, shows a trailer and offers a game, all within the banner.

To direct the right message to the right audience requires what I call “customer knowledge.” As collaborators with our clients, we need to understand not only the target’s demographics (details such as age, income, address, position, etc.) but also the psychographics of the user’s browsing and shopping habits, which technology can certainly support. As a consequence, the phenomenon of “permission marketing” is becoming a driving force in attainment of customer knowledge. It empowers the user to enter into an interesting new advertising value proposition: the exchange of personal information and preferences for receiving advertising that is personally relevant. Several examples of these alliances between advertising and the consumer have become very successful: My Points, ClickRewards, as well as individual websites like E-trade.

In conclusion, it is apparent that marketing using the Web medium not only requires a paradigm shift in new thinking but an adaptability to the very nature of the way the Web behaves. Just when we begin to gain understanding of the medium, we can fully expect that it has or will change. The Web changes everything or everything within the Web is changing? We look forward to being your collaborators in thinking and creatively making your Web strategy an integral part of your marketing success.

Do You Know Your Right Mix?

KNOW YOUR RIGHT MIX?
781 words – Less than 5 minutes to read

Most of you are familiar with the U.S. food pyramid — you know, that pyramid of recommended amounts of the different types of food: so many servings of fruit and veggies, so much meat, a certain amount of grains, a bit of fat. Today we’re going to talk about its business equivalent: the marketing mix.

The food pyramid tells us the variety and proportions we need to achieve to be healthy. A marketing mix tells us the same thing for our companies. There are thousands of types of food, but they all fit into the categories on the pyramid. While there are over 160 marketing instruments in use today, they too fit into categories. Just as there are different food groups (dairy, meat, fruit, etc.), there are different marketing groups, and each meet a different requirement that companies need to stay fit.

Now, while the food pyramid shows the general guidelines, different people may have different needs. A pregnant woman will need to eat differently than an elderly heart patient. A child has different needs than a teenager; a weight lifter must eat differently than a marathoner. Likewise, different companies have different marketing needs.

Group 1: The Basics
The Basics are…well, you know. These things are foundational, they come almost as soon as you decide to open your doors and sell something to somebody. Examples of basic ingredients include a name, business card, logo, tagline, graphic identity, stationary, URL, etc. Every company should have these type of Basics as the foundational level of their company’s marketing mix. You can’t do business without these prerequisites.

Group 2: The Interrupters
Most companies must fight for their target audience’s attention. Individuals receive more information, messages and images now than ever before in history. To be heard, marketing has to interrupt. You know you have a good interrupter if your prospect does a double take, clicks on your banner ad, or stops flipping through channels in order to watch your commercial. It doesn’t matter how good the rest of your marketing mix is if you never get their attention, so this should be a large portion of the pyramid for most companies. You say you’re fortunate enough to be completely unique or selling to a captive audience? Then bless your heart, you don’t have to worry about this one as much. But for the rest of us, Interrupters are critical.

Group 3: The Informatives
Some products need no explanation. What you see is what you get, there’s nothing mysterious or different about them. Most businesses have to work for it, though. They have to convey information about their product, service and/or company before people will buy. Informatives might be a big proposal, a video demonstration or a slick brochure. But it could just be the word “NEW!” on the packaging. Informative ingredients establish your credibility (think a radio interview or website), display your unique status (the only organically-grown wart-remover!), increase interest (wow, a widget can do that?) and move the conversation from your weakness to your strength (we may be more expensive, but only because we refuse to use sweatshops). If your product’s distinction isn’t immediately obvious, your pyramid needs enough Informatives to establish you as the clear choice.

Group 4: The Interactors
This could also be called the “Nordstrom” group. The Interactors are all about the customer experience. Obviously, it includes the level of customer service your employees show your clients, but it also includes how clean your store or office is, the on-hold message they have to listen to when they call (and how long they have to listen to it) and how easy and understandable your manuals, policies and website are. If you’ve ever walked away from a purchase, frustrated that you couldn’t find a cashier, or vowed never to return to a company that didn’t stand by its guarantee, you know the importance of the Interactors.

Group 5: The Closers
Every salesperson knows the importance of “The Close”. Your local bookstore probably has three shelves of books about how to present, negotiate and close the sale. Here’s where it all pays off — but it’s too crucial to coast now. Even businesses whose customers initiate and drive the close can build relationships, get contact information or up-sell during the close (“Would you like fries with that?”).

Trying to use all 160+ marketing ingredients would be as absurd as eating a single bite of every food at the grocery store. Instead, determine the marketing mix that best suits your business, then handpick the choicest selection of ingredients to ensure your company is strong and continues growing. Here’s to your marketing health!


Additional informaion about the different groups of ingredients can be found on the Strategy disk (disk one) of my recently released 5 CD set, Foundations to Irresistible Marketing.

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Super Bowl Ads

SUPER BOWL ADS
955 words – a little over 4 minutes to read

How do you measure the success of Super Bowl Ads? Some measure by a laugh-o-meter. Others go for big graphics. I would put forth that success is based not on cheap laughs or expensive art, but what the viewers remembered about the brand itself days after viewing the commercial. Last week, I dissected the Super Bowl ads with students from Dallas Christian College, where I was a guest lecturer. Here are the 10 top ads we chose, and why.

Best Storytelling
Human minds zero in on stories. We love them, remember them, internalize them. And, if the story is truly connected to the brand, the feelings produced by the story are transferred to that brand for years to come. Here are our picks for best storytelling:

1. Taco Bell – Date
Taco Bell presented an entertaining story, as we watched a hyper-drive man move with supersonic speed from meeting a woman at a party to introducing her to his parents.

2. Bud Light – Meeting
We’ve all been there: the budget meeting, brainstorming session on how to reduce big corporate costs, the young guy in the corner who comes up with an idea. In this case, however, the idea (stop providing Bud Light at every meeting) gets him ejected — literally. Companies may need to cut back, but cutting Bud Light is unthinkable. The best part? The last line from the injured golden boy: “I was just kidding”. Even a green kid like him knows better than to touch the Bud Light budget.

3. GE – Wind Energy
A young boy tries to catch wind in a jar somewhere in Europe. He runs to a quaint cottage to join a birthday party of his grandfather. Warm tones, music from the old country, European farm life warm viewers’ hearts. Grandpa can’t blow out all his candles, so the boy has adorably tried to help. He opens the jar and woosh — gale force winds escape. Capturing the wind is suddenly a powerful thing. Well done, GE.

Top Pick for Ongoing Marketing
Jack in the Box – Hit by a Bus

The witty, good natured Jack is talking with a staff member when suddenly, out of nowhere, pow! Hit by a bus. Overly dramatic clichés mock TV dramas. The key, though is the ongoing campaign at www.hangintherejack.com. Visitors can watch “home videos” from inside the bus that hit Jack, leave a message wishing Jack well and see “In lieu of sending flowers, please order anything on the menu, anytime of day. Jack would want it that way.” Now that’s ongoing marketing.

Top Pick for Citizen Marketing
Doritos – Crystal Ball
An office worker brings in a “crystal ball” — really a snow globe — that tells him the future. Of course, this is a DIY destiny, so “I see free Doritos” is followed by the guy throwing the globe through the vending machine glass. Sadly, his co-worker’s attempt fairs less well. This ad was a great piece done by an amateur filmmaker and some of his friends, and deserves the buzz it produced. However, the real payoff for Doritos is the attention it gets for the contest. Over the past 3 years, thousands of amateur producers have tried to create winning Super Bowl commercials. Well, these friends did just that and were awarded $1 million for their efforts.

Top Pick for Putting a New Product on-the-Map
Hulu.com – Alec Baldwin
Whether a Super Bowl ad is worth the money is debatable in many cases. However, one of the best uses of a Super Bowl spot is to introduce a new or previously unknown company. Hulu introduced itself to over 151 million viewers at once and put itself on the map. Overnight, Hulu became the place to go to watch your TV favorite shows on your computer. Traffic on the website has skyrocketed. Web information company Alexa says Hulu’s 3-month visit percentage is up 32.1%.

Top Pick for Best Offer
Denny’s Thugs – Free Grand Slam
Denny’s “serious breakfast” ads weren’t superior, but their offer was. During America’s most watched television event, Denny’s announced that it would give a free breakfast to every person in the country. They made a big gamble, and the following Tuesday, America showed up. I waited for 25 minutes, while some in California waited for 2 hours.

Top Pick for Best Commercial
(that wasn’t entirely dependent on humor)
Audi – The Chase
While most of the ads depended heavily on humor, Audi stood out with an action sequence. Jason Statham, star of the Transporter movies, is being chased. He moves from car to car, disappointed each time, until he finds an Audi. He zooms off, finally in a car that performs as needed.

Top Pick for Most Memorable
Career Builder.com – Tips
There’s a reason kids’ songs that repeat and build every verse are popular: they’re really easy to remember. Career Builder did it’s version for viewers unhappy in their jobs and few people have forgotten it. The punchy visuals and emotion that you can relate to if you’ve ever been in a really horrid job. Career Builder had us anticipating the next verse and trying to remember each repetition. Kudos for getting the audience involved, and kudos for getting us to remember.

Top Pick for Continued Greats
E*trade – Talking Golf Baby
This ad was another good one for the guys at E*trade. The talking and trading baby, who debuted at Super Bowl XLII and continued to be a hit all year, joined us again for XLIII. This time he was joined by a friend. He was also joined by the great audio-visual synching, writing and punch lines that made this campaign famous.

All of these advertisers saw increased web traffic and/or business almost immediately. They created buzz both offline and on. They were memorable, well-done and will generate positive return on investment. Super Bowl Ad money well spent.

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Leveraging The Basics

LEVERAGING THE BASICS
409 words – a little over 2 minutes to read

Recently, I blogged about the Marketing Mix. Now let’s talk about the first category in the mix: The Basics. Remember that this category includes those attributes so fundamental that people often forget that they really are marketing ingredients: your company’s name, business cards, stationery, payment methods you accept and more. Chefs will tell you that the “boring” steps of the recipe are often the most important: choosing the best cut of beef is more important to the meal than the fancy tomato rose that adorns the plate. Chefs spend time combining butter and flour and cooking it just enough to create a smooth base called the “roux” (pronounced “roo”) before adding ingredients to make a gravy or sauce. Creating a smooth roux isn’t exciting, but if you get it wrong, there’s nothing you can do to fix your gravy later. In the same way, the “marketing basics” aren’t as glamorous as a 3D ad or a slick brochure, but they’re the most crucial.

This year, Cars.Com spent about $3 – $4 million on their Superbowl ad. The commercial, in the style of The Royal Tennenbaums, was full of wit and focused on the message.

Now imagine that millions of car buyers go to the site in the week after the game. Imagine that the site is sloppy, unhelpful or even frozen. What if it contained biased opinions or information that was just wrong? Imagine if some prospects tried to contact the company and didn’t hear back from them for several days, or weeks, or not at all. Like the smell of a steak grilling, great ads draw prospects to you. Once they’re there, The Basics – the quality of the steak – are what keep them.

Before you blow your budget on a slick campaign, ask yourself if you’ve covered The Basics. What do your people wear at work? Do their clothes underscore or fight your company’s message? At networking meetings, do your elevator pitches result in referrals? What do clients hear when they’re put on hold? Are you annoying them with bland music or using that time to upsell, introduce new offers or entertain them? Is every piece of communication (printed, digital, visual or audio) professional, on-message and proactive?

This week, spend some time looking at your company the way a prospect or client sees it. Remember, roux may not be anyone’s favorite food, but it’s the foundation for some of the best culinary experiences out there. Go do your roux!

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The Worst 8 Of ‘08

THE WORST 8 OF ‘08
1002 words – less than 5 minutes to read


Last time we looked at the Top 8 of ’08: the best marketing campaigns of the year. As promised, today we’ll survey the biggest marketing blunders of 2008.

#8. Walmart: Facebook Page
So, just to review: cool social networking requires three things: cool, social, and yes, networking. We thought everyone understood this, until we watched Wal-Mart’s infamous Facebook fiasco. The retail giant lumbered onto Facebook with a humorless, decidedly uncool fan page with little content and no benefits. There’s no real community and fans get no “social capital” by associating themselves with the company. Lastly, after suffering through some insults on their discussion board, Wal-Mart ditched their discussion boards. The network (I use that term loosely) has been downgraded to occasional wall posts that the Orwellian behemoth censors. The worst part is the lost potential. The number one Facebook page associated with Wal-Mart is “30 Things to Do at Wal-Mart”. Others include “I love pointless trips to Wal-Mart” and “I’m bored, let’s go to Wal-Mart.” These groups have wittier, more loyal and positive posts. The official page could have widgets. For example: the “Money saved since January 1, 2009” counter from its corporate website, Facebook-only coupons, or specials that are only good for the next 2 hours. Wal-Mart’s mascot is the happy face “Rollback Man”, which could star in an infinite number of badges. Sadly, Wal-Mart missed the boat completely because it doesn’t understand the medium.

#7. The Big 3 Automakers: unintended bailout campaign
OK, so this wasn’t technically a marketing campaign. However, when the eyes of America were watching (and were already bailout-bitter), the Big 3 CEOs came to Washington to beg for billions. The worst marketing blunder, though? GM CEO Richard Wagoner, Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli, and Ford CEO Alan Mulally flew in their private jets to our nation’s capital. If I’d been their marketing advisor, they would have humbly driven down in their hybrid cars. Doing so would have: resulted in tons of free press for the cars, sent a message of humility, cost effectiveness, and environmental awareness and sent the message that “our hybrids are so great, even our CEOs love to drive them.” Big blunder.

#6. Coors: “Code Blue” MySpace campaign
Here again, a major marketer blunders in the social networking medium. Coors has done many good things in the viral/social media campaigning. However, it’s Code Blue campaign allowed MySpacers to send unlimited text messages saying “Code Blue” to anyone they wanted. The result? Cell phone users were overwhelmed with both the cost and the annoyance of text messages from Coors. The viral aspects went out of control, and the backlash of public anger sank the campaign.

#5. Sales Genie: Superbowl Ad
The service is a solid idea: provide leads to companies and salespeople. However, in 2008, Sales Genie blew their marketing budget on an ad that was able to turn off 97.5 million viewers in 30 seconds. The ad, featuring panda bears running an unsuccessful bamboo furniture store, would have been forgotten as a poorly written, uninteresting waste of an advertising budget, except that it was filled with racist innuendos. Sales Genie only wishes that the ad could be forgotten.

#4. Starbucks: Friends and Family Week
Ah, those good intentions… In 2008, Starbucks decided to spoil the friends and families of their Baristas with a week of free iced coffee. However, Starbucks cancelled the program after the first day when crowds of “friends” and “family” overwhelmed the stores. Annoying your best customers is definitely not a great move, but here’s the real kicker: Starbucks had done a similar promotion in 2006 and had similar results. You’d think they’d learn.

#3. Judd Apatow: Forgetting Sarah Marshall billboards
Apatow, director of many hit movies such as “40-Year Old Virgin (2006),” “Knocked Up (2007),” and “Superbad (2008),” wanted a quirky, viral-worthy marketing campaign for his new movie. The campaign consisted of “hand-written” signs ostensibly written by the jilted ex-boyfriend slamming a girl named Sarah Marshall. The problem? Apparently, “Sarah Marshall” is a pretty common name. Sarahs all over the country were surrounded by ego-boosters like “You do look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall” and “My mother always hated you, Sarah Marshall.” Ms. Marshalls across the nation protested (or at least would have, if they could’ve handled leaving the house). Some even responded with similar sayings to Judd Apatow himself. The result? The movie, and its creator, just looked mean.

#2. Microsoft: Seinfeld and Gates
After being beat up by Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign (see Top 8 of ’08) for almost two years, Microsoft finally decided to put up its dukes and fight. Microsoft’s campaign featured Jerry Seinfeld showing Gates the real world in an attempt to connect to regular people. The ads mocked both Bill Gates and his “regular guy” customers, but worse yet, they were neither funny nor well-branded. The ads were the antithesis of Apple’s campaign, and were cancelled so quickly that the third commercial, already filmed, was never aired.

#1. John McCain: Presidential Campaign
The 2008 presidential election was as much a race between marketing strategies as it was between candidates. Obama’s young, inclusive, techno-savvy campaign (see top 8 of ’08) helped raise money and win the election. McCain’s marketing, however, looked tired, indecisive and dispassionate. McCain misstep: a cluttered and fragmented message. Is experience important? Yes, until Sarah Palin came on board. Was he a maverick? Yes, except he couldn’t disentangle himself from President Bush. Was he the champion of lowered government spending? As long as you ignored the vote for a $700 Billion Bailout weeks before the election. Was he the inclusive candidate, reaching out to younger voters, women and minorities? Well, no on that one. These were communication and marketing strategy decisions. Many times, the campaign simply couldn’t get the word out on his position. They let the media and the opponent define McCain, and for that, they’re our biggest blunderer of ’08. Hey, at least he came in first this time!

Did I forget anyone? Don’t agree? Let me know!

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My Picks For the Top 8 Of ’08

MY PICKS FOR THE TOP 8 OF ’08
938 words – about 4 minutes to read

Now that tumultuous 2008 is in the can, I’m revisiting the Top 8 of ’08: those marketing campaigns that left everybody else in the dust. These are the most appetizing appetizers and the most mouthwatering desserts. Here’s the countdown. As we say here at Marketing Chef HQ, Bon Appetit!

#8. Apple: I’m a Mac.
Witty, approachable and elegantly designed: Apple’s product philosophy entered its advertising with the I’m a Mac campaign. The ads let “Mac” be congenial and caring — the good guy, while “PC” made a buffoon of himself — awkward, a little paranoid, and often “buggy.” Worse yet for PCs everywhere, the ads went unanswered until just recently (and when they were, the Microsoft response flopped.)

#7. Nalley Lexus dealer: The Love Letter
Just before Valentine’s Day, thousands of men in the Atlanta area received a pink envelope containing a handwritten love letter. The first page is so doting, it almost makes you blush: “I can’t stop thinking about being yours…we belong together…life is too short to spend another day apart…” You get the picture. “I’ve left my picture and phone number.” The recipient turns to the second page and sees (you guessed it) the picture of a Lexus, “I was made for you” and, still handwritten, the dealership’s name, phone number and website. Steamy, deliciously funny and oh so satisfying!

#6. E*TRADE: Baby
E*TRADE hit 2008 right out of the gate with a Superbowl ad touchdown. Now, normally these ads aren’t worth the cost, but E*TRADE’s Superbowl commercial practically paid for itself before kickoff of the Pro Bowl. You remember the campaign: cute baby sitting in front of a computer making trades. Sounds pretty innocuous, except for the eerily well done lip synching that makes it appear that the infant’s actually delivering the monologue. Add a clown, phone or an unexpected spit up and you’ve got an unforgettable campaign.

#5. Geico: Gecko, The Caveman, and the Celebrity impersonating a real person
In 2008, Geico did something that most other companies didn’t do; they ran three different marketing campaigns simultaneously. They ran all three campaigns throughout 2008. The humor ties them all together, while cycling the commercials prevented overexposure for any one of them (a real risk for the Cavemen after the failed sitcom attempt). Rather than suffering from burnout, Geico customers and prospects anticipate the next commercials. When your customers feel like your new commercial is a treat, you know you’ve done something right.




#4. BlendTec: Will It Blend?”
The Posterboy of viral marketing has to be Blendtec’s internal videos turned brilliant marketing campaign. It all began when retro-cheesy CEO Tom Dickson started throwing things into the powerful blenders to see what would happen. Luckily, they videotaped it and somebody threw it onto YouTube. iPhones, tiki torch, marbles and more — and the viewers keep coming back to see what they’ll try next. Millions of views later, sales are up an astonishing 800%. Not bad for an accidental ad campaign!

#3. OfficeMax: Elf Yourself
Nothing says Christmas like dressing up in elf costumes and bustin’ a move with the family. Of course, few of us will actually do this, so OfficeMax’s Elf Yourself is the next best thing. Upload pictures of your family members’ faces, and voila — well-produced video greeting card starring you (or at least dancing elves that look remarkably like you). Interactive, appealing to the eye, starring in your own “movie” — what’s not to like? The website has boasted a whopping 193 million page visits in 2008, making it one of the most successful viral campaigns ever.

#2. China: Summer Olympic Games
When China hosted the 2008 summer games, it took the opportunity to remake its image. China, once thought of primarily as closed, communist, totalitarian country was hoping that the whopping $44 billion it spent on the games would change the world’s opinion. In preparation for the Paralympics, Beijing and the surrounding areas became disability-friendly. Sponsorships were touted as examples of a more open economy, and the ceremonies displayed the nation’s art and prosperity. China highlighted its modernity through technology, architecture and infrastructure, and its soft-side through its sites and human interest stories. Though there were slips in the image-making, like the little lip-synching girl, and the gymnastics age dispute, China largely succeeded in its endeavor.

#1. Obama for America: Presidential Campaign
Every four years, the best and the brightest come out to show us what they’ve got, and 2008 was no exception. No, I’m not talking about the candidates. I’m talking about the marketers who are hired by the presidential campaigns. No matter what your politics, I think it’s inarguable that the marketing for the Obama for America campaign left primary and general election competitors in the dust. Some of the things they did right:

  • An idealistic message appealing on a deep archetypal level;
  • Serious use of social networking. The campaign didn’t just use social networking, it lived on it.
  • Consistency throughout. The campaign (all about youth, hope, technology and inclusion) received a whopping 10% of its donations online, and almost all of those were under $100. Remember, everything you do and everything you don’t do sends a message;
  • Viral Marketing. Okay, so this technically wasn’t the campaign itself, but it still helped. You may have seen the YouTube video, Obama Girl. If so, you were among 8 million others who viewed — and were influenced by — the video.
Of course, this is my opinion only, so I’d love to hear your feedback. Join the conversation and leave a comment! And, check in next time, when I’ll talk about the Worst 8 of ’08: the biggest marketing blunders of the year.

 

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The Most Powerful Marketing Action You Can Take: A Strategic Trip

THE MOST POWERFUL MARKETING ACTION YOU CAN TAKE: A STRATEGIC TRIP
983 words – Less than 5 minutes to read

Imagine for a moment that you’re planning your first trip to Greece. You call a friend, who says “Greece — wonderful! I just took a cruise there. All you need are a few swimsuits!” A business associate hears where you’re going and says, “I love Greece. Be sure to bring hiking boots.” The professor who lives next door warns you, “I went for an archeology conference. Take enough paper and several pens — I almost ran out.” You take all the good advice and pack your suitcase. When you arrive, you don your swimsuit and hiking boots, and grab your paper and pens — for your ski trip on the slopes of Parnassos.

I know, you’re thinking the whole scenario is absurd. Nobody would spend that much money, have that much time to plan, and have this once-in-a-lifetime trip, and blow it by making inappropriate choices based on other people’s trips. But people do it with their companies — where the stakes are a lot higher than a ruined vacation — all the time.

A business will see a “great deal” on a newspaper ad and feel like they can’t pass it up — even though the company’s prospects don’t read that paper. Somebody at a network lunch mentions they got great results using a late night infomercial, and four different CEOs call their marketing departments on the way to the office. A retailer gets on the blogging bandwagon, and the unplanned blather tears down the image they’ve cultivated for years.

What’s the cause for these missteps which, at best, are a waste of money and, at worst, do irreparable damage? The lack of a marketing strategy. A company’s strategy is foundational. If you don’t have one, go clear your calendar for the rest of the day and get one. It’s that important.

In order to determine your company’s marketing strategy, do our 2×5 analysis: two topics, five questions each. They seem simple, but dig deep. Call in people from your office — heck, call some of your clients or vendors if you need to. Do what you must to discover the answers to these questions.

Topic 1: Your Company
Ask yourself the following questions about the business:

  1. Who are we? What is your brand personality? What’s your company’s identity? Look at your key people, your culture, projects where the company has excelled, the clients you attract and why. Craft a brand identity that is compelling to your ideal customer and that authentically fits who you are and what you do.
  2. What are we selling? What are you offering? What are the products, services, benefits and emotions you provide?
  3. Why are we in business? Go to your mission statement, vision, values and goals. Examine the unspoken values as well as the published ones. Compare the original vision to the ideal the company aims for today. How do these fit in your marketing plan?
  4. Where is the competition positioned? What positions have been taken by competitors, and what haven’t? What characteristic are already “owned” by a major competitor? How do you differ from the competition, and how are you similar?
  5. How do we differ? This is your Unique Selling Proposition — or better yet, your Extraordinary Value Proposition. What do you do that is credibly, sustainably, energetically your own?

Topic 2: Your Message
Ask yourself these questions about what you should communicate.

  1. Who is our target audience? Do you know who your ideal client is? What does a qualified prospect look like? Do you know their demographics? If it’s an organization, what are its characteristics? Most importantly, what “pain” does your ideal client feel that you can help cure?
  2. Why are we communicating? Why are you talking? What is it that you want to say? Develop your message and your core story. Everyone in your organization should be able to communicate your core story in 30 seconds and 5 minutes, with key players able to deliver it in a 15 minute conversation and a 45 minute presentation as well.
  3. What are we going to invest? Time to put your money where your marketing is. How much are you willing to spend now, and how much on the long term?
  4. How should we communicate? Given who you are and who your clients are, what marketing ingredients make sense? What media matches your message? What media conflicts with the image or message you’re trying to portray? Commit to a “hands-off” policy for whatever doesn’t fit — no matter who talks it up, no matter how good a deal you can get.
  5. When will we use the methods? Figure out your priorities. What’s urgent, what should be done in the next 6 months, what needs to be done sometime in the future? I suggest creating a rolling 90-day marketing calendar to keep the momentum going.

A marketing strategy will save you money, because it prevents throwing money into ineffective marketing tactics. It will prevent public perception missteps, because it will give you and all your employees guidance on who the company is and who it’s not. It will help you uncover opportunities, spend wisely, communicate consistently and attract your ideal customer over and over again.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll tell you outright, strategy is my passion. Nothing excites me more than to see an organization transform through my proven strategic process. And the process generates results. Whether it’s opening up a whole new market for a credit union, taking a portable air conditioning company from 8 straight quarters of declining sales to a 42% increase in sales over 12 months or helping a technology company obtain 7 million in new business, it works. If you don’t have a comprehensive, authentic marketing strategy, or if yours needs to be updated, take care of it now. It’s the most important thing you’ll do.

Here’s another action step you can take: Start your year off right by getting MORE business! Watch your sales soar as you apply the ideas, concepts and practical action-steps from Andrew’s newly released “Foundations to Irresistible Marketing,” a 5 CD set and 180 page workbook. The secrets to Strategy, Publicity, Referrals, Networking and Sales are revealed to make your marketing irresistible. In addition, your purchase will provide 720 meals, enough to feed 24 orphans for 1 month at a designated Children’s Hope Chest Care Point facility in Swaziland, Africa; which has the highest AIDS rate in the world. So, when you invest in “Foundations to Irresistible Marketing,” you will not only transform your business but you will transform the lives of starving orphans. Click here to learn more.

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Building Relationships with Customers

Building Relationships with Customers
by Andrew Szabo

The nineties heralded the shift from product-centricity (selling what a company has) to customer-centricity (fulfilling customer wants and needs). This has allowed firms to not only serve large market segments but also small niches and thus increase their target market universe.

What does this take? A new value-exchange proposition, the development and management of customer relationships and loyalty, and marketing to the individual  potentially on a mass scale. To succeed in this new environment of constant change and instability requires new information, a new level of customer knowledge. Knowledge that is generated expressly for the decision at hand, not information created for another purpose entirely and then massaged on a “best can do” basis.

At The Marketing Chef we are strong proponents of relationship management and the role of strategic marketing communications to effectively support our clients’ marketing goals. In the last six years much has been written on the subject. From Peppers & Rodgers seminal work: “The One to One Future”, first published in 1993 to Bain & Co’s Frederick Reichheld business classic: “The Loyalty Effect”, and from the relationship marketing guru of Silicon Valley, Regis McKenna’s “Relationship Marketing” to great HBR articles by Professor Len Schlesinger: “Realize your customers’ full profit potential”, and W. Earl Sasser’s “Why satisfied customers defect”.

I know it’s hard to keep up in this day and age, so here is a good primer that I came across that summarizes several of the aforementioned authors’ work. It is located on a German Website at the University of Mannheim:

http://webrum.uni-mannheim.de/bwl/grether/Alba.html#_Toc362507130

A Jumbo-Sized Truth

A JUMBO-SIZED TRUTH
434 Words – Less than 2 minutes to read

When I speak to groups, I like to ask a question. I ask, “What is marketing?” Immediately, I’ll hear “advertising,” “promotion” and “sales”. The product guy adds “packaging” and an eager front-rower will say, “your brand.” The skeptic on the left shakes his head. “No,” he says, “it’s every message you send to clients and prospects.” The audience gasps at the implications. “Good,” I say, and they nod, pleased. “What else?” They look confused. Front-rower speaks timidly: “There’s more?” I look at their innocent faces, judging whether they’re ready for this jumbo-sized truth. I decide they are, and let it fly: “Marketing is everything you do, and everything you don’t do.” Everyone freezes for a moment. When time starts again, skeptical guy’s ecstatic, front-rower’s eyebrows knit worriedly, and some sweet old lady in the back lets out a four-letter word. This changes things. For too long, we’ve thought of marketing as something separate, an add-on or cover up or costume. The trouble with that thought is that marketing never happens in a vacuum. If your advertisements were all your customers knew of you, then fine, focus only on ads. But, your customers also see your product quality, your company blogs, and the event you sponsor. The image they have of your company is built on ALL the information they get about you: your business cards, what you play when they’re on hold, even your job postings on Monster and how politely your delivery guys drive your trucks. If you’re not getting the response you want from prospects and clients, ask yourself these three questions:

 In everything we do, and everything we don’t do, are we:

  1. Getting the word out? If no one is watching everything you do, and everything you don’t do, focus on engaging your audience.
  2. Telling a consistent story? Your story should be evident in everything you do, and everything you don’t do. Your story should be like a cold: so pervasive that your customers catch it just by being near you, and pass it on to people they come in contact with. Spend some time clearly defining a story that is relevant, compelling and persuasive to your customers and prospects.
  3. Believable? To be credible, your actions and communications must line up with each other and be consistent over time. Is everything you do, and everything you don’t do consistent with what you tell your audience? Make sure your behavior and your message are aligned so your prospects and clients believe you.

So, marketing is everything—and that’s a jumbo-sized truth even front-rower is ready for.

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Building a Powerful Brand

Building a Powerful Brand
by Andrew Szabo

So what is marketing?

Marketing is not sales, although marketing supports sales by  generating qualified leads and effectively communicating who you are, what you do in the minds of customers, prospective customers  and other stakeholders.

Marketing is not advertising, although advertising is only one of the  100 weapons in the marketing arsenal. Your marketing strategy will dictate whether or not it is an appropriate for your business.

Marketing is not your brand, although branding is key to your marketing success.

Marketing is EVERYTHING you do. Everything you do, (and don’t do), sends a message to the marketplace. Although these messages vary in their communications impact, your brand is the assimilation of these varied messages in the mind of the audience.

A key essential of the marketing process is to build a brand in the mind of your target audience. Wouldn’t it be wise to decide what the message should be and ensure that all communications reflect this message?

So what is a brand?

A brand is not your logo or tagline. A brand is more than a mere label and more than the product itself. It is the combination of values, promises and guarantees that frames the relationship between you and your (prospective) customers. A brand is the expectation of certain benefits between you and your (potential) customers.

According to Regis McKenna, famed consultant to Apple, Intel and others and the author of Relationship Marketing, “a successful brand is nothing more than a special relationship.”

Where’s the proof in the above quote? Ask any competitor, and they will tell you that customer bias, or loyalty to an established brand, is one of the biggest obstacles they face in increasing their share of market.

But what makes a brand powerful is the effectiveness of your branding strategy, your ability to create a mood, thought, feeling, and definition for that brand in the mind of your target audience. The power of a brand lies in its ability to influence purchasing behavior.

Since a brand exists within the mind of the customer, it can be affected positively or negatively by intentional and unintentional messages from you. Also, it cannot be arbitrarily changed, improved or “managed” without the participation of the customer.

Highly effective branding can be so impactful that consumer sees the brand synonymously with the product … tissues have “become” Kleenex, antiseptic first aid bandages “are” Band-Aids, Coke “is” cola. Branding can be so effective that the name itself is unnecessary, Nike’s swoosh logo is often unaccompanied by the company name. And yet, we all know exactly what is being advertised. Nike clearly conveys “action,” with powerful emotional appeal. Other brands have also become indistinguishable from their emotional appeal: Volvo with “safety”, Ivory with “pure and gentle.”

So if the perception of your brand is the assimilation of any received message that you send (or are not sending), wouldn’t it be wise to first plan what is the message you want to send and then ensure everything you communicate supports the key messaging?

All too often companies relegate the importance of branding and thereby lose the opportunity to give clients and customers a frame of reference when making purchasing decisions. People will buy brands they recognize, regardless of whether or not they know or believe the claims, simply because there is comfort in that which is known.

How powerful can a brand be? The most powerful brands of all are those that create a need in the mind of a purchaser that was not there before. Take for example, bottled water. American tap water is clean and drinkable, yet Evian is worth millions today. A 1.5 liter bottle of Evian sells for 20% more per liter than Budweiser, 40% more than Borden’s milk, and 80% more than Coca-Cola. That’s the power of a brand.

Strategic Branding

Since you cannot be all things to all people, effectively addressing customers’ needs, which are then re p resented by your brand, will require differentiating yourself from your competitors and identifying your target market segment.

The Marketing Chef utilizes a three-step process to develop brand strategy:

  • brand positioning,

  • brand personality and

  • core proposition

Each element requires choices. This in turn results in a number of tactical branding communications vehicles, addressing both your target audience needs and enable you to achieve your objectives. Strategically controlling your branding messaging and vehicles can raise your offering beyond the mundane, to give your brand ‘wings’ and an enduring ability to stand out from the competition. In addition, your brand must be sustained through consistent communication to internal and external audiences and stakeholders and allowed to evolve as your target audience needs develop.

Making Pay-Per-Click Pay

MAKING PAY-PER-CLICK PAY
790 words – Less than 4 minutes to read

For large and small business alike, pay-per-click advertising can be a nimble marketing instrument with high ROI. It can also be a huge waste of money. A few tricks make all the difference. This week, we’re talking to Mark Shead, President of Xeric Corporation about capitalizing on pay-per-click’s flexibility, feedback and focus.

First, let’s have an overview of how Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads work. PPCs are advertisements that are tied to certain keywords and phrases. For instance, a company that makes a seasickness patch might display a banner ad above a blogger’s tirade about a horrible cruise. Many PPCs are linked to Internet searches. If you’ve ever seen “sponsored links” at the top of search engine results, you’ve seen a PPC. And if you’ve ever clicked on one of those links, you just made that search engine some money, because (you guessed it), the advertiser pays per click. The order of appearance is determined by auction, where the highest bidder would appear first, followed by the second, and so on (but remember, they only pay that amount when and if the ad is clicked on.)

FLEXIBILITY
Pay-per-click sounds intimidating to many people who haven’t investigated it, so they’re often surprised to find that PPC is remarkably responsive and a great bargain. In the realm of marketing, there are sculptures skillfully chiseled in stone, like your brand identity. There are masterpiece paintings, that aren’t quite as hardy as a sculpture, but also take time to craft: an ad campaign, perhaps. Then there are your 2 year-old’s scribbles, created in seconds, prolific in number, and at best, destined for a few weeks on the fridge. PPC, then, is the refrigerator scribble of the marketing world.

There are several reasons it’s so flexible. First, it’s cheap. I mean, really, really cheap. You can test an ad on the web for a few days for, say, between $1 and $5 per day, then scrap it or change it, and throw it back on the “cyber-fridge door” to see how the new version does.

FEEDBACK
How do you decide whether or not to keep a certain “ad-scribble”? Feedback, of course. I’m not talking about the “No, really, I did like your ad, honey,” comments that your supportive spouse gives you. I’m talking analytics: hard data, numbers, statistics, facts and trends. OK, breathe. You don’t have to do this part. The nice techies at your search engine company will have an analytics package that will tell you things like how many people are clicking on your ad, how many clickers reach your predetermined goal (usually a sale, but perhaps the completion of a form or subscription to a newsletter). This allows you to test keywords and phrases to find the ones that maximize profits for you.

Interestingly enough, Mark points out that you don’t have to understand the trends, just use them. “The Analytics find patterns you can’t explain, but can use,” he says. You might find out that one phrase “crimson feather boas” works better than another, “red boas.” You may never know about all the snake lovers who clicked on your site with dreams of red-spotted constrictors, only to find your precious plumes, but it doesn’t matter, because now you know which phrase connects you to your customers.

FOCUS
You know that I’m a great proponent of targeting your audience, but PPC takes this to new levels. When you think keywords, Mark recommends brainstorming with the thoughts “If I were looking for this product, how would I describe it?” and “If I had a problem, and I didn’t know that this product was the solution, what would I search for?” Be specific, because the more you narrow your keyword phrases, the more on target you are (and therefore a higher sales to click ratio).

Focus on narrow slivers of internet users, but choose several of those slivers. For instance, if you sell super glue, you might want to attach an ad to the phrases “super glue” “adhesive” and “Cyanoacrylate.” But Mark points out that you also might want an ad with the key words “teacup” “broken” and “fix.” And for the CSI lovers out there, “super glue fuming,” “criminal investigation” and “latent fingerprints.”

You can focus PPC ads by geography, too, so your concert is only advertised to computers operating in your region, your grocery store only to your city, and your babysitting service to your subdivision. And you can limit when the ads run, so your nightclub ad only shows up on the first Thursday and Friday of each month (after people just got paid and are planning their weekend) to the hippest neighborhoods in the city. Talk about targeting!

So get out there and stick something on Google’s refrigerator door!

TwitThis

Taglines – Ask About Them at Work

TAGLINES – ASK ABOUT THEM AT WORK
760 words – Less than 4 minutes to read

You try harder. You have passion for excellence, and care enough to send the very best. Like a good neighbor, you’re there. For all you do, taglines are for you.

Taglines (AKA slogans) reach out and touch someone. A tagline is the one-line (ideally 5 words or less) marketing ingredient that’s not just for breakfast anymore. It’s everywhere you want to be. Easy, breezy, beautiful marketing, because you deserve a break today. Get a tagline: it pays, so don’t leave home without it. Now, let’s look at how to create a great tagline for your company.

Bring Good Things to Life.
Taglines should focus on the benefits (always from the customer’s perspective.) The most direct way is an educational tact (especially important if your name isn’t descriptive.) You let people know about your unique selling proposition by simply saying it: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” “99.44% pure.” “Pick Enterprise. We’ll pick you up.” One of our clients, a property tax lender, has a benefit tagline that makes people do a double-take: TaxEase–We Pay Your Property Taxes. Benefit-focused strategy has even more authority with the addition of experts: “Oral-B. Brush Like A Dentist.” or “Max Factor. The make-up of make-up artists.” This strategy can also be achieved by pointing out what your competitors’ don’t have: “Where’s the Beef?” “Orange juice direct from oranges, not from concentrate.”

Rather than focusing on the direct benefit, many great taglines focus on psychological benefit, reinforcing the customer’s image of who he or she would like to be. Some of the angles to do this: lifestyle (“Las Vegas: What happens here, stays here.”), health (“I could have had a V8!”), status (“Shouldn’t your baby be a Gerber baby?”), values (“Michelin. Because so much is riding on your tires.” “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”), or problem-solution (“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”).

Have it Your Way.
A tagline should show off your unique selling proposition—whatever makes you different, desirable, more attractive to your particular niche. If you can substitute your competitors’ names and the tagline works just as well, it doesn’t work well at all. The mustard in the yellow plastic bottle could never use “Pardon me, do you have any French’s?” The stuffiness was Grey Poupon’s distinctive. Only Wheaties, with athletes on its box, is “The breakfast of champions.” Not just any amusement park could be “The happiest place on earth.” Rides plus the Disneyland magic made it so. Two cosmetic companies take totally different approaches to selling lip color: “Dress your lips in Armani” alludes to Armani’s fashion line. On the other end of the spectrum, “Smackers. All the flavor of being a girl” appeals not only to young girls dazzled by the flavors and sparkles, but also to their mothers, who nostalgically remember their first Smackers.

Contrast these with “Use Sapolio”, “Mobil Oil. We want you to live,” “Studio One. When Only The Best Will Do!” and the beauty salon slogan “Satisfying our clients.” None are specific or unique, and all illicit yawns.

We Love to See You Smile.
If the tagline adds no information, connotation or emotion, it’s a waste of space. “We’re Exxon” was a tagline that was met with “so what?” Equity & Law’s “Need we say more?” begs the answer, “Yes, you do.”

Wordplays (“Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.”), alliterations (“Intel Inside”), twists on clichés (“When it rains, it pours.”), rhyme (“See the USA in your Chevrolet”), surprise (“I liked it so much I bought the company.”), irony (“The toughest job you’ll ever love.”) and deep-seated values (“The few, the proud, the Marines”) increase memorability of your tagline and your identity.

This is the punch. Belgian lager producer Stella Artois went beyond snob appeal, and playfully combined it with humor that makes the customer a willing participant in the joke: “Stella Artois. Reassuringly expensive.” Aquafina’s twist makes the listener stop and think: “So pure, we promise nothing.”

True, not even “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile” could make consumers believe that Oldsmobiles were—well, not their fathers’ kind of car. And “I think, therefore IBM” probably wasn’t run by any 8-year-olds before it was adopted. And Burger King most certainly wouldn’t have introduced it’s “Home of the Whopper” tagline in Australia if they’d know that “whopper” is an Australian euphemism for flatulence. That said, a tagline that demonstrates your benefits, uniqueness and punch is a powerful ingredient in your marketing kitchen. And you’re worth it, because you’ve come a long way, baby.

Is Your Publicist Worth It?

IS YOUR PUBLICIST WORTH IT?
679 words – Less than 3 minutes to read

Everybody knows that a good P.R. specialist can generate exposure for your company that’s more cost-effective, authoritative and even seven times more credible. But what do P.R. specialists do for you, and how do you know if yours is a seedy spin-doctor or a professional who’s integral to your team? I sat down with Susan Morrow, publicist extraordinaire and my partner for 8 years to uncover the mysteries of the P.R. world. I want to know why she thinks she can do that better than the business itself. I mean, aren’t insiders better able to relay that story than an outsider? Not necessarily, says she. There are benefits to having an outsider tell the tale. There are several strengths a good P.R. specialist will bring to the table: they communicate your story, know the people and know the industry.

COMMUNICATE YOUR STORY
“Every company has a story to tell.” I’m on the phone with Susan, whose voice–despite the long day and the late hour–speeds up with enthusiasm. “My job is to communicate that story.” While it’s true that many publicists don’t follow the client’s marketing strategy in their work (who hasn’t heard of the clichéd uneasy relationship between publicity and marketing), the best ones do. P.R., according to Susan, should function as one piece of the reputation-making whole. She says that without the roadmap of a marketing strategy, P.R. efforts are often inconsistent and lacking in credibility. Make sure your publicist works with your strategy, or find someone who will.

KNOW THE PEOPLE
Many companies (and press release “farms”, for that matter) create a press release and send it to every news outlet they can think of. These companies often purchase huge contact lists and send reams of faxes and buckets of emails indiscriminately. The problem? It just doesn’t work. Faxes end up in the trash with the others from thousands of other companies doing the exact same thing and most of the emails end up in journalists’ spam folders. And those contact lists? Most are obsolete, incorrect and overpriced. If a P.R. specialist recommends these “buckshot” approaches, she isn’t worth the money you’re paying her.

It turns out that the old maxim is true. It really is who you know. Susan explains why. To get any attention, your pitch has to be targeted to an interested party. It might take you days of researching to find the name of a journalist who once wrote on the topic, then to find an angle they might be interested in, then to get them to take your call, then to find out that they’ve moved to sports or obituaries or a different organization altogether. You’re back at square one—rinse and repeat. A publicist worth her salt knows the best publications for your story, has a rolodex big enough to anchor the QE2, and is a couple of phone calls away from just the right journalist. If your publicist is a stellar one, she has long-nurtured relationships with many journalists who trust her and her leads. And because she’s a third-party (not you), the information she gives the journalist is automatically more trustworthy than if you pitched it yourself.

THEY KNOW THE INDUSTRY
News outlets exists in a strange world. Their demand for stories is constant, but supply is overabundant one week and slow the next. They appreciate story ideas, but refuse to be a pawn. They prefer a proven, dependable source over one they’ve never worked with. They don’t have time for under-prepared or unprofessional pitches. They use jargon and key words, and need to see the hook up front. They can use your story, but only if the angle is right. Navigating all these (and more) unwritten rules can be baffling. To get your money’s worth, find a P.R. specialist who is a veteran industry-insider who already knows how to play the game, speak the language, and supply stories that meet the journalist’s demands.

If you find your publicist is failing to delivering any of these advantages, its time to move on.

The Power of Promotional Products

THE POWER OF PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS
650 words – Less than 4 minutes to read

Companies invest almost $17 billion every year in promotional products, and with good reason. Used correctly, promotional products are seen 10 times as often as a billboard, have triple the recall rate of banner ads, get increased referrals and result in sales over half the time. Unfortunately, most companies misuse this advertising ingredient and waste both their money and the tool’s potential.

The key to harnessing the power of promotional products lies in communicating the right message to the right people through the right product. Many companies use a shotgun approach to promotional products. They buy large quantities of items and distribute them liberally at tradeshows, parades, and in the course of daily business.

Donna Bender, president of the Donna Bender Company and recent guest on my radio program the Marketing Point, says this approach squanders the potential of the medium. Ms. Bender worked for brand giants like Eddie Bauer, Laura Ashley and Salvatore Ferragamo before starting her own promotional product company. She was dedicated to the idea that promotional products used properly result in improved relationships and ultimately, an impact to a company’s bottom line. And what constitutes proper use? Three points: Brand Consistency, Targeted Audience and Value.

BRAND CONSISTENCY
If you’re a Marketing Chef regular, you know this point: Every marketing tactic you use should come out of a unified marketing strategy (in Marketing Chef parlance, your Marketing Recipe.) Promotional items must follow the rules of consistency just like any other advertising ingredient. As Ms Bender says, what makes a successfully branded company is that “everything they do, and everything they give out speaks exactly to who they are.”

Your promotional items need to fit your brand, whether that brand is based on dependable security or youthful energy. A company known for refined luxury giving away cheap refrigerator magnates, or a hip clothing company presenting staid leather-bound planners would not only be ineffective. It would actually undermine those company’s respective brands. Therefore, when using promotional product, find items that reinforce your message.

TARGETED AUDIENCE
In using promotional products, more coverage is not necessarily better. Gaining name recognition with the wrong audience is a waste of your effort and budget. Just like your other advertising efforts, the promotional product’s audience should be closely targeted.

Most often, the target will be the decision maker within your niche market. However, promotional products can be creative ways to get past roadblocks, through what Bender calls, “Romancing the Gatekeeper.” A useful gift to an overworked (and normally overlooked) admin might just result in years of good feelings, and more concretely, in getting appointments that your competitors can’t get.

VALUE
Narrowing your audience has another benefit: the ability to give more valued gifts. While it’s true that a gold pen set costs more than a cheap ballpoint, you actually make a bigger impact with a smaller quantity of highly valued gifts. Rather than spending your budget on unwanted trinkets for people with little buying potential, you can invest in your relationship with a few top clients or prospects.

The longer, more often, and more prominently the recipient sees and uses your gift, the more he or she thinks good thoughts about you. With a little thought, you can put something truly appreciated on the desk or in the home of a person who can influence your business for years to come. That appreciation becomes tangible—the value the recipient places on your gift can translate directly to loyalty, to a sense of reciprocity, and ultimately, to sales.

So rather than spending your promotional product budget on inexpensive items that you can distribute widely, invest in the relationships that matter by giving items they’ll keep, use and see for years to come. Finding a gift that’s consistent with your brand and that will be appreciated by your targeted audience is the key to unlocking the power of promotional products.

POSTSCRIPT For more on promotional products email me at
info@TheMarketingChef.com. You can also call The Marketing Chef at 972.444.9310 (direct), or toll free (US) 877.252.2995.

When is it the Right Time to Market?

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO MARKET?
1256 Words – Less than 4½ minutes to read

BOOM OR BUST?
Yesterday, CNN reported the Feds were still concerned the US economy was overheating; this morning NPR news quoted an economic pundit “fearing” an economic downturn, and multiple media outlets were reporting on Cisco’s better-than-expected earnings and bullish 12 month forecast as a positive indicator that the technology sector is healthy and growing. So what are we to make of all this? How do you react to economy changes both real and forecasted?

The news caused me to pause and return to the perennial question about timing one’s marketing activities. When is the best time to market & how should one respond to economic upturns, downturns, plateaus and valleys?

Ideally, you want your business to thrive irrespective of the economic climate and clearly some businesses do much better than others. History bears witness to the successful organizations that thrive when the economic tide wanes and outperform others when the tide raises all boats. I believe three key principles stand between the triumphant and the regretful:

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
I am amazed how few organizations can accurately describe their ideal target audience.
We all know that we can’t be all things to all people. Yet out of fear from alienating a particular group or segment, we try to accommodate all, diluting our message to the point of irrelevancy. Instead of being 20% relevant to 80% of your audience, I suggest become100% relevant to your ideal audience, the center of your target, the golden circle.

Although this “bulls-eye” may only represent less than 10% of your universe, your marketing arrows will invariably hit the red zone that possess 70-80% of the “ideal” attributes and can be excellent customers nonetheless. By focusing on the center you will nail BOTH the ideal and those who closely resemble the ideal. Such penetration marketing is like cutting through butter with a laser knife as opposed to dusting the outside with a little hot air.

Practical application tip #1: Paint the picture of your ideal customer. Analyze your past customers to see how they match up to the ideal. What are their attributes? What made them such good customers? What are their needs, issues, challenges, and decision-making criteria? Then target your marketing accordingly to attract more prospects that look like your best past clients.

P.S. Sometimes your ideal clients in a downturn are different from those in an upturn. For example, in the travel industry, the business client is critical for airlines in a downturn; without them they are “toast”. In a boom, the marginal traveler provides additional revenues with incremental better margins.

ZIG WHEN OTHERS ZAG

Following the herd means you are destined to forever be a part of the herd. The alternatives
are twofold: Lead the herd or Leave the herd.
This is one of the key principles ensconced in Trout & Ries’ classic marketing tome: 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. If you can’t take a differentiated leadership position, then create and lead a new category (or sub-category). Hence the rise of “fusion cuisine” restaurants in the last 20 years. Asian, American and European culinary traditions have been brought together to create unique combinations heretofore not seen on the planet. Anyone for salad with crisp nori topping, and a misocilantro vinaigrette?

New categories and sectors are being created regularly. For example, ten years ago, categories like broadband, online music, online dating, online training, e-commerce, e-learning and e-books had yet to be formulated … and that’s just naming a few. Now we have mobile commerce, many category components to the virtual office and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group vying to be the leader in commercial space tourism.

Another approach is to create a radical point of differentiation through innovation and /or marketing. Despite the fact that most physical-therapy treatments are reimbursable by health insurance, more than 90 percent of massage therapy sessions are paid out of the client’s pocket. One local Registered Massage Therapist, Dan Puig (RMT), not only has a nine-year trained background in the health field in anatomy, physiology, and surgical procedures, but he took the trouble to create the necessary strategic partnerships to receive third-party insurance reimbursement. The result? He has carved out a niche for himself as a registered medical massage therapist who not only is qualified to fulfill a doctor’s prescription for a massage but also will make the necessary insurance claim on a person’s behalf so he or she only pays the deductible.

Practical application tip #2: Define your category or niche leadership.
ALWAYS BE MARKETING
One of the greatest failures in marketing businesses and organizations is the lack of consistency and continuity.he strategic objective of their marketing is to have their clients, prospects, referral sources and other stakeholders thing of them first, often and well. One of the three key factors to achieve this is to constantly invest and build into the relationships through relevant, persuasive and compelling communication.

I constantly stress to my clients that that the strategic objective of their marketing is to have their clients, prospects, referral sources and other stakeholders thing of them first, often and well. One of the three key factors to achieve this is to constantly invest and build into the relationships through relevant, persuasive and compelling communication.

It’s like a marriage relationship. It is my objective that my beloved wife, Melissa, thinks of me first, often and well. If she does not, then I am in deep trouble!

This takes a constant investment in the relationship. After all 20+ years ago, I made a promise. “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s Holy ordinance.” Well our marriage has been best when I have invested in it irrespective of whether times were good or bad. Likewise, our marketing cannot be “episodic.” It needs to have the continuous “drizzle” of good communications to keep the relationship healthy and for our target markets to think of us first, often and well.

Like in a marriage or family relationship, don’t just think of the obvious … I often recommend to husbands to surprise their brides with flowers not just on their wives’ birthdays or anniversaries. Likewise, “surprise” your clients with a handwritten note or an article you came across that is relevant to them. I can almost guarantee you will be one of the few in their business relationships that do that and you will be well remembered.

Practical application tip #3: In the next 48 hours send a client or prospect a trade or magazine article that pertains to them, (and share the result with us!).

FINAL THOUGHTS

So my counsel is …don’t worry about the economic pundits … market in the good times and in the bad. You can take away significant market share from your competitors in a declining economy and you can take more than your fair share in an expanding economy. It all depends on the quality of your market. Your target market might need refinement and your message might alter. But leaders, by definition don’t follow. In marketing that means you must carve out new categories and niches. Final examples … in the early 80’s downturn, I worked with Hyatt Hotels and I marveled at how they grew at the expense of their competitors. Also, I had the good fortune to work with several hi-tech companies in the late 90’s such as Symphion and others. Their marketing was intelligent and as a result they did not crash when the bust came – they retrenched, re-positioned and survived when 99% crashed.

So it all comes back to an intelligent comprehensive marketing strategy that will make your marketing effective in good times or bad.
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“.. people like Ralph Larsen at Johnson & Johnson, Richard Ziman at Arden Realty, Angelo Mozilo at Countrywide Financial, and Chad Holliday at DuPont—exhibit a highly sophisticated degree of business cycle literacy. They have built and run organizations that are strategically and tactically business cycle sensitive, and they are quite willing to engage in countercyclical and often contrarian behavior in anticipation of economic turbulence.” ~ Peter Navarro,
The Well-Timed Strategy
: Managing the Business Cycle for Competitive Advantage

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What’s the Point of Marketing?

WHAT’S THE POINT OF MARKETING?

873 Words – Less than 3 minutes to read


A NEW DEFINITION

I believe the marketing profession in the last 20 years has made marketing more complicated than it needs to be.

If I asked ten of you to define marketing, you would probably come up with ten different answers. Actually, you do, every time I conduct a seminar or workshop I ask everyone to give me their definitions and no two are ever the same.

If you all can’t agree on a simple definition, how can we all effectively set strategic objectives and implement measurable tactical execution? Or, even agree on why we need to market in the first place.

Successful organizations, large and small, have inculcated a branding message into everything they do. Everybody inside and out knows exactly what the organization does, stands for and is well thought of. Think about Apple, Hyatt Hotels, Nike, The Gap or George Forman’s Grills. What about that local restaurant you keep going back to and recommend to others. The dentist who makes you so comfortable. Or, the accountant that you trust and wouldn’t imagine ever leaving. All these firms and practices market but in highly differentiated ways, what is the commonality?

I suggest the beginning of the solution is to widen our view of marketing as merely advertising, promotion or collateral. It’s not any one thing you do … marketing is much, much more.

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
~ David Packard, Hewlett-Packard

EVERYTHING YOU DO …

Very simply, marketing is everything you do. Because everything you do sends a message. Every action has a communication dimension and can influence another.

For example, the telephone is one of the most powerful marketing instruments, if properly used. The number of rings before answering sends a message. The demeanor of the receptionist’s voice communicates something. Your voicemail greeting may need some work. How are you leaving messages for others? What do your prospects or clients hear when they are on hold?

Also, marketing is everything you don’t do. Because everything you don’t do also sends a message. Every inaction has a communication dimension and can influence someone, usually for the worse. For example, a littered disorganized workplace sends a message. Grammatical mistakes in an email or spelling mistakes in your marketing convey a lack of care or attention to detail. What about that telephone call we didn’t return promptly?

So if marketing is everything we do and don’t do, what is our desired outcome?

FIRST, OFTEN & WELL

The strategic objective of marketing is also very simple. The whole point of your marketing is to have your clients, prospects, suspects, referral sources and other stakeholders think of you first, often and well. If they think of you first, often and well, then your clients are always giving you more business. You have first crack at your prospects’ business and you are getting a stream of referrals.

So why isn’t this happening consistently?

1. They have not heard about you. This is often due to a lack of marketing or your marketing is ineffective. It is drowned out by the 20,000 other marketing messages the average person receives daily.

2. They have not heard about your value-added claims. They may have heard about you, but don’t know or understand what you do. How many people, even in your own circle of neighbors, friends, church or gym truly know what you do? This is a great litmus test. Today ask five people you know and see how accurately it reflects “your marketing.” If you are not marketing effectively to those closest to you, do you think you are any better to those who do not know you well?

3. They don’t believe you. Sometime the problem is not a quantitative or qualitative issue of marketing. They simply do not believe you. You have not backed up your claims or made your messaging sufficiently relevant to the audience.

One simple way to evaluate your key messages is to imagine a thought balloon above your client’s or prospect’s head. Whenever you say anything, or give them a piece of marketing collateral, see the balloon. They are either thinking “So what?” In other words, how is this relevant to me? Or, “Prove it!” Back up that statement with facts, figures or other evidence.

4. They don’t remember you. Often, the failure in marketing is to convey a message that is sufficiently differentiated, relevant, or action-oriented. A compelling, unique communication that moves heart, mind and soul will cut through the clutter of insipid rubbish that the many colleagues in the industry generate.


FINAL THOUGHTS

So in reality you are already marketing, the key question is what is the message you are sending in all you do, and don’t do?

It has been my experience for over 25 years that all too many organizations are wasting too much money, time and other resources into marketing that does not yield the return they should be getting.

An intelligent comprehensive marketing strategy will make ALL you do in marketing more effective. Otherwise, it is like an orchestra without the musical score, the movie without the script, the chef without a recipe, or the battle without the plan.

In conclusion, I suggest you cease to view marketing as any singular activity but the sum total of all your activities in having your clients, prospects and others think of you first, often and well.

Killer Presentations – What Can Your PowerPoint Learn from the Movies?

KILLER PRESENTATIONS
– What Can Your PowerPoint Learn from the Movies?
(824 Words ~ 3-4 minutes to read)

Do You Have a Killer Presentation or one that Kills Your Audience?
In the last month I have seen or sat through probably 20-30 PowerPoint presentations and they ranged from appalling to banal. Several made good points but lacked power. None amazed me, few were particularly persuasive and most simply bored me to death. I switched off at some point from almost every presentation.

During the same time period, I watched as many movies. I rarely switched off and almost all the movies engaged me enough to invest 90-120 minutes of my precious time. Why?

What kept me engaged was a good storyline.

Years ago, I worked closely with the Chairman of R.K.O. Studios, the old motion picture company. I always remember his words “a great movie starts with a great story”. It’s the same with your presentation, is it simply a boring regurgitation of data or a compelling story told in words and pictures? Here are some lessons from the movies.

Bam! Bam!
Most presentations start with “Welcome to this presentation…blah, blah, blah.” Imagine Spielberg, Lucas or Coppolla beginning their movies like that. Bond movies have their trademark action-packed opening sequences, the early Pink Panther films had the cartoon figure running through the main titles at the start, making mischief with the lettering, insistently getting in the way. Both drama and humor get our attention.

So how do you get your audience’s attention? A question, a quote or a powerful image are all means to ensure your audience is focused on you. Surprise them in some way in the first two minutes is the advice of Tom Peters, the globe-trotting management guru. His talk on global competitiveness started with a kitchen timer set to 26 minutes, which is exactly the amount of time that elapses between each new manufacturing facility that opens in China. After 26 minutes, he sets the timer again and so on. The secret is to start with something that’s appears disconnected with the presentation; the dissonance forces your audience to pay attention.

But that’s only the start.
Always, Always Tell A Story Perhaps you remember James Cameron’s “Titanic”? You could tell that story with ease and accuracy. Why? Because all our movies are in a story format. Great presentations don’t just contain great stories or anecdotes – the entire presentation is one grand story.

Take a cue from Hollywood and write a three act script that focuses your ideas and helps you figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. With a completed script in hand, a Hollywood filmmaker usually turns to a storyboard artist to sketch selected scenes from the story to show how things will look on screen. Use storyboarding to help you review your story structure and sequence, check your pacing and flow, and use visuals to tie together the various parts of your story. Finally, you can move into production. This opens dramatic new possibilities for treating your PowerPoint screen as a canvas to promote dialog and collaboration. Instead of reading text from a screen, your slides work as visual triggers that enhance or support your verbal dialogue adding nuances of reason and emotion. The result is an engaging multimedia experience that balances visual and verbal elements and contributes to meaningful understanding.

Suggested Script Outline
Adpated from Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire

  • Act I – Sets up the story: the setting (where) / the main characters (who) / the imbalance or problem (what) / the premise for the solution (how).
  • Act II – Develops the action with your top three reasons or ideas – each fleshed out / the turning point / create dissonance to stimulate new thinking
  • Act III – Frames the resolution with summary of crisis / solution / climax / resolution / decision point – WIFM

Creating a story will not only give your presentation some focus (and storyline), it will also make it easier for your audience to remember the sequence and substance of what you present.

Final Thoughts
Some closing thoughts on presentations. I like Tom Peters’ challenge:

  • Remember your Goal: Change the world!
  • Bring energy and enthusiasm, passion and performance to every presentation large or small
  • Always remember to smile; connect with your audience; keep good eye contact
    And have a great time! It appears the movie world does, why shouldn’t we?!

Finally Bring on an Unpredictable Finish!
Every movie, every good ad does it. They often wrap it up in a way you rarely expect. Could anything be worse than building to crescendo with growing expectations, answering all their questions, and then having a flat ending? Your finale has to be like lightning! Startling, ephemeral and brilliant. It will ensure that your product, service, funding pitch, research or final report is remembered and gets maximum attention.
Otherwise you’re just making yet another Point with no Power!

“Life is a stage and we are merely performers.” ~ William Shakespeare.
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To receive “More Lessons from the Movies – Five additional Tips to Presenting”
(492 words – Less 2 minutes to read) E-mail me at TheMarketingChef AT MarketingSymhony DOT com

Procrastination – Why Start A Blog?

PROCRASTINATION – Why Start A Blog?
(535 Words – Less than 3 minutes to read)

Well after a little procrastination and a shift in thinking, I have finally launched the official Blog for The Marketing Chef.

So Why Did I Start A Blog?
I knew about blogs and blogging for years before I actually ventured into my first blog. So why did it take me over 5 years to start my first blog?

And, why would I want to blog at all? Is there anyone really out there? Aren’t blogs just for techno-geeks exchanging the latest developments, teenagers blathering about boy/girlfriends? The elections of 2004 brought out the best and worst in blogs from an effective political and fundraising tool to the cadre of self-opinionated political zealots proselytizing hot air agendas. Then there are the technical journals full of nomenclature understandable solely by rocket scientists and brain surgeons. So for some time I decided blogs were not for me and I paid scant attention to the “blogoshere”.

Then about a year or two ago my thinking changed. I began to see others effectively use the blog as a bona fide marketing instrument for:

  • A tool for SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • An additional information resource for clients and prospects
  • Another “entry point” for suspects and prospects.

So today, the first official entry for the Marketing Chef, will tackle the blog as a support mechanism for SEO. If done properly, it will get your website pages spidered almost immediately and indexed in less than a week.

Blog and Ping
The basic method is to connect your blog (I recommend and use Google’s
http://www.blogger.com/) to your website. (If you don’t have a Website yet, set up a myYahoo page). You add the RSS or Atom link from your blog to your Web page or myYahoo page, so that your blog feeds into your website. You then write an entry to your blog with links to the Web pages that you want Google and Yahoo to find and index. After publishing your new blog entry, you then ping your website or myYahoo page to tell it that there’s a new entry at your blog. Then you go to Yahoo, open your myYahoo page, and the blog headline should be there.

The assumption is that Yahoo would spider all feeds going into it’s myYahoo pages and because Google owns Blogger.com they would spider all new blog entries at Blogger.com and I have seen this happen with the successful blogs and that’s why The Marketing Chef is following suit.

Feed Me Seymour!
So start a blog, add frequent entries, and in less than a week it will be getting spidered almost as you post to it. But you must frequently post to your blog, preferably daily. Posting daily communicates to the search engines that you are a serious content generator. Search engines then realize they can rely on you to publish fresh content every day. Brand new content is the life blood of search engines. Without fresh content search engines users may look elsewhere.

Feed the search engines and you will be rewarded with almost immediate listings in their directories. How well you rank by keywords and will be the subject matter for another day.

More Business Decisions Occur Over Lunch…

“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.”
~ Peter Drucker

Reasons to Blog

“Executives should blog if they have a vision they are trying to communicate, or if they are very visible in the media.”
– Mark Cuban

Two more reasons to blog to add to my previous day’s post

Networking – Ever Have Trouble Starting a Conversation at a Business Function?

NETWORKING – Ever Have Trouble Starting a Conversation at a Business Function?
(674 Words _ Less than 3 minutes to read)

Many of you may list “networking” as one of your marketing instruments, but how can you be more effective? There is a definitive art to initiating contact and creating meaningful interaction.

FIRST CONTACT:
Smile. You have about ten seconds before the person in front of you (subconsciously) decides whether they like you or not. With such little time few words can be exchanged, hence their judgment is primarily based on body communication. So lean in (a little), make good eye contact, touch them on the elbow or shake hands. Take the initiative and be the first one to say hello. All this shows attention, confidence and immediately displays your interest in the other person.

As soon as the introductions are made, visually attach a picture of their name to their face. When the conversation starts, don’t interrupt. Exhibit empathy and understanding by nodding your head and involving your whole body in engaging the person you’re talking with. And always, always, remember the other person’s name; use their name often throughout the conversation. Nothing is sweeter to someone’s ears than their own name. Always maintain good eye contact. If you start looking around the room you’re toast; maintain eye contact at least 70% of the time. The ability to initiate dialogue with people through small talk is a learned skill but can lead to big things, according to Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk. E-mail me for her top 9 tips in starting − and ending conversations.

INTERACTION: OK, you’ve initiated a dialogue, now how do you create effective interactions.

Secret #1: Focus on them. People like to talk about themselves, even the most reserved. Listen attentively. Remember God gave you two ears and one mouth – spend twice the time listening versus talking. Demonstrate interest in them and their problems and restrain your desire to talk about yourself, your organization or solutions. Ask questions that sincerely demonstrate you believe the other person’s opinion is of particularly worth. Focus on their triumphs. Find out their passions. Laugh at their jokes.

Secret #2: Be generous. There is a timeless Zig Ziglar quote, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” Whenever you meet somebody, try to make that person successful. That’s what made Keith Ferrazzi, (author of Never Eat Alone), a master networker, the youngest partner in Deloitte Consulting’s history and a top executive in his thirties with a network of relationships that stretched from Washington’s corridors of power to Hollywood’s A-list. Ferrazzi’s form of connecting to the world around him is based on generosity, helping friends connect with other friends. So don’t be a networking jerk. Don’t keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.

Secret #3: With the appropriate cues have 3-5 simple “power questions” that can steer the dialogue towards potential indicators of interest. Here are some of mine … “I’m collecting people’s definitions of marketing for a book … what’s yours?” (P.S. Whatever their response, it’s never wrong).
“Do you believe you get the best return on your marketing investment? Why not?”
“Which marketing instruments work well for you, what’s not working as well?”
“What’s your biggest challenge in marketing your organization?”

Secret #4: Spread a few FUD seeds. Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. All great motivators!
“My research shows 80+% of organizations fall into one or more of the three marketing deathtraps.” Invariably they ask me what they are.

Secret #5: Have a simple, brief but intriguing verbal/visual descriptor of your business clearly in your mind (10 seconds or less). “Marketing Symphony orchestrates strategic breakthroughs for firms by crafting a relevant, compelling, credible and differentiated message which is conveyed through the right marketing instruments that move the heart, mind and soul of your target audience.”

Conclusion: Ultimately, networking is not the end but the means to build generous relationships so that your prospects, clients and referral sources think of you first, often and well.
Happy Networking!

Private Strategy Interview

We have listed the following seven criteria as important criteria in making a decision about their offering:

  • Quality of their Solutions
  • Timeliness in Delivering the Solution
  • After-sales Service / Problem Resolution
  • Price
  • Ease of doing business with SSi
  • Credibility / Reputation
  • Relationship / Chemistry

 
A. Did we miss anything? If so what?

 
 
B. Now please RANK them in order of importance to YOU.

  Quality of their Solutions
  Timeliness in Delivering the Solution
  After-sales Service / Problem Resolution
  Price
  Ease of doing business with SSi
  Credibility / Reputation
  Relationship / Chemistry
  Other? ___________

 
C. Now please RATE them on a scale of 1-5 in how well the company performs in each area.

5 = No one does it better! Head and shoulders above their competitors.

4= Better than the competition + differentiated from the competition

3=Better than the competition + but no specific differentiation

2= On PAR with the competition

1=Worse than the competition

  Quality of their Solutions
  Timeliness in Delivering the Solution
  After-sales Service / Problem Resolution
  Price
  Ease of doing business with SSi
  Credibility / Reputation
  Relationship / Chemistry
  Other? ___________