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 s: “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 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.

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 . 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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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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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.

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 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 ing 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.

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, that’s how small business marketing starts, people just need to understand what is a small business to start off. 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.

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!