By APNWLNS payday loans
May 7, 2013
“You can get better quality than we offer, but you can’t find a higher price than ours.”
Oddly, that pitch works when not stated so bluntly. Known in marketing circles as the Mercedes Effect, it shows that people are willing to pay money for no added value aside from perception. Mercedes, Coach handbags, Apple computers and many other products have remarkably higher prices and margins than competing products of equal functional value. The difference is almost entirely because people want to own the brand and enhance their sense of self-worth by proxy.
There are other reasons for cultivating cult brands aside from getting obscenely rich. Great brands, well-crafted and relentlessly enforced can:
- Create buyer/market/investor faith in the product/company/cause.
- Bias purchase decisions, thereby increasing the number of conversions per promotional dollar.
- Create a sense of mystic relevance (or as the authority on propaganda calls it, perceived hidden underground knowledge).
- Allow you to charge vastly more money for similar functionality.
A good example of the power of branding is in the allegedly dying PC market. A recent study by Asymco shows Hewlett Packard ships nearly three times as many personal computers as Apple, yet Apple has more than double the per PC revenue and six times the margin per PC than HP. In other words, HP is working harder and earning less. Soon HP may start losing money on each PC they make, though they claim they will make it up in volume.
Apple’s mystique, eroding as it may be, was not accidental. Any review of their advertising shows that Apple knows their market, understands buyer biases to which they offer differentiation, and how to subversively appeal to those buyer motivations. Apple has crafted a brand perception so strong that competitors mock it in order to do what good marketing people should – attack their opponent’s strengths. This has assembled an army of Appleytes fully devoted to the product line, as iEverything shoppers demonstrate.
Few companies ever bother to define their brand. Fewer still match brand to buyer motivations and differentiation. This is a major sin in marketing and especially for start-ups who need to capture market mindshare as rapidly as possible. Take the time to get branding right. It pays big over long periods and makes you worthy of mocking.
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 26, 2013
No marketing person has ever created a “need.”
It is an enduring myth that marketing creates needs, which in a moment you will see is simply impossible. Many marketers have found other careers after beating their heads against the wall that separates “need” from “want”, and marketing products in exactly the wrong way. This flat forehead syndrome exists because of myth alone, and it is time to slay it.
Needs are preexisting conditions. As Maslow so painfully noted, there is a stacked list of needs. Yet Maslow was mistaken about the definition of “need” himself, for as you ascend his pyramid, his “needs” become aspirations. Maslow may have maladjusted marketers by creating a false sense of what a need is. Food, water, shelter are personal needs. Accounting and inventory are corporate needs.
“Wants” are a different subject. When new products are created, they are never “needs” at first and thus should not be marketed as such. Take the case of some new enterprise software that adds a plus-one advantage for businesses. At introduction nobody needs this software because the basic needs of enterprises are currently being fulfilled. Yet if the software gives one business an advantage in the market, soon their competitors will develop a need for a similar solution just to remain competitive. For the early adopter there is a want and for the late adopter there is need. Over time, just as vices become habits, all wants evolve into needs – nobody “needed” a television when Farnsworth first foisted his invention on an unsuspecting public, yet everybody now needs a 70” flat screen.
Because needs exist, they must be promoted by marketers with comparative advantages to alternatives. Yet when buyers do not know they want something new, marketers must make people develop desire. Marketing of needs is more mechanical while dealing desires is an art. The former leans more toward the practical while the latter is almost completely devoted to emotional response.
Knowing if you are selling needs or wants is primal and will shape your go-to-market strategy better than your PR firm, ad agency and boss’s dicta combined.
March 19, 2013
Next Page »
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.