Take Chances

I sat in on an online presentation, or webinar if you prefer, that was titled Be a Non-traditional Marketer -Smart Ways to Brand Build and Boost Sales. At the onset, they asked the audience the following question and gave them three answers to choose from.

How would you best describe your marketing efforts.

1. Traditional

2. Mix of traditional and non-traditional

3. Avant-garde

First off, the question is way too vague. What is traditional to me may be avant-gaurd to you. Or vice-versa. So the results to this question mean very little. But the question did get me thinking. What answer should a good marketing department give to this question? Avant-garde sounds cool. I surely want to be viewed that way. But my feeling is that #2 is the only good answer and here is why.

“Traditional” is defined as a specific practice of long standing. And its of long standing for a reason. It works to a certain degree. So in most instances, traditional marketing should be the foundation of any marketing program. Things like proper messaging, pricing, determining your target audience, defining your competitive advantage, etc are all still very important.  But if you stop there you’re as good as dead. You need to take chances when it comes to marketing. You need to go beyond traditional.

This is one of my most recent favorites of a company that took a chance and went beyond traditional marketing. Its a “Case Study” done by Heineken. Be sure to watch through to the end to see the results of this marketing effort. It was amazing.

Heineken Case Study – Champions League Match vs Classical Concert

So what chances are you taking to set your company apart?

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I lied

A while back I wrote a post titled “Never offer a discount.” I even wrote a second post on the subject of offering discounts which you can read here. Both posts discuss the reasons that you should never offer a discount. In a nutshell, you should provide value and keep your prices firm. Don’t cheapen your brand. Yadda, yadda, yadda…well, I’ve changed my mind…sort of.

Recently, my company offered its first discount in over 20 years. It was not something that came easily. There was plenty of internal discussion about the effects of doing such a thing. But ultimately we did. And here is why.

Everyone knows we are in difficult times.  And the staffing industry is no different. But when the subject of offering a discount came up, it was always a short discussion. Nope, we’re not doing that. Eventually, however, we decided that as a long time contributor to the success of so many companies in Silicon Valley and around the country, it was time for us to give back a little and show some support. The unusual economic times dictated it. So we did. And we wrote up a nice letter explaining why we were doing it.

So while I said “never offer a discount,” there are clearly times when it makes sense. And those times are not when you are desperate for business but when you are providing support to your community.

Distraction vs. engagement

Are your attempts at gaining new customers simply distractions to try and get their attention or methods for engaging them? There is a big difference.

Most attempts by companies to gain new customers are simply eye catching images, loud audio, bright colors and so on. They attempt to distract us from what we are doing and push the product or service into our face. Louder, brighter, flashier, more shocking. Repeat and distract. Short term (as in a few seconds) this may work, but long term, very little is accomplished.

Look to engage your target audience. Provide value to them. Instructional videos, expert advice, daily blog postings, white papers, anything that will engage them and leave them better off than before they came in contact with your company. Do this well and they will seek you out.

Engage don’t distract.

Marketing Key #6 of 13

Marketing Key #6 – Customer referrals are key to growth

Referrals and endorsements are an important part of any business. There is nothing more powerful than a friend or trusted colleague recommending a product or service. But there is an important difference between product or service referrals. Let’s examine.

Product: Let’s say your neighbor knows you need a new lawn mower. He loves his and recommends that you buy the same model. At this point there are a number of things you might do. Maybe ask your neighbor if you can try his lawn mower out. Maybe head to the local Home Depot to speak with someone and see how much it costs. Maybe even check out Consumer Reports to see how they rate the model. Lot’s of solid options to take advantage of before making your decision. And let’s say you do buy the lawn mower and it does not work out, you always have the option of returning it.

Service: Let’s say the same neighbor knows you are looking for someone to mount a flat screen TV on your wall. He had someone do the same thing about 6 months ago and has all sorts of good things to say about the guy. So now what are your options? You can have the guy come out and give you a estimate, but that’s about it. There’s no testing. No expert at your local store. And certainly no returning it if you are not happy.

This is the main difference. I have said this many times, its all about trust when it comes to purchasing a service. And for the most part, people trust referrals from people they know. Referrals are a key component to growing a service business.

Angie’s List, yelp, etc.

The explosion of user generated content on the web has created an entirely new way to market a service. Sites like Angies List and yelp allow joe or jane public to post their experience for virtually any service they have utilized. Laundromat, contractor, doctor, restaurant, dog walker, etc. If the service exists, its probably been rated by everyday customers like yours on one of these sites.

So how can you leverage this? A few ways.

The first step is to check to see if your company already appears on any of these sites. There is a good chance someone has already written something about you. If so, respond to it. And do it in writing on the site if allowed. Thank those that say good things about you and see what you can do to make those that criticize you happy. Customers don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to fix something that isn’t right.

Second, encourage happy customers to go to these sites and post their experience with your service. And make sure you thank them if they do. Also, if there are customers that made negative comments about you and you in turn did something to make them happy customers again, ask them to post their experience so other customers can see how you respond to problems. This is invaluable.

Third, once your reviews on these sites are under control (you’ve thanked those that like your service and fixed problems for those that don’t), encourage potential customers to look at what has been said about you. Mention it somewhere on your website, maybe mention it in a conversation.

One last thing, never argue with someone on one of these sites. It will only get ugly. Approach it like you are having a conversation in front of a million potential customers. Which you are. Stay professional and fair no matter what is posted about you.

The future of advertising your service

I attended a panel discussion last week called “The Future of Online Advertising.” The panel consisted of Jennifer Reynolds: Director, Worldwide Advertising/Campaign Expression at Adobe, Brian Axe: Director of Product Management for AdSense at Google, Jed Nahum: Business Integration Director, AdECN at Microsoft and Amir Ashkenazi: CEO and Co-Founder at adap.tv. The panel was moderated by Emanual Rosen, author of The Anatomy of Buzz: How to create word of mouth marketing. The discussion was quite good, but the common theme that was continually reiterated throughout the evening was relevance and value.

Advertising, no matter what the medium, MUST be relevant to the intended audience and it MUST provide value. But this is especially true online. Its so easy for a user to click ON an ad or click AWAY from an ad.

This point could not have been driven home more clearly than when Brian (the guy from Google) said, “I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but I’d like to see fewer ads out there but more relevant ads.”

I look at it this way. If you are at a party with 100 people, who are you most likely to engage with or converse with? Probably the guy that talks about things that are relevant to your interests and the one that provides conversation you find valuable. That’s the guy you want to talk to and that’s the guy you probably want to connect with on Facebook or Linkedin when you get home. The same is true of advertising online. The only difference being, its much easier to get away from an annoying ad than it is an annoying party guest.

Be relevant to your audience and provide content they will value.