Terrible Marketing Advice

The Strategic Importance of a Strong Corporate Brand

A few weeks ago I downloaded some product information from a company selling CRM software.

About a week later I received an extremely delightful email that said in part:

Recently, you requested information about “XYZ  CRM”.  I want to thank you for your interest in our product, which is why I’m going to send you a valuable marketing course that will help you evaluate your current marketing efforts and give you tips that will definitely increase your profits.

This marketing course is called “6 Magnetic Marketing Secrets To Explode Your Profits.” You’ll get an email once a week that gives you powerful marketing advice for your business, which you can use right away to close more sales and make more money with your business.

I was suitably impressed…until I received part one of their six-part so-called “marketing” course.

Called “Secret #1: The Real Definition of Successful Marketing,” this initial communiqué states that “there are only three factors that influence the profitability of any marketing effort. The smartest marketing minds on the planet have sifted these factors down to this simple, but powerful formula:

The Right Message. To the Right Market. At the Right Time!”

That is the problem when someone tries to boil marketing down to a “simple formula.” They tend to ignore factors like having the right product solution, the right distribution and delivery system, the right branding strategy and, of course, a profitable pricing strategy.

Of course, these guys are trying to sell CRM software solutions, so they appear only concerned with the “selling side” of the marketing equation. But nevertheless, that does not give them the right to broadcast such a misleading interpretation of the essence of marketing to their potential customers.

If they wanted to use an all-encompassing phrase to depict the real meaning and quintessence of marketing, they should have asked to use the one created by the mind of this marketing professional:

If it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue™

Now, with their focus on selling CRM systems, and their pitch on tracking all customer and prospect communications, these guys compound the error of their ways by offering free marketing advice in this so-called “marketing course.”

They claim that “not using the three marketing success factors and/or little or no direct response offers costs companies millions in missed sales every year!”

That is almost funny because, from almost all the articles I have read about the problems of implementing CRM systems, it appears that it is these implementation problems that are costing companies hundreds of millions in missed sales and lost customers every year.

But that is beside the point, at least for now.

What galls me the most about their free marketing advice is their first point on how to “fix” the problems of these lost sales. This advice is to:

Never waste money on image advertising, or at least keep it to a minimum and only try creating yourself or your company as a brand after becoming profitable!

What utter nonsense! What utter lack of understanding of how to create and leverage a brand. What complete confusion and wrong impression about the strategic importance of having a strong corporate brand in today’s ultra-competitive markets.

In other words, what total idiots!

It is only a sense of professionalism, combined with pity for their misguided ways, which prevents my total outrage at their spreading their mistaken and erroneous claptrap from telling our Monday Morning Marketing Memo readers who “XYZ CRM” actually is.

I will share this week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo with the person sending out their email campaign. I will also point them to the classic advertisement from McGraw-Hill that ran in the 1950s. The copy platform of this ad was quite simple, yet effective:

I don’t know who you are.

I don’t know your company.

I don’t know what your company stands for.

I don’t know your company’s customers.

I don’t know your company’s record.

I don’t know your company’s reputation.

Now ─ what is it you wanted to sell me?

Come to think of it, in terms of the “XYZ CRM” company, I don’t know who they are, what they stand for, their customers, their track record, or even their reputation. All I know is that they give out awful free marketing advice.

And for me, that’s enough NOT to recommend them to anyone now, or in the near future.

Perhaps they ought to reconsider their own policies, and their own advice, by figuring out how to create a strong corporate brand for themselves that can be leveraged for greater sales, higher margins, and better profitability.

In the meantime, I caution all readers to be leery of free marketing advice, especially when this is promulgated by sales people more interested in meeting quarterly sales targets than in helping you to better understand how to use the power of marketing to create and grow your own sustainable business.

KEY POINT:  do not overlook the strategic importance of having a strong corporate brand in today’s ultra-competitive markets.

TAKING ACTION:  be leery of free marketing advice, particularly when it is not proffered by professional marketing people, but by those eager to sell you their goods and services.

When was the last time you took a good, hard look at your corporate brand and the impact of this on both your future sales and your customer retention levels? Have you become so comfortable with your corporate brand that you have forgotten to check its pulse with your customers, prospects, employees, and the communities you serve?

Contact us today for an in-depth discussion on how we can help you evaluate your corporate brand and devise strategies to leverage your corporate image to enhance the sustainable growth of your business.

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

If It Touches The Customer, It’s A Marketing Issue

Base Your Marketing Strategy On Customers, Not Products

Many years ago I developed a personal marketing philosophy that I believe forms the core principle of marketing ─ if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™

By focusing my thinking on what touches the customer, and how these impact and influence customers’ purchase decisions, I became highly adept at developing marketing and positioning strategies, first for my employers and then for my clients upon creating Howard Marketing Services in 1993.

Of course, everything your organization does touches your customers. This is why I advocate that long-term, sustainable success requires a customer-centric, marketing-led approach.

The key here is being customer focused, not just marketing led. Success will not automatically result from the traditional implementation of marketing techniques such as brand advertising, one-way communications with customers, lack of awareness of customer experiences, and reactive customer service strategies.

Rather, sustainable growth and success, as well as long-term customer loyalty, results from combining and modifying those traditional marketing approaches with TLC (think like customers), proactive customer engagements that lead to long-term customer satisfaction, two-way communications at all customer points of interaction, and a focus on understanding and learning from customer experiences with your products and services.

Prolonged success also results from adapting your current organizational processes and practices to better align yourself with the changing values of customers.

One of those changing customer values is choices and flexibility. Customers want both choices and flexibility, particularly when deciding what products and services will provide solutions to their needs, wants, and desires. Of course, when it comes to the actual purchase and use of a product or service, it is a bit different. As B. Joseph Pine points out in the book Mass Customization, “Customers don’t want choice. They just want exactly what they want.”

Only an organization that is fully focused on identifying the needs, wants, and desires of its customers will be able to provide exactly what they want. Then, if you give customers a little bit more than they expect, you are well on your way to developing long-term customer loyalty. As Susan Lyne, CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said, “If people get what they expect from a brand ─ and more ─ they’re going to stick with it.”

Product Marketing. Brand Managers. Product Managers. Organization structures based on product lines or product groups. This is where the traditional focus of marketing has been, and unfortunately still remains ─ on products.

But, as I have often stated: “A product is or a service is just your point of entry. A loyal customer is the true goal.”

Having loyal customers should be the goal of every organization. The purpose of business, as the legendary Peter Drucker wrote, is “to create a customer.” In my view, the ultimate role of marketing is to create and keep good customers, to the benefit of customers, the organization, and other stakeholders.

Business is not just about sales, contracts, cash flow, internal rates of return, ROI, and profitability. Even Henry Ford recognized this when he said, “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”

Using traditional marketing techniques, being “customer oriented” has meant operating in order to meet the needs of the typical customer, or the average customer. Businesses today cannot afford to focus on the average customer. Your future growth, and future profitability, comes from satisfying the needs of your most valuable customers.

To treat your most valuable customers as your most valued customers requires that they be treated as individuals ─ with individual needs, wants, desires, likes, and dislikes.

To treat valuable customers as individuals requires the understanding that anything that touches these customers is a marketing concern. It also means understanding that everything you do as an organization ─ and sometimes the things that you do not do ─ touches your customers.

The bottom line is simply this:  if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue™.

This simple phrase births an entire marketing philosophy that you can use to develop sustainable growth and a loyal customer base for your own products and services.

It means doing things ─ particularly “marketing” ─ differently than you are doing them today. It means putting the needs of your customers first, before those of the organization. It means inculcating the skills of thinking from the customer’s perspective throughout the organization. And it means delivering your brand through customer experiences rather than paid advertising.

It will feel different, doing all these things, of that I can assure you. But I can also assure you so too will be the results.

 

KEY POINT:  if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™

TAKING ACTION:  what is the main focus of your internal meetings? Products or customers? Sales results or customer needs? How can you spend more time discussing customers and their needs and less time discussing other matters?

How do you reward those in the organization that exhibit high levels of customer intensity? How do you publicize their efforts internally? What can be done to improve these areas and turn your customer-focused folks into internal heroes?

What is your marketing strategy based on ─ products or customers? Are your marketing plans based on product groupings and goals or customers and customer segments? Now is the time to change from product-driven strategies to customer-driven ones.

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

12 Marketing Principles

The Importance of Core Marketing Beliefs

Do you have a set of marketing principles or philosophies that you follow? I do.

I find having a written set of marketing principles gives me a great reference point when making recommendations to clients on their branding or marketing strategies. It also means my recommendations are based on a core set of beliefs, not current marketing trends and fashionable marketing ideas.

In no particular order of importance, these 12 marketing principles are:

  1. Segment customers based on customer needs, not the needs of your organization and not based around the structures of your existing organizational chart.
  2. In order for customers to see you as a unique brand or service provider, you need to treat them as unique individuals ─ with individually unique needs, wants, desires, likes, and dislikes.
  3. Remember that when dealing with customers (even in the B2B world) you are dealing with fellow human beings, not revenue streams. Thus, every customer matters and every customer interaction matters (especially to the customer).
  4. The era of mass production required mass communications. Today’s era of individual customers and smaller customer segments requires a more individualized approach to marketing communications.
  5. Your fellow employees communicate your brand’s true value to customers. Every employee interaction with a customer or prospect, therefore, either enhances or denigrates your brand reputation and the customer’s brand experience.
  6. With the increased importance of Corporate Social Responsibility, your corporate image is more important than ever. How your corporate image is managed is critical. After all, competitors can replicate your products and services, beat you up on price, outspend you in promotions, and outperform you in distribution. However, the one thing competitors cannot copy or duplicate is a well defined, well managed corporate image.
  7. The Four Ps of Customer Retention (People, Policies, Processes / Procedures, and Prevention) are more relevant for retaining customers captured through the time honored marketing mix than the original Four Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion, and place) created over 40 years ago by Professor Philip Kotler.
  8. It is not what you communicate, it is what your customers hear that is most important. Customers have learned how to filter out traditional marketing messages and now, with devices such as TiVo and email filters, have the tools to do so. Getting customers to hear your marketing messages requires greater creativity, increased innovation, and heightened integration.
  9. Profitability is not very useful or informative for understanding customer needs.
  10. Focus on your customers and their needs, wants, desires, likes, and dislikes. Remember, if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.
  11. CRM works better when it means Customer Retention Marketing. Customer Retention is the art of keeping good customers™ and should be the cornerstone foundation for all long-term marketing strategies.
  12. If it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™ Marketing is the integrator across all business lines and all internal departments.

I hope you are able to put some, if not all, of the above marketing principles into practice.

 

KEY POINT:  if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™

TAKING ACTION:  what are your own personal marketing principles? How do these impact the short-term and long-term decisions you make?

Circulate the list above to your staff or fellow colleagues. Discuss which ones instinctively feel right for your organization. Why?

How could these be disseminated widely throughout your department, business unit, or entire organization?

This article is a revised excerpt from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in paperback ($13.88) and Kindle ($3.88) formats.