CHAPTER :
Marketing Is More Than Colorful Brochures and Social Media
With entries from:
Steve Guengerich   —   6 years ago

Marketing is an area about which everyone has an opinion, but is perhaps the least well-understood area of most ventures. Not surprisingly, it covers a vast array of activities -from strategic to tactical - that are essential to entrepreneurial success.

What makes a great marketer? What is the relationship between marketing and sales? How is marketing different for a consumer-targeted product or service, versus one targeted for businesses? Which marketing metrics are the most important and why? How do you price a product or service?

Share your answers to these and many other questions about MARKETING. Yes, good marketing may be one of those areas where you can say "you know it, when you see it," but this is the place to share how and why you arrived at that good marketing result.

Laura Patterson   —   6 years ago

The Price of Chasing the Next Shiny Toy
Why is it marketers become so quickly enamored with the next shiny toy? And at what price? What do I mean by the next shiny toy? For many marketers the first new shiny toy came in the mid-90s with the creation of websites. And even though email (initially known as electronic mail) started its humble beginnings in 1969, it wasn’t until the 90’s it became a pervasive marketing channel. Along with email, marketers chased the next shiny toy dubbed Internet Marketing.

In 1994 zero dollars were spent on Internet advertising. By 1996 U.S. companies had invested $301 million in Internet Marketing, primarily in the form of banner ads and transforming other offline advertising concepts to the Internet. We weren’t content; we became obsessed with content, and before we figured out how to strategically use our new toys we charged off into new territory.

In 1996 Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed the first search engine and marketers couldn’t wait to get their hands on this next shiny toy - search engine optimization and pay-per-click. In 1997, Jorn Barger coined the phrase “weblogs” and marketing had another new vehicle to use to reach customers. In less than a decade marketers had lead their organizations into new channels; without actually mastering any of them.

Still we couldn’t help ourselves when 2001 ushered in the next shiny toy, Web 2.0, which facilitated online collaboration. MySpace (remember them?) entered the market is 2003 and the next shiny toy officially emerged, social media. With the ability to move beyond HTML to rich user interfaces flickr came onto the scene followed by Google announcing Gmail and the inauguration of Digg.

Marketers experimented and pursued social media to the fullest extent of their ability. While we dabbled, mobile marketing hit the scene in 2001. So while we talked the talk, SMS technology didn’t become widely used until mid- 2008. Our appetites for the new shiny stuff seem insatiable.

This article isn’t meant to be “marketing media in review.” Clearly, plenty of new shiny toys have emerges over the last decade. Its purpose, rather, is to highlight that marketers tend to race headlong and hell bent after the next shiny toy. But at what price? I’d like to suggest it is at the price of our credibility and the opportunity to be perceived as a strategic player.

Chasing after the next new thing potentially presents us as being tactically opportunistic. If we want to be accepted as members of the strategic team, then we have to exercise strategic discipline.

This means we need to be concerned with making decisions that affect the direction of the organization and not just add a new toy in the box. When our enthusiasm or that of our colleagues convinces the organization to experiment with the next shiny toy without understanding the strategic implications as marketers we are doing a disservice to the organizations we support and we present marketing as a primarily tactical function.

So am I suggesting we stop chasing the next shiny toy? No. But before we do we should understand the strategic context and implications. Perhaps before we leap we need to master the ones we’ve already acquired. Yes, our competitors may start using the next shiny toy first, but the misuse of a new shiny toy can be far more damaging.

Here are five things to consider before taking the plunge that will at least help you appear more strategic in your deployment of a shiny new toy:

1. Customer/market demand: Have the customers you want to connect and engage adopted the new channel or are you getting ahead of them? Being first on the block may be irrelevant if the markets you serve or want to serve aren’t ready. The timing of deploying a new channel should be based on how stable it is and how familiar and comfortable people are with using it.

2. Skill level: Do you and your people have the skills to actually successfully implement and leverage the new toy? If a successful implementation requires complex new skills and if it is time-consuming or costly to acquire the required level of competence, then it may be too soon for your organization to tackle this new channel.

3. Payoff: New channels are costly in terms of learning curve and even money. The adoption of a new channel may require configuring systems, technology upgrades, or even adding new systems plus training employees. Before you embrace the new shiny toy, take the time to develop and present c the business case that assures the leadership team that the investment will pay off.

4. Vehicle stability: Are the standards for the new channel or technology stable? The value of a new channel or technology increases once the standard of use is established. Otherwise you may be in for a lot of rework – and rework is time and money.

5.Critical mass: One of the reasons new channels and technology risk our credibility is that these often have relatively poor performance in their initial incarnations. A key strategic factor to consider before deciding to adopt a new channel or technology is whether there are enough suppliers in the market to make the adoption easy, cost-effective and user friendly.

We’ve all seen how enamored children are with new toys. And we’ve also seen just how easily and quickly they can discard what was once so treasured and coveted. So while the new toy beckons, be sure you have the answers to these five questions before engaging in the chase.

Christa Freeland   —   6 years ago

To help put marketing into perspective, the buyer's experience from the last 5 years and earlier has been completely obliterated. It's no secret that now, consumers have all the information they need to make purchase decisions- or any decisions at all, right in the palm of their hands. The marketing of today gives decision-making power to the people.

For simplification, take this cut-and-dry example of a typical process of buying a car:
1) look up reviews (crowdsourced word of mouth)
2) head over to YouTube (social media)
3) talk to friends and family (word of mouth, maybe social media)
4) online research of pricing (websites, SEO)
5) view or listen to an ad on Hulu or Spotify (advertising)

You pretty much know exactly what to expect by the time you set foot in the dealership. Questions and options are narrowed, you're ready to negotiate. Hallelujah! Gone are the days where you had to ask for that information from the salesperson who gets a cut off your deal.

--On Metrics--
It's easier and cheaper than ever to start a business. This raises market competition, so businesses really need to understand how they stack up in multiple areas. Any information desired can be located and is accessible. Tons of low-cost tools help organize this data, and I consider most of these to be marketing management solutions with analytics baked in (like Pardot, Google Analytics, and Hootsuite). All this data means means you have to be smart about what you look for and why.

--On the Relationship Between Marketing & Sales---
Marketing is crucial for sales. Sales teams can narrow their focus, spend less time on tire kickers and zero-in on more valuable prospects who are better equipped to make a purchase. In the big picture, marketing can provide data that supports and directs really any area of relationship between the company and the customer. Seek and you shall find.

--On What Makes a Great Marketer--
1) Great marketers are naturally inquisitive
2) Great marketers know how to sell

Industries transform much faster today. If you don't have that "fire in your belly" to learn, do, or experiment, you will get crushed or run out of steam. Being curious about the world is a driving force in general. In the same vein, and to add onto Laura's comment referencing new media channels: there is always a "new shiny toy". If you truly understand why people buy product, how they use it, and share it with others, you'll be able to identify triggers and know how to move product off the shelf.

So yes, not only is marketing "more than colorful brochures and social media", it takes on a defining role in today's businesses.

Kerry Tate   —   6 years ago

Finding “true north” for brands and reputations

Being in business to help people get caught doing good things is a fine way to make a living. The work of pitching and promoting brands and reputations is ever changing and intoxicating. As it turns out, the public relations field was a good fit given that I was wired to be curious about newsmakers and trends, preachers and politics, words and pictures, design and destiny.

Granted, as a self-respecting people-pleaser, I’ve had to hang my head a bit through the years knowing that my career choice remains near the bottom of the list when polling which professions are considered the least trusted of all. PR people rank just one notch above used car salesmen.

So I got a dog. We all want some creature to be glad to see us.

There were occasions when I felt conflicted, shaping messages while peering into the dark chasm where spin-doctors meet their maker while calculating how to cover and recover from mistakes and misdeeds. The expertise that draws the highest pay for PR types tends to be those most capable at playing the best defense--crisis communications where running interference and damage control is in demand.

One morning in 1994 over coffee and the New York Times, I read chilling news that a bomb mailed to Thomas Mosser, a well-known public relations executive, had exploded and killed him at his home. The culprit was Ted Kaczinski, a PhD and Harvard graduate known as the Unabomber who sent 15 more bombs killing or injuring 23 people.

This madman targeted Mr. Mosser simply because his stock-in-trade was influencing public opinion. Kaczinski’s writings revealed that he intended to kill Mr. Mosser because his firm, Burson-Marsteller, helped Exxon clean up its public image after the Exxon Valdez incident and, more importantly, because "its business is the development of techniques for manipulating people's attitudes.”

Aside from the insane behavior, I am haunted still by the reasoned rationale.

Are PR people complicit in crimes committed by clients against society by helping bad actors who do bad things keep from getting caught?

At the very least, when we irresponsibly “position” companies as socially and financially responsible when we know they are not, when we know better, or when we simply don’t want to know the truth, it is unethical. For hired guns and employed PR execs alike, there are damning consequences at so many levels.

The transgressions of corporations and heroic figures have left us shell-shocked. So flamboyant and arcane, the scandals of famous people and powerful corporations just keep rolling in: From Exxon to Enron, BP, WorldCom, Lehman Brothers, AIG, and Tyco; then, priests, Bernie Madoff, Lance Armstrong, and now, Bill Cosby.

You can bet they’ve all had PR advisors.

Before deciding to pull my own strings by leaving corporate life to become an entrepreneur, I served a Fortune 500 company as its regional public affairs executive and lobbyist. The defensive agenda for this manufacturer included engaging on issues such as air and water pollution, organized labor, taxation, natural resources, and public safety.

I learned a lot—what to do and certainly, what not to do. So take my unsolicited advice--on how to keep brands true, reputations intact, and PR folks honest—for whatever it’s worth:

1. Ethics needed: Inquire within. Ethical reasoning pays off in the long haul, becoming a discipline in decision-making equal to all other principles of doing business. Our duty demands we convince clients that principled leaders tell the truth, in order to engender confidence and to safeguard shareholders and stakeholders.

2. Develop a strong backbone. Persuading leaders to measure benefits and risks of being socially responsible, or not, is important; but, advocating for disclosure and honest reporting takes guts. Consider that in the 80’s, public companies restating earnings might happen a dozen times a year. Under pressure from analysts and others to fudge numbers, these days more than 700 companies must restate earnings. The cost of cheating and disregarding public opinion is beyond what most can afford.

3. Durable brands are born from the inside out. Genuine engagement and collaborative governance brings order and breeds success and integrity able to weather storms. Sounds trite, but living the brand, where claims and words that match deeds and behavior, matters. Careless PR pros tempted by the speed and reach of outward information flow can never trump an honest brand, grown from strong bones and guarded by mindful, talented communicators.

4. Design to the genuine. Connecting with an audience via authentic storytelling using elegant language and good manners brings value to brands and richness to our trade. It is worth the effort, especially when applied in combination with basic decency and honesty of decision-makers willing to rise to a level above regulatory demands. It serves to legitimize and elevate good companies, good ideas, good service, and good brands.

Marianne Edelman said, “If you cannot hear the genuine, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

In short, we best bring our moral compass to work.

Shari Wynne Ressler   —   6 years ago

At the SKU accelerator, where we are focused 100% on consumer product goods, we help entrepreneurs develop their brands, which includes:
- the way the product looks -- colors, shape, materials, name, tagline, distinguishing features, etc.
- the formulation of the product -- its packaging, its ingredients, its expected use, all of which determine where will the product will be placed in a retail store.
- the integration of the product’s story into the branding.

One of the greatest competitive advantages that small brands have is with their story. Large companies struggle because they have a more difficult time creating an authentic brand that has attributes differentiated from the positioning that consumers have already given it.

The advantage of a young entrepreneur and/or first-time founder is the personal story and passion that brought them to produce their product. The challenge is professionalizing that story and passion, so that they communicate well in newer, larger, more diverse formats, as demand for the product grows.

Paul Moore   —   6 years ago

Marketing is more than telling a good story. It is more than finding a path to convince people a product is clever, personable, sexy or needed.

Here’s an exercise in contrast. Notice the inflated reality found in most automotive commercials. Then, think about the amount of times the experience of sitting in a car really stood out as separate from all the others. For most, those truly differentiated experiences can be counted on one hand. Many marketers only have the option to create a highly exaggerated story about an ordinary experience.

Probably the most rewarding thing (on a short list of rewarding things) about marketing a startup is that the product is still young, if it exists at all, and the team is usually still small. That means you can align the product as it is created with a compelling story you and your team want to see exist in the world. The implication is that the marketer’s job at a startup is heavily front loaded in the creation of the thing he or she will later spread the word about.

You build a thing to fit a great story. If you’re successful, your job is not to embellish, but simply tell a true story.

Describing something you made with no embellishment or exaggeration—just describing what’s true—then having the person across from you respond, “Wow. That’s awesome,” is the ultimate pitch. If you want to see one of the most iconic examples of this, watch Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone at Macworld in 2007.

So, the marketer’s job at a startup has the potential to be drastically different from one at a mature business. First, she is a great writer of fiction. Later, a great problem solver when it comes to midwifing that fiction into something real. Lastly, she becomes a documentarian. One who simply records facts, wraps them in concise, digestible packages and spreads them into the world.

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