I see a lot of motivational memes, videos, etc. floating around the Internet. Many with a similar theme, “Don’t ever give up”, “Work harder”, “Put in the extra effort”, “Chase your dreams and keep going until you get them.” While many of these are good messages, I think there is also a danger in this thread of constantly pushing. Hard charging forward 24/7 can be exhausting. Moreover, if you don’t have the energy to “Go for it!” these messages can be demoralizing.
I have a smaller, perhaps humbler, message. Little victories. You don’t need to take on the world. You need to get up in the morning and charge up that hill, screaming like a banshee. I find small victories (baby steps if you will) to be just as satisfying. I do set my intentions on a weekly and daily basis, often in the evening when things are quiet so I can consider what I would like to accomplish the following day. Those accomplishments may not be grand or worthy of a sonnet, but they keep be moving forward. Every now and then, I have a burst of energy and the projects and details are just coming together so I go with it and ride that wave. However, when the energy is not there and every moves feels like slogging through mud I go back to the small steps. The accomplishments that keep me in the race, albeit at a slower pace.
When those days arise, and they do, when I can’t even manage that, then I rest. I take the time knowing that even the boldest and bravest of us need to rest and recharge before they can return to the fray and chase that dream again.
Take good care of yourself.
Of the all disciplines in business, marketing is one if the few that touches almost every department in an organization. As a marketer, you need to have an understanding of every element that comes in contact with the customer experience. That can be anything from operations and speed of shipping merchandise down to the credit terms offered to new customers. Any one of these can disturb the brand message you are striving to develop and maintain.
Take the time to get to know the department heads in your company and the pain points they are dealing with. Better yet, ask them what they think would help improve the customer experience and ultimately sales. Each department has a unique view of the company and the customer. Understanding that view and how it fits into your overall marketing approach will only make you a better marketer.
Carol Marzouk discusses "the one thing" she tries to get across to her clients and the world.
It is nice to have people agree with you, it really is. Everyone on the same page, in full agreement, it just feels good.
Be cautious of that bubble. In Psychology, they call it groupthink. Defined as “the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.” In business, it often leads to groups of intelligent, thoughtful people making bad decisions.
Seek out different viewpoints. If you have to, designate someone as a devil’s advocate for the group, but don’t rollout a plan without having aggressively questioned your planning, your assumptions, and your belief on what the outcome will be.
It is not as pleasant as that big group hug, but in the end you will be better for it.
When many corporations think of market research, they imagine expensive and elaborate studies. Large swaths of data, focus groups with one-way mirrors, telephone call centers with scripts, and a lot of time and expense. While all of the tools mentioned above are valid ways of conducting quantitative and qualitative research, market research does not need to be that complicated. Sometimes a lighter approach can be less daunting and yield good results that can still help guide a company.
B2C - Simpler is better:
When I was handling the marketing for a large cabinetry company selling through the big box retailers I used to make it a point to visit at least a few stores a month just to get a sense for how things were going at the store level and the process the consumers were going through to make their choices. I would watch and often carry gift cards or coupons with me that I could use in exchange for the customer spending a few minutes with me to run me through their experience. There was nothing elaborate about the way I approached these customers, but the insights I gained were important to the brand and yes, store intercepts like this qualify as qualitative research (no one way mirror required).
If you are working with a B2C brand there are a variety of ways to gain insight into the consumer experience without incurring high cost. Although, there is a time and place for larger studies to give you a more representative sample of your customers as well as highlight any regional differences. Work with your sales team to find opportunities to get in front of the end-users and learn more about why they chose (or didn’t choose) your product.
B2B Dinner is on you
If you are operating in a B2B environment than you are probably working with the 80-20 rule – 20% of your customers are currently giving you 80% of your business. Spent a little quality time with them to find out what you are doing right and what you need to fix. I have yet to meet a customer who was shy about articulating what I and my company could do better to keep and grow their business.
Formal market research is a wonderful thing that can yield terrific insights into the customer experience and their preferences, but in the absence of it there are many ways you can conduct informal or anecdotal market research to keep your pulse on how your company is doing.
They call it a Unique Selling Proposition or USP. In laymen’s terms it is the equivalent of a small hand jutting out of your product packaging, waving frantically “Pick me! Pick me!” In the markets we face today, with tremendous competition and a downward trending towards commoditization in many industries, the ability to differentiate your company and your product can be the difference between a won or lost sale. A few points on differentiation:
An Old Lesson with Modern Application:
I remember being at lunch with one of my first mentors when he proclaimed to me, in between mouthfuls of food, “Seth, you can’t be everything to everybody.” Cliché? Sure. Still relevant today? Absolutely. Many are the times I have seen corporations stray away from their core audience searching for additional revenue and customers on the horizon. It distracts you from your core business and stops you from building upon the work you have already started. Even worse, almost always these efforts dilute your unique selling proposition and differentiation in the hopes of saying something that might appeal to this broader audience. Even the most universal of brands like Coke and Pepsi understand who their core audience is and focus on creating unique, differentiated messaging that speaks to that audience. Does that mean you shouldn’t have a secondary audience? No, but it means that your efforts and energies need to be properly prioritized, both in terms of dollars and manpower, and you need to know your limitations. Your company and your products will not be everything to everyone, so let it go now and focus on being something important to that smaller cadre that appreciates and at some level relates to the uniqueness of your brand.
Salient and Sustainable
When I think about defining the USP for an organization I start by looking at two things:
1) What does the organization do well and can keep doing well? (Sustainable)
2) What is of greatest importance to the target audience? (Salient)
A differentiation strategy that is not based in those elements of key importance to the customer will not work. Flashback to the early 2000s, I am sitting in a meeting with Sales, Marketing, and Engineering for a company that specializes in bathroom cabinetry. The head of engineering states that he thinks the company should promote the stainless steel hex screws that are used in cabinet construction. Do these screws make for a better product? Sure. Does the customer care? Probably not. When you are concocting your USP make sure it is something that your customers care about. Your internal team probably has a very different idea with regard to what is unique or special about your products. Don’t know what your customer value? Ask them. Not all market research needs to be done formally and keeping strong, regular communication with your “A” level customers to ensure you are meeting their needs is not only good common sense, but a necessity in these competitive times.
Your unique selling proposition and your differentiation strategy will ultimately limit your audience, but it will make your company and your products more important to the people that matter.
Do you have a sustainable USP for your brand or product? Post a comment on what differentiates your company.
This topic is a bit more esoteric, but I think worthy of discussion. In our careers we encounter various requests from customers, business partners, and corporate colleagues - all asking of us something. I like to group these requests into two categories:
Accomplish task A and B and deliver them on-time and on-budget. Do the job as requested and everyone is happy.
Behind the requested task is often something deeper. It could be organizational, a lack of project clarity, constraints on manpower and budgeting, even reluctance on the part of the person asking for the project to move forward.
Your ability to first realize and then attempt to address this unspoken request can prove invaluable to your customers and partners and can build an order from a single task to a larger project if you are able to effectively communicate a solution that addresses both their immediate and deeper concerns.
In my own career, I have encountered many situations in which, after first acknowledging the immediate need, I was able to get more information on what I suspected was the unspoken request and then was able to formulate a fuller solution for the customer that not only increased the breadth of the project, but also demonstrated greater value to them and strengthened our relationship.
In terms of colleagues and business partners, anticipating and understanding their unspoken requests can head-off problems and project delays before they happen. Opening up that dialogue gets you out in front of what could be an issue before it effects your deliverables.
As marketers I think sometimes we get too focused on filling the order versus looking at the client and the situation and determining what they really need and what will give them the greatest value in the long-term.
When have you realized and addresses a customer's or colleague’s unspoken request?
Please join the conversation.
When I look at businesses quite often the skill set I find missing in the executive management team is marketing. Most organizations are well staffed with seasoned employees who understand Finance and Accounting, Engineering, and Operations, but when it comes to the discipline of marketing they are lacking. In the past, when I have asked about this knowledge gap at the management level, the usual response I get is “Oh, we have so-and-so who handles creating brochures.” That is not marketing. And that missing skill set could be the difference between success and failure in your business.
So what is marketing and why does a company need a high-level marketing asset at the executive level? In a nutshell, marketing is strategy. It is looking at the internal strengths and weaknesses of the organization and the marketplace as a whole and plotting a course for the company that will lead to financial reward. A good Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has his/her attention focused on making sure every aspect of the organization is in alignment and focused on meeting the needs of the company’s target audience – that includes everything from the product itself to the customer service experience to the promotional campaigns. The CMO is also responsible for researching and discovering new markets for existing products as well as working with engineering and product management on product line extensions and new product development to keep the organization thriving. A good CMO understands market research, product and campaign development, and is an expert in strategic development and execution.
When clients ask me what to look for in a CMO, I recommend the following:
While a chief marketing officer can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful business, they are not inexpensive and finding a good one may take time. In lieu of bringing on a full-time CMO, I have recommended to clients that they add a marketing executive to their board of directors. While it may not offer the same level of interaction as a full-time employee, it does give the company the benefit of having a disciplined marketing perspective on their business and can keep the organization from making a costly mistake. If your company does not have a board of directors you can accomplish much the same thing by forming an advisory committee that can fill in these missing skill sets and provide the organization with C-Level expertise at a lower cost than trying to hire full-time employees.
As the saying goes “You don’t know what you don’t know” but as you look around your company if you find you are missing a skill set from your executive team, such as marketing, take steps to fill in that missing knowledge. Rest assured, what you are lacking is mission-critical to your business success.
You’re a manufacturer - you make things. Good things. While that should be enough to bring new customers to your door, unfortunately it is not. You see, all of your competitors are claiming they make a product that is just as good as yours. Perhaps they boast different features, higher outputs, or a lower price that makes their product more appealing - the possibilities are endless. The point is this; whether you operate in a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) or Business-to-Business (B2B) environment, your competitors are shouting just as loudly as you, if not louder, to get the attention of your target audience. If you think just being a good manufacturer is enough, you need to think again.
Three Things You Need To Ask Yourself:
“If You Build It, They Will Come.” was a wonderful sentiment from the movie Field of Dreams. Unfortunately, in manufacturing it is probably closer to “If you Build It, Build It Well, Market it Well, Follow-Up Promptly on Customer Requests, Provide First Rate Customer Service, Excellent Sales Support, and Make Sure You are Properly Differentiated in the Market and In-Front of Your Target Audience, They Will Come.” Not as romantic, I know.
Are you a manufacturer challenged by how to market your products or with some good advice to share with others? Join the conversation.
Glad to talk with Hassan Archer about "the one thing" he thinks clients really need to address first - even if it's uncomfortable.