Marketing Sense

A discussion of marketing tools and tactics with a common sense attitude

Posts Tagged ‘Marketing Planning’

Marketing Planning – The Customer Speaks First

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on October 29, 2010

I’ve had the good fortune of collaborating with the folks from Street Smart Strategic Planning recently. It’s provided a refreshing perspective on the value and raw power of the customer’s voice in marketing planning.

Many companies barge into their marketing efforts believing they know what the customer wants to hear and how s/he wants to reached. Business people often LIVE in their industry category and know the business inside and out but overlook the fact they are not the customer (although they might try to tell you they are).

Most businesses tend to zero in on tangible differentiation – features and benefits, as a means to try and convince customers to buy. But “bigger, better, faster and more” can only carry a business so far – it becomes too easy for competitors to match features or price. The challenge is to uncover a truer differentiation that will resonate more closely with the customer’s desires. And this is where the voice of the customer comes to life and demonstrates its power in marketing planning.

By undertaking the right kind of customer investigation, businesses can begin to discover more emotional routes to the customer. Look at how customers view themselves when they use the product: What image do they project or portray? Do they like what they see? Discovering what appeals to the customer beyond basic product specifications provides tremendous insight.

Another area to explore is a customer’s perceived utility or benefit of using a product. Too often marketers get so wrapped up in describing the product itself that customer benefit is overlooked. One basic means to begin discovery is to simply ask the customer: “What would your life be like if you no longer had access to product X?” Now we can begin to explore the deeper benefit to the customer.

The folks at Street Smart approach these three areas as MIND, HEART and SOUL. In general terms MIND refers to product attributes, HEART to emotional appeal, and SOUL to product use and utility. Many marketers forge ahead with their planning completely aiming at the rational MIND and wonder why campaigns fall flat in a short period of time. In order to find deeper success marketers must tap into the power of the customer’s voice, listen, and begin to understand what motivates purchase behavior. Only by listening to the customer first will a marketer begin to successfully integrate messages that appeal to the MIND, HEART and SOUL.

Ask the customer what’s important instead of guessing what you think they want to hear. What you discover will return huge benefits to your marketing planning process.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beyond an audience of ONE.

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on April 13, 2010

When developing marketing communications plans and materials there is always the crucial “approval” phase where the decision is made to proceed. One significant challenge at this point is managing the personal subjectivity that tends creep in. Time and time again, great communications concepts and ideas are tossed aside based on personal choices, at times undermining the potential impact of a tactic helping achieve a communications objective. Some of these may sound familiar:

  • I talked to a few people around the office and some didn’t like it.
  • I had my spouse look at it and s/he didn’t like this part of it.
  • I showed my Dad/Mom/Grandparent and they don’t understand it.
  • “I” just don’t like it.

The issue with placing credence in the above objections is often times your “audience of one” is not a true representative sample of the target audience the communications is seeking to reach. Many factors are considered in plan, campaign and tactic development including demographics, interests, product use patterns and more. In order to get the best possible evaluation on your marketing communications concepts and ideas you’ll want feedback from a solid segment of your target audience.

Focus on your audience first. Here are some points to help guide you:

  • Don’t assume that your target audience uses communications tools the same way you do. For example, you may not use RSS feeds and feel the need to crush a concept using RSS, but your audience may find great value in it.

  • Sit on the other side of the table when evaluating. Try not to think of the concepts and ideas from a company standpoint. Think of the concepts from your audience member standpoint. Remember, in most cases you are not the target audience.

  • Stay away from people’s opinions other than your target audience. Unless your co-worker, parent, spouse or friend is solidly a part of your target audience, don’t seek their opinion as you will simply get a subjective, reactive response.

  • Find means to engage your audience in the approval process. Focus groups, panels, test markets and other means are available to find out the true response of your audience to certain concepts. And new digital tools are making this easier and faster than ever before.

Bottom-line: You may be close to the work and close to the market, but don’t assume that you will react the same way as your target audience. They are often more astute, connected and discriminatory than you might give them credit for. Make the most of your marketing communications by reaching out to your customers for involvement and approval early. The impact at launch time will be well worth the effort.

Have you ever been surprised by a customer unexpectedly liking something you didn’t?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Let Your Marketing Fall Down… in the Last Four Feet

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on February 17, 2010

Marketing communications, in simplest terms, helps put a customer or prospect in the right frame of mind to buy. It can educate, inform, advise, recommend, encourage, scare and influence a prospect, but it cannot make them buy. At some point someone or something (e-commerce for example) has to close the sale. A recent presentation by Datacore Marketing describes this as “The Last Four Feet.”

The Last Four Feet represents the final steps that a customer takes as they approach the sales counter (or online checkout). Without question this is the most important part of the process. Can you close the sale?

Marketers place great emphasis on campaigns to the end-user or customer. Significant, sometimes huge budgets are invested to help put the target audience in the right frame of mind to buy. But too often, after marketing communications has done its job with the customer, the process falls down at the sales counter.

Picture a customer who receives direct communications on your product, investigates online, reads the reviews, talks to their friends and decides “I want to buy.” They enter the “store” to purchase, approach the checkout, and the salesperson (or process) says, “Have you seen the features on alternative product #2 over here?” At that point, in the last four feet, all of your marketing communications efforts are shot down by one missed communication.

So how do you avoid losing your customer at the sales counter? Here are four sure-fire steps that will help with “the last four feet.”

1)      Educate your sales channel first – before any external customer communications begin. Be sure products and processes are easily understood (this applies to e-commerce too).

2)      Let the channel in on the process early, ask for feedback and implement suggestions that will strengthen the relationship with the channel. If using e-commerce, be sure to test the checkout process to make sure it is intuitive and without distraction.

3)       Involve the channel in the product or campaign  roll out. Give the channel an active stake in the process that encourages their engagement. A kickoff event, an incentive, an interesting (but not burdensome) program.

4)      Reinforce the sales process within your marketing communications. Suggest to the customer in your messaging the easiest route to purchase while reinforcing the same “easy route” to the channel audience.

Marketing communications can put the customer in the right frame of mind, but it can’t ring the till by itself. Include a solid channel strategy to make sure your marketing investment isn’t lost at the sales counter.

Have you ever dropped out of a sale at the counter?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mapping out your marketing planning.

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on September 17, 2008

By Colin N. Clarke – It never ceases to amaze me how often I hear business owners say “I just need a brochure” or a radio ad or some other quick “marketing tool.” Often I’ll ask, “How does this fit in your marketing plan?” And over the years I’ve received a mix of reactions. My questions aren’t meant to stifle opportunity, the questions are simply asking –  “Do you have a plan?” If you don’t, YOU NEED ONE. Here’s a process you can start with that will help you make sense of marketing planning.

1) Decide where you want to go. Give yourself something to aim at. How are you supposed to know you’ve reached success if you’ve never clearly stated what your destination is? This can be as simple or as detailed as you want to be – pick something to aim at. Increase business volume by 25% in the next year; Add a second location to my business in two years; Have people view my business as one of the best in the city. Pick a destination.

2) Decide how you want to get there. Look at the things that you are really good at which set you apart from other businesses. Let’s say your company offers some unique services, or you are very good with people. Use these things to your advantage by focusing on that unique offering or fostering strong business relationships. The idea here is that you are going to use the things you are good at to get to where you want to go.

3) Map the route. You’ve decided where to go and how best to get there, now map it out with checkpoints (key activities) along the way. Choose to highlight the unique offering through advertising tools or choose to use your good people skills to grow awareness by joining local networking organizations. The trick here is to map the route and stay on it! Now if someone offers you an opportunity you don’t think you can pass up, you can look at your map and see if the opportunity fits on your route. If it doesn’t fit, pass on by.

I like to make sense of the marketing planning process by equating it to traveling:1) Decide where you are going (Let’s say New York).   2) Decide how you want to get there (by car, bus, train or plane). 3) Map the route (the roads you will travel and where you will stop for fuel, food and sleep). No matter who you are, it takes these three steps to reach your travel destination – and it is the same way in business. Take the time to plan things out early and you won’t have to react to any last-minute marketing “opportunities” later.

To sum it up in simple, straight-forward marketing sense: “You might have the fastest horse in the race, but it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know which direction the finish line is.” Now get on track and map out your marketing plan.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »