If they don’t care, are you even there?

Two pieces of white paper with the word invisible turned into visible

Two pieces of white paper with the word invisible turned into visible

Your creative needs to be creative.  No doubt about that.  But sadly, many people think that’s enough.

I received an email from a college student, asking if he could interview me. Two of his questions in particular caught my attention because they put the spotlight on a dangerous mistake that many seasoned marketers make.

It all revolves around the idea that marketing needs to be wacky or groundbreaking with the end goal being that it’s memorable. I can think of a lot of crazy, funny and touching marketing tactics that I’ve remembered for years that never prompted me to buy the product.

Should your creative be fresh, interesting and different from what everyone else in your category is doing? Sure.

But you can’t stop there. And you can’t start there.

You start with understanding your own product or service as objectively as you can (how does it rock, where is it weak, etc.) and who the ideal consumer for that product or service happens to be.

And you end by telling those ideal customers enough about your product or service that they understand why it’s the perfect fit for them.

You have to match your sweet spot customer with the benefits that make them the right buyer for what you sell.

I thought at it might be useful to you to see what he asked and my replies.

Q: When developing a concept do you try to go with something new and groundbreaking or do you have a more straightforward, proven approach to getting the message out to the target audience.

The truth is – what sells is the truth. We begin by understanding our audience and what they care about. We learn as much about them as possible. Every product/service has a “perfect fit” customer. It’s our job to figure out who that is and then craft our message to appeal to that person.

What is new today will be old hat tomorrow. So gimmicks and shock value and crazy aren’t good marketing strategies. Look at the Kmart “Ship My Pants” ads. Are they funny? Are they memorable? The answer to both those questions is yes.

But will it sell more stuff? I don’t think so. And THAT is our job. We help clients sell stuff. If we don’t do that – no matter how funny or memorable our work is – we got it wrong.

So the creative approach depends on the audience and what will connect with them and help them see why what we sell is what they need or want most.

Q: I believe that promoting brand recall is the most important objective in a message strategy. What is your favorite way to do this?

First – I respectfully disagree.   I believe the most important objective in a message strategy is to help the audience understand how this product or service is uniquely positioned to benefit THEM. The most important objective is brand relevance. Again, it doesn’t matter if you are memorable if you aren’t relevant.

The best way to develop brand relevance is to understand your sweet spot customer and why they would care and then figure out how to deliver value towards that for them. A brand’s job is to be important to the consumer. Harley does this brilliantly. For Harley riders and prospects – no other bike will do. Anything else is a poor substitute. Harley is about living the dream of a biker – freedom, independence, camaraderie etc. No brand captures and sells that like Harley. Harley could run a bunch of ads that promote the name so we’d never forget it. But instead they promote the dream/fantasy of owning a motorcycle and tie their name to delivering on that dream.

I’d much rather have 100 sweet spot customers reach for their wallet than 10,000 people remember the ad. Remember that and you’ll enjoy a long career in this crazy business that I love. Good luck!

No one likes you

Facebook-logo6Like millions of businesses around the world, at some point in time, you decided to hop on the Facebook train.  You created a presence with either enthusiasm or distain (seems everyone starts at one end of the spectrum or the other) and posted your first update.

Since then, things have been a little stagnant.  The fans didn’t come pouring in the way you hoped (or expected) and as a result, your enthusiasm and activity level have waned.

Ready to fire back up?  First, let’s diagnose why your Facebook fans have been a bit lackadaisical.  Or worse.

You set up the wrong kind of presence:  Many businesses mistakenly create an account rather than a page.  An account is owned by an individual and has friends.  A page is created by an account holder and has likes.

No only is it the wrong kind of presence but if Facebook realizes you’ve given a business entity a personal account, they can force you to shut it down.  Which means you’d lose all your friends/fans and have to start over.  Be sure you have the right set up.

You infrequently and inconsistently post:  It’s a little like knowing someone who rarely speaks to you.  Or speaks to you a ton for one hour and then ignores you for the next five days.  Pretty soon, you find someone else to talk to.

You can’t expect people to pay attention if they can’t count on you.  Hopefully your plan is to use your Facebook presence to create a relationship with people who either are already fans of your work or could be. Silence is not a great relationship enhancer.

You’re all about you:  This is one of the biggest marketing mistakes that most organizations consistently make.  All they do is talk about themselves.  This usually comes from one of two places.  First, you don’t have a good idea of who you are talking to, so you aren’t sure how to talk about what they’d care about.   So you default to talking about yourself.

Or, you aren’t thinking about your Facebook presence as a relationship conduit in the same way you’d think about a face-to-face conversation.   If you were sitting across from someone, you wouldn’t be rude enough to blather on about yourself non-stop.  Don’t do it on Facebook either.

You use Facebook as a sales tool:  It’s okay to share a great deal or special pricing now and then on your Facebook page.  But, it’s not a sales flier – it’s a place to connect.  The Facebook pages that I spend time on are the ones that make me smarter, make my life easier/better, make me laugh, connect me to a memory or to a community of people with whom I share a common interest.

I never mind when they occasionally pitch me, because the rest of the time they give me so much value, I’m grateful.  Would your Facebook fans say the same thing?

You never use Facebook as a sales tool:  I know, people are fickle.  Especially if you are a retail location or sell a product, one of the reasons people are willing to like your page is because they think it will get them something special or at a discount.  Don’t disappoint them.  Just do it sparingly.

You tell and sell: One of the best and easiest ways to generate activity on your Facebook page (which will generate new likes) is to ask questions.   By getting your fans involved, you can actually have a conversation and even better, their friends will see the interaction and hopefully decide to join in as well.

Remember that like all social media, Facebook is permission based.  Your audience can disconnect from you any time they want.  So provide value every day and watch your likes spike.

Becoming a marketing master

Becoming a marketing masterYou don’t have to be a good writer or have a mind for marketing to set a goal of becoming a marketing master. You just have to be willing to do the hard work of learning how to do it and practicing it regularly.

There’s a huge body of research that has studied how people who are at the top of their game got there. Many people assume these superstars had a wealth of natural talent that gave them a huge advantage over the others in their field.

But even when you look at remarkable performers like Tiger Woods or Warren Buffet, it’s not true. We’ve all heard the story of how Tiger started playing golf at 18 months and had over 15 years of regular practice before he began competing at a national level. Warren Buffet admits that he knew very little but invested significant time studying business and financial statements to learn how to spot patterns and trends.

In fact, the research is so consistent it has evolved into what is commonly called the ten-year rule. It states that the most accomplished professionals, no matter what field they’re in; need about ten years of intense study to get to the top of their game. The ten years isn’t an average, it’s a minimum.

And there’s one more element that matters. It can’t be casual or haphazard practice. It needs to be what is called deliberate practice. It’s you doing things with the explicit goal of improving your performance that will push you past competent to a level of excellence.

Why does all of this matter to you, in terms of marketing?

  • It means for you to develop and execute effective marketing, you need to be deliberately practicing on a regular basis.
  • It erases the excuse “I’m just not wired to be good at this” when it comes to marketing your business.

Like most other aspects of running or owning a business, it boils down to doing the hard work and committing to it for the long haul.

And there’s one other benefit to taking this sort of approach. In the case of marketing – unlike a golf game or investing, you have a potential audience and that audience requires many marketing touches before they start paying attention. The fact that marketing is a marathon not a sprint works well with this “practice every day” philosophy.

Very few marketing tactics deliver instant results and when that happens, it’s more dumb luck than anything else. Marketing is a cumulative effort. Your efforts stack up and create that consistent drip drip drip marketing that we’ve talked about before.

In many ways, marketing is the perfect skill to develop, given the ten-year rule. You have to do it consistently and intentionally to get better at it and your audience needs you to do it consistently to notice you. So the more you practice, the better you get and the better results you’ll experience.

Now the question is – what do you need to do to put this idea into play?

Daily Practice: What marketing tactics can you commit to doing on a daily basis? Is it a Facebook page update? A customer thank you call?

Weekly Practice: What can you do every single week? An insightful blog post? Sending out targeted direct mail pieces and then following up with a call?

Monthly Practice: What, come rain or shine, will you do every month? Writing a helpful newsletter that establishes your expertise? Running an ad in a niche publication aimed at your primary audience?

Be sure you build your skills by practicing every single day and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to becoming a marketing master. Not only will you get better every day but you’ll get also more customers as you practice!

Don’t forget the marketing basics

marketing basicsIt’s so easy to be mesmerized by all the marketing technology around us and forget about the marketing basics. But whether you’re executing a traditional campaign or a digital one — the marketing basics matter.

My Italian grandma (who provided many marketing tips via this series) spent most of her time in the kitchen. I remember sitting at the table, watching her work her magic and her reaching for a huge jar of oregano. As she pointed the jar at me, she said, “You always need to keep the basics in stock. And no matter how fancy you’re getting, the basics still matter.”

I remember her words when I’m trying to re-create her spaghetti sauce and I remember those same words when working with clients. Because she was right. No matter how fancy we get — we need to keep reaching for the basics.

Sometimes we all get so caught up in what is the hottest, latest, and most buzzed about marketing fad that we lose sight of the cornerstone principles that make advertising and marketing work.

Here are some marketing basics that will always matter:

One ad/tactic – one message: Most people have a tendency to want to shove many marketing messages into a single ad out of fear that they might never get another shot at the audience. Of course we know that if the ad is ineffective – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

Regardless of what marketing tactic you’re using – ask yourself this question: if someone could only remember one thing from this – what would I want them to retain? Now – write to emphasize that one point and nothing more.

You can’t time marketing: Just like the sage advice about investing – you should give up any hope of being able to accurately time your marketing. Very few businesses can predict with even a modicum of certainty when someone is going to become a customer.

Just like dollar cost averaging – you need to be making regular, consistent marketing “deposits” so that whenever the market rises/a prospect is ready to buy – you’re there and top of mind.

You need a plan and a budget: You cannot consistently market your business the way you need to without a plan and a budget. It does not happen by accident or happy coincidence. At best, you’re going to be hit or miss with your efforts. A plan helps you stay on course, even when you’re short-handed or swamped. For too many businesses, marketing is what they do when things get quiet or they lose a client.

Here’s a test that will tell you a great deal about your marketing. When you are crazy busy and couldn’t take another customer that day if you tried – are you still out there marketing? If your answer is no, then you either don’t have a marketing plan or you aren’t following the one you have.

Without a budget, you can’t really have an actual, executable plan. Let’s face it, if you had a million dollars – your marketing plan would look markedly different than a $5,000 one would look.

Your current customers need to be a primary audience: Everyone’s quick to chase after the potential customer and those new dollars. But what most marketers lose sight of is the fact that a good chunk of their new revenue should be coming from existing customers. Marketing plans are typically thin in several areas and the percentage of dollars and effort earmarked for current customers is almost always one of them.

We all know it’s a lot easier to get someone to buy for a second or third (or tenth) time than it is to get them to buy for the first time. And yet, we spend the majority of our time and money chasing after the toughest sale, not the easiest one.

Keep these marketing basics in play and watch your marketing efforts get stronger and deliver better results. My grandma knew what she was talking about!

How effective is your email marketing?

effective is your email marketingEmail is still one of marketing’s greatest tactics but how effective is your email marketing? It’s easy to understand the allure of email marketing.

It’s cost effective (but not free), it’s easy to plan and execute in advance and very few people don’t access their email every single day, so in theory – the audience is engaged with the medium.

So why do so many efforts fall flat? I think we almost take it for granted. We think just firing off an email without thinking through the steps will still be effective. But the reality is, there are many elements that can make or break an email campaign at each stage of the effort.

Is deliverability impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing?

Just because you click send doesn’t mean it actually gets into the recipient’s inbox. Here are some of the critical things to be mindful of as you develop your email.

List Quality: You can absolutely go out and buy a big batch of emails. But the best email list is going to come from actually building your own list by offering something of value that someone is willing to trade their email list for.

CAN SPAM compliance: If you break the rules, your emails will end up going nowhere. You need to be very familiar with the boundaries and requirements of this regulation.

Are opens impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing?

Getting it into their mailbox is the first step, but now you need to get them to actually read it.

Subject line: Like the headline of an ad, your subject line is the most important element of your email. You only have a few seconds to grab the recipient’s attention and entice them to click open.

Time Sent: The e-marketing company Mail Chimp did a study and found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays had the highest open rates throughout the week. They also found that 10-2 pm local time (so you’ll have to find some middle ground if you mail across time zones) worked best.

Are click throughs impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing?

While it’s great to get someone to open the email, what you really want them to do is click on something – to learn more, to buy something or to ask you to contact them.

Relevance: If your list or your content isn’t pretty targeted – your content may be off target. Even the best headline in the world isn’t going to make someone click on a link that is irrelevant to them. You need to know your audience well and write to them about things they will definitely care about.

Design/layout: I don’t care how exciting your offer is – if I can’t find it or can’t understand what I need to do to get to the next step, I can’t move forward. Make sure your email design is clean, easy to read and the calls to action are very clear.

Offer/Call to Action: If the offer isn’t compelling, time sensitive and a great value – it’s not likely you’re going to get a lot of takers. This is one of the most common mistake business owners make – they don’t sweeten the pot enough.

Is revenue (or the lack thereof) impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing?

Ultimately, you are sending out these emails to make money. Short of that, it was a valiant effort but it didn’t achieve the objective.

Landing page content/design: When someone is interested enough to click on a link – you sure want them to land on a page that only heightens their interest. Great photos, testimonials, video demos and very clean design with clear calls to action are what drive sales.

Check out experience: If you actually sell something from your website – you want to avoid cart abandonment at all costs. Make sure the check out experience is simple, fast and doesn’t ask the buyer to duplicate efforts or invest too much time.

If you want effective email marketing  — it has to be a well-orchestrated machine. So take the time to think it though, invest in good tools and test, test test!

Want to dig in a little deeper?  Grab this great (and free) ebook on ways you can better answer the question — “how effective is your email marketing” from the good folks at Copyblogger.