By APNWLNS payday loans
April 16, 2013
Two cynical definitions of language neatly describe many marketing communications:
The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another’s treasure …
The source of misunderstandings.
Marketing’s job is to charm people out of their money, preferably by articulating the true value of necessary products. Yet many marketing managers slip straight to snake oil salesmanship and leverage a ton of text and bunkers filled with buzzwords to attempt recruiting prospects. Misuse of language is a chief cause of unhappy customers and board members.
The first task in marketing communications is to promote value. Here at Silicon Strategies Marketing, we defined (copyright alert) value as “the intersection of need and differentiation.” Value intersections tend to be precise, and the language used to describe a particular value must be as well. Generalized and buzzword-heavy statements like “the most cost-effective, easy-to-use, and universally accessible” detract from precise value articulation. The results are customers who see no specific value and thus have no specific motivation to further investigate a product.
The lure of easy buzzwords is obvious. Clear market messaging is both science and art, and few folks (outside of Silicon Strategies Marketing that is) have both skills. Marketers lean on what seem like obvious value points, which is the problem. If the “value” point is obvious, then it is likely (a) universal or (b) universally claimed. Either way it violates half of the value equation, namely that your product is somehow different. Weak messaging also has the negative habit of putting readers to sleep, which makes communications even more difficult.
When crafting your value propositions, and from those your value headlines, take four steps, none of which are fast or pain free:
Understand the real value: Using our definition of value, be 100% sure that you have any. Keep in mind that the value delivered is likely different for each market segment and buyer genotype.
Customer language: Customers have their own language for their needs. Use their language, not yours, to describe the value you provide. This creates instant cognition.
Explore your thesaurus: These books exist for a reason. The word you dream-up to describe value may be good, but not precise. Find the best words.
Compare competitors: Make sure you are not saying what your competitors are. Doing so eliminates perceived differentiation.
On that note, I have to end this blog and create alignment to establish clear goals that expand diversity and empowerment in order to leverage organic growth in our new paradigm and thus create a win-win scenario.
April 2, 2013
The worst thing you can do to a good bar is to make it popular. Once everyone goes there, it isn’t worth going there anymore.
Email advertising and online surveys used to be good bars. When email first commercialized, it was a great and inexpensive tool for lead generation, prospect follow-up and brand reinforcement. But as emails popularity exploded, so did the number of marketers who abused the process. Today people dread reading their morning email – it has become a disappointment filled chore. Email open rates have been dropping. This has caused some marketers to get smarter and create better and more targeted emails.
Lousy marketers just find bigger lists and thus annoy more people, which will continue to drive down open rates.
Something related is occurring to surveys. Once online survey tools became cheap and easy to use, every man, woman and hermaphrodite with an email account started receiving survey invitations … hourly. The result is that participation rates, which were typically low before the Survey Lounge became popular, have dropped to rates less than 0.1% of invitations. People have started to auto-reflexively ignore emailed survey invitations unless the subject line is well targeted and offers some reward. A recently conducted survey went to a very tightly targeted audience with a combination of incentives (personal and charity donations) and managed a 0.2% response rate, which these days is better than average.
Anything that becomes frequent creates fatigue. Sending too many emails to one prospect, without adding new value at each step, will cause your email address to be added to a spam filter black list. Sending to people uninterested in your offering will only speed the process. To make email marketing effective again, you need to take a few logical steps:
Make it count: Emails must be meaningful, from the subject line through the last message and calls-to-action. Refine, refine, refine until it is right.
Target precisely: It is always a temptation to cast a wide net, but that has become ineffective and can land your email server on a black-hole list. Buy good lists with great hygiene and segment them relentlessly. Treat your house list the same way.
Eliminate barriers after contact: I have started abandoning pages that require registration for simple “Five ways to …” type articles. I’m not alone. Reduce friction everywhere, and raise barriers only after some form of commitment from the recipient has been made.
Keep trying alternatives and shift budget accordingly: Email is only one tool. If it is becoming less effective for you, then be bold and shift budget to places where you will get better results.
March 19, 2013
Spending money to compete toe-to-toe is dumb.
But this hasn’t stopped start-ups from doing just that.
Most start-ups are about as broke as college kids (and from the looks of their management team photos, may well be staffed with the same). They do need to spend money on marketing, but competing is foolish. For every face-off, someone loses face. Slugging it out with gorillas is fast suicide and shin-kicking many small competitors is the slow form.
In every market, you can outmaneuver competitors, even gorillas. By understanding the position of each competitor or how they approach buyers, you can compete without competing, which is more cost effective and more effective in general. SuSE Linux remains my worn-out example because it worked against the sitting gorilla.
Back when Linux was only starting to be seriously considered for mission-critical IT infrastructure, the U.S. market was owned by Red Hat and littered with also-rans, which included SuSE. Becoming the undisputed contender was our objective, and many things went into the process. One aspect though was understanding Red Hat’s communication plan and knowing who made IT decisions. At that time, CxOs were willing to use Linux for non-critical file and print servers, but little else. Yet Oracle, IBM and others SuSE partners were ramping up for a market revolution.
At that time, Red Hat was committing the classic marketing mistake of relying on what had made them successful in the past, namely talking to techies who took Linux into IT. In the typical IT hierarchy, techies had functional veto power over some IT decisions, but not the strategic ones. We decided if Red Hat wanted to talk to techies, we would romance CxOs by understanding their long-range strategic plans and articulating how Linux (especially SuSE Linux) could make their strategies succeed. While marketing did this, out PR team convinced the media that discussing anyone else aside from Red Hat and SuSE was a mistake and substantiated that notion.
The point of this example was that SuSE could have gone toe-to-toe with Red Hat, attempting to win the minds and hearts of techies everywhere. Instead we nurtured them with technical fodder while telling their bosses how SuSE would make business imperative strategic decisions possible. This did not guarantee sales, but it did guarantee two important things: SuSE would be on the short list and techies would have to justify why Red Hat was better than SuSE (and since CxOs knew that core Linux was nearly identical regardless of distribution, techies could not justify Red Hat).
You can apply the same basic strategy to positioning within a market or even a segment. Odds are there exist a dozen different viable positions within your market, and that most of them are vacant. Competing for the hot spot means restricting your market share and dominance because your competitors will get some of that business. Finding a position that you can dominate with little or no competition, then growing tentacles into other vacant positions allow you to grow more quickly and dominate the market, eventually squeezing the life out of your competitors.
Exploit, dominate and expand.
To use a football analogy, if your team did nothing but run successful three-yard plays every time, they would win every game, gaining twelve yards per every four downs. Market dominance is the same game played on a non-linear field. Run a safe play, get market share every play, then do it again.
That strategy would make even Lombardi smile.
February 19, 2013
Perception is reality, until reality overrides perception.
Marketers are branded as liars in no small part because many of them are. So pervasive is the trait that certain smart people have made good money writing on the subject. Marketers are charged with promoting products, which entails setting public perception about the product. In modern use of the word, this often devolves into propaganda instead of persuasion. Effective in the short term, setting unrealistic public perception about a product will eventually backfire.
This happens to politicians all the time.
Since perception is reality, at least in the short term, you need to have a clear notion of the reality you create for the market. Like the elastic in a fat fellow’s waistband, it can only be stretched so far before it fails. Since product disappointment is the essence of negative buzz, the greater the degree of potential disappointment you create, the harder the fall once the market commences complaining.
And they know how to complain. I recently read a restaurant review where one consumer said “If they offer to pay you to eat there, Sweet Jesus, don’t do it!”
The market ultimately decides reality, and in doing so redefines your brand. No amount of remessaging or repositioning will change the soiled mind of the market once it has been misled. Criminally insane marketers (no, that is not a redundant phrase) often double down on deceit once their preliminary propaganda pops. Large amounts of otherwise good money is wasted in trying to force a market to disbelieve what it already believes, which is slightly more difficult than changing the moon’s orbit. It also tends to invite mockery and an accelerated decline in brand value.
It is up to you to define reality. But keep in mind that the market is not composed of idiots, despite the outcome of some elections. Your product promotion should nudge people in the direction of the desired perception, letting the market accept the possibility of your chosen product position. The distance between reality and the reality you try to create should be short … so short that you could easily augment the product into that condition. Making reality and positioning one and the same is even better, but foreshadowing your eventual position through current promotions is not unthinkable.
The marketing lesson is that honesty is one of the better policies. The backlash from setting unrealistic expectations is often and deservedly disastrous. “Keep it real” has real meaning.
February 12, 2013
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Content is king unless it is crud.
There is no grand magic to content marketing. Yet many promotion probationers manage to muck it up. Long ago Google established that relevance was what people wanted in search, which really means they want relevant content. Producing relevant content and putting it where your target market can “discover” it makes content marketing works. Producing irrelevant content and forcing people to trip over it will cause you (and your company) to fail.
Many content marketers work on the volume of content, assuming that a large number of keyword rich pages will cause customers to connect. Such “strategy” once produced high traffic but low conversions. With Google constantly refining relevance filtering, voluminous content it isn’t even producing much traffic these days. Yet when it does, the outcome isn’t conversions, but annoyed ex-prospects who feel their time was wasted chasing the promise of meaningful information and being rewarded with mass-produced pap.
If they wanted that, they could watch Friday night sit coms.
For content (and its dance partner, search optimization) to work, content has to be targeted, relevant, spreadable and sharable.
Targeted: Knowing your audience and knowing the topic better than they do is key, otherwise your words, infographics and videos have no real destination and the content is aligned to nobody.
Relevant: The keywords that make your content findable must then deliver real, understandable, palatable, digestible information. Never serve content that people don’t find appetizing or that leaves them hungry (a little hungry is good and creates a great place to leave a call-to-action).
Spreadable: Content should syndicate, but lead always back to your stable. Posting content on other people’s sites or through syndication services works well when you have content that creates a desire for people to know more about its source and provides links that make easy work of finding it.
Sharable: This shouldn’t even need mentioning, but making content easy to pass along is more important than making it spreadable. One reader can, through the chaining effect, put your content in front of thousands and in a way that pre-selects your target audience.
Silicon Strategies Marketing and Marketing Memos is a good example (go figure). Our content marketing program has resulted in about 50% of our new business coming from inbound contacts (people finding us, then contacting us – no sales or other promotions involved). This despite breaking most content marketing “rules” – blogging only weekly and writing in long-form. Syndicating narrowly through channels has built our brand recognition, which led to my personal LinkedIn profile being in the top 5% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012 (this despite me not being a LinkedIn connection collector, maintaining a mere 266 touch points).
The marketing lesson is that content is powerful and produces well if you make it matter to the right people in the right way. Otherwise, you’re just wasting electrons and people’s patience.