27 Apr

Advertising is dead…or is it?

I read Seth Godin’s blog and her referred to this story of “How KitKat became number 1”. It describes how KitKat, through a very patient and subtle promotion got their product go from an un-cool brand to a best seller with the kids.
There are three things that I think anyone can learn from this, no matter what your product or service is:
1. To get somewhere in a promotion or marketing activity you have to plan. These guys had a very clear strategy with an end-goal and specific steps in place. It wasn’t simply a great idea; it was a great idea with a great plan.

2. Understanding the audience. A key to their success was that they understood that traditional advertising has no credibility with their audience. The essence of their campaign was word of mouth advertising. I wonder, does traditional advertising have any credibility with your audience?

3. They took their time
. Creating interest and influencing behaviour takes time. You are dealing with people, and people need time to adjust, to accept.

22 Apr

The power of change

I’ve been trying to think about what all of the work I do with customers has in common. Because marketing covers so many different aspects, we get involved in everything from identifying new market opportunities to branding, direct marketing, internet marketing, call centres, you name it.
I just read an interview with Seth Godin (whom some or all of you may know as leading voice in marketing) and what struck me that he noted that he only sells one thing; change.

I can identify with that. I want to change my customers marketing performance; the tools are not important, the strategies will all be different but the outcome will have to be change.

I’ve has some customers who didn’t want that. They wanted me to do what they had in mind. I found out pretty quickly that this doesn’t work with our business, because if we can’t change what is being done, we can’t change the outcomes.

We have to be agents of change.

18 Apr

B2B Marketing Series – What’s different?

What is the difference between Consumer (B2C) and Business (B2B) Marketing?

I read this interesting (albeit a bit academic) take on the difference between B2B and B2C on the website of the American Marketing Association. Note the observation about long sales cycles, small number of customers and sales focused on key account management. Because of these characteristics a lot of companies believe that all they need to do is hire a sales person. They are selling themselves short.

Apart from the reliance on individuals (who may come and go) to control your destiny, there are some fantastic opportunities these days that can enhance your marketing performance. And current technology offers a fantastic opportunity. Let’s look at two key functions of marketing, communications and customer satisfaction.

Creating longterm relationships – generally relationships exist on a sales and technical level, but not at a corporate level. Creating a relationship at a corporate level has a number of advantages. A significant one is that if your sales person leaves, they don’t take the relationship with them. How?

  • Start with a corporate customer/prospecting database that can be used effectively to communicate with prospects/customers.
  • Conduct at least two small events a year; could be anything from a drink to a full-blown product launch.
  • Find out how you can use your website to let your customers communicate with you directly, i.e providing feedback, access to information that is important to them etc.

Creating value – what do you do to deliver value to your customers? Is it a good product and good customer service?
It is easy to end up making decisions based on anecdotal information from feedback from sales people or technical people. Use this as a starting point to explore other opportunities.

  • Find out what your competitors do – even a internet based search and some targeted telephone calls to partners and customers are a good start.
  • Ask your customers – conduct regular surveys; if you have good relationships you can do this via email and internet at virtually no cost to your organisation
13 Apr

Understanding your target market

I have started to use Firefox as my browser a while ago (and I like it a lot). They have been extremely successful in marketing this (free) new browser, even getting recognised as “one of the top 10 most influential brands. (Always take that with a grain of salt; read the disclaimer about their research sample..)

The software is an “open source” software application, meaning that other developers are encouraged to help develop and add-on to the product. They have taken a similar route in their advertising encouraging users to create a TV commercial for them. This is a lot of fun, but what is really powerful is how well they understand their audience; read the brief below. Could you describe your customers in such detail?

The primary target audience for the Firefox advertising campaign are moderately experienced Web users, who are comfortable with using the Web but are not necessarily power users. These users understand how to download and install software, and use the Web for basic activities: reading news, web-based email, limited online shopping and banking. They may rely as much on the physical Yellow Pages as they do Yahoo! or Google. They may also have had negative experiences with the Web as a result of spyware, viruses and other Web nuisances. Yet they see the value in the Web, and so return. But they likely do not clearly understand how a Web browser can
improve their Web experience.

12 Apr

Brand schmand? Does it really matter in B2B?

Our customers almost exclusively deal business to business. The reason we focus on this specific segment is because they tend to have limited in-house marketing resources, so we can fill a gap in a flexible format. As a rule, B2B companies in the SME space have a management team consisting of a CEO/Business owner as well as a Sales, Finance and Operations Manager.
Selling is the key marketing activity. And clearly, selling is the most important marketing function in B2B.
Marketing is generally equated with advertising, which is on the nose (and often for good reasons). Marketing is not seen as a strategic tool, because it is often not understood. The Accenture report I referred to in my last post pointed this out too, but related more to large corporate companies (with Marketing Managers) rather than SME’s who have no internal marketing champion.

Take branding. When recently discussing a proposed tagline with a customer they insisted on using a tagline that would explain what they do. I argued that we need to aim for an emotional response, not a factual one. I read an interesting article in MarketingProfs by Kevin Randall, which has an interesting observation:

People say that they are not influenced by advertisements, but data and client spending suggest otherwise. In the early-to-mid 1980s, IBM did
not have the best computer systems or pricing. “Big Blue,” however, became the enterprise systems market leader because you never got fired for buying IBM (same with Cisco today). IT Directors “bought” a relationship, company,
reputation, service, people, assurance. In other words, they bought
goodwill or the brand.

I still believe that most marketing services are aimed at either large corporate or FMCG organisations, not business-to-business, not SME. They need a combination of marketing services, rather than point solutions. From help with analysing opportunties to branding, to marketing communications and customer satifaction/loyalty programs.

A great opportunity for progressive B2B companies, a great opportunity for marketing firms.

07 Apr

Accenture report : Marketing: Underrated, Undervalued and Unimportant?

Always an interesting topic; what do other people in the organisation think of marketing? According to this Accenture article it is not very good news; marketing rates poorly as a contributor to a companies success.

The article than has this to say:

“So why is marketing getting so little respect or support from top executives around the world? We believe that two principal factors are at the root of the issue. The first factor, quite simply, is that many senior executives do not fully understand the role and purpose of marketing within their company—due, in part, because senior executives tend to have finance or operations, not marketing, backgrounds. According to Chief Executive magazine, just 12 percent of Fortune 700 CEOs have worked in marketing at some point in their careers.”

I agree that few people understand the function of marketing, but whose fault is that? Most CEO’s do understand the value of sales, even though they largely come from an operations or finance background.

If you are a marketer and you can’t demonstrate/communicate your own value in a firm, how are you going to demonstrate your companies value to a customer? The answer Accenture comes up with is a bit self-serving; it’s all about CRM of course and it won’t come as a surprise that the author, Patrick O’Halloran is a partner in the Accenture Customer Relationship Management group….

Marketers should identify their own performance measurement criteria and negotiate with other senior managers to get access to the tools they need, just like a production manager must argue his case for a new machine. Just maybe, a lot of marketers are not that keen on accountability?

06 Apr

It may not be a great business tool yet, but…

When you see stats like this every marketer should pay attention:

These figures show the growth of blogging sites, and it’s phenomenal. I am interested to see how the local aspect of blogging will take shape, especially from a business perspective. Because let’s face it, for a business in Melbourne Australia there is not a lot of value in being wel-known in Seattle unless you actually turn your blog into an advertising site, which I’m not interested in.
The non-local nature of the Internet has always been a key weakness. In Australia the largest telco, (51% Government owned) launched an Australian specific search engine searching the web, the yellow and white pages, etc. Not sure how successful it is, but the concept of being able to use the Internet to specifically communicate locally makes as much sense as it does to communicate globally, depending on what your goals are.

04 Apr

A bit of thinking goes a long way

I had a good chat with one of my customers today, who is the General Manager in a $15 M firm. The company is family owned and has a great offering. There are a couple of problems though; as a typical entrepeneur driven company, there is not a lot of structure or deliberation behind their decisions; owner makes gut-feel decisions, General Manager implements, venture may be succesful, may fail. He gave me a couple of examples that would make your hair stand on end.

Since we have just completed some work for this firm, I sat down to have a chat about what we can do next. The GM only had one thing on his mind; help me convince the owner that the next time there is “a great opportunity” knocking, let’s have a good look at it, and put a little science behind our hunch.

Does this sound familiar? How many entrepeneurs are more than happy to spend a few $100k on an opportunity they recognise, but baulk at spending $10k to evaluate it? Is it ego or is it lack of confidence in other peoples judgment?

02 Apr

Dialogue, back and forth…let me hear your voice

All the technology is telling me that a fair few people do read this blog. That’s encouraging, and I will keep this up, improve on it while I’m at it… But I would very much appreciate a bit of feedback, so why don’t you drop in a comment, voice your opinion, let me know what you think. That’s what it’s all about after all. And thanks for reading my blog of course.

01 Apr

Word of Mouth – Democratising Marketing

I read this post from a Kerry Stranman, a contributor to the Word Of Mouth Marketing Organization (WOMMA) about Democratizing Marketing…that title put me off a bit (it has that “advertising agency” flavour to it), but the gist is interesting; marketers are losing control over “the message” they wish to deliver because customers can now directly communicate with massive audiences of other customers via the Internet. If it’s great, they’ll spread the word, if it’s bad they will too…

Right now, you may think that this doesn’t relate to your business. That your customers don’t look online for information about your type of services or your company.

I don’t care what anyone says; within the next couple of years what you do online will be just as important as what you do offline; it’s only a matter of time. Why? Because when people buy stuff there are two things they will always want to know: am I getting the best value for money? Can I trust this product/brand?

People’s networks are the first place where they look for this information, and the growth in online networks or communities are phenomenal. Maybe no one is talking about your product or service yet. But how long before they will?