Essential Marketing Concepts

February 13, 2012

Clarity of being
It is essential if you want to have effective and creative marketing to begin by defining how your product or service is distinctive (unique selling points), to determine who would want to buy it or use it (your market segment or end-user), and the best way to deliver the invitation to buy, consider, or use your product or services (advertising, design, & social media).

Many unfortunate companies try to sell products and services to the consumer market, without first understanding what their customers want or need…they quickly learn that the market doesn’t care that you think your offering the greatest thing since chocolate. Don’t forget, the consumer market drives 2/3 of the U.S. economy. Do you think it might be wise to consider a consumer’s feelings, interests, needs, and state of consciousness? You would be surprised by how many very well educated clients make the unfortunate mistake of disregarding the very people they wish to serve.

true stories

The Baker   One of my retail clients returned from Vienna, Austria, in 1975 and was determined to offer the citizens of Austin the most delectable Bienenstich, Sacher
cake, and the always-irresistible cremshnitte. When their bakery doors opened the confused and bedazzled patrons asked disappointedly, “Where are the Tollhouse cookies and brownies?” Today, after successfully beating the French at baking the baguette and serving the community for over 30 years, you will find Tollhouse cookies and brownies on the menu!

The Guru   One of my fitness and health clients spent his entire life studying martial arts, meditation, self-realization, and nutrition. He wanted to create an on-line business to bring all of his knowledge to the world. He wanted to help people holistically, and in his mind his plan was so clear. He showed me a power point presentation with a chart of what he wanted to offer. It had 6 major groups consisting of 24 programs. Basically he would offer: meditation (his own technique), workshops and retreats, personal coaching, wellness and healing, nutrition, and retail. Every week he came up with even more to offer. The problem was he failed to realize (from a business marketing standpoint) that he was entering into the treacherous and over communicated markets of fitness, yoga, spirituality, and retail. Any one of the four would be difficult to position as truly unique, and it would require tremendous effort to create a legitimate on-line presence with any hope of actually making money. He was doing what so many small business people (90% of the American market) do, over articulating their offerings in hope that the consumer would find value. He had not successfully done the research required to show how he was distinct in the market and discover who would want to buy his products.

The Dellionaire  I have three friends socially that worked for Dell computers in the early days and therefore made many millions of dollars through stock options. After retiring from Dell, one decided to open a private men’s club (bar, massage, and hair cuts), one opened a women’s boutique with high-end vintage fashion and accessories (giving 100% of the profit to charity), and the other a book store that would buy-back University books. All three failed. One asks why: they were all rich, smart, and “successful”…but they didn’t know their market and they didn’t know how to market to those that might actually use their products and services.

The full monty
Effective and creative marketing looks at the entire cause and effect of the business model, realizing that every person (top-to-bottom) in your organization and their actions have a direct impact on the success of your marketing.

• What does the client or customer first experience when they approach you to do business? Is it a tired frustrated, grumpy person on their cell phone?• How is the phone answered? After you have the client, how do you maintain your level of professionalism and service?

• Are you reaching out to the right people to sell your product? Are you offering a true win-win relationship?

• Are your employees happy…do they feel valued?
• Do you have the right person doing the right job?
• Do your customers, patients, clients feel important?

true stories

The Cardiologist   One of my medical clients (that hired us to create his “start-up” collateral) graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University and was responsible for bringing state-of-the-art cardiology procedures to the community. After a very successful career with two hospitals, he decided to go into private practice. He had previously enjoyed a life of success, both academically and professionally, but he failed to see the importance of being compassionate and warm with his patients and staff, including slapping me with a medical file folder…I think that caused him to fail in private practice, in spite of very nice marketing collateral!

The Film Production Company   One of our clients wanted to re-invigorate their company image. We created a new logo, website, writing system, and analyzed the way they communicated with existing and potential clients. It was quickly apparent that a key person representing the company was very frustrated and unhappy in their position as salesperson (The only paid employee representing the company in the community). This frustrated employee had worked for a larger company in Dallas and really saw themselves in the role of producer and thus, felt the job was beneath them…albeit, they were not doing a good job representing or selling the very worthwhile skill sets of my client. I encouraged the owner to take me off a monthly retainer and to use that money to invest in a positive and terrific salesperson. The company immediately reaped a financial benefit by having the right person representing their company.

Live in a beautiful space
Effective and creative marketing employs design to drive distinction, build brands, represent the quality of the product, and infer the meaning of the client’s offerings. (This is both overtly and sub-textually).

• You are regarded as the best in your field…your potential client enters your office…it is old, outdated, and dark? Does that reflect your level of passion and commitment to your state-of-the-art work?
• Your website is poorly presented, hard to navigate, and doesn’t really give the end-user a sense of what you have to offer.
• You run an ad in the paper and it so over-communicates what you have to offer that the reader does not read the ad, or you are so “creative” that you forget to let the viewer know what you are selling.
• Your brochure is so “professional” that it is boring and does not create any connection with your reader: no therefore offers no distinction, excitement, or interest in your product.
• Design drives most products and services: automobile, fashion, homes, electronics, and products. Why shouldn’t it be important to your industry?

true story

Big Medicine   One of our medical clients is the third largest group of their kind in the United States. They are truly great people and do great work. Sadly, they had never recognized the value of a cogent marketing effort. Their entire marketing efforts rested on the shoulders of a very over worked administrative assistant. They had a poorly conceived website, no interesting programs to attract new referring physicians, tired looking clinical environments (multi-locations in numerous cities), and no internal enthusiasm. The business was not growing and was not energized. A new C.O.O. hired me to go in and give them an overhaul. We began with a new company identity (logo), created a website that really showcased their offerings, worked on the interior design, and designed building signage. We had exciting new parties for their referring physician communities, open houses for new clinics, and new educational seminars with a fresh and inviting look and feel. Now they are exploring a new community charitable cause to rally the staff and illustrate their commitment to the community. Today, the business has unprecedented financial success by employing cohesive and smart marketing efforts…largely influenced by design…A new C.O.O. came in and erased all those efforts, re-designed the site poorly and fractured all the previous cohesive programs. They hired an “in-house” marketing person that has no background and little knowledge. Evidence that advertising, design, and marketing, should be done by professionals, just as medical practices and procedures should be done by a professional!

Move your booty
Effective and creative marketing is executed with consistency and with pro-active effort.

• Marketing is manmade and is not a one-time event.

• While some products and services find an audience or market position organically, marketing for most businesses requires a tremendous amount of energy, thought and work to fully realize the potential effect and find success. Remember the big companies that spend hundreds of million of dollars annually have dedicated departments, teams of individuals pushing and pulling, trying to take advantage of every opportunity to advance sales, brand recognition, and brand loyalty. How much time does your company spend?
• Regardless of your goals, to create a formidable splash or even and sustainable growth for your business, it all takes action and hard work…but, if you take the time to do the work, you can expect improved profitability, consumer recognition, and overall success.

true story

Hotel California   One of my hospitality clients, an international hotel company, was embarking on a $17,000,000 facelift on a local property and hired me to manage the publicity. The usual path for most would be to simply send out press releases, work hard to be finished on time, and then announce the opening and throw a “come and see the new look” party. Being aggressive and pro-marketing we not only sent out press releases, but we created a short film that was sent to all of their corporate clients to show them the exciting changes and to include them in the process to keep their loyalty. I came up with slogan “renovation is our innovation” to convey to their clients the level of commitment they have to provide outstanding quality. At each level of completion, they invited clients to a party to share in the amazing transformations. A great deal of energy and effort was put into turning what could have been a disaster into a very positive advertising and marketing opportunity. The hotel remains a leader in room occupancy in the city!

Visualize whirling peas
Effective and creative marketing requires company managers and owners to visualize what actions they can take to create a more prosperous future and to believe in the power of good advertising, design, and marketing. If it were a useless exercise, would companies spend over one thousand billion dollars in the U.S. for advertising?

There is no mystery about cause in effect in physics, why should there be any doubt in business. “Argue for your limitations, and they are yours”, said Richard Bach in his terrific book Illusions. I am afraid marketing often sadly falls into a common social problem in our country: if no one has modeled “healthy relationships”, how can an individual participate in one. If you knew how to have a robust and healthy marketing success for your company, you would already be doing it! It becomes critical for all people in business to look at the state of affairs honestly and realistically and then create a strategy to methodically reach your goals. Don’t conveniently skip the honesty part before you visualize grand plans for the future.

P.S. Social media is simply technology that allows people to share their thoughts and ideas immediately (both good and bad)…it is rather like cooking: if you have fabulous ingredients, knowledge, and skill, it will be reflective in your dish. Conversely, if you have weak ingredients, no knowledge and skill (coupled with a bad attitude), it will be reflective in your “marketing dish.”

true story

The President   One of my former clients, a C.O.O for a large medical group, asked me to meet with their in-house marketing manager and the President of the group (a physician) to discuss how they might develop a stronger identity and recognition in the region. I met with the marketing manager first and learned that she had no marketing budget and the physician board was very resistant to any of her ideas. Then I met with the C.O.O. and learned that there was tremendous political in fighting and that the physicians wanted to maintain lower fixed costs to make more personal income. They did not seem to value or understand that patients were now self-referring and expected considerate and compassionate service, especially in the healthcare arena. I met with the President of the group to discuss how we could help them and the direction that I felt was paramount to realize their goals. After 45 minutes, the President looked at me, slightly amused with himself, and admitted, “I don’t really believe in marketing!” I politely excused myself rather dismayed by the attitude.

I learned later that the very competent marketing manager resigned, the President was asked to step down , the C.O.O  left because of the limited vision of his group, and soon after, the largest group of its kind split-up. The “president” had no idea how stifling and financially damaging his leadership was to the best interest of his group.

A simple change of attitude in leadership could turn the entire company around. How many times have you seen a bad attitude and limited vision from management bring lackluster results to a company?