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 ers,” 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.

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 . 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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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 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.

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