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Monday, August 29, 2011

Preserve Your Brand – Avoid these Common Marketing Mishaps

Photo from Rnjith Kishnan
Marketing is a complex, but critical part of any business.  Businesses need to create a marketing strategy and, unlike some management techniques or strategies, you cannot imitate the marketing strategies of others – as your efforts need to be tailored toward your business model, brand and target audiences. Businesses spend much time and energy on marketing to increase revenues, but even some of the highly innovative and most extravagant marketing efforts fall flat - costing companies millions. 

Here are five common marketing mishaps you should avoid with your efforts:
  1. Being Inconsistent with your Brand.  Although some companies have gone through the process of developing their brand (key messages and unique proposition statements), many employees within a company still have their own version when selling their products/services. These versions of the firms brand can change depending on who is receiving the information. The result? A confused consumer—unsure of  what your company does, who you are and how you are different than competitors.  The result: consumers are unable to convey your offering to anyone else as they are not sure what it is. Brand awareness is only built by consistently communicating your company’s position and identity each and every time, so that eventually your cnsumers will repeat your positioning exactly as you intend them to repeat it.  All employees are ambassadors of the brand and need to embrace its true meaning.
  2. Know your Audience.  Failing to market to your audience can cause you millions of dollars that could be revenue:
    • A few years ago, when Medicare recipients needed to sign up for the Medicare prescription drug program of their choice, those in charge of marketing the program were puzzled regarding why a large percentage of eligible people had not registered as the deadline drew near. At the time, the only way to sign up for the Medicare drug program was via the Internet. Can you think of anything wrong with that concept? Many members of the Medicare-eligible population do not know how to use the Internet, and are not interested in learning how to do so. Once alternative means of registering for the programs were devised, signups progressed more smoothly. This situation demonstrates one of the most common problems leading to marketing blunders. Marketers have to consider the motivations, needs, abilities and skill level of the target market at all times.
    • Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water. If you're one of the most popular beer brands in the world, it's a pretty safe bet that even your most loyal consumers would not be interested in buying bottled water from you. Case in point -- Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water. Spring water from the Rocky Mountains is indeed used during the brewing process of some Coors products. However, when bottled alone, it's missing one key ingredient -- alcohol. Apparently Coors customers just weren't that into buying water when it wasn't enhanced by additional ingredients like barley and yeast.New
    • New Coke. The Coca Cola Company spent a lot of time and money developing, distributing, and marketing New Coke only to discover that their customers were loyal to "old" Coke. Coca Cola drinkers are notoriously loyal, and had absolutely no interest in switching to a newer version of their favorite product. The moral of the story here is that change, just for the sake of doing something different, isn't a sound marketing strategy. 
    • McDonald's Arch Deluxe. In an effort to class up the McDonald's brand, the company created the Arch Deluxe, a product marketed towards adults with more sophisticated palates. Just one problem -- people don't go to McDonald's for sophistication. McDonald's customers know what they want, and what they want is a classic and convenient burger. Needless to say, when the Arch Deluxe debuted in 1996, consumers weren't lovin' it.
  3. Focusing on YOU instead of your Product/Service.  People don’t buy because you won awards, you do good deeds or that your company was started in their hometown back in 1923. People buy because of the attributes and benefits of what you can offer them. Focus your marketing on these and how you can help your consumer - that’s what they care about.
  4. Bad Translations in International Markets.  Expanding your business internationally is a big endeavor for your business and an exciting milestone.  Make sure you do your homework to avoid marketing embarrassments and failed efforts:
    • When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since most people can't read.
    • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine. 
    • Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave," in Chinese.
  5. For Professional Service Firms – Failure to Follow-up.  One of the biggest reasons why professional service marketing efforts fall flat is the lack of powerful follow-up.  These firms build business based on relationships.  The best marketing efforts can drive brand recognition, but the trust and rapport that is built during the “marketing” process is what sells.  And this selling takes time.  It’s important to stay in front of people consistently so that when they’re ready to buy you’ll be there. People usually need to be exposed to a marketing message several times before making a decision to purchase. Another reason to stay top of mind with your prospects and clients is that they may not be ready to purchase but they may know someone else who is. By staying in front of them with consistent follow up, they’ll have the information, confidence and trust to refer you to their friends, family, associates and others.
Marketing cannot be rushed.  Take time to do your research, plan your efforts and execute to provide unique benefits to your consumers. 
To read more mistakes companies have made with their marketing, here is an interesting article I read on

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Winning Your Social Media Efforts – A Strategic Approach

Social Media is one of the fastest growing marketing mediums for companies.  Hundreds of millions of people are using them to communicate, and companies are harnessing the power of various sites.  The key to success with using social media is planning.  Without a plan your efforts may or may not have any value to your brand or your revenue potential. 

Initially, ensure you answer the following three questions.

1.     What are your objectives of using social media? You need to know what you want to achieve from your social media efforts and have measurable objectives to track effort.  Are you using the medium to:

·         create awareness for your brand
·         generate leads for potential sales
·         drive traffic to website
·         informational - communicate key messages (overall company or a specific site to promote an effort)
·         recruiting
·         promote civic responsibility

Note: As you plan, you should remember that the main goal of social media is to develop a good relationship that can lead to increased revenues.  Sales will come after you have established a relationship. 

2.     Who is your target audience? Understand your target audience and the social media outlet that will yield the greatest ROI for your efforts (Facebook may be better for younger executives, recruiting purposes or for retail based companies, where LinkedIn may be more suitable for making connections for professional service organizations).

3.     Do you have time to dedicate to social media?  If you do not have a person who can dedicate some time to ensure consistency in updating your social media sites, you lose the credibility of your efforts which impacts revenue potential.

Once you have your strategy and plan in place, here are some tips to help you succeed with your efforts:

  • Sites should have meaning and a reason to visit – Your Hook.  You need to provide meaningful content for people to continue to visit your social media site.  To build rapport, share content that is related to your brand, the industry you are in, and other things you think your fans and followers would like to see. Keep them coming back for more by providing content that they can gain from.  To add an extra punch to your efforts, offer free items to demonstrate your differentiation and ability to help them (e-books, free products/samples, white papers, coupons, etc.).  
  • Have a call to action. What is the essence of a marketing campaign without having a call to action of some sort? I suggest you use your social marketing campaigns to generate leads before trying to sell anything –these can be “signup below,” “call us now,” or “Click to view examples of…” (which directs them to your website). 
  • Track your social media effectiveness. Have a dedicated person handle your company’s social media efforts. He/She can ensure consistency of posts and analyze the status of social media efforts.  Facebook has some good analytical tools.  Or, you can use sites such as HootSuite, TweetAdder and SocialOomph to manage your accounts. TweetAdder is very user-friendly (and it’s free).  SocialOomph is very powerful as well (don’t get overwhelmed with the enormous number of capabilities and feel obliged to use them all).
  • If you are Blogging, timing can be EVERYTHING.  Social media statistics report that Mondays and Thursdays in the early morning (between 6-8 am) is the best time to post new blog content   In terms of link building and search engine optimization, this is one of those super-important bits of Best Practice information to keep in mind.  However, you need to blog when it makes most sense for your information (be timely). To read more on blogging tips, visit Technorati.
  • Niche vs. Big Picture.  Following the success of major social media sites, there was a big increase in the number of niche-specific social media sites that began popping up. While these sites tend to have smaller audiences than the major social media sites, they present excellent opportunities to get your content in front of a targeted audience. You’ll receive fewer visitors from a front page appearance on a niche social media site compared to a front page visit on a major social media site, but a higher percentage of those visitors will fall into your target market. 
  • Ensure you have a social media policy for your company.  Social media is now a mainstream form of communication. So, just like in the old days when companies had to figure out how to deal with email, now they have to figure out how to deal with Facebook and all other new media venues.  Employees need to understand that they are brand representatives.  If they associate themselves with your company on their social networking sites, their actions have a direct impact on the reputation of your company.  I recommend you get with an Labor and Employment attorney (I can recommend a few if you need one), to help you craft an appropriate policy for your company.  To see examples of what other firms have created, visit  Social Media Today 
Be persistent with your efforts.  It may take you a bit to fine tune your efforts.  In the end, social media can be an important marketing tool for your company.  Here’s to your success with social media marketing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

It’s all about Differentiation: Think Outside the Box

Marketing is about being strategic.  This means you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors.  Think outside the box when communicating your key messages and value propositions.  Here are a few innovative ways companies are thinking outside the box to differentiate themselves:
·    Bags: For those that provide bags with your purchase or even at trade shows, think outside the box.  Here are a few creative ideas that are being used in Europe (to see more, click here).

·    Business Cards: Capitalize on your business card real estate.  Utilize the back of your business cards to market your business (QR codes, recognize a promotion, highlight key services/products, etc.). 

·    Location of ads: Pinpoint Promotions is introducing a new product that they've been testing at the Milford headquarters: a large ad print on an adhesive-backed surface that can be installed anywhere. It can be a doormat or a sidewalk logo, because the material is non-skid and weather-proof. Read more

·    Videos:  People are visual.  Use video at trade shows, on your website or in presentations to provide a memorable way to communicate key messages.

·    Direct Mail:  Make it stand out.  Netflex uses creative art on their envelopes as an easy identifier.  Differentiate.

617ade2a156b23f0a77d1ce309abb7b6 Netflix Envelope Art Guerilla Marketing Example

·    Billboards that standout. Being memorable is key for these as you only have a few seconds to communicate your message.  Here are some innovative ideas.

·    Standout with call-to-action campaigns.  A national accounting firm had a great way to get in the door with key CFOs.  Through an innovative targeting approach, they selected a handful of companies they wanted to have as clients.  They researched who the CFO was and what his/her shoe size was.  They sent the CFO one shoe (of an expensive, well-known shoe brand).  To get the other shoe, all the CFO had to do is take a 1-hour meeting with the firm.  It got the firm in the door every time.  Be different when targeting your potential customers.

·    Bench Marketing Kit-Kat not only advertises via televised media, they hit major cities with bench advertising. See more

8f21b7e0f8119132eec4ee2089bcc0d3 15 Clever Bench Guerrilla Marketing Examples Guerilla Marketing Example

      In the end it is knowing your target and what will appeal to them.  Then, it’s time to be creative and stand out in a competitive market.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Targeting: Without it, You are Wasting Time and Money

We all hear it and think we know it.  But do we really know who our customers are?  What triggers their buying?  Do they have cultural, social, personal or psychological characteristics that impact their buying behaviors? Are your current customers really your ideal customers?  The answers to these questions help marketing professionals ensure success of marketing efforts and help your business work smarter to increase revenues.

Targeting the wrong customers is one of the most common pitfalls for businesses. Having a well-defined strategy for determining which customers/sales opportunities to pursue creates efficiency and success faster than any other activity. 
Marketing must know its current and ideal customer inside and out.  Without this knowledge, money is wasted on initiatives that may or may not generate new customers or sales. Consumer and target markets must be clearly defined.  It's not uncommon for a business to have to refocus and revisit their targeting, especially if it has not been clearly identified – which creates a slowdown in the revenue generating process.
As you are identifying your customer and target base, think about the following:
  • What are you selling?  Are there growth areas you need to support?
  • Who needs these products/services?
  • Do you need a channel marketing strategy to meet different customers?
  • Are there geographic considerations for selling your product/services?
  • Do different geographic areas require different pricing? 
  • Are there industry differences in your customer base?
  • What are the demographics of your customers (age, education, etc)? 
  • How often do your customers buy?  Where do they buy?
  • Are we in a saturated market? Financial implications?
  • What is our market share by customer base?  Is this where we want it to be?
  • Should you conduct any market research to better understand your target customer? (new markets, new product segment, want to better understand who needs your product/services) 
Bottom line: Targeting is cricital for success.  Doing business without knowing what your target market is will prevent you from reaching your objectives: increased sales, market share or brand awareness.  
Want more?  I read a good article on defining your target market on the Inc. website.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Be Proactive: Marketing Planning for Bottom Line Results

The premise of business is identifying the people most likely to hire you for your work or buy your products and develop a “relationship” with them to demonstrate why your services/products are a better solution for them over competitors.  The end result is a win-win situation for your business and your clientele.

Marketing is an important activity that helps businesses “sell” products/ services.  A marketing plan prepares your business to be proactive in what the market does. Without one, you end up reacting to changes and to competition, which means you are always a step behind those who are already prepared. A marketing plan is crucial to being ready to deal with the changes in your competitive landscape.  A marketing plan helps you stay competitive and focused.

Marketing Planning = Efficient Time Allocation and Increased Revenue Potential

Marketing planning is important to all size businesses.  Business generation efforts have greater potential for success when there is a plan in place.  A plan helps you evaluate and track ROI and effectiveness of strategies to help meet a business’ growth and financial objectives.  For long-term success, marketing planning should be focused at the types of clients you want to have and tie them into growth objectives of the firm.
Building a plan takes time, but has instrumental value when implemented.  Elements to evaluate when starting your marketing plan include:
·         Situational Analysis of company
o   Goals/focus
o   Target Audiences/Market (Who are your customers?  Who do you want to be your customers?)
o   Strengths/Opportunities
o   Threats/Weaknesses
o   Competitive Landscape
·    Marketing Strategy to achieve company goals/objectives (what marketing initiatives will do to help meet the business’ goals)
·    Marketing Tactics (recommendations for multichannel initiatives to drive results)
§  Mass marketing and niche marketing
§  Web
§  Social media
§  Print
§  Sponsorships
§  Events
§  Business Development/targeting initiatives
§  Pricing strategies
§  Advertising/Promotional activity
§  Internal marketing
§  Cross-selling/Up-selling
·         Marketing budget and resources needed to achieve marketing strategy
·         High-level implementation schedule and tracking milestones

Put your marketing plan in a three-ring binder. Refer to it at least quarterly, but better yet monthly. Leave a tab for putting in monthly reports on status; this will allow you to track performance as you follow the plan.
Overall, if you have a good marketing plan in place you will have a business that is in control of itself.

To view sample marketing plans templates visit: