Marketing Matters. Don't leave it to chance.

Marketing with Integrity

Should marketing be a regulated profession?

What does it mean to be a professional? Stephen Waddington, who used to do public relations for me when I was living and working in Europe, has just written a piece about professionalism and professional status for The Drumin which he argues that there are five tests for a profession:barrier to entry, community of practice, body of knowledge, ethical framework, and continuous professional development. These are indeed characteristics of the regulated professions, but there is another quite reasonable usage of the word “professional”, which describes a person who is thoroughly versed in, and deeply committed to, the skills and practice of a particular discipline. This usage often implies that it’s your full-time job. For example, we talk of professional athletes, dancers, project managers, programmers, and so on. Read more

Differentiation is key to selling in a tough market

Great products always have a market. The question is this: What’s the value proposition that makes sense in difficult times? If your product is all about quality, you have two advantages over lesser products:

  1. Your product can enhance your customer’s brand
  2. You can offer risk-reduction purchasing strategies to your customers.

Both of these differentiators depend on the quality of your product. If your offering is really well-designed, and it stands out from the crowd, you can offer your customer a way to differentiate, simply because they own and use your product. This applies to furniture, lighting, stationery, web design, product packaging and a host of other things. If you can enhance your customer’s brand, you have unique value in a tough economy. Your customer needs to be differentiated, just as you do. This is one way you can be successful in tough times.

The second factor is about risk reduction. Of course you can always offer money-back guarantees, performance guarantees and the like. These are time-tested selling strategies. The problem is that if you don’t have a great product, too many customers will call in the guarantees. Ideally you want to offer the guarantee and have no-one take you up on it, because it costs money to service a guarantee. That’s why there’s such a strong link between quality and risk reduction. The better the quality of your product, the better a guarantee you can offer. The better the guarantee, the more compelling the risk reduction argument. And the more compelling your risk reduction offer, the more likely your customer is to buy from you—especially in tough times like these.

The bottom line: now, more than ever, quality sells.

Innovation is not optional

Most people would agree that innovation is important. But not every company takes it seriously. Innovation is what keeps your business relevant as the needs of your customer change, and as your competition evolves.

It’s tempting to believe that in a cost-driven, mature market, efficiency is the key – that close management of costs and efficient and predictable processes are what makes the difference. But this is a mistake.

Of course, efficiency and cost management are part of every company’s operational plan, and in the environment where there’s not a lot of overall market growth, cost overruns can badly hurt a public company through missed operating margin targets. But the real challenge in a mature market is to change the game. Read more

Brand Incantations and Spells

In the last millennium, there was a group of people called alchemists. Their job was to take the ordinary stuff around them: lead, iron, acids and so on, and create gold. They believed, or hoped at least, that there was a way to create an incredible amount of new value from the ordinary things around them, if they could only figure out how to do it.

They conducted complex experiments, and used all the ideas and knowledge and art that was available to them. In the end, they were not very successful, although the idea was right. In modern times, we have created incredibly valuable new materials—plastics, carbon fiber, safety glass and so on. Read more

Position your Product for Success

Brands occupy space in the mind of the customer. The notion of positioning is a very important concept in product branding. Positioning is really creating a space in the mind of the customer that you can own, and that is not directly under threat from competitors.

The simplest way to think about positioning is to determine the key buyer criteria for your segment. What are the factors that buyers use in comparing products? It could be price, speed, quality, local availability, support, or any one of many possibilities. You need to figure it out. Read more

Brand-Driven Market Research

Brand development requires research. One of the cardinal sins in marketing is to assume that the customer is like you. You don’t know until you ask. In technology, you are probably out of date within six months of leaving the customer’s world and entering marketing or engineering or sales. Sales people probably lose it more slowly than the others, because their job is centered around daily contact with customers and their needs.

We look at these four primary areas in our brand research. Read more

Brand Recipes

I’ve written before about how brands work like symbols in our brain. Successful brands cause us to respond by associating strong positive pictures, sounds and feelings (and possibly smells and tastes) to the brand stimulus. You can study how this works in your own experience. I want you to think for a moment about BMW. As you think about BMW, make a note of what your mind does. Do you see images? What do you see? Does anyone hear anything? Are you in the picture, perhaps driving the car? Or are you watching the car in your mind’s eye? How many of you have positive images of BMW? What you see are the results of BMW’s branding efforts. Read more

Launching your Product

Launching a new product is a complex task, especially if it’s a new product area for your company.

The cost of delays in product launch are legendary. In the electronics business, system revenues range up to $50M per day of delay! How much are you willing to pay to reduce your launch time by one week? Or simply to increase the probability that you will launch on schedule?

Read more

Finding your Unique Value

We are experts at ignoring and tuning out. We especially ignore things that are like other things we’ve seen before. It’s a natural response to the clutter that surrounds us every day. Our brains have learned to look for the new and the different, and to ignore that which is undifferentiated. Most of marketing is about efficiently defeating this built-in, natural reflex, and causing potential customers to see our offering as new and different and valuable. In product and service positioning, it’s vital to stand out. In this article I will talk about some simple ways of setting yourself apart from the pack. First, some preconceptions that we might as well remove right at the beginning.

  • Nothing has to be a commodity
  • Differentiation isn’t always about the product
  • Business is not a war with your customers.

Here’s an instructive story about differentiation in the most difficult of circumstances: Read more