Category Archives: Marketing Principles

Principles of marketing 14: How to be a good client

As a marketer, there will be times when you’ll need to engage suppliers. Don’t sully your personal or company reputation by being a bad client.

As Seth Godin wrote on his blog on 2 December, a client’s job is to foster innovation but not actually be innovative.

There is indeed a big difference between the two. Here’s my take on how to be a good client from fifteen years experience of working with good, bad and indifferent ones:

1. Write down what you want. Agency partners will go the extra mile for clients that are fair and know what they want. Don’t expect your agency to fathom what you want from a sketchy brief. This results in unclear ground, unchecked expectations and problems in your relationship.

2. Review and dumb down what you want, so what you get is categorically what you want. Nobody wants to spend time working on the wrong thing.

3. Make yourself available. Don’t assume you’ve done your bit in briefing. Good partners will have a ton of questions regardless of how thorough you think your brief is – and you should encourage it and answer them all.

4. Hire someone with a track record. If you can’t settle on one, select two but do the decent thing and give them both a paying gig so they have something to invest in. You’ll get better end deliverable. Agencies rightly despise pitches as a necessary evil giving time/resource and creative ideas away for free with no guarantee and no protection of their intellectual property.

5. Be prepared to pay the going rate, or a rate relative to the service, resource and value on offer.

6. Don’t make unreasonable ‘creatively stifling’ demands on your agency partner. Remember why you are outsourcing this specialist requirement in the first place.

7. Celebrate milestones throughout the course of the project and don’t just wait for the end result. Doing this brings the team closer together and encourages everyone to work harder and smarter.

8. Manage the internal communication of what you are doing externally. This ensures everyone from your sales teams right the way to the guys who answer the phones and make deliveries understand who you are, what you stand for and what you are trying to communicate. Too many companies fall at this critical hurdle.

9. Support your agency with recommendations, testimonials and referrals if they have done an excellent job for your brand, and personally for you. All good agencies work on the maxim of only being as good as their last job so this is very important to them.

10. Above all, be positive and enjoy what you’re creating.


Principles of marketing 13: Evaluation

Though evaluation typically comes at the end of a period of activity, the process involves benchmarking against preset key performance indicators which are set in relation to objectives at the beginning. If you haven’t followed a robust planning approach, your evaluation will unfortunately be sketchy at best.

Encouragingly, the digital revolution has extended the ability to evaluate activity such that weblogs, analytics programs and other automated controls can be used to immediately and powerfully inform marketers as to the success or failure of an activity and help to pinpoint where corrective remedy needs to be focused.

You can track enquiries, registrations, sign ups and log ins on your websites and from emails and other marketing. (Use of targeted campaign specific landing pages helps to track all advertising, direct marketing, social media and PR traffic).

You can more specifically track and calculate return based on visitor numbers (unique and return over time), enquiries, conversions and terminations. Monitoring terminations and what lies un-purchased in online baskets allows you to contact them or refine your online ordering to make it easier.

It goes without saying the main KPI is to evaluate against revenues i.e. same or more from existing customers, new customers or new products and services to both existing and new customers.

Duration of time spent instore/on your website are good ‘soft’ barometers of interest, as are the running of recommend/send to a friend features which encourage word of mouth – again all tracked back to a specific landing page / log in.

I make no apology for keeping it simple – it’s what this blog is built on. Companies and global brands spend millions tracking brand mentions on the web, tracking their brand position, brand share, brand equity and lots of other stuff. Good luck to them.

Ultimately, the name of the game of evaluation is to keep doing the right things right and to stay profitably in business. With the pressure of new business in the current economic environment so stark,  maybe ensuring you have the same customers next year that you had this year is the best place to start?

Principles of marketing 11: Tactics

Tactical marketing is all about getting somebody (your target) to do something.

Whether you’re into customer acquistion, customer retention or customer engagement, your website, advertising, emarketing, mailshots, brochures, exhibition stands, viral videos, blog posts, whatever you spend your time and money on, NEED TO EFFECT AN ACTION.

There’s an old model they teach you in business school called AIDA. Like many of the concepts cited in this Principles of Marketing series, it has stood the test of time for some very good reasons. It’s simple, easy to understand and when applied, works.

First off, build Awareness. Get people to notice you. Be controversial, be safe, be inspiring, aboveall be something. Then be Interesting. Not mildly interesting or thought provoking, but sufficiently interesting that you create a Desire in them to learn more, to click to your site, to sign up for a newsletter, to register for a trial, to make a phone call, to download a brochure or voucher. Once there, that turns into an Action and that’s when you can start a meaningful dialogue.

People get hung up on tactics and tactical planning. But if you know who your audience is and where they are, shouldn’t your effort go into truthfully convincing them to listen to you and then consider switching to you, and over time to stay with you?

Makes you think again about the impact of your brochures, adverts, newsletters and website doesn’t it?

Principles of marketing 10: Brand touch points

What influenced your decision to buy an Apple iPod?

Was it following the TV ad with the ubiquitous dancing silhouette? Or the press ad in last weekend’s newspaper? Were you seduced by the glamour of the Apple Store? The intervention of one of their Genius’s or the high street window dressing or in store point of sale display elsewhere?

Maybe it was through a great Internet experience or word of mouth, or perhaps it was you saw someone on the train and decided enough was enough.

Whatever it was, it was a touch point, an opportunity for you to engage with the Apple brand and buy into it. Whereever it was, the message was exactly the same with the product carefully propositioned in the same way.

Managing your brand touch points – all the points at which customers might come into contact with you – increasingly differentiates the average from the good, and the good from the great.

Customers are increasingly more fickle. Power is no longer in your hands as a specialist as there are more specialists. Providing an excellent service from enquiry right through to aftercare is a prerequsite not a nice to have.

Think about your stationery, signage, reception areas, sales letters, brochures, website, the people who answer your phones, how you present/demonstrate what you do.

Are you consistently delivering your brand proposition in the same uniform way?

Principles of marketing 9: Exploding the 7Ps of marketing

Classic marketing approaches like the 4Ps (or service marketing 7Ps) retain their validity today because they still provide a useful framework for marketing regardless of platform. As an example, I recently conducted an exercise to apply the 7Ps to an online marketing plan for a consultancy firm I’ve worked with.

Product: The act of providing consultancy (in this case risk consultancy) can only effectively be delivered in person. The Internet provides incredible reach, allowing companies to position, package and promote their offer directly to target customers worldwide. Websites can be developed to include engaging multimedia content, white papers and digitally distributed material to reaffirm their expert stance.

Place The Internet provides speed and convenience which is fantastic for a niche service provider. All available traffic and enquiry generation tools can be used, from search engine optimisation (natural and pay per click), to link building, social networking/media, digital PR and the use of banner ads on key sites.

Price Companies operating in this area typically operate a ‘clicks and mortar’ or mixed mode approach where customers use the Internet to research and shortlist suppliers before making an offline purchase through a bid/tender.

Promotion Effective measurement supports using the online channel. Customers search online so companies need to be located through search, advertising industry portals, trade associations and websites for influential trade publications. High visibility in these areas will stand companies in this area well.

People Most in-house marketing teams are small, so websites need to be automated as far as reasonably possible. Most benefit from functions such as FAQs, live chat, MyXXX login, forums, downloadable scoping documents to save time and provide customers with the information to ‘self serve’. This allows consultants to respond more quickly and decisively when customers make contact and also free them up to spend time on complex, high value contracts.

Processes Effective enquiry management systems should be established, with a strong case for automating many of the required steps in the enquiry handling process, adding the ability to quote/spec/tender online.

Physical Evidence Consultancies need to reassure customers about the integrity, safety and security of their website and doing business online by adding reviews, testimonials, certificates and privacy policies. Regular opt in email communication, focused around news, comment, tips and advice will demonstrate expert and trusted positioning.

There are reasons why the simple, tried and tested approaches in marketing stand the test of time.

Principles of marketing 8: Defining your proposition

What is unique about what you offer? Why should someone switch allegiance and buy from you?

Call it a value proposition, a unique selling point, whatever it is, you need to clarify what you do, who you do it for and what makes it different from everyone else into a simple, clear believable statement.

I think that to create a relevant proposition, you need to strip a product or service down to its most basic functional, emotional & appealing components. That means avoiding best price, best value and best quality statements and instead focusing on what it does for the customer and the pain it eases.

Domino’s Pizza used the hook of pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it was free to draw in millions of households where kids were hungry and mum and dad were too tired to cook. By being specific and offering proof, they ensured that customers are not sceptical of your claim.

The challenge then is to condense it all into one line and integrate it into all your marketing. As a guide, you’ll see mine at the top of this blog.

Principles of marketing 7: Strategic focus

Marketing strategy marketing assassinStrategy can be a dirty, intimidating and expensive word. It often scares entrepreneurs and managers in businesses because by having a strategy, you’re nailing your colours to the mast and are setting sail on a specific course of action in a specific way. This delights consultants as it means they can pretty much write a blank cheque to help seemingly hapless clients develop a strategy.

Strategy is actually the backbone of successful businesses and put simply is the way you set out with available resource to achieve your business objectives. As a bonus, once you have selected a strategic marketing approach, you can apply some pretty clear marketing tactics to ensure it works.

Two recent blogs by Seth Godin (Choose Your Customers and (The Why Imperative demonstrate in different ways the fundamental importance of strategy.

The value this blog post aims to bring – as an instalment of my Principles of Marketing series – is to simplify strategy so everyone can develop one that works for them.

Aligning with overall business objectives is the goal. There are four clear marketing strategies – using the oft-cited Ansoff Matrix – which cover the marketing of existing or new products and services within existing and new markets.

1. Market penetration strategy (existing product to existing market). Where a market is of significant size and return can be achieved, it makes sense to make the most of your reach, existing customers, networks and contacts to drive referral. Amazon’s drive to become the world’s leading non-high street retailer by pioneering the review feature revolutionized online shopping.

2. Market development strategy (existing product to new market). Amazon could be cited again here too, but market development is about finding new segments of customers for your products. Leading gadget sites like Firebox and Boys Stuff have done this well by setting up gadget collections aimed at women, accessing a whole new untapped demographic.

3. Product development strategy (new product to existing market). Google are expert in developing new products, including their cloud based MS Office comparable products that are free and can be accessed from any computer anywhere in the world. Dyson pioneered a new type of bagless vacuum cleaner and more recently an energy saving, fast hand dryer that is being rolled out across UK washrooms.

4. Diversification strategy (new product to new market). Is Apple the master in this area? A niche design led computer designer into the 90’s, new products unquestionably opened up new markets . The launch of iTunes and the iPod and then more recently the iPhone have taken Apple mainstream. Promoted through early adopters, they were picked up as must haves by the mainstream. The boldest strategy, but then when you’re up against a competitors like Microsoft and Dell, you have to do something to differentiate.

In reality, it’s not so simple as most companies have a range of products and services that each require their own strategy, due to being at different points of the life cycle, being a different investment stage, and depending on the market and the needs of the customer they target.

But starting to stand for something, and being able to say no, will crystallise your thinking and stand your business in good shape for the future.