Tag Archives: marketing

Marketing and the Myth of “We Need A New Idea!”

By Andy Slipher

One of the biggest challenges in marketing heard by businesses across almost all industries is the constant search for their next idea—the one that’s going to hook and reel in new customers and clientele. It’s the idea that constantly eludes them yet, if they find it, will lead to more revenues, long-term relationships and evergreen sales.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking is largely mythology. There is almost always no missing other. And, if you haven’t figured out the big idea of your product or service—what’s intrinsically compelling about it—you have bigger problems than coming up with the latest gimmick.

Searching for a single elusive idea is like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. It depends on that which is neither familiar, nor within reach. It calls upon disconnected tactics over a focused and cohesive strategy. And, in the end, it manifests itself in the form of one-off and lackluster attempts that yield underwhelming results.
Want to address the true need behind the “new idea” myth? Here are three steps to moving away from this myopic approach, and toward a more strategic and holistic way of finding better tactics, more creative pathways, and greater results from your marketing.

Focus first on the bigger challenge

Take your attention off the symptoms of the moment—a sales slump, for example. Instead, begin to ask yourself these questions: What is the nature of the challenge or problem we face? Is there a larger issue we’re not facing that is causing our current predicament?

A short-term bump in sales, for example, is going to be hard to bring about without a larger understanding of what is causing the symptom of a temporary sales slump. Is it due to the seasonality in your business? Is it due to an increase in competition? Or, is there a downturn in the market or economy that’s causing customers to spend fewer dollars?Develop a plan instead of brainstorming a single idea. Click To Tweet

Know what you’re up against before you assume that your current predicament can be solved through a single tactical idea. Understand the causal factors contributing to the dynamic that has brought about your present challenge. By understanding the true nature of the problem at hand, you will effectively prepare yourself to devise a better and more accurate approach. This new approach can be used to mitigate or overcome the forces that are causing a symptom, such as a short-term dip in unit sales.

Develop a strategic plan

Yes, develop a plan instead of brainstorming a single idea. Will it take longer and require more effort? Most likely, yes. Will it also solve your issue more effectively than a short-term tactic? Definitely.

Strategy is a form of problem solving. Good strategy clearly identifies the problem, and then formulates a larger and binding approach to addressing, head on, the problem at hand. In marketing, as in other areas, good strategy demands choice—choosing a path to the exclusion of others, whereby all plans can be coordinated and work together to overcome a problem (not just a symptom). Symptoms can sometimes be relieved through temporary tactics, but rarely will they go away for any length of time or with any great effectiveness without a strategy to deal with their source.

A good strategic plan integrates:

  • Goals—the end for the effort, usually one or two, at most;
  • Strategy—the binding approach that will inform all other plans and tactics;
  • Plans—individual recipes, each with coordinated activities in accordance with your strategy, that will serve your goal;
  • Objectives—observable, measurable and time bound declarations of how you know you are successfully fulfilling your plans; sometimes called key performance indicators (KPI’s);
  • Tactics—last, the details and activities that will be undertaken to fulfill plans and reach your goals.

One of the best things about a strategic plan is that it is relative to the challenge at hand. It is designed to address a problem head on. Finally, the role of any strategic plan is that it serves as a blueprint for thoughtful, coherent and logical pathway for solving any complex challenge.

Rely upon integrated tactics

Once you have a thoughtful strategic marketing plan in place, you will be shocked at how much more easily the tactics present themselves. Why? Because a thoughtful strategy serves to focus everyone around a centralized, agreed upon approach. And because strategy forces choice, it eliminates the need to consider disparate (and sometimes desperate) ideas.

In fact, what you once thought of as innovative and other-worldly ideas will become almost foregone conclusions when a strategy is present. New possibilities present themselves more readily when you and your team are provided a guided pathway upon which to engage creative thought and energy. Best of all, because such ideas must fall within a guided strategic pathway they become, by default, integrated tactics.

If you utilize this three-step process of thinking bigger to tackle larger problems, thoughtfully planning your marketing approach, and then tactically integrating ideas around a strategy, you will move away the myth of, “We need a new idea.” Instead you’ll find yourself in the wonderful reality of, “We have a strategic approach to overcoming our marketing challenges.”

Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is marketing segment lecturer for SMU’s accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers, and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Andy is the author of The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success.  For more information, visit TheBigHow.com

Customs Clearance for Your Content Marketing

How to get your message across the border?

By Matt Baird

The United States may be the largest consumer market in the world, but did you know that 96 percent of the planet’s consumers do not live here? With purchasing power on the rise across the globe and the internet making our world smaller than ever, there’s no better time to market your products and services abroad.

But before you attempt to cross the border, consider this: Less than six percent of the world’s population speaks English well enough to shop or do business in that language. Research shows that the vast majority of people prefer surfing online in their native languageand that includes millennials, history’s first “digital natives.” The message is clear: Offering more local-language content increases the likelihood of purchase.

Today’s “digi-savvy” marketers know that paving a smooth customer journey is much more than clearing a path from product to purchase. You have to invest in the story and turn customers into fans. Creating content that is relevant and valuable is just as important in most foreign markets as it is in the US. A survey of shoppers in some of the world’s largest economies showed that now nearly 40 percent of online shoppers use social networks to get inspiration for their purchases.You not only have to speak the local language, you have to do so in a voice that the locals can understand. Click To Tweet

So, if you want to take your online shop overseas—or any product or service for that matter—you’d better pack your story along for the ride. But when you transport anything across borders, you have to make sure it clears customs. The same goes for your content marketing. It has to pass through the language and cultural barriers. And much like the customs clearance process, proper preparation is the key to smooth and rapid market entry. Here are some tips to get you started.

Translate it…but:

This may seem obvious, but you can’t tell a story if people can’t read it. So, the first step is having your content correctly translated. And that’s the caveat. You’ll spare yourself a lot of wasted time and frustration by seeking out translators who specialize in content marketing. These language geeks can capture the nuances of your content and avoid embarrassing—or costly—mistranslations. As native speakers of your target language, they’ll point out culturally sensitive subject matter and offer ways to appropriately repackage your message. While a bilingual colleague or an eager and inexpensive college student may help you understand something written in another language, they probably don’t have the skills to produce high quality content in that language.

Resist the machines:

There’s certainly a place for technology, but it’s not in marketing, where your goal is to engage human beings and elicit a human response. When you cut to the chase, even translation technology vendors will tell you that it doesn’t pay to use their machines for creative materials. The simple fact is: consumers left scratching their heads won’t be clicking on LIKE, SHARE or BUY. Translation technology will continue to make headlines, but remember this: Even one of the world’s most famous (fictional) robots, C-3PO, said, “Sometimes I just don’t understand human behavior.”

Build locally, and they will come:

Once you’ve put your story in a new language, it’s time to go deeper. Avoid the mistakes of others who build captivating content marketing campaigns that lead to a brick wall of English text. Every step of the customer journey must be in their language—from the Facebook post to the landing page to the BUY button. The industry term is localization, which means converting everything from language, currency, and dates to the look and feel of your sites to match local preferences. Even the right colors can make a difference. The entire experience should feel native. And be sure to keep this in mind: marketing channels vary across the globe. While Facebook dominates the Western world, it’s nearly non-existent in China, where WeChat and Weibo are the places to see and be seen.

Take it slow, and talk to the experts:

A truly global content marketing campaign is serious business. Take it one step at a time. Talk to localization experts to learn the tricks of the global marketing trade. For example, if your company is business to business, there are ways to reduce the entry barriers and reach more markets with (nearly) the same content. You can probably get away with publishing your white papers, case studies, and blog articles in English in Norway, Sweden, or Denmark, German in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and universal Spanish in the nine Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. On the other hand, if you’re targeting consumers in specific age groups on social media, you’ll need to adapt the content for each individual country.

Depending on the size of your international marketing aspirations, this may only be the tip of the iceberg. But don’t be discouraged. With such a sea of potential customers, you’d be well advised to take the plunge below the surface. Use these tips as a guide to get you started. Focus on your message, work with professionals, and keep your sights on creating a native customer experience in each country.

The lesson to be learned from the many pieces of content that don’t really resonate with their intended target audience—that don’t “clear customs”—is that you not only have to speak the local language, you have to do so in a voice that the locals can understand. If you can appreciate that difference, then you’ll be well on your way to seeing your content arrive perfectly packaged on the doorsteps of potential customers around the world.

Matt Baird is a professional German-to-English translator and copywriter specializing in content marketing and corporate communications. He also serves as a speaker for the American Translators Association, which represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 100 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit www.atanet.org.

Seven Best Practices to Budget (and Spend) for Marketing

By Andy Slipher

Andy SlipherFor anyone charged with allocating marketing dollars, it can seem like an arduous and even dicey process to decide how much to spend annually, and on what. For some, it’s the autopilot response of last year’s budget, plus three to five percent. For others with limited marketing dollars, it can mean the equivalent of putting all one’s eggs in a single basket. These are examples of the extremes, but not altogether unheard of in marketing.

But, all the same, there are effective ways to plan, allocate and intelligently spend marketing dollars. Each involves a step backward from the narrow framework of the budget, while interjecting the purpose of the marketing into the practice of budgeting dollars toward success. Here are seven best practices to follow when approaching any marketing budget process

1.Think bigger: Don’t limit your marketing to media in the traditional sense. Go beyond even digital and new media. People immediately equate marketing spending to media. What if you could spend your marketing dollars in a way that would mean reaching your target, but not having to dump lots of dollars on big media? Marketing is also promotion, incentives, rewarding loyalty, creating positive experiences, enhanced service, direct communication with the customer, sales, relationship-building, or any combination of activities working together.

Get outside the confined silo of the marketing function and media option. Begin to think how you can most efficiently impact customer conversion. Don’t be afraid to be dramatic. What if time, money and scale were not consequential factors? Let your mind wander to big ideas, then find ways to work around your resource limited. If you need help, bring someone in from the outside to challenge your thinking. None of this has to be expensive—just effective.

2. Build the cost of marketing into your product or service: Have you accounted for the cost to market and sell your product or service into its cost to produce? It’s too easy to say,” we’re not spending enough on marketing.” But, you’re handicapping yourself even further if you’re not building marketing into the cost of your product or service. In short, you’re cheating yourself by not being realistic.

The If-You-Build-It-They-Will-Come approach works only in the movies. Drawing customers (large or small numbers) to your service or product is an inherent part of selling. You’re either generating such attention yourself or drafting off of something else. Either way, resources (usually in the form of people and money) need to be allocated for such activities.

3. Target: This might seem obvious, but basic consideration of your specific target customer in your spending strategy can make your marketing budget go much further. Knowing your best customers inside and out will enable you to do this. You don’t have to speak to the universe. Just speak to your universe. Focus on the essential few with the highest chance for conversion.

Budget and spend your acquisition dollars toward them first. Then, migrate out from there. If your target audience is too big, you probably don’t know enough about them. Look, listen and learn in order to segment. It is well worth the time.Your strategic goals, business and marketing objectives will lead you to tactical media spending. Click To Tweet

4. Focus on behavioral change over attitudes and awareness: If you’re short on marketing dollars, don’t even think about building awareness. Forget consideration sets and good feelings about your brand, company or product. If you have very limited marketing dollars to spend, these are not your biggest issues. Instead, focus on differentiation, an emotional hook and getting the customer to act (i.e. buy).

Demonstrate why you’re better, engage them in an emotional decision and call them to action. No cheesy or cliché come-ons. Be dramatically and truthfully different in a way that convinces your customer to give you a try. Attitudes follow behavior.

5. Treat marketing as an investment: If you want it to yield a return, you must treat marketing as an investment. One of the biggest mistakes by some marketers today is throwing around the term ROI (return on investment) in conjunction with their marketing spending, while treating it as an occasional or periodic expense.

This is hypocrisy. If you want long-term, sustained ROI from your marketing, treat it as you would a true investment (in your product, service and business). Remember: the “I” in ROI stands for investment.

6. Strategy first: This is the single most valuable tool in your marketing arsenal. Thinking efficiently and with reverence to clearly defined marketing and business goals will help you distill your goals, intentions and plans guiding you to determine how much to spend and where to spend it. Speaking from experience, the practice of strategic thinking takes a load of time and guesswork away from determining where to best spend marketing dollars.

7. Zero-base your budget: If you’ve made it as far as a strategic plan, a zero-based marketing budget should come as no surprise. Your strategic goals, business and marketing objectives will lead you to tactical media spending. Start from scratch so that your spending matches that of what you’re wanting to accomplish. You’ll be amazed at how focused a budget it can yield.

Budgeting for marketing is far less complicated when you can approach it with greater intention and priorities in mind. Follow these tried and true practices and your marketing budget process will be a much more effective exercise.

Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is marketing segment lecturer for SMU’s accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers, and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Andy’s forthcoming book is The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success. For more information, visit www.Slipher.com.

What has Changed About Marketing in the Last 100 Years?

By Andy Slipher

In 1975, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a largely overlooked ruling that allowed earth-orbiting antennas—satellites—to be used for broadcasting television over large areas. Around that same time, a little-known regional broadcasting network called Home Box Office (HBO) took notice, and decided to use the FCC’s landmark decision to begin distributing its own programming via satellite.

HBO’s innovative move would have a ripple effect that would spill over onto the landscape of marketing. Soon, satellite networks proliferated, and with them, marketers’ ability to target in ways that were never previously possible.

Since that time, there has been so much technological innovation that marketers are faced with choices beyond measure. It can be blinding and bewildering for anyone charged with allocating marketing dollars on behalf of a business. And, this very issue is what has caused marketers to go awry. This is an age of unprecedented communications, and yet many still struggle to connect with one another. But this problem is not the real problem.

The true problem is that too many marketers have failed to recognize that only one thing has changed in marketing in the past 100 years—technology. That’s it. Yes, you now have social media and tweets and followers and apps and branding and re-marketing and analytics and focus groups and ROI and CRM and customer personas and digital and so on. It’s all certainly true. But, what has enabled nearly every bit of it is technology.Only one thing has changed in marketing in the past 100 years—technology Click To Tweet

So prolific is the role of technology in marketing that it has become for some an alluring distraction. Panic and peer pressure set in, and organizations pursue the latest and the greatest technology-based marketing tactics without taking the time to thoughtfully consider a strategic approach. As legendary philosopher and strategist, Sun Tzu once put it, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Marketing must ultimately get the product or service into the hands of the customer – a real person. Marketers need to realize that it is way too easy to distract ourselves (via technology) away from what is centrally important in marketing—generating a sale to a real person and, hopefully, repeating that process again and again to her or his delight. Marketing strategy is not so much about a plan, but a system. Build your marketing (including the sale) around a strategically-based, customer-centric system, then technology becomes a true and valuable tool, and not a distraction.

If you want to plan your marketing communications on a more strategic level and with a more integrated and seamless approach, consider the following methods and means to do so:

Strategic Marketing Plan: Full-on marketing guidance—someone asking the right questions and enabling you to think critically about your industry, business, customers, competition, brand and marketing activities. A strategic marketing plan answers both, “What are we trying to do?” and “How are we going to achieve it?” in a thorough, resolute way that doesn’t miss a lick (broad-to-specific). It facilitates a systematic way of measurably and methodically moving your business’s overall marketing activities from point A to point B.

Strategic Brand Plan:Marketers love to talk branding these days, but few truly understand what a brand is. At its core, a brand is simply a (strong) promise. Everything after that is embodying the promise or not. A brand plan helps an organization answer the why’s and how’s of their brand in a way that actively demonstrates its value.

Brand Landscape: A collaborative document and process that combines visual (graphic, photographic) and distilled conceptual elements (written) to succinctly express what a particular brand is, and what it is not, to a broader internal audience. At its core, it’s a reference and training document. It serves to familiarize an organization’s management on the concept of their own brand, so that they themselves can more consistently demonstrate and articulate it to others.

Vision: Your organization needs to aspire to something greater in order for its marketing to become something that inspires others. Sometimes there is no unifying or inspiring vision—an expression of what an organization aspires to reach or become in the next five to ten years. Other times, a vision reads as flat, academic or long-winded. A good vision statement isn’t fluff. Rather, it helps all stakeholders reach to something higher.

Public Outreach Strategy: Address and formalize a communications approach for the public-at-large. This does not necessarily mean customers. Rather, it’s about respecting and interfacing with the general public as influencers, opinion holders, social activists and supporters of personal, political or economic interests. This type of strategy addresses a need for responding to criticism, opposing or competing points of view. Its purpose is to build and demonstrate credibility and to authentically communicate it.

In conclusion, plan your marketing. Don’t be led by technology, or allow it to distract and overwhelm you. Know who you are, what you want from your marketing and how you’re going to achieve it. Only then will technology become a navigable means to achieve your goals.

Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is marketing segment lecturer for SMU’s accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers, and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Andy’s forthcoming book is The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success.For more information, visit www.Slipher.com.

How to Succeed at Email Marketing

By Peter DeHaanPeter DeHaan: Author, Blogger, Publisher, Editor

Email marketing is a cost-effective and simple way to reach out to touch clients and customers. But just because it’s cheap and easy, this doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. When done wrong, email marketing can alienate the audience you’re trying to cultivate.

Here are five tips for successful email marketing:

Send Only Useful Messages: Several years ago I had the grand idea of using an email-marketing program to inform and engage advertisers and potential advertisers for my magazines. When I began working on the next issue, I emailed them with the theme and deadlines. A week before the due date, I sent a reminder. When the magazine went to print, I dashed off an update, and when it mailed, I let them know.

This lasted two issues. Although sending the messages seemed free, it cost me time. Plus I worried about becoming a nuisance. And in those early days of email marketing, I couldn’t tell who was reading what I sent.

I scaled back my messages to one per issue. That initial email letting them know the theme and deadlines was what mattered most. Besides, if I emailed less often, they would be more apt to read what I did send.

What are the messages that matter most to your audience?

Segment Your Audience: I quickly fell into a rhythm of sending out one mass email per issue, but it wasn’t as smooth as I wished. It seemed that no matter how carefully I worded my message, someone would be confused. This resulted in more communication to clear up my miscommunication.

The problem was that I tried to make one message work for everyone: regular advertisers, occasional advertisers, and potential advertisers. A message for regular advertisers might confuse the occasional ones and vice versa. Alternately, a message encouraging potential advertisers to run an ad might cause regular advertisers to make wrong assumptions about their status. To solve this, I divided my list into three groups in order to send specific messages tailored to each particular audience.

Your biggest client is different from your smallest, and both are different from your prospects. How should your list be segmented?

Send Only Wanted Messages: Twenty percent of my magazine readers receive their subscription electronically. I email them when a new issue is available to view, download, or read online. As part of their subscription, we also send an occasional email message relevant to the industry that has a high likelihood to be of interest. So that we don’t overwhelm or irritate readers, we send no more than one additional email per month. If you’re like me, you’ve unsubscribed from publications you liked simply because they contacted you too often.

What type of messages does your audience want? Which ones do they just delete?

Allow Unsubscribes: Even though it’s a legal requirement to provide a means to unsubscribe, I’m shocked at how many email marketers don’t. Plus, a few let you try to unsubscribe, but they don’t follow through.

Allow for and honor unsubscribes. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the law.

Don’t Spam: Though I have no firsthand experience in this regard, it’s apparently easy to buy an email database. It’s also common for companies to harvest contact information and send you messages you don’t want. (I know because it happens to me all the time.) These messages are spam; no one likes a spammer.

In your zeal to market, make sure you don’t spam your list or look like a spammer.

When you send useful and wanted messages to your segmented list, allow for unsubscribes, and avoid spamming, you are ahead of most companies. You are providing the right amount of contact, and your email marketing is poised to succeed.

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media. [This article first appeared in Connection Magazine.]