The Absolute Truth About Marketing
Are you a digit? Do you do digital?
Fred Schebesta from Freestyle Media, a wundekind of the digital space, likes to get to the root of the matter on "Uamby" when he comes to visit. Fred - Rico to the boyz - is a digit. And a good one.
He knows that a button is not a sales pitch. This
post is about the type of people you find in the digital technopolis.
Are you a digit? Do you do digital?
Don’t be afraid to admit it. Some of my best friends are digital. Not terminally so. It will pass, but will they? I hope not.
My digits are nice people. The males are a random mixture of sensitive new age digitalis and modern insensitive macho cool. Metrosexuals, trans-decade dressers and slightly-better-than-billabong (Sydney skew). The femails are not gender-specific in their demeanour. They are postfeminist, ranging from retiring geekgrrls (with flashes of underlying supersanity) to high-confidence pixel maidens and neurosexual strategists, pioneers on the frontier of relationship simplicity seeking to offset the complexity of technopolis by connecting to blank emotional spaces that offer creative potential. They don’t want anyone or anything with a history.
I like all of them. I also like small, furry, poisonous animals. They have nothing in common.
Digitalia work in ‘spaces’, where I see only empty space. They are addicted to the cool, where I suspect fashion parading as business strategy. They appear self-satisfied, but I see only insecurity and bunker-bolstered bravado. They are good at what they do. But no one can tell if what they do is good to do. They (the clients) do it because others do it. They (my digits) feel misunderstood, but fail to understand that it is because they fail to understand the understanding of those from whom they want it (understanding, that is).
What they want is some good old-fashioned understanding, both personal and professional. They are invariably sensitive and searching. For each other, for respect, for answers. They suffer from a hunger they can never satiate – a lust for the new. Their dreams are forever on the bleeding edge, the blood being their clients’ (if they can get away with it.) Their hands are always full of communications devices that carry media. McLuhan was right – the medium has become the message. IPods, mobiles, PDAs, (here insert the latest splinter category of this genre)… all of which conspire to turn us into an autistic society. Self-contained and living in a bubble.
Despite this they are optimistic and garrulous. Confident of the future of technology, if nothing else. I look forward to the era a-comin’ when we will have lived out our digitalia nervosa and emerged from this fog of infatuation with platforms and bandwidth and applications.... and learned some basics of response dynamics.
A button is not a sales pitch, and a link is not an argument. A 'cool site' is a costly expense until it returns revenue at a better rate than all alternative uses of the funds. Digital media's legendary data capabilities is worthless if it only reports on the behaviour of anonymous visitors. Hits are little more value than TARPS. Track it to a sale to reveal cost per sales lead or don't capture it.
Live or die by the scoreboard.
Then there'll be less terror nervosa digitalia because you'll have something solid to stand on. Real sales data. That'll scare the client. (Being held accountable usually does.)
Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 7
[ ] Confusing “creative” advertising with effective advertising. Ad agencies talk about cut through and impact as if that is the only task a commercial must perform. And the logic is impeccable: if they don’t notice the ad, they can get the selling message. But how often does the attention-getting device devour the commercial, win an award and do zip for sales?
[ ] Burying the offer. The offer – the deal, the proposition, the reason to take action now – is far more important than the creative in stimulating response. Yet often you find it relegated to the back of the mailing or the tail end of the ad. If you want action and your offer is good, lead with it. Put it in their faces.
[ ] Poorly promotes sweepstakes and promotions. Smart contest enterers know which promotions to enter – the ones that are nearly invisible in the marketplace – because they will have a better chance to win with such a low entry rate. If you are going to run a promotion, give it enough air to fly. On pack promotions are often invisible.
A bright idea for a rainy day
Here's a nice idea, found at the Australian Museum. A machine that wraps your dripping umbrella in plastic so you don't have to check it at the door. Simple. Low cost. Convenient. And a silent reminder that the Museum cares about you (and doesn't want you drrrrripping on the exhibits. One bright spot in a dissappointing visit. (The dinosaur exhibit was closed and the aboriginal performance was called off at the last minute. Bah!)
The most powerful word in the English language
... is "FREE". Tests have proved it, copy-writers know it, consumers can't resist it, and mail order marketers rely upon it. In Australia we even devote special days to celebrate the consumer concept of FREE.
Where we live in Sydney we have "Clean Up Days" when the Local Council collects any old crap we've got lying around the place. And not just old crap, but practically new stuff as well. All the good cons-umers in the Hills District throw out their no-longer-useful stuff and the good citizens from less fortunate districts cruise our streets pillaging the booty they find on the footpath.
Some of them are obviously profess-ional traders, some of them seem to have a shopping list of stuff. But there's an unwritten rule: if it's out on the footpath, then it's fair game. I have put three old dining room chairs out the front one evening when it was not a "Clean Up Day" and they were gone before I got back in the house, such is the hunger for other people's stuff among the citizenry of Sydney. While we're making room for more stuff, other people are gathering up our crap to fil up their homes with moree stuff! Because it's FREE.
Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 6
[ ] Poor management of corporate entertainment program. Companies spend squillions entertaining people at sporting and entertainment events. But how often are those seats empty or warmed by a low value bum? The last minute ring around by sales people to fill the stadium seats for important matches is a familiar pre-event event. Map the year with the events you are attending, assign valuable names to those events (based on data you have collected on entertainment preferences for each client contact), and get the invitations out to them in enough time to replace those who cannot accept with clients or equal value. Or simply watch your entertainment budget frittered away for little return.
[ ] Self-indulgent sponsorships and corporate entertainment. You know the type: the boss likes golf or marlin fishing, so half a mill goes towards it even though the clients/customers don’t give a toss about it. Ask the CFO for advice on how to break it to the CEO. I wonder what the shareholders would say if they knew.
[ ] Poor targeting of sponsorship dollars. Sponsorship is a big hole into which marketing budgets can disappear for little return. Sponsorship should be judged like awareness advertising and measured as such. Who are you targeting? It can be used creatively to tie in staff, channels and customers to help achieve objectives against several target audiences.
More mistakes in marketing Part 5
[ ] Failing to leverage word of mouth by using brand community techniques. Each brand has a small, dedicated cluster of devotees and advocates who are a powerful advertising force. Engage them in behind-the-scenes activities, advance news of new products, etc., and they will spread the word through their networks. Smart companies foster a ‘fan club’ approach with activities that celebrate the brand. See Harley-Davidson go.
[ ] Needless brand extensions. Simply having a tick in the matrix box is not a good enough reason to launch a brand extension, even if the competition has one. Extensions can erode brand values, erode profitability, drive overheads up, and confuse the market and the channels of distribution. You should have good profit-driven reasons for stretching the brand. Read Trout and Ries on extensions.
[ ] Untargeted use of premiums (giving stuff away for the sake of it). Many companies give umbrellas and pens and a gaggle of items away to people willy nilly without a communications plan or objectives. They did it before and they will do it again…. By why? Because we’ve always done it. Unless there can be a measurable objective attached to it, drop it. Every item of expenditure must earn its place on the marketing calendar.
The customer ain't always right!
The Americans are spreading democracy throughout the Middle East, based on the theory that the customer (voter) is always right. But the President doesn't like their choices. Hamas wins power in Palestine, the Shiites win power in Iraq, the mullas win elections in Iran. Throughout the Middle East the voters are turning to extremists, and the US can't accept that the voter is always right. On those grounds there'd be a lot of people in Louisiana and Mississippi who agree, about the US voters who chose Bush.
More mistakes in marketing Part 4
[ ] Allowing unqualified people to make marketing decisions. By unqualified, I mean CEOs, sale managers, design engineers, and even CFOs. Not that they can’t take decisions – they must be made aware of their marketing implications. CEOs forge strategic alliances. Design engineers decide on product specs. CFOs influence budgets. The marketing department is forced to live with these decisions. But it is the customer who pays all their salaries and delivers the shareholder their profits. When is the customer consulted?
[ ] Failing to automate salespeople. The productivity issue is reason alone to invest in systems that track clients and their activities with your company. But an even more sinister threat than poor productivity lurks in your sales force. If you allow the sales reps to control the relationship data, they control the account. IE. they can walk away with the account, because the link is their personal presence rather than your institutional connection. Automation can help you monitor the relationship and run CRM applications.
[ ] Failing to leverage contributions to charity. Most companies have an unmanaged series of donations and support programs for which they fail to maximise ROI. The causes appreciate it when donors get value for their money because it means they’ll continue to give support. There are creative and tasteful ways to ‘be seen to be doing good’ including partnership programs, staff programs, advertising support, etc. Don’t let this money be blindly scattered.
Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 3
[ ] Failure to test. Marketers who roll out a response campaign without first testing it are so common, the word ‘testing’ is like ancient Greek in most marketing departments. But it is the only way to predict what response you will get. Predict the future? Yes, it’s possible and it’s easy. But it requires effort. Serious deficiency here.
[ ] Changing the advertising creative too soon. Boring your agency and yourself is the right way to extract maximum value from your ads. The VB campaign is a good example. It takes viewers 10 times as long to get bored with ads as it takes you and the agency (who have a vested interest in new creative.)
[ ] Failing to train salespeople. Apart from the basic assumption that your sales people are equipped with the best skillset they can have – would you send a soldier into battle without training? – there is a subtle power training can have. It turns the gypsy salesperson into a brand delivery vehicle. Like your brand, their selling style and messaging should be unique.
Rewriting DM Rules for the Web? Rubbish!
I’ve been around long enough to have heard every third rate sales pitch agencies can make as to why you should choose their type of advertising or their particular brand of creative brilliance. Ever since David Ogilvy wrote “Confessions of an Ad Man” and set himself up as the expert on advertising - his book written solely to attract more clients - less talented followers have attempted to cloak their new business strategy in the robes of a serious contribution to knowledge of the discipline.
The pea and thimble trick has now moved online, the home of the arrogant young things who believe they have discovered a world where all the rules of life are new and different. Paul Epstein, described as “CEO of High Voltage Interactive, the internet's premier lead generation and customer acquisition company”, has rewritten the rules of direct marketing for the Internet “space”. (Note to the uninitiated: there are no rules of direct marketing. There are only human reactions to communications that have been repeated often enough to become expectations.)
Writing on the emarketing hub imediaconnection.com (worth a look), Paul has a go at hijacking the old list/offer/creative impact formula, seeking to reweight it in favour of what he’s good at: creative and technology. Here is a heavily-editted version of Paul’s argument:
“Ed Mayer literally wrote the book on direct marketing. In the 1960's, after 30 years as a mail advertising pioneer, he popularized his "40/40/20 Rule," the formula that still guides most of the world's direct marketing campaigns. By his assessment, successful direct marketing campaigns should be built by focusing one's attention on audience, offer and creative in the following percentages:
• 40 percent audience
• 40 percent offer
• 20 percent creative
Ed Mayer died in 1975, when the internet was still the stuff of science fiction. He probably couldn't have predicted how, in a mere quarter century, our lives would revolve around personal computers…Any company that bases its interactive marketing strategy on 40/40/20 is missing a critical piece of the 21st century's direct marketing equation: technology.
Is there any real comparison between sorting through a handful of paper from your mailbox and interacting with the online world? With that as a starting point, we propose what we'll call the "4-Way Split Rule:"
• 25 percent audience
• 25 percent offer
• 25 percent creative
• 25 percent technology…
The nature and delivery of creative content changed dramatically when a whole new world began happening on a screen 18 inches in front of our eyes. Online consumers are under such heavy data bombardment that offers lacking creativity simply cannot penetrate their defenses...
The 40/40/20 Rule assigns a mere 20 percent of the pie to creative content because, in Ed Mayer's time, the main variables in creative messaging were limited to font choices and background colors. Under our 4-Way Split Rule, however, interactive marketers are free to play with an increasingly versatile media array…
Pual invited feedback on his article. So I sent him this email:
I know where Ed Mayer got his data. From testing in the real world of response. I have even more real world data on the split. When I was with Ogilvy & Mather Direct, our London office ran a 12-cell test program to measure the relative contribution of the three basic elements of response to the final outcome of a campaign. When the List was made the variable, the Offer and Creative being the same in all three cells, the difference between the best and worst performing cell was 700%. When the Offer was the variable, the difference was 300%. But when the Creative was made the variable the difference was only 135%. This test produced a split of 62:26:12. I believe these percentages are more accurate that Ed's rule of thumb. For reasons of logic. Get even a mediocre offer to the right person and you have a chance to make a sale. Get the world's best offer to the wrong person and it's no sale. Deliver the world's best offer via the world's best creative solution to the wrong person and it's "NO SALE"... These are not DM "rules". They are facts based on human nature.
Your introduction of "Technology" as a variable is not supported by evidence that the creative mechanisms of the Internet are different in essence to those of traditional DM. They are new ways of doing the same old thing - attracting attention, getting interaction and engagement with the communication long enough to register with the prospect what the deal is and how it will benefit them. Direct mail is "Technology". It is a delivery platform. The Internet is another delivery platform. I can't see the logical distinction between "Technology" and "Creative". If you have data which challenges the splits presented here, please correct me quickly... because I don't want to be giving people wrong information when there is data to set me right.
I’ll let you know if he replies…
Mistakes in marketing, Part 3
Continuing our series of blunders and booboos in marketing:
[ ] Poor targeting. Are you still using demographics? Young females, 18 to 24? As a target for your advertising? Knock knock – it’s the 21st century – hello! Giving a stupidly crude target like this is asking everyone to imagine the target from their own limited experience, especially ad agency people who think the world is full of people like them and their friends.
[ ] Poor IT integration. The silos of your business are separated by jealousy, fear, politics and a chasm called ‘IT integration”. Yet customers don’t see the company as a collection of warring factions and little empires. They think it’s one company. And they are bewildered when they can’t get seamless service and standardised responses.
[ ] Lack of Internet strategy for e-commerce. This is not a nice to have anymore. Consumers expect you to be available 24/7 and more and more they expect to be able to transact online. Why can’t I buy a new refrigerator online?
WHy not contribute your own blunders by posting a comment?
Do you make these mistakes in marketing? Part 2
[ ] Missing sales opportunities via bouncebacks. If you deliver a product or service, the best opportunity for the next sale is the moment of delivery. Do you make a follow-up offer? Remember, the first sale is the door opener.
[ ] Failing to focus on the 80:20. If you think all prospects and customers are worth the same amount of effort, it’s time to ‘get real’. Some are 10 to 100 times more worthy of your investment than others. How do you find them? It’s simple. Ask your database for a list of the customers who have spent the most with you, then look at them closely. What characteristics do they share? What separates them from the others? How did they get to you? Can you find more like them?
[ ] Brand diffusion. Letting your brand speak with many tongues. It’s easy to get the logo right and colours, etc… ducks in a row. But what happens when the real brand building starts – pricing policy, public statements by company reps, structure and usability of web sites, customer experience, staff management…. Do these things reflect the brand promise?
More to come...
Taking the piss
This is not a blunder. It is a beautiful use of humour by a hotel group to add interest to a rather tedious activity. An example of excellent customer 'intimacy'. Bravo the Sofitel, Queenstown, New Zealand.