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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In marketing the constant is change

ChangeSwitchYou know, the annoying thing about clichés is that they’re based in truth, even though that truth may be a bit worn in places. And lately I’ve been very aware of the idiom “the only constant is change” as it relates to business and especially to marketing.

Maybe it’s always been this way and our parents and grandparents had to wrestle with constant change too, but it seems to me that the acceleration curve has gotten incredibly steep over the last 15 or 20 years.

For example, when I started my career, computers were certainly a part of the mix but we never showed a client a computer-generated layout. We’d take mock ups that were drawn in pencil and very rough. Today, we upload PDFs to our extranet and they look practically finished before we’ve even begun.

I get it…I’m the first one to espouse the convenience of our new way of doing business. I love that we can work with clients (and partners) from all over the world – digitally sharing files, ideas and collaborating.

So while I long for the showmanship of the old days, I do appreciate what we have today. But sometimes it also makes me a little tired to think about.

Here’s our reality as business people. It’s never done. No matter how successful your business is – it’s in transition. Every day.

There’s a new technology or a new consumer trend right around every corner. And to stay relevant and profitable, there’s no hiding from them.

Today and tomorrow, I am leading a marketing workshop and one of the things we’ll talk about is mobile and how quickly it became a key element in any marketing strategy. I know what I’ll see. While some of them were anticipating this tsunami of a trend, others were either not ready for it or aren’t looking forward to facing it.

So how do we keep up? How do we stay current and able to anticipate what the next change is going to be so we can get a running start?

Read. Do you know that most business leaders don’t read anything more than their local newspaper? Are you kidding me? Turn off the TV and read a book a month. Find the top ten blogs in your field and subscribe to them. Find the most controversial, far out there publication or blog in your industry an subscribe to that too. It’s better to anticipate too much than get blinded by something.

Attend. Trade show and professional development attendance has been dropping since the recession took a big bite out of everyone’s travel budgets. It’s time to put some money back on that line item. You need to go and listen to experts. You need to hang out with peers and share stories and resources.

Teach. One of the best ways to learn is to commit to teach others. Make sure your entire staff is ready for what’s coming. More important, teach them how to recognize the trends and track them, so you don’t have to be the only one doing it. If you know you have to conduct a class, even if it’s an informal one, you’re much more likely to keep sharp.

There are lots of ways to stay current but it all starts with the attitude of recognizing that it’s a part of your job and it’s one of the ways you keep your company relevant and profitable.

In our world…you either keep up or you quickly become irrelevant.  Don’t be the marketing pro who is still spouting off about the latest and greatest — from 5 years ago.  Find a way to stay current and keep your clients/business there too.

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Moving your prospects to the next step

BabyStepsWhen you’re creating any sort of communication aimed at a potential buyer, you want them to do what?

When I ask this question, I typically hear a range of answers like:

• Know more about our business
• Understand how we’re better than our competitors
• Wonder if we’re the right fit for them

And of course….

• Buy what we sell!

All of that is probably true. But it’s too complicated. No matter how or where we’re communicating with a prospect, what we should want them to do is… take the next step.

Your job is simply moving your prospect to the next step.

That next step might be downloading an ebook, filling out the bounce back postcard to get a no obligation quote, emailing us with questions, signing up for a workshop, clicking on the buy now button or picking up the phone to schedule a meeting.

The answer is…we want them to take the next step in the sales cycle, whatever that may be. You want the reader (or listener or viewer) to do something to escalate the conversation. At that moment – you are talking to them. You want them to talk back somehow. And your copy should tell them exactly what to do.

I can hear you now… “I don’t have to tell them to call me. They’re not stupid. They know it’s an ad.” Very true. They’re not stupid. But they are incredibly busy, fragmented and they’re probably doing three other things while they flip through that magazine that houses your ad or click to the page on your website that has your workshops on it.

A call to action isn’t a remedy for stupid; it’s a remedy for their attention deficit. Its purpose is to get them to step out of a passive role and take a more active one. Because you have about 2 seconds before they change the channel, turn the page or click on the clapping monkey animated GIF that will take them away from your offer.

How do you write copy that captures their attention for that millisecond so they’ll take action?

Be very specific and direct: You need to spell it out for them and it needs to be simple. Click here to sign up or call XXX-XXXX to schedule an appointment. This isn’t the place to be cute or vague. You don’t even have to be polite and add a “please: or “thank you.” Just give them simple instructions that leave no room for doubt.

Focus on the benefit: Remember, you are trying to stop a moving train. They’re halfway to that next click or page turn. To get them to stop that momentum and move in a different direction will take something pretty compelling. Remember that we’re all motivated by the “what’s in it for me” equation so don’t be shy about telling them how they will benefit.

Keep it simple: If what you ask them to do is complicated, requires multiple steps, has complex directions or asks for too much information, — they will just move on. How many times have you started to fill out a form and then looked at how many questions it asked and said, “forget it” as you stopped?

Make it immediate: Sometimes this isn’t possible but whenever you can, make the call to action something they can complete right now in the moment. Remember, they might discover your ad or marketing piece at 2 am or while they’re standing in line at an airport.

For most organizations, a sale is a multi-step, complicated process. So keep that in mind as you create your calls to action. You’ll have a lot more success getting people to take one baby step at a time. Just give them the steps.

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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Touching my heart doesn’t necessarily touch my wallet

Two of the best Superbowl commercials from yesterday were by Budweiser (no shock) and Jeep (a little more surprising).  Lots of tweets and FB updates mentioned “tearing up” as they watched them.  I reacted the same way.

The Budweiser spot:

 

The Jeep spot:

 

Both spots were really well done and very heart tugging.  I will admit, I got a little teary-eyed during both of them too. But neither spot had me reaching for my wallet.  I really, really do not like Bud beer.  I love their brand, their Clydesdales and their lore.  But nothing they do could get me to become a regular Bud drinker.

I don’t have those same kind of feelings about a Jeep.  I like them and I’ve even test driven them in the past.  But, I’m not in the market for a new truck, so Jeep’s spot didn’t have me changing my shopping plans either.

The spot made me appreciate that they invested that kind of money to honor our country’s troops but even if I was in the market, that wouldn’t be the tipping point.

Both spots are a good reminder that playing the emotion card alone usually isn’t enough to earn a new customer. We buy based on emotion, that is true.  But we also need something more.  Features, facts and need.

Brand building ads like Bud’s and Jeep’s earn brand respect and affinity. The spots probably had more of an effect on their current customers (who now have their buying decision reinforced) than prospects.  But for some people who might not be in the market today — these spots certainly didn’t discourage interest.

For those of us who can’t afford a Super Bowl commercial the lesson is even more important.  On a more finite budget — we need to be sure we find a balance between emotion and facts. Either alone just won’t get the job done.

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Bring your marketing to life

image[1]For the past decade, we’ve been talking about experiential marketing. It’s not enough to create an awareness of your product — you need to, when you can, connect with your consumers (B2B or B2C) in as tangible and memorable a way as possible.

So it shouldn’t really surprise us that TV spots are literally living the flat screen and moving into our 3D world.  And the TV spot component of this isn’t the mandatory part.  You could create this sort of experience off a trade show booth or product launch in lots of different ways.

image[4]A great example is what the folks at Axe have been up to.  They’re launching a new line of product called Apollo.

Yes, the did the obligatory TV spot, which you’ll see during the Superbowl (watch it below). But they also came alive in a couple ways.  First… Axe astronauts are showing up in crazy places, like Times Square and the subway.  They’re handing out products and a chance to win a trip to space. Yes… a real trip to space.  You can enter at by clicking here.  They even held a press conference with Buzz Aldrin to announce their Axe Apollo Space Academy.

Check out their TV spot:

What makes all of this so interesting is that — a TV commercial isn’t enough anymore.  Even a Superbowl TV spot.  You’ve got to be able to breathe life (literally) into your campaigns so they capture people’s attention, imagination and ultimately, interest.

So how can you, who probably don’t have Axe’s marketing budget, do the same thing?

Go where your customers go — and stand out:  Don’t just be at the tradeshow in your logo wear and expect them to notice you.  You’ve got to take the risk and be a little outrageous.  Gauge it to your audience but do what most people would call “a crazy idea.”

Extend the campaign into your prospect’s lives:  You need to hop off the webpage, printed page or TV screen and “come alive” in some way.  Do you need to don a space suit and walk around Time Square?  Hardly.  But figure out ways you can take some 3D form in their world.  Maybe it’s as simple as providing them with a tool they’ll use every day.

Know your audience: Axe knows their 15-25 year old male audience and plays to them perfectly. If your audience was female attorneys 40+, you probably wouldn’t be giving away a trip to space.  Experiential marketing is not a one size fits all deal.  You need to tailor fit your choices.

How might you bring your marketing “off the page”?

 

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