What does this pricing strategy say to you?

PriceHow thoughtful are you about your company’s pricing strategy? Let me give you an example.

We use an on-line vendor to provide extranet services for our clients.  We’ve been with them for over five years.  We recently discovered a better, cheaper solution.  It wasn’t the cheaper that sold us.  It was the ease of use for our clients.

But cheaper doesn’t hurt.  And this was cheaper by a couple hundred dollars a month.

When I contacted the old vendor to cancel our service, guess what their immediate response was.

“We can match their price.”

What?  So you’ve been overcharging me for years?  Or you magically just had a price reduction to the very dollar amount of my new vendor and you were about to call and tell me about it?

Talk about leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Dropping your price to keep a customer is never a good strategy.  It can only make you and the client both feel taken advantage of and in the end, no one wins.

Your pricing strategy is one of the key components of your marketing message.  It speaks about things far beyond your cost.  It communicates value, customer attentiveness and how you view the relationship, both short and long term.  It’s not something you should just stumble into.  And it’s not something you should damage by mishandling a situation, like our old vendor did.

There’s an interesting couple articles over at Marketing Tips from the Trenches about how to think through a pricing strategy and how to test it.  Worth a read.

 

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Guilty of the frantic scramble in your marketing?

FranTarkentonI grew up in Minnesota in the 70s and I love football which meant that back when I was a kid, my world revolved around the Minnesota Vikings and our incredible quarterback, Fran Tarkenton.

At the time of his retirement, Fran owned EVERY major quarterback record out there. Fran was known as The Scrambler because he was famous for being able to pivot and run around in the backfield, dodging defensive players and giving his teammates time to elude a defender or get open for a pass.

He was something to behold. Off the field, he was articulate, intelligent and called a “thinking quarterback.”

I admired him on and off the field. He was a great role model. So no great surprise that when he retired, Fran successfully pursued other professional aspirations, including launching over 20 companies.

Being a scrambling quarterback was really the perfect training ground for Fran’s entrepreneurial efforts. Whether you run a huge corporation or a one man hot dog cart — owning a business is about scrambling for opportunities, dodging disasters and looking down the field, hoping you see the perfect play that will advance your efforts.

Sadly, marketing is never the biggest guy chasing you down. Which is why so many business owners let their marketing slack off or erratically cycle in and out.

Marketing is creating the game plan before the game and then executing it.  Sure, you call an audible now and then and change things up.  But, you mostly follow the plan.  When you plan/execute your marketing well, you can scramble after opportunities.  But you don’t wait until the need for marketing chases you.

Back in the 70s, during halftime and after every game (yes, even in the dead of MN winter), my neighborhood buddies and I would gather in our shared backyards to play a little football. So picture little Drew McLellan, out in the back yard, wearing his #10 Vikings jersey scrambling as I shouted that my teammate should go long. (Who doesn’t love that play?).

Fast forward to today — and I’m excited to tell you that a much older Drew McLellan got to be a guest on Fran Tarkenton’s radio show, aimed at entrepreneurs.  (listen to the segment by clicking here)

How cool is that? We talked about some of the challenges that business owners/leaders face when it comes to marketing, like:

  1. Marketing is not part of their daily routine — so they cycle. Go like crazy when things are slow and then do nothing when they’re flush. If the dry spell is too long, they go out of business.
  2. Chasing after new business and ignoring existing customers (spend time/money in the exact wrong way — it should be spent on employees, current customers and then prospects not the other way around).
  3. Marketing is too self centered/focused. Way too much me/we and not enough focus on the customers’ needs.
  4. Try to do too many different marketing tactics all at once and don’t do any of them for a long enough period of time or with enough depth. Better to do fewer but do them better.
  5. Business owners need an outside perspective. Why/how is their business different/unique? What is the value proposition that only they can offer? But they can’t figure it out on their own. It’s like trying to describe the outside of a bottle — if you are inside it. Can’t unknown what you know.

Are you suffering from any of those mistakes?  Are you so busy scrambling that you’re applying the same philosophy to your marketing?

Create a marketing game plan and follow it.  Leave the scrambling to other aspects of running your business.

Want to listen to Fran and I chatting about business?  You can listen to the live broadcast of the show this Saturday (June 8th) at 8-10 am CT or 3-5 pm CT on Sirius 104. Or you can listen on demand at siriousxm.com.  Get more details here on Fran’s radio show page.  Once I get the mp3 of the show, I’ll add it to this post as well.

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What do consumers want from brands?

PromisesThat’s the age-old question, isn’t it?

When you think about everything we’ve experienced in the last decade and a half – from the Y2K scare to 9/11, Iraq and then the recession – no wonder that a certain level of insecurity about the future has become a permanent part of our psyche as we ease into 2013.

What today’s consumers want most today is security and contentment. No doubt these wants are being shared by people’s economic outlook and circumstance, which most categorized as uneasy.

Interestingly, here are some other key needs that our consumers expect brands to help them fulfill. If you can help make one or more of these needs a reality – you will earn their business and their loyalty.

Security: Food, shelter, keep my house, increase my savings, bolster my retirement plan, a corporate job, being part of a movement but not a sole anarchist

Control: Frugality, effective money management, black and white answers that come from scientific pursuits, own business/entrepreneurship, self reliance (especially younger Millennials)

Consistency: Stable employment, stay at college, complete college

Proving self-worth: Value through charity work, striving to get promoted, finding a way to leave a legacy (Baby Boomers), training/learning something new rather than leisure time, constant resume buffering (especially Millennials), aggressive pursuit of success (older Millennial males in the US)

Honoring my needs first: Protecting my health, making healthier friendship and relationship choices, spending more time with people who have my genuine interests at heart, valuing private information more (Millennials)

Respect for others (but only if they show respect for me first): Rejection of greed and self-serving society as demonstrated by governments and corporations, helping others through volunteer pursuits

Liberty: Personal independence, time for me (Baby Boomers), take control of my investments (Baby Boomers), not oppressed/restricted by others schedules or technology

Progress: Pursuit of scientific invention and learning, further education, choice of foundations, supportive of organizations who take society forward in some way

Both Millennials and Baby Boomers believe leadership brands that are sincere and transparent have the ability to encourage them to bring out the best of themselves and progress society. In the absence of strong government and other institutional leaders, people anticipate, and may even demand, that brands step in and play the role of cultural reformers.

Here’s my take on this. Our marketplace is asking us to be much more than a seller of stuff. They’re expecting us to step up and inspire our internal team and our customers to work together to take charge of the problems facing our world. Think of it as corporate social responsibility – but on steroids. It’s not enough to write a check anymore – we have to also be willing to give our ideas, our passion and our sweat equity.

Think about how this might change the way you communicate about your company and the work you do. Think about how you could build a community of raving fans who don’t just talk about what you sell but more important – talk about what you believe.

Interesting times ahead.

 

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Marketing is getting the details right

Marketing is getting the details right.  And its always the simple things that companies mess up.  Lt me give you an example.

As you may know, I travel quite a bit. I’m a big believer in maximizing my travel by being a loyal brand consumer…which gains me status, points and makes my travel life easier and more convenient. I try to only fly United and whenever I can, I stay in a Marriott hotel.

That affords me sort of an insider’s view of both of these businesses but still interacting with them as one of their frequent consumers.

We’ve talked before about the value of seeing your business through your consumer’s eyes and I had an ah ha moment while staying in Nashville this past week.

Because I stay in a lot of hotels, I notice card keys. I’m fascinating at how different hotels use those card keys as marketing tools. Some sell it as advertising space to the local pizza joint while others use it as a brand platform, putting a beautiful visual on the card. I equate the quality of the hotel to the beauty of the card. When I stay at a Comfort Inn or Fairfield Inn — I get pizza coupons. When I stay at a Westin — their cards are a work of art they’re so beautiful.

platinumcardWhenever I check into a Marriott, I get a card that looks like this. The word elite indicates that I am a member of their Marriott Rewards program and have achieved their highest status level — platinum. As you can see, the card is pretty bland but it clearly is the platinum color…to signify my member rank.

Seems sort of dull, doesn’t it? It hardly says high end hotel to me. But this hotel is Gaylord‘s Grand Opry — a very high end hotel. By accident, they made me a “regular” key card too.

fancycardLook at how beautiful it is. (I was in their Magnolia wing) But Marriott assumes that the bland but “prestigious” card is what their most frequent customers would prefer.

I have often thought — “I wonder why Marriott has such ugly key cards compared to other higher end hotel chains” Turns out — they don’t. They just give the ugly cards to their best customers.

Here’s my ah ha moment — how often do we assume that we know what our best customers want? I’m sure Marriott thinks they’re stroking my ego by giving me the special platinum key card. But I assumed everyone got the ugly cards and I didn’t even notice that it was geared towards their elite members.

In my daughter’s college town, there are no Marriott properties so I just stay at either a Comfort Inn or something like that. Even their keys are more interesting than Marriott’s and every time I check in I think, “why can’t Marriott do better keys than these guys?”

Now I know. They do. They just don’t give them to their most frequent customers.

Is this a big deal? Absolutely not. But — that’s what marketing is. It’s the details. Most businesses get the big stuff right so how you differentiate yourself is in how well you handle the details. In my opinion, Marriott missed the boat on this one. Later this week I’ll show you a hotel that didn’t miss a single opportunity to build and highlight their brand.

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What it takes to create a successful email campaign

Email.  We hate it when our inbox is overflowing but we love the possibilities as marketers.  Email flows freely (sometimes too freely!) and because of that, I think we sometimes take it for granted.  We assume it has magical powers of some kind….and so when we want to reach an audience — we just fire off an email or three.

Probably not the best approach. Like any marketing tactic, it requires some planning, effort and follow through.  Our friends at agencyside (creators of the BOLO conference) developed this inforgraphic to outline what it actually takes to drive revenue from the inbox.

agencyside500

Click here to download a full-sized version.

Next time you want to use email to drive home a message, create sales or generate traffic for a specific outcome — don’t waste your time or the recipient’s.  Use this handy reminder to make sure you cover all the bases!

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Actually, it’s isn’t all about you

Gaston2At a recent jaunt to Disney World*, I found a great marketing reminder for us all.   Right in front of the brand new Gaston’s Tavern in Fantasyland, there’s a huge statue of…no shocker, Gaston. (For those of you unfamiliar with Beauty and the Beast — shame on you!).

In front of the statue is this plaque that reads:

Tribute to Gaston

An extravagantly generous gift to the humble people of my village.

From Me, Gaston

Of course…Gaston is the buffoon in the movie but all too often brands and companies get their Gaston on.  They behave as though it’s all about them.  They talk about themselves incessantly (go on…look at your website — who do you talk about?) and they behave as though they are a gift to the people they’re supposed to serve.

We laugh at the behavior when Gaston does it in the movie.  We shake our head when we talk about how “other” companies market this way -but when was the last time you did an honest gut check of your own marketing materials?

If you aren’t talking about what really matters to your potential customers and customers — odds are, you’re talking about yourself.

So a little message from Gaston and me — get over yourself and start focusing on sharing what you know/do in a way that actually helps and serves your clientele.

 

*Note:  Yes, I know I start a lot of posts with this sentence.  I’m a 12 year old boy trapped in a grown up’s body.  I can’t help it.

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