Category Archives: Strategy

Seth Godin and common sense marketing

Purple CowSeth Godin and I have, unsurprisingly, a similar attitude toward marketing.  Compare, for example, his post What Do You Know? with my People Don’t… post of a few months ago.

Both basically remind the marketer that your “targets” (and this probably isn’t a great term) really don’t care about you and that the rules have changed in the Web 2.0 world.
Creative Commons License photo credit: psd

Free samples!

SamplingAre you using sampling in your marketing efforts?  Ad Age had a quick article on some of the sampling efforts being undertaken by major marketers this summer.

What’s old is new again.  Is it better to hit a prospect with 3 to 5 impressions and tell them about your product or is it better to put the product in their mouth or on their skin and show them how great it is?

If you think about it, the Web 2.0 technique of giving away your entire product dates back to the days of the local shopkeeper.  

Back in the day, the general store owner would give you a taste of what was in the barrel to get you to purchase the product.  Now, digital products and services providers allow you to use virtually all of their services free of charge, with the hope that you’ll come back repeatedly and purchase the premium (paid) product or generate pageviews to generate advertising revenue.

Sampling’s an old marketing technique, but it’s taken hold in Web 2.0 products and, with the advent of more granular tracking tools, is becoming more popular with traditional CPG.

As Winston Churchill once said, “The further back I look, the further forward I can see.”  What other “old” marketing techniques can you think of that can be resurrected in your marketing efforts?

Veto votes and brand dilution

Veto voting childGood marketing isn’t about chasing after the corner case–that last possible customer who might be buying from you, but who isn’t.

Overruling the veto vote to extend the reach of your brand often backfires.

Think of Starbucks and how they added breakfast sandwiches to the menu. It gave the customer who was considering a breakfast sandwich a reason to go to the local store instead of McDonalds.

The problem was that it made the stores smell lousy and more like McDonalds, which is a problem when you’re trying to sell $4 cups of coffee, a decidedly un-Golden Arches price point.

Thank goodness wisdom prevailed and Starbucks has gone back to their roots (coffee) and nixed the breakfast sandwiches.

Now Baskin-Robbins is making the same mistake and trying to solve for the Least Common Denominator by adding soft-serve to their menu. Now B-R is going to move away from what they’re known for (an interesting array of quality, scooped ice cream flavors) and start to compete with everybody in soft serve. So is Baskin-Robbins quality scooped ice cream or cheap soft-serve? My guess is the answer in the minds of consumers will be “neither.”

It’s always tempting to solve for the “veto vote” LCD or corner case to increase sales. Unless that’s done very carefully, it results in a widening of the target audience beyond what is reasonable, addition of vaguely related products and an “everything to all people” branding effort. Not a great place to be and, like Starbucks, you tend to find yourself focusing back on your core business after you’ve confused the customers.

Always focus on your core audience and core business and expand away from them only after very careful consideration.

One way to think about your core business and core audience is to ask the typical targeting questions in reverse. Ask “who isn’t in your target audience?” and “what don’t you do?” I find those questions are often answered more easily than the same question asked in the affirmative and with more clarity.

Summary and takeaways

  1. Be wary of “everything to everybody”. Trying to negate the “veto vote” or adding product features to address a corner case are warning signs. Tread lightly.
  2. Understand what you don’t do. It can help focus your marketing efforts on the right audience and right target markets and cause you to put aside distractions to your branding efforts.

What do you think? Will Baskin-Robbins succeed with soft serve ice cream? Are there other solutions to their growth problems?

Don't move your billing forward to take advantage of the postal rate increase.

Penny Black postage stampIf you’re mailing Standard Rate, you’ve got until Friday to present your material for entry at the USPS at the current rates. I hope you’ve been getting ready to mail at the old rates.

Is there anything you shouldn’t try to get in the mail at this point?

I can think of a couple things.  While it’s temping to get your billing out under the current postage rates (typically by accelerating a few bill cycles from next week to this week), my test results have shown that it’s not usually worth it.

For every cycle you push into this week (using an example of daily billing cycles and 6 day-a-week payment processing) you reduce the time for the customer’s last payment to get into the billing run.

Believe it or not, a lot of customers wait for the last minute to send in payments and they have a very good sense of the time it takes for a payment to work through the USPS.  Customers have a sixth sense about their payment cycles and changes to that timing tends to create problems.

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Is LTV the first step in my marketing plan?

istock-spreadsheet-compressed.jpgHow do you make money?

This is one of the first questions I ask all my clients. The answer usually comes back including some aspect of “buy low, sell high” and other margin-related facts. Regardless of the complexity or depth of the answer, one word is always included.

The magic word is “people.”

So why isn’t all marketing done on customer lifetime value (LTV)?  What are the five things you need to consider when developing LTV-based models that allow you to build CPA (cost per acquisition) based marketing plans?

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ProFlowers email of the day–how to make a strong offer

Every once in a while, I get a great email from one of the many companies I do business with online. Today’s great email is from ProFlowers and contains both an outstanding offer and some great strategic thinking.

Unbeknownst to me, ProFlowers suffered from some serious downtime yesterday. And with it getting close to Valentine’s Day ordering season, that’s a huge problem. The good news is that their website is fixed.

The better news is that I’m saving 15% off my wife’s Valentine’s Day flowers! Continue reading

Where do you rank?

I’ve been working on a list analytics project recently and that’s resulted in me thinking of, among other things, universes. I’ve started to think about model performance and how the changes to the economy might be impacting marketing results.

However, I wasn’t tempted to write this post until two things happened yesterday. First, I received MediaPost’s Email Insider newsletter on the subject of customer lifecycle. Then, I needed to drive to a client yesterday and noticed that I’ve been driving a different car more frequently.

It dawned on me that I’ve become an x minus 1. Continue reading

People don't…

Over the years I, and my clients have labored mightily at our marketing efforts. Hours of careful thought about our marketing objectives, followed by more hours of careful analysis of past test results. And even more analysis of our lists and target audiences, followed by hour upon hour of agonized copywriting and creative development. Lastly, double- and triple-checking test emails, lettershop insertion samples and testing our telemarketing scripts in every imaginable way.

After all that careful planning and analysis, what could possibly go wrong?

Just three simple things:

  1. People don’t read.
  2. People don’t think.
  3. People don’t care.

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What are marketers thinking of?

I’ve been subscribing to email newsletters since the early 90′s and–more recently–RSS feeds to try to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world of marketing and business.  Aside from a few must-reads, most of my efforts are a waste of time.  However, every once in a while something just jumps out of my mailbox.

Like today’s eMarketer Daily.

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