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I am so thankful for all the love, grace and happiness in my life. Every day, I feel so blessed just to be here at this moment, at this time.
Since Thanksgiving 2017 is this week, I thought I would share my appreciation with those of you who read my blog each week.
I’m so thankful to have the love and support of family. It is the true nourishment of my life that sustains me. From my 90-year-old mom Bea, my wife Ra El, my children Sarah & Adam, Fanny & Tony – thank you for filling me with love, kindness, and laughter. And to my siblings and their families, I’m so blessed to be woven together into the fabric our stories.
After writing 850 blog posts over the last seven years, I’m thankful for the thousands of people I don’t know, who read my thoughts and ramblings. It is an honor that you give me even a few moments each week to read what’s on the marketing portion of my mind. I hope that you learn something that helps you in your work. I learn every day from the comments, emails, and notes you send to me.
I’m thankful for teachers I keep learning from through books, lectures, podcasts, webinars, clients, and colleagues. There are too many to name but through the amazing times we live in, I can learn something new every day, and that is such a gift.
I am so thankful to be here.
Wishing you a joyful day overflowing with the important kind of nourishment we all need every day.
Isn’t it interesting how one topic can keep coming up over and over again? Several new clients asked a variation of the same question:
“Why isn’t our marketing more effective? Why doesn’t it breakthrough the clutter. We create content, but no one is listening.”
These companies all thought that they could sell to their clients by sharing facts about their product or service. Their content was very right brain – logical, factual and practical.
What was absent from each tactic was heart.
There was no soul or compassion for the problems they solved for customers. Just a laundry list of boring features. Every aspect of their marketing was average, dull, and no one would ever notice.
People Act or Buy for Illogical, Emotional Reasons
We make decisions based on irrational, and illogical reasons. We may try to convince people to act or buy based on a long, rational argument, but most behavior is rarely motivated by logic. We rationalize purchases but that is different from what drives the motivation.
When a small marketing agency in Melbourne, Australia was challenged to help prevent accidental train deaths, they decided that one more sign was never going to get noticed. The obvious marketing approach was to create a sign or a PSA to scare people. Warning signs blend into the landscape, and no one pays attention to them.
So they created a bunch of crazy characters and some addictive music showing all the dumb ways there are to die. They entertained an audience first – and their important message broke through at the end. People noticed it. In fact, Dumb Ways to Die is the most viral PSA video ever. Launched in November 2012, over 200 million people have viewed their video.
Lessons to Learn
- Keep your boring meter handy. When you are creating a marketing effort, does it feel human or corporate? Human stuff always wins.
- Entertainment comes first to make people laugh, smile, cry or emote in some fashion to get them to notice you. Grab the audience’s attention by getting your audience deeply engaged and caring. Then share a message.
- Notice what draws your attention. Watch what catches your eye. Catch yourself in a “marketing moment” when you realize what the ‘hook’ was that got your attention. Learn from your experiences.
- Facts rarely convince people to act. Emotions motivate behavior.
How is your marketing challenging the norms of your category to stand out?
A tip of the hat to Jay Acunzo who first brought this story to my attention on his spectacular podcast, Unthinkable. You can download it from iTunes.
Need assistance finding ideas that will entertain and educate your audience? Is your marketing a bit too boring and safe? I’d be happy to bring my creativity and edge of the box thinking to your brand. Text or call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at email@example.com
Photo credit: Dumb Ways to Die
Experiential marketing is an important approach to bring a brand to life and to create an emotional bond.
Imagine going into a shoe store who doesn’t sell shoes. Instead, you can try on every style and type available and experience the brand. But if you want to buy, someone will order the shoe online and send it to your home. The store is designed to experience the brand and to allow online to live and breathe in front of your eyes. Shopping patterns are changing – how are you adjusting?
M.Gemi, an NY based high-end shoe retailer, needed to find a way to allow consumers to engage with their products in a more profound way than if they just went to the website. They “drop” new shoes every Monday, not only seasonally like other shops. But e-commerce doesn’t allow for tangibility or to touch, feel and interact with real human beings. Customers would spend a few minutes online, but the owners thought they needed a way to enrich the brand’s experience.
They opened a physical store in Soho and one in Boston. Each store is not transactional, and you can’t walk out with shoes. They call them “fit shops” that allow you to try before you buy. The store allowed the online retailer to bring a human and personal touch to life that pixels can never do. By blending digital and physical, they created a more satisfying and successful shopping experience.
Parachute, a Santa Monica based e-commerce home furnishing company, also wanted to bring the Parachute lifestyle to life by creating both a storefront and a rental apartment filled with their sheets, bath towels, and robes. The apartment provides a customer with a place to rent for the night like a hotel room, which gives them a first-hand experience with the brand. You can sleep between the sheets, wear the robes and experience a Parachute lifestyle.
When the apartment isn’t rented out, they hold parties and events in the space that showcases their goods to the general public. They do this with other brands to help gain exposure to new potential customers.
Experience – The Future of Marketing
How can your customers and clients experience your brand without focusing on making an immediate sale?
- What happens when on online retailers of wines creates partners with pop-up restaurants in different cities to get new customers tasting and trying their wines? Or maybe they do free tastings in offices working with HR departments to bring their brand to the customers for Friday afternoon experiences? Can you bring the experience of your tasting room to potential customers instead of waiting for them to come to you?
- Can a software company who typically brings demos to tradeshows, instead bring a masseuse to their booth? So instead of focusing on the transaction, you create a visceral experience and benefit that working with the tech company will help you feel more relaxed as they eliminate unnecessary processes? The implied message, our brand is going to help you relax and feel good.
- How can you bring your products and services to life in front of new audiences by imagining unusual but targeted settings for you to experience their service? What happens when an auto repair shop brings a podiatrist to a half-marathon so that runners can get their feet cared for after the race? This foot massage brought to you by Bob’s Auto Repairs. Suddenly, consumers see Bob’s as a place to help heal and fix your injured vehicle.
How can you bring your brand somewhere unexpected, so consumers get a chance to experience it anew? If you focus on experiences, not transactions – you’ll find many new ideas to help you bring your brand to life.
Let’s brainstorm together to find unusual ways to bring your brand to life through a different kind of experience. Text or call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you testing every aspect of your marketing efforts?
- If you send out emails, are you testing different subject lines to see which gets opened the most? A simple A/B test can increase the number of people who read your email and the test is free.
- Are you testing packaging design in two markets to determine if one label is more effective than the other at gaining awareness? Yes, it costs more to test two ideas, but what if one might hurt sales by double-digit?
- Did you test your promotional offer last month with your distributors to see if one offer is more effective versus another at getting customers to place an order for something new you are selling?
- When you designed a new logo, did you show two similar groups of consumers/customer the logos to gauge their reaction, or did you just show one? Packaging change requires lots of tests.
- In creating a new tradeshow booth, did you just present one idea to your sales team or did you ask them to choose among two concepts?
Taking the Marketing Test
Marketing is a series of tests. When a new client asks me if a new approach will work, I always tell them I don’t know, but we can create a small test to learn if we are on the right path.
Making sweeping changes can be dangerous, just ask big orange. When Tropicana changed their packaging several years ago, it was so disastrous that sales plummeted by 20% at a cost of $30 million dollars nationally. Why they didn’t test the new packaging in a limited region is still a mystery.
They could have prevented a national headache but testing it in limited markets. And why Tropicana changed all the elements (logo, type, slogan, lid, graphics) at the same time meant that consumers no longer could find their beloved brand. Testing each element could have avoided this expensive mistake. Lesson learned: Test one element at a time to control variables.
Marketing is Continuous Testing
Whatever the strategy, the tactics need testing over and over and over again. You never finish testing since the marketplace keeps changing every day. From price to place to promotion to the product – every element of your marketing needs to be tested to achieve your goals.
What did you test today?
Are you testing enough in your day-to-day marketing to keep learning? Need help? Let’s talk. Text me at 919 720 0995 or you can use your text machine to call me too. It is amazing. It is called a telephone. Or email me at email@example.com
I had a fascinating confidential conversation this week with a company that sells luxury goods. Because I promised to keep the details private, I can only tell you in general terms about her approach to marketing and how she gets customers to wait in line to buy her special products. Imagine having the power of turning away customers because what you sell has a scarce, limited and was created with an exclusive marketing mindset from the start.
When Denise (not her real name) got into her business, she didn’t want to market her upscale, luxury product like everyone else. She knew that she needed to tap into the powerful desire people have for something they can’t easily get.
Marketing Scarcity – The Exclusive Club
She started by creating an exclusive club that you have to wait in line to become a member. There wasn’t any cost to join the waiting list, and there was no guarantee that you would be able to get into the club. But everyone had to wait in line at least one year to become a member. Waiting in line made membership valuable.
Denise also didn’t sell her goods in places that his competitors sold their products because she didn’t want any competitors. She knew that being in a store or on a shelf would give the perception that this product was like every other product on the shelf – just packaged differently. She only sold directly to members who had waited at least one year to buy from her.
Imagine the stories his customers shared that they had to wait one year to buy from him. Talk about shareable storytelling.
There was no advertising or social media campaign to build awareness like most marketing professionals would have recommended. She didn’t care about likes or followers on social media. She didn’t spend money on fancy image campaigns for his goods either. All she had was an exclusive, and mysterious waiting list and a website built on this idea of intrigue and exclusivity. Even her place of business didn’t have a fancy sign – just a small handwritten note on the outside of her business.
She only makes a few thousand units of this product each year and it is presold to her club members. Her pricing was at least five times higher than the industry average for similar goods. Her club member’s incentive to buy is based on scarcity – they can get something that others can’t get. Her list does lose a few customers each year but through word of mouth, more get in line to buy.
The Principle of Scarcity
The idea for this approach to marketing was inspired by a book.
Robert Cialdini wrote Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – a landmark book that illustrates some key principles about marketing. The last of his six principles is about scarcity, that can make a product appear more valuable.
A classic study from the 1970’s had consumers value cookies in a jar. One jar had 10, and one jar had two cookies. Which do you think was perceived of as more valuable? Yup – the jar with just 2. We want what everyone else wants and when it becomes scarce, we want it even more.
You may recall Disney using this concept in the past when a Disney classic would go back into the Disney vault and no longer be available for purchase. I recall buying many VHS tapes for my daughter’s because if I didn’t buy, who knew when Aladdin or Sleeping Beauty would be available again?
Lessons about Scarcity – A Powerful Marketing Tool
- Could you offer a limited edition of what you sell?
- Have you considered selling a version of your product to an exclusive list who want something others can’t get?
- Is it possible not to think of selling your product not based on volume but instead, frame revenue from an exclusive, value-based and limited perspective? If you had pricing power to be 5X higher than the category, think of how many fewer units you’d need to sell.
- Do you create any mystery around your brand so that not everything is transparent and revealed? The goal isn’t to hide stuff, but to pull the curious toward you?
- Is there a luxury end of the market for your product and category that no one is paying attention to, but you could corner?
- FOMO- fear of missing out is a powerful motivator. Are you leveraging scarcity in your messaging to your customers?
- Scarcity and exclusive can also leverage time so that your product or service is only available for a limited time. I remember a fabulous restaurant in Philadelphia when I attended college called Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Those were the only days they opened, and you could barely get a reservation. Could you do a better job of using time limitations to motivate purchasers?
- Companies that offer goods or services for sale for a limited period often experience as many sales during the last 24 hours as they do the rest of the period. If your audience is already interested in what you do, how can you create demand by pulling the product off the market? Eliminating a product only works when there isn’t a ready and easy substitution for what you sell.
- Countdown clocks can help reinforce limits and scarcity of opportunity. Think of how motivated you might be to buy when you keep seeing a clock ticking down. eBay is a great example of this principle, and people get motivated to bid during the last hour something is available.
How could you use these principles of scarcity to grow your business in an unexpected way?
Need help with your marketing? Looking for unusual ideas to help rebrand, refresh or rethink your marketing efforts? I have 30 years of experiences growing small businesses into million dollar brands. Want to connect? Text or call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I watched an older man buying a huge, heavy bag of dog food at the grocery store. As he struggled to get the bag in his cart, a younger employee came by to help him put the bag in his cart. He checked out in the same lane as me, and I asked him how often he buys that heavy bag of dog food, and he told me it was a monthly chore, and his wife can’t handle the weight of the bag. Marketing empathy means that a brand manager uses both her head and her heart to understand their customers.
We struck up a conversation about shopping, and I asked him why he didn’t order the food online to show up at his door. He said, he didn’t realize that was possible and boy – that would solve a problem he has with stocking up on dog food.
Why don’t you buy smaller bags? He said that the cost difference was about $1.00, and he is on a fixed budget, so he’d rather get the better deal.
Where’s the Brand Manager?
If I worked on this brand, I’d explore several ideas based on an empathic view of marketing. I would spend a lot of time at the point of sale observing and watching people buying products within my category. I’d strike up informal conversations and listen carefully. I’d bring together several work colleagues and several customers to talk together so that the voice of the customer was present.
You never know where a great idea might come from that helps show you are caring. When a marketing person realizes the challenges people face when they purchase their products, that’s when the magic can happen.
Is there friction (heavy bags), are there solutions (lighter bags at same prices). How else could you serve this community? (alternative paths to delivery)
Here are three ideas to consider based on this example:
- Don’t make a price difference between large and smaller bags. Yes, you would have a smaller margin but think of the loyalty that could come from customers when you promote that you want to make it easy for your customers to be able to lift your bag of dog food. Serve the community of people who don’t want to be punished for buying big bags they can’t carry.
- Create a new brand for direct sales focused on lighter bags. Sell it to consumers online so it doesn’t compete with your in-store brand. Target people who can’t lift 50 lbs of dog food but want to buy that same product, at the same price, in lighter-weight bags. The value of a 50 lb bag in 5 small/10 lb bags could be the basis for a new brand’s unique value proposition.
- Organize a consumer advisory board to bring the voice of the consumer to major new initiatives or ideas. Listen to their feedback and use it to help you understand your chances of success. Find ways to get customers and marketing people together to get to know one another and to understand the challenges customer’s face in their daily lives.
When you market from the top down to the consumer, you assume you know everything that motivates a purchase. That level of understanding rarely occurs.
If you market from an empathic, heart-centered approach, you get a deeper understanding of why people buy, what job the product is doing for them and how you can help them stay loyal to your brand.
Are your customer’s sharing a seat at your marketing meetings?
Need an empathetic marketer’s perspective? Searching for fresh ideas to understand your audience’s journey? Text or call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at email@example.com – I am the Chief Listening Officer at The Marketing Sage with 30+ years of business and marketing expertise. Perhaps some seasoned advice could help you with your 2018 marketing plans.
Photo: Courtesy of sweet-ice-cream-photography-321073 on Unsplash
One of the services I offer clients is small business marketing coaching.
It allows me to work with early stage start-up businesses who focus on creating their products or services, not thinking about how customers will learn about their brand. Marketing rarely makes their to-do list. From artists, coffee roasters to ice cream cone manufacturers, many of these clients just need a “marketing whisperer” to guide them in the right direction and to give them some simple, but powerful advice.
Most of these coaching sessions are an hour per month, and I love being able to share my experiences with companies with big dreams and ambitions. In one hour, it is difficult to cover too many topics, but three themes are the framework for most of my initial coaching sessions.
Three Themes for Small Business Marketing
Why be a generalist when you can by an expert? People like to buy from someone who is the leading expert in one area with a remarkable product. They don’t want to buy from someone who is good or average at a bunch of things. Get rid of products or services that aren’t at the core of your growth potential and that distract you from becoming known for that one thing. I spent more than a decade making one product – a double chocolate brownie. The President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, said they were the best brownies he ever ate.
Someone else in your eco-system has a common customer. They may sell something that is significantly different from you. But they have a relationship with customers who you want to get in front of with your product or service. Find businesses with common customers and see how you can collaborate.
The natural, organic soft drink company that sells a syrup should be partnering with the maker of soft-drink machines. The realtor who focuses on people downsizing should be working with divorce or estate attorneys. The vegetarian restaurant might find an alliance with the local gym or bike shop as their clients has healthy lifestyles in common.
A conversation that comes over and over with my clients is about selling through distribution versus direct to end customers. Since most of these clients are small, I like to keep them on track by finding more direct customers so that they can have a clearer feedback loop to understand if their product or services can be improved.
Recently, I told one client that I’d prefer that they have lower sales in the first year with 1,000 direct buying customers than 20 distributors. Distributors won’t be focused only on your brand, they won’t provide enough unfiltered feedback. They typically won’t really help you grow in the early stages.
For about five years, my wife and I sold our brownies directly to individual retail stores without selling to any distributions. When we did get our first distributors, we understood how to train them, how to help them with merchandising and how to gain success. Had we tried to do that too early, we wouldn’t have experienced the same growth rate.
Interested or know a small business owner?
If you know of someone in a small business who could use some guidance, please share this post with them. By the way, Small Business Saturday is coming up on November 25, 2017. Don’t forget to shop local and find small businesses in your community that you can help.
To learn more about my small business coaching services, click here or call/text me at 919 720 0995 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dog owners who leave their pets at home during the day are worried. Do their pets feel stressed being locked up inside? What type of anxiety builds up when their dogs can’t play and release their frustration? What if there was a way to manage the dog’s anxiety and in turn, the owners?
Enter Dog TV. Yes, Dog TV.
When I first learned about this subscription-based TV channel, I thought it was a story from The Onion or an online comedy show. But this is scientifically developed to provide the right company for a dog left alone. Through years of research with leading dog experts, content is created to help meet specific attributes of a dog’s sense of vision and hearing and supports their natural behavior patterns.
The result: a confident, happy dog, who’s less likely to develop stress, separation anxiety or other related problems.
How to Overcome Skeptics
When Ron Levy, the founder of the first TV station for canines, he saw a problem he thought he could solve. Inspired by his cat Charlie who was left at home when Ron went to work, Ron put photos and videos on his TV for Charlie to watch during the day. His theory was that it would keep Charlie calm and help keep him occupied. Not any channel would work, and images of war and bombs would scare him.
Ron went from cats to a dog world when he talked to pet owners and realized that dogs were far needier when left alone. The pet industry in 2008 was a 50 billion dollar industry, and he thought owners might be willing to pay for access to his TV channel if pitched as therapy and entertainment for dogs that were home alone.
Pitching the Big Networks
Everyone thought this idea was crazy, but Ron had tapped a unserved market. Instead of racing to launch the idea globally, he recognized that he needs proof of concept and validation from people like Veterinarians and pet health associations. He also understood that he needed first to find a small, group of customers who would help him validate the concept in a test market.
He put cameras in 38 apartments in NY and LA while videos played on the TV so he could show what the dogs did all day long. And with this evidence, he went to the Humane Society and a series of pet experts who he could use to provide testimonial and confirmation that this was an idea backed by science and authorities.
In 2012, he tested the idea in a small market to show that the concept worked. In 2014 Discovery became an investor and they launched online. Dog TV is now available in 12 million homes around the world. And the studies helped bring the validation necessary for success.
Key Marketing Lessons
- No idea is crazy. But you need to find third-party endorsements to help give customer’s confidence that this isn’t unsubstantiated claims.
- Testing locally on a small scale helps you gain proof of concept. Without that proof, it is hard to convince anyone that the idea will work.
- Don’t try and grow too fast. Get the foundation in place for growth but keep testing your product offering so that when you do try and scale, you have confidence in the return on your investment.
- Partners and collaborators bring expertise you need. Don’t underestimate the value of the right partnership where someone can bring resources, access, and experience to help guide the growth. Great marketers understand this and partners can be consultants, employees or equity owners.
- Find the pain point. Ron knew that his TV channel for dogs would be entertaining, but he marketed his channel as therapy to keep your dog calm during the day. This positioning was critical to his success.
How will you launch your crazy idea and get tails wagging?
Barking up the wrong tree with your marketing? Need a consultant to help advise you? Let’s woof. Call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at email@example.com
Photo credit: multa-media-240844 from Unsplash.com
Many organizations struggle getting sales and marketing aligned and moving in the same direction. It is as if they are both in two separate boats with their oars taking them to different places. My advice don’t row alone.
How can you strive to alter this classic conflict between sales and marketing by applying a set of rules and guidelines?
- Marketing is a support to sales – If you don’t communicate this to your sales leadership, they’ll never believe you are sincere in wanting to align. Most organizations want to grow the right type of revenue and customer base, and it is marketing’s job to provide a range of services to help their customer (sales) achieve their goals. Start from this place to gain confidence from sales leadership.
- Understand the Big Picture – I may be in love with marketing tactics, but if I don’t understand the vision for the brand (or company), I may be leading a team toward the wrong goal. Without a clear picture and consensus on the destination, you will never know if you have succeeded.
- Do Most of the Listening – I like to start aligning by listening to the sales leadership. What do they want to achieve in the coming year? How will they measure success? I might ask clarifying questions, but I don’t offer suggestions immediately. First, either my marketing colleagues or I write up our understanding of their goals. If they agree to those goals, then we can put our marketing hat on to figure out the best path forward.
- Write Down the Plans – Without a written plan of action, how will you know that you are aligned. A simple 3-page marketing plan that sales leadership agrees to is your contract with your client. Marketing supports sales, and the plan is the agreement for the action.
- Be Specific About the Major Spending – I don’t want to get lost in days of planning, but a detailed spreadsheet tied to a written marketing plan is your ticket to success. It keeps you and your sales colleagues on the same page. Don’t expect sales to write the plan or provide the tactics. Just make sure they agree to the key themes.
- Share throughout the organization. I like finance, operations, IT, HR and senior leadership to understand what marketing will do and spend to get us to increased awareness, more qualified leads, etc. By sharing marketing plans, you invite questions, challenges, and comments and position yourself as the fuel in the engine. Keeping marketing plans to within your department is a dumb idea.
- Be a Coxswain Steering the Course- In a rowboat, the coxswain steers and correct the direction. When the fiscal year begins, plans can quickly get off-track as team members start rowing off course. Sales and marketing leadership needs to keep the team on course. In rowing, the coxswain puts an oar in the water to steer toward the direction the team wants to go. In an organization following lean practices, this would be a countermeasure that helps you readjust your path.
- Keep Score – By the beginning of the fourth quarter, it becomes clear if you can achieve your goal. Are you generating the awareness and leads you promised – what went right or wrong and how can you keep correcting? Marketing is a series of A/B tests to keep you heading toward that north star.
How aligned are your sales and marketing efforts?
Need a coxswain to help steer your path forward? I can help align sales and marketing teams. Call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about rowing together.