Archive for April 2017

Don’t Fear Your Marketing Competitors. Learn From Them

April 25, 2017

Regardless of the products you’re trying to market, the audience you’re trying to cater to, or the industry you happen to be operating in, all businesses face competition. This is just a fact of life. But it’s important to realize that a competitor isn’t just another company that is trying to go after the same pool of customers that you are. Competitors are invaluable learning opportunities that are just waiting to be taken advantage of, provided you approach things from the right angle.

Learn About Your Audience

One of the most important lessons that you can learn by taking a closer look at your marketing competitors has nothing to do with your competition itself and everything to do with the shared audience you’re both going after. For the sake of argument, let’s say that your number one competitor offers products or services that are very similar to yours.

How is your competition marketing those products and services to that audience? What types of print materials are they designing? What tone do they use when speaking to them directly? What prices do they charge, and why do they feel like the market can sustain that? What values do they choose to single in on when representing their brand?

All of these choices, along with the public reaction to them, can tell you a great deal about what your audience is looking for. Marketing is all about making a connection, and if you can pick up something through observation that you can adapt and make your own to strengthen that connection, you should absolutely take that opportunity.

Learn About the Competitors Themselves

The second lesson you can learn by taking a closer look at your marketing competitors comes down to how they choose to run a business that is very similar to yours in many ways. This goes beyond just the products or services they provide. Look at how they choose to distribute and deliver those products. Look at the steps they take to enhance customer value or build loyalty. Have they recently instituted a rewards program with great success? If you were thinking about doing one yourself, congratulations, someone else just did your trial run for you.

Perhaps the most important thing you should be watching out for when it comes to your marketing competitors is how they react when they make a mistake. These days, everything is essentially an extension of your marketing arm – from the print collateral you’re putting out into the world to customer service interactions on a site like Facebook. Everything is taking place in the public space, which means that other customers (and you and your associates) can all see everything go down in real-time.

Did your biggest competitor have a particularly nasty public interaction with a customer? What factors caused it to occur in the first place? How did the customer react? How did the business react? What did the rest of the audience have to say at the end of the day? Remember that mistakes are only a bad thing if you choose not to learn from them. If you can get someone else to make a mistake and arrive at the same lesson, you come out all the better for it.

Competition in the world of business (and especially regarding marketing) isn’t going away anytime soon. However, it’s not something you should let get you down. Instead, look at it for what it is: an incredible ongoing education into your market, your industry, and even your own business that someone else is paying for.

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Leadership Sometimes Means Showing You’re Human

April 21, 2017

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has seen her share of tough times. She took on the CEO mantle as one of the first female company leaders in the auto industry, only to get slapped with a faulty auto ignition switch recall.

Barra had already done her time in the trenches while going through the GM bankruptcy in 2009. However, when Barra faced down her first big CEO challenge with an ignition switch that was being attributed with killing consumers, she did something no one expected – she apologized.

The Road That Leads to Trust

Barra’s apology rang the auto industry like a deep bell of the apocalypse. Everyone heard it, everyone saw it on TV, and everyone was in shock. Her apology wasn’t the end of the matter, of course. She had to go through multiple congressional hearings, fire managers and engineers she had known and trusted for years, and put the reins on employees to turn the company around. But her leadership was and continues to be rooted in a basic, inherent level of decency to do the right thing. To this day, Barra’s choice to take the harder road has been remembered as well as solidified her as GM’s CEO for a good number of years to come.

Company leaders only get a few opportunities to define themselves and lead the company through a major challenge. After that the die is cast with regards to overall confidence in the leader’s capabilities. Those who succeed gain the invaluable loyalty of staff and supporters through far more challenges in the future because trust is solidified. Those who fail usually see their support begin to erode and, after a few years, have to start planning an exit unless they produce some major new revenues or get lucky.

The Humanness Factor

The success of a leader, as Barra’s example has shown, is rooted in humanness, the ability to come across as a real person. CEOs and leaders often get a bad rap for being distanced from the working floor and aloof from the problems of the average person. Their higher salaries and compensation don’t help matters either. Barra’s apology, however, shows how a CEO can cross such perception barriers and be the right person for the job when it counts. When people need to see someone take responsibility to move things in the right direction they look to a known leader commodity. If that person fails at that moment to be decisive, people then begin to fall away and worry about their personal stake. That can drive away extremely important people assets and potentially kill a company.

Granted, the first thing an attorney will advise is to admit nothing, and tow the party line. However, as Barra has shown, society does forgive serious mistakes if they can trust those in charge.

April Fools’ Day and the Art of Humor Marketing

April 18, 2017

Did you enjoy some April Fools’ Day marketing jokes this year? Make no mistake about it: coming from a business, April Fools’ Day jokes are every bit as much an art as they are a science. It’s an opportunity to inject a breath of fresh air into your marketing efforts, as the day is one that has quickly become synonymous with pranks and practical jokes. If you do it properly, adding humor to your marketing campaigns can also be an excellent conversation starter – it’s a unique way to add new members to your audience and engage with existing ones at the same time. As with most modern day marketing, however, it’s often best to learn from example.

April Fools’ Day, 2017: The Good

The clear winner of April Fools Day 2017 has to be Netflix, who released the elaborate prank “Netflix Live.” Capitalizing on the wave of live streaming video spearheaded by services like Facebook, “Netflix Live” was supposedly a 24-hour live video feed of actor Will Arnett watching a different live video feed and commenting on whatever he saw, including people in an office using a microwave, an empty supply closet, and more.

“Netflix Live” had all the markings of a classic (and successful) April Fools’ prank. It was timely because live video online is getting more popular all the time. It also honed right in on what Netflix’s audience would find funny. “Arrested Development,” the comedy classic in which Will Arnett stars, is one of the most popular shows on the platform.

* Rule of Thumb: if you’re going to play around on April Fools’ Day or with humor marketing, know your audience.

The Bad

Again: the best April Fools’ Day jokes are born from surprise. If your audience can see the joke coming a mile away, you probably shouldn’t be making it. Or at least, you should try a little harder. This is a lesson that Google just spent several thousand dollars learning by way of the Google Gnome , an Amazon Alexa-like device you can talk to that takes the form of a lawn gnome that is connected to the internet.

This isn’t a particularly bad joke in that it’s offensive, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Not only is it immediately obvious that it’s a joke from the moment you read the title, but the accompanying video is little more than the same basic joke (“a Google Gnome would be worthless to everyone”) over and over again. It’s a lot of effort for almost no payoff, especially considering the Gnome is a product few in Google’s own audience would actually want to buy.

* Rule of Thumb: Remember what April Fools’ Day and humor marketing is all about. It’s not supposed to be a day of obvious jokes. Theoretically, people shouldn’t fall for your prank for at least a couple of minutes.
When executed properly, humor marketing can check a few different boxes all at once. For starters, it’s fun – it’s a great opportunity to pull back the curtain of your business and put a little bit of its personality on display. A well-executed humor campaign is also the perfect way to get people talking and generate new levels of awareness at the same time.

It’s Okay to go Niche: How One Unusual Brand is Turning Trash into Specialty Surf Bags

April 11, 2017

Sometimes, we stumble across an answer to a problem that we did not know existed. Alec and Aric Avedissian are solving two problems at once with their business Rareform. Rareform’s customers get durable, one-of-a-kind surfbags while the company helps reroute some of the thousands of pounds of billboard material that is discarded in the U.S. every day.

The average billboard goes up for four to eight weeks, then is discarded. While there are no firm figures on how many billboards exist in the United States, the number is high. The Los Angeles area alone is host to over 6,000 boards. Since billboard material does not decompose, that is a lot of waste.

Inspiration in the Strangest Place

Avedissian stumbled on the idea of surfbags from billboard vinyl after spending time volunteering with a fishing cooperative in El Salvador. While there, he saw people using discarded billboards to make roofing. The sight was a revelation. He’d previously never considered the material and had thought that billboards were made from paper. The discovery that this durable material was being discarded every week spurred his innovative idea.

While the bags offered a durable product at a reasonable price, the company was having a hard time finding their footing. They’d had $1.1 million in sales over three years, but saw that sales were slipping. Had they reached saturation? They decided to go on Shark Tank to see if they could find the funds that would bring them growth. Two out of the three judges did not bite; they were concerned not just with the falling sales, but with the complexity of the concept of Rareform’s product. However, Kevin O’Leary was not dissuaded and made an offer. And, it turned out that the best benefit for the product was appearing on the show.

Before their Shark Tank appearance, Rareform would recycle anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of vinyl each month. With the added visibility provided by the show, they’ve increased their monthly recycling to 50,000 pounds.

When It’s Okay to Go Niche

Surfbags are already a niche item, appealing only to the approximately 23 million surfers worldwide. By adding the factor of the recycled bags and their one-of-a-kind nature, they become even more niche. However, faith in their product and a willingness to seek out new opportunities to get their wares in front of the audience worked out.

Small businesses should never shy away from a niche product as long as it has a few things going for it. The questions you should ask:

* Is there an audience? Rareform built their early success with the help of dedicated hobbyists.
* Do you have a platform that can get you attention? Their appearance on Shark Tank was just what was needed.
* Do you have reasons for making your product the way you do? Rareform’s founders said they were committed to the cause of recycling. While this was a turn-off for some investors, it is what makes their product appealing and unique.
In today’s highly connected world, there is room for every well-made product, even if your audience is small. By focusing on what you bring to the table, you can find your audience and build success for your brand.

3 Tips for More Emotional Print Marketing Collateral

April 7, 2017

Despite what you may believe, most people don’t rely on information when it comes to making a purchase. While people do love to do research in advance of parting with their hard-earned money, they rely much more heavily on emotions to guide their decisions. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you want to motivate someone to take action, you should work hard to inject as much raw emotion into your print marketing collateral as possible. Luckily, there are a few key tips you can start using today to accomplish exactly that.

It’s All About Those Colors

Even if you don’t want to fill your marketing collateral with text that drives home emotions, there are a number of subtle steps you can take to instantly provide a richer, fuller experience for your readers. Case in point: depending on the colors that you choose , you could be saying a great deal with your marketing collateral without actually saying anything at all.

Do you want to create a sense of urgency, for example, to really sell how important it is that someone place an order RIGHT NOW before your inventory is gone forever? Rely heavily on the color red to do exactly that. Note that red is also a great way to encourage someone’s appetite, which is why it’s used so heavily in marketing campaigns for fast food restaurants in particular.

Do you want to leave someone feeling calm, tranquil, and powerful? Green is the perfect way to do that. Black is often associated with authority and stability, while purple is a perfect way to signify wisdom and respect. Even oranges and yellows can be a great way to promote optimism, something that would be ideal if you’re sending out marketing materials in advance of a product or service launch to build anticipation.

It’s Not About “Me.” It’s About “You.”

If you really want to convey emotion in your print marketing collateral, shift the focus of your copy to place the emphasis squarely on your consumer where it belongs. Don’t speak to a large group of people; speak directly to one person for more intimacy. Don’t write copy filled with technical specifications about the product; write directly about the experience someone gets and the problem it solves when using it.

At the end of the day, you’re conveying all of the same information; you’re just doing it in a more emotional way. It’s the difference between “this great new product has X, Y, and Z features” and “you have an important problem, which this product solves in X, Y, and Z ways.” Both are technically correct, but only one cuts right to the heart of the matter (no pun intended).

Tie Emotion Into Your Call-to-Action

Finally, learn how to insert as much emotion as possible directly into your call-to-action for the best results. Don’t just say “Contact us today for more information.” Think about the emotions you’re trying to play to, first. If you want to create a sense of urgency, say “to find out how you can take advantage of this deal before it’s gone, contact us today for more information.”

Always try to leave someone with a strong feeling when they get to the end of your copy, be it happy, sad, excited, etc. Exactly what they will feel will vary depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, but if you can leave them feeling SOMETHING, they’ll be much more likely to take that next step.

Never Be Afraid to Take on the Big Boys

April 4, 2017

Something strange is happening on the yogurt shelves: the most popular yogurt is not from a big maker like Dannon or Yoplait. It’s a product from a small, 12-year-old upstart from New York. In March, Bloomberg wrote that Chobani had overtaken Yoplait to become the most popular yogurt in the U.S. The story of how this independent took on the big brands and won has lessons for all of us.

Distinguish Yourself From Your Competitors

Big yogurt brands had become complacent and did not anticipate how new products would catch customers’ interests. Instead of sticking with the same types of yogurt already popular in the U.S., Chobani made their name with Greek yogurt, a thicker and richer product. By the time the larger yogurt companies introduced their own versions of the product, it was too late. Consumers had become loyal to the brands that made Greek yogurt popular.

If you craft your marketing materials and your products to fill a need that your competitors are not, that gives you a competitive edge. Look for what makes your product different from a bigger player in your market and offer what they don’t. By the time they are playing catch-up, you can be the leader.

Be Willing to Make Changes Quickly

Product development at big food companies can take years. At Chobani, a product will sometimes go from concept to trial in the space of a weekend.

In your marketing, if you see an opportunity, be willing to take it before your competition does. This requires a high degree of social listening and a willingness to take chances. Smaller and leaner organizations can adapt far more quickly, allowing them to be the ones who seize an opportunity.

Be Authentic

Millennials now make up the largest consumer cohort. Their priorities are different than the priorities of previous generations. They are less likely to do business with a company that they perceive as a large and impersonal conglomerate. Chobani was founded by a Kurdish immigrant who fled political turmoil in Turkey. After spending time in Europe, he arrived in the U.S. with $3,000 and a small suitcase. In the following years, he built a company that dominates the $3.6 billion Greek yogurt industry.

Do not try to look like one of the big companies in your industry. Portray yourself as the lean, quick, and effective organization that you are. A smaller company, for instance, has staff at the highest levels who are knowledgeable about all customers. This can give your customers a far more personal degree of customer service.

Make News

Over the past couple of years, Chobani has made news for its innovative policies. When the company began seeing large successes, Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya responded by giving 10% of the company’s equity to employees and putting a generous 6-week parental leave policy into place.

What does your company do that is newsworthy? Those practices can build your image and give you more effective marketing than you can buy.

A company’s dominance in an industry is never certain. By taking advantage of opportunities that you have and the bigger players don’t, you can increase your own success.