Friday, August 30, 2019

Beware of Asking Too Much of Marketing Copy

I have witnessed executives asking for a single communication to do too much. "I would like this communication to build awareness and initiate a purchase." "I would like this to speak directly to our customers, prospects and employees." "I want this communication to prompt them to give us their name and contact information and purchase our special offer." "This communication should get prospects interested in us and educate our customers." "This communication should introduce them to our brand and describe all of our products and services in detail."

Less is more. And, just as importantly, one needs to know what specific thought or action the communication is being optimized to achieve, and with whom.

Yes, one can use marketing vehicles and communications to achieve different actions in a multi-step sales or marketing process. But in that process, the first communication's objective might be as simple as making a prospect aware of your brand. Or it might be to help people understand your brand's unique value proposition. Another might be to establish your brand's credibility or thought leadership. Or perhaps it is designed to encourage a click-through from a social media platform. Yet another message might be designed to get someone to enter his or her name and email address. Or the purpose of a communication might be to get someone to watch a video. Another might be to get someone to sign up for a discussion with a salesperson. One of the final steps is usually to initiate a purchase. Most sales processes are multi-step processes. The appropriate marketing communication must be matched with each step.

In other scenarios, the objective of the communication might be to get someone to stop by your trade show booth or drop a business card in a raffle bowl. Or it might be to invite someone to a product demonstration or other event.

It is hugely suboptimal to try to get a single communication to achieve multiple ends. When this is tried, it usually achieves no end well. It is ineffective. So when you are designing a marketing message or writing its copy, make sure you are very clear on the objective (singular, not plural). And the objective shouldn't have multiple parts either. If each communication is written well with one objective in mind, it should achieve its goal and move people through the sales process.

Think twice and then push back if you are being asked to write copy to achieve multiple ends, and especially with multiple audiences. If you don't you might end up with something that doesn't achieve any particular objective well.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Everything is Fantasy

I am writing this from my Adirondack home where it occurred to me that most everything is fantasy. Here is what I mean by that. I have enjoyed decorating my log home with a wide variety of pieces that I have found from Adirondack rustic furniture and decor stores. My house is chock-a-block with black bear, moose, loon, trout, fly fishing, canoe and pine tree motifs. The furniture is mostly hand-crafted from wood and leather and everything from paintings, sculptures, lamps, placemats, towels, wall hooks and switch plates feature the Adirondack rustic look and feel. I have created a fantasy for myself and for the people to whom I rent the house when I am not here. One could build a normal house in the Adirondack Mountains, but most do not. And one could rent a normal house in the Adirondacks, but most do not.

This is not the only example of creating fantasy. Some people buy automobiles to reinforce a certain attitude, feeling or lifestyle. We often do the same with our dress. Are we powerful business executives, laid back beach bums, professorial types, rebels without a cause or something else?

Restaurants have themes. When I was in Moscow, I encountered restaurants with the most elaborate ethnic themes played out in costume, decor, menu items and even musical instruments. Japan has a lot of themed restaurants including one very questionable restaurant based on a toilet theme and another based on an Alcatraz prison hospital theme.

Harley-Davidson promises the feeling of complete freedom on the road and the comradeship of kindred spirits. I worked with a client who ran branded private campground resorts. They were designed to feel like exclusive private country clubs.

When you think about it, we all create personas for ourselves. We want to be perceived in a certain way and fit into a certain group. Some people love Walmart, others love Target but would never step foot in a Walmart store. Some Target fans pronounce Target as "Tar-J" to reinforce its more upscale feel to Walmart. While others would laugh at the "Tar-J" label and not step foot in either store. They feel more at home in stores such as Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman.

Beyond, food, water and shelter, we begin to think about things such as friends, camaraderie, social status, who we are or who we want to be and how we fit into the world. All of these play well into choosing the "right" personas and interacting with the brands that reinforce who we believe we are or who we want to be.

So as much as some brands may cringe at the thought of having something in common with Walt Disney World or Las Vegas, all brands are building a little bit of that fantasy into themselves because people enjoy creating and responding to fantasy, especially as it helps them define who they are and what they love.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Secret Ingredient - Caring About People

Most markets are populated with mature brands that struggle to maintain differentiation because it is easy for competitors to match any function, feature or service that is of value to customers. Most sources of differentiation don't last that long anymore. They quickly become "cost of entry" benefits.

But in working with more than 200 brands across a wide variety of categories I have discovered one differentiator that is difficult to identify and even more difficult to copy - genuinely caring about people. I have worked with several brands that have this as a differentiator. It works in every category that I have witnessed and it is real. These brands' customers will tell you how important it is to them to interact with people who really care. Friendliness, empathy and genuine concern are difficult to fake. And frankly, while leaders can intentionally design organizations to develop and nurture caring cultures, I have also found that organizations with those cultures tend to be clustered in specific metropolitan areas. I have been tempted to tell the economic development arms of those cities to add friendly, caring employees to their lists of regional strengths.

And as people become satiated with physical "things," the only thing left to sell them are services and experiences. Services and experiences are largely dependent on human interaction for their delivery. Again, caring employees matter.

Here are some of the employee attributes that contribute to a truly caring customer experience:

  • Genuine concern for others - narcissists need not apply
  • Good listening skills
  • Empathy
  • Intuition about human needs and emotions
  • Willingness to slow down and spend time with others
  • The ability to accurately read body language
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Emotional maturity
  • The strong desire to truly serve others
  • High acceptance of self and others
  • Meeting each person where he or she is without judgment
  • "Thick skin"
  • A positive attitude
  • A sense of humor

I have witnessed first hand how this differentiator directly results in increased market share, customer retention and profitability. This is a differentiator well worth exploring in this era of hyper-competition.  Good luck in pursuing caring, compassionate employees.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Sharing Your Brand's Values Through Storytelling

Sharing a set of values with customers is one of a brand's most important sources of emotional connection with its customers. I have written before about brands that do this well.

There are a variety of ways to communicate those values, but one powerful way is through brand storytelling, especially if the story is about the founder's vision or legacy. Often, this is found in the "Our Story" section of the "About Us" section on websites.

Here are some good examples of that:

I hope these examples help you think through how you might tell an emotionally compelling story about your brand highlighting its origins and its values.