Wednesday, March 22, 2023

How to Remain a Leading-Edge Marketer Throughout Your Career

I have been a marketing practitioner for 38 years. And I am happy to report that my skill set has kept up with the latest marketing concepts and technologies. So, how do I stay abreast of the latest developments? Here is my list of the things that one can do to stay current:
  • Hold a variety of marketing positions over time - I held positions in product management, new product development, trade marketing, brand management, brand licensing, advertising, promotion, media planning, marketing research, CRM, corporate communications and marketing management
  • As a consultant, help other companies solve their marketing problems - I have helped more than 200 organizations in 60+ industries develop successful brand strategies
  • Read every new marketing, marketing research, customer service, psychology and behavioral economics book that is published
  • Read as many other genres as possible
  • Go to marketing conferences and take lots of notes
  • Speak at marketing conferences
  • Attend marketing webinars and take lots of notes
  • Develop marketing webinars
  • Watch marketing "how to" videos on YouTube and Vimeo
  • Take marketing e-learning courses
  • Volunteer to help not-for-profit organizations with their marketing
  • Teach marketing as an adjunct professor at a local college or university
  • Conduct marketing seminars at a local library
  • Develop and produce marketing e-learning courses
  • Publish a marketing blog - so far, I have written 1,460 posts for three different marketing blogs
  • Create a marketing-related YouTube channel
  • Create a marketing podcast
  • Become a guest on other people's podcasts
  • Interview CMOs for your podcasts, videos and blog posts
  • Write a book on marketing
  • Write marketing-related articles for professional journals
  • Volunteer to judge marketing competitions
  • Join the local chapter of the American Marketing Association
  • Join the local chapter of PRSA
  • Join the American Advertising Federation
  • Network with other marketers
  • Create and publish a marketing industry survey to identify the latest marketing trends and issues
  • Create websites and manage social media for your favorite hobbies and organizations - I manage five different Facebook pages for five different organizations in which I am involved
  • Make sure you understand social media marketing, mobile marketing, CRM, email marketing, marketing automation, geofencing, retargeting and OTT and CTV marketing
  • Use Chat-GPT in a variety of ways to make sure you understand it
This list may seem overwhelming but true experts never stop learning. They relentlessly explore deeper and deeper into every aspect of their field of expertise. And they do the same with closely related fields of expertise. This is how one becomes a world-class marketer.

I hope this provides you with some ideas of how you can stay at the top of your game throughout your marketing career.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Social Media & Digital Marketing

I am an older guy. I was on the forefront of the revived brand management movement in the mid-to-late 1990s. And I have ridden it out until the present. I was also an early user of the Internet - going as far back as 1976 when it was primarily a military communication vehicle (ARPANET). Further, I was on the ground floor of coding, learning Fortran, COBOL and basic assembler language in college. When I was at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in New York, I was an expert in reading binary code, hexadecimal code and core dumps to identify coding errors. I had an online newsletter before there were blogs and I started a few of the first marketing-oriented blogs. And, I have kept up with web design, SEO, content marketing, social media marketing (Google, Facebook, et al.), digital marketing, mobile marketing, CRM, data analytics, email marketing, marketing automation, CTV/OTT, geofencing, retargeting, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc.

I share this background to indicate that I am grounded in both classical marketing and branding concepts and techniques and the most recent tools and advances in social media and digital marketing. I am not just speaking from one of these two perspectives. And I am not a luddite.

Here is my point. Social media and digital marketing are overrated. Brands and enterprises have become over reliant on them. Why? They are modern - the latest "shiny objects." They are relatively inexpensive. And, most importantly, you can track and measure their results (which cannot be said of many other marketing components).

However, while they have their place in the marketing mix, here is what they continue to lack - the human touch, relationship building, peer-to-peer marketing, real world publicity stunts, and the power of a good salesperson to close a sale.

Yes, over time, blog posts, podcasts and YouTube and Vimeo videos can create a certain level of trust, emotional connection and thought leadership. And, there are ways to make digital content go viral, especially to an extent that cannot be achieved otherwise. However, more "high touch" marketing tactics must be kept in the marketing mix to create a truly integrated and powerful marketing campaign. 

When a person only knows how to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When marketers only know social media and digital marketing, the primary marketing vehicle becomes digital by default.

To have a fully rounded marketing campaign that is highly effective, generally you need the following marketing components: target market definition and segmentation, marketing research for customer insight, marketing strategy and plan development, graphic design, videography, copywriting, media planning and placement, media relations and publicity and social media and digital marketing expertise. 

I have witnessed more and more companies with limited resources relying solely on social media and digital marketing to achieve their marketing goals - often with lackluster results. This is not always the case, but it is often the case. 

If I were to start a marketing campaign with very limited resources, I would start with media relations and publicity including proactive publicity and carefully crafted publicity stunts. In today's world, this would include social media and digital marketing. But social media and digital marketing wouldn't be the only components of such a campaign.

So, my core message in this blog post is that while social media and digital marketing are likely to be components of your integrated marketing campaign, they should not be the sole or dominant components of that campaign. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

Why Customer Touch Points Matter

When people think about brands and brand management, they usually think about one of these things: brand positioning, brand strategy, brand identity and brand marketing. But they should also think about customer touch point design and execution. This is often driven by processes, systems (human and computer), organization design, front line employees (including customer service and tech support), hiring criteria, training, metrics, reward systems and other HR, operations and IT functions.

Consider the impact of each of the following scenarios on how you might perceive the brand:

  • Someone in a branded vehicle cuts you off in traffic and gives you the middle finger.
  • You call a customer service line and are asked to punch an endless set of digits only to find that there is no option for what you are seeking.
  • You call a customer service line and are put on hold for over 20 minutes only to have the call dropped so that you have to start all over again.
  • You interact with a tech support person who knows less than you do about fixing a problem you are encountering.
  • You complain at the front desk of your hotel about a problem in your room but no one ever shows up to fix it or to compensate you for your inconvenience.
  • (This one actually happened to me this year.) You sit on a chair in the hotel. As you get up a small nail sticking out of the seat tears your brand new dress slacks and cuts your leg. You inform the hotel staff but they do nothing about it. You move the chair away so no one else encounters the same problem but they put it back again...repeatedly.
  • You find rodent hairs in your soup.
  • Your online reservation is lost when you arrive at the hotel. They tell you that there are no available rooms except for the presidential suite, which is $600 a night.
  • When you reach a customer service representative, she informs you that she does not have the proper authorization to fix your problem. 
  • You receive a defective product via FedEx or UPS. When you reach the company's customer service person, he doesn't give you a pre-paid return address label to send the defective product back. Instead, he gives you the address to which you need to ship the defective product at your expense.
  • You enter a cafe's restroom only to discover filthy toilets, sinks and floors. You are afraid to touch anything, especially the toilet seat.
  • You are served partially frozen food at a restaurant. The food was supposed to be hot. Your waitress has disappeared. You can't find a waiter or waitress to whom you can complain. 
  • Or, we are in the mist of this, Southwest Airlines has cancelled your flight and the flights of most everyone else because of a systems problem. You can't get back home. You are furious and they can't seem to solve the problem.
While brand marketers can say all they want about the brand through advertising, social media, mobile marketing, etc., this is not going to overcome poor or inconsistent quality or service, which are mostly caused by HR, operations and IT issues. The brand manager needs to work closely with these functions to ensure that the brand is consistently delivering on its promise and creating positive emotional connections with its customers. And this alignment needs to be driven and supported at the highest levels of the organization.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Hiring Marketing Professionals

I recently helped a not-for-profit organization hire a new marketing director. That position's responsibilities span many marketing sub-disciplines. The skill sets we were seeking were extensive - corporate communications, PR, crisis management, blog and newsletter content creation, graphic design, videography, marketing plan development and execution, marketing research, brand management, collateral material development, social media marketing, CRM, marketing automation, guerrilla marketing, etc. That person would become a marketing department of one person, with the ability to craft winning marketing strategies while also executing all of the supporting tactics. He or she would work with outside marketing agencies, influence other staff members, work with volunteers and insure that the sales force was following through with leads. 

A large number of people applied for the job and we interviewed a smaller number of them. As an experienced marketer I was both surprised and not surprised with our selection. There were number of candidates with MBAs. We did not hire any of them. There were candidates with bachelors degrees in marketing, communications, journalism, and graphic design. We did not hire any of them. Most people had worked with the Adobe suite of graphic design software, CRM platforms, marketing automation software, Facebook advertising, Google Analytics, SEO, etc. We also bypassed several people with the most extensive of these skills. 

Who did we hire? We hired a person with an associates degree in business administration who started out as a wine buyer and store manager. Why did we hire him? Well, he did attend Google Analytics Academy. He has used the Adobe suite of software products and created and edited very successful videos. He has conducted marketing research. And he has managed press releases and public announcements. He created a very successful viral marketing campaign. He has also developed and executed comprehensive marketing plans. But this is not why we hired him.

Here is why we hired him. He has great interpersonal skills. He is very good at building rapport fast. He has a lot of common sense. He is an out-of-the-box thinker. He isn't afraid to try something new. He has an intuitive sense of customer needs and behaviors. He is curious and a lifelong learner. He is self-taught in all the of the marketing skills he has acquired. He watches YouTube "how to" videos and listens to marketing skills development podcasts. His first inclination is to create inexpensive media attracting events and other low- or no-cost marketing tactics. He is curious and wants to continuously grow professionally. He is honest. He tells you when he doesn't know something. He has a strong work ethic. And he was very concerned about not letting his current employer down during his job transition. The bottom line? He is a natural marketer. He has a great emotional intelligence. He is humble. And he is constantly growing professionally. I am convinced that he will pick up what he needs to know as time goes on.

So, why have I written this piece? I have learned over time that it is better to hire for personality and character than for specific skill sets. We can teach skills. We can't as easily change personality, character and the capacity for thinking and continuous learning. And some people are out-of-the-box thinkers, while many are not.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Positioning Product Brands

When entrepreneurs or organizations start out with a product seeking a market versus the other way around, they need to think carefully about which market or markets their product (and brand) would be most wise to serve. 


This involves target market identification, product category selection and unique value proposition determination.


I will use a real-life example with which one of my client companies is now wrestling. This company has created a very tasty parmesan cheese substitute that has no dairy component. It is in a ground up form that can be added to food from a shaker. The product includes many healthy ingredients and no artificial or harmful ingredients. It is a very good product. But the question is, "What are the most advantageous markets for the product?"


To determine this, we must consider the customer segments, potential product uses, market sizes, market growth rates, market profit margins, and the competition by market. Once these are used to identify the most advantageous market segments, then the appropriate product category or categories must be selected and the unique value proposition must be crafted to fit the chosen category or categories. 


Going back to the parmesan cheese substitute, it could be added to pasta, used to flavor popcorn, shaken on top of grilled steaks or seafood, added to soups, stews or salads, added to quiche, added to fondue or eaten with a spoon as a snack. Which are the most likely uses for each potential market segment? Which uses provide the largest markets? For which uses are the largest quantities consumed? Which uses have less competition? Which uses would make the most intuitive sense to people? Which uses would be the most compelling?


What do the targeted markets and the intended uses imply about the product category? Is the product a healthy parmesan cheese substitute, a non-dairy parmesan substitute, a cheese-flavored seasoning, a condiment, a healthy food additive, a flavor enhancer or something else?


Each of these product category descriptions might appeal to different target markets. For instance, a non-dairy parmesan substitute would primarily appeal to vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. How big are these two markets?


One must also consider who cooks, what types of meals they prepare, how often they prepare different types of meals, how much the snack, what types of snacks they consume and what flavors their palates prefer. 


In the case of this product, one must also consider whether it is to be positioned as a variation on a traditional ingredient in classical cuisine or as an ingredient associated with nouvelle cuisine.


Once the target markets, product categories and product uses are determined, one must also consider the competition in arriving at a highly compelling unique value proposition (UVP). What will make this product and brand stand out within its intended product category?


Also, one might think through whether the product or brand might best be associated with comfort, nostalgia, family, friends, experimentation, excitement or something else.


I hope this helps you to see that product uses, product category definitions, target markets and market segments and unique value propositions need to work together to create more focused, integrated and effective brand and marketing strategies. These are all components of a brand's positioning.