Why would I pick you?

September 1, 2013

brand_redmarble_optWe have to remember that every day, both our existing customers and potential customers are looking at us and wondering “why would I pick you?”

Marketing 101 is that you need to understand how you’re different from your competitors.  It is perfectly logical — if you cannot differentiate yourself in terms of what you sell, how you sell it or why you sell it — the only differentiator left is price.

Maybe it boils down to this.

Would you rather invest the time and brain equity into figuring out (from the consumer’s point of view) how you are different or would you rather just have to be the cheapest?

Either choice is a good one.  It’s really all about your business’ strategy.  After all, Walmart seems to be doing okay with the cheapest route.  But let’s say that you don’t want to commit yourself to a perpetual price war.  Then what?

Then you need to go back to really understanding how you’re different (for the love of all that is holy, please do not say — it’s our people or we care more) and what sub-set of potential customers is in perfect alignment with that distinction.

Did you twitch a little at the phrase “sub-set of potential customers?”  This is one of the main reasons why I think companies don’t discover and honor their brand better.  They want everyone’s money — not just the right people’s money.  I’ll dig into that later this week.  For now, let’s stay focused on the discovering how you’re different.

We have a branding process that we walk clients through and I’m proud to say that many of our clients will tell you that it completely changed the way they did business.  It’s one of our favorite things to do at McLellan Marketing Group.

But…for you do it yourselfers — start by really taking some time and answering these questions, but remember, the answer can never be the product or service you sell:

  • Beyond profitability, what is the mission of your company?
  • If your company were to leave a legacy, what would it be?
  • How does your organization make the world a better place?
  • If firm disappeared tomorrow, what would be missed most of all?
  • What is the single most-important aspect of your company?
  • With regard to your organization, what do you feel passionate about?
  • What business is your company in?
  • What business is your company not in?
  • Which three adjectives best describe your organization?
  • Who (customer) would love your company the most?
  • How do you prioritize your customers? If you had to allocate 100 points between the different customers segments or types (in terms of importance), how would you do so?
  • What customer need does your product/service fulfill? Why does your target customer need or want you sell?
  • What emotion(s) do you most closely associate with your product or service?
  • How will your organization change your industry?
  • How will your company change the world?

And some fun ones to twist your brain around:

  • If your company was a shape, what would it be?
  • If your organization was a texture, what would it be?
  • If your firm was a mood or feeling, what would it be?
  • If company was something from nature, what would it be?

If you’re really brave — pull together some of your best customers and see how they answer these questions.  Or, schedule a team retreat and walk through them with your employees.

If you actually take the time to really dig into each of these questions until you’ve come up with answers that resonate and aren’t the first or a trite response — I think you’ll be surprised at how it changes the way you look at your business, what potential customers you approach and how you describe yourself.

Are you brave enough to tackle these questions?

 

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Facebook fun can also equal profits

September 4, 2012

It seems like every business is rushing to build a Facebook Page.  But once they get it built — they’re not too sure what to do with it.

  1. Many just ignore it, publishing once a week or less
  2. Some use it as a sales channel — pushing out deals and wondering why people are ignoring them
  3. Others share the same links that they share on Twitter

But very few organizations actually have a good time on their page.  They don’t trigger conversations with their fans and they sure don’t turn their page over to their customers. But the folks at PostCardMania.com decided to have some fun with their fans.

Early this year, they were trying to come up with some ways to get more of their customers to like their Facebook page.   Their CMO was out doing some shopping (every great idea is not born in a brainstorming session!) and spotted those wax lips and wax mustaches that they sell in the candy section. She bought some and took them back to the office.

She was able to convince her CEO that it would be fun to send the lips and mustaches out to a list of customers who had not placed an order within a year as part of a Valentine’s Day effort.  In the package was the request that they take a picture of themselves wearing the lips or mustache and post it on the PostCardMania Facebook page wall.  Everyone who posted a photo would also get a free book written by the CEO.

500 packages were sent out. They increased their likes by about 50 people and had 20 or so clients add their photos to the wall. They also connected with their customers in a very personal, memorable way that generated a lot of goodwill.

On top of that — within 4-5 days of receiving the package — that list of customers placed over $120,000 worth of orders.

Here’s the takeaways for us in this little case study:

  • They never mentioned postcard or direct mail in their communication
  • They didn’t put together a long list of rules about what kinds of photos could be posted or who had to be in the photo, etc. They just opened the doors
  • There was no coupon, QR code or any sort of offer in the package

This is a great example of creating a love affair with your customer.  PostCardMania simply reached out with something fun and invited their customers to take part.  There was no hype, spin or sell.  They just were having some fun and voila — they sold $120K worth of stuff.

Delight your audience and watch what happens.  I dare you.

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How winning works

June 20, 2012

I know a lot of tough people but Robyn Benincasa has to be one of the toughest.

She’s a member of the only all-female firefighting crew in the country and when she’s not saving people’s lives, she is a world champion adventure racer, a Guinness world record kayaker.  Oh yeah, and she started a non-profit called Project Athena, which helps women who have survived a medical challenge like cancer by taking them on a dream adventure (like climbing a mountain) as part of their recovery.

Robyn is a remarkable human being.  She’s also an incredible leader and knows how to win – and what is worth fighting for.  So I was thrilled that she captured her expertise in a book that outlines how each of us can climb to new levels of professional and personal success.  In her book, How Winning Works, (click here to buy*) she shares the eight essential elements of teamwork that she believes is responsible for her own successful and fulfilling life.

Here are Robyn’s eight elements of winning and teamwork:

Total commitment:  There are four P’s of commitment – preparation, planning, purpose and perseverance.

Empathy and awareness:  Do you care about your teammates as much as you care about yourself?  Can you truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes so you know what they need from you?

Adversity management:  Something is going to go wrong.  That’s a given.  How do you deal with things when something goes awry?  Winning at business and in life is really recognizing that the road ahead is filled with problems to solve and is never going to be the easy straightaway you’d hoped for.  How you deal with those setbacks, frustrations, surprises and challenges will determine if you win.

Mutual respect: On any winning team, there’s a high level of mutual trust, respect and loyalty.   You have to be able to recognize what each person contributes and celebrate that at the same time you’re minimizing the elements you aren’t crazy about.

We thinking:  You have to constantly be looking for ways to utilize your collective resources for the best possible outcome.   This is the lesson glory hounds have the toughest time with.   This is about finishing strong as a team – not racing across the finish line first and then waiting for your teammates.

Ownership of the project: For a person or a team to be successful – you need to be able to absolutely immerse yourself in the mission.  You need to see the goals as your goals.  See the outcome as your responsibility and attach a significant amount of emotion to accomplishing that desired outcome.

Relinquishment of ego: Every successful person realizes they come equipped with both strengths and weaknesses.  Every team member will be both the strongest and the weakest link somewhere along the way.  You need to be able to recognize your strengths so you can offer those to the effort but you also need to know your weaknesses, so you can expose them to your team – so they can help overcome them.

Kinetic leadership: Leadership, on the best teams, revolves among the teammates.  That requires that everyone on the team can both step up to the role but even more important – step away from the role, when they’re not the one best suited to lead at that given moment.

What I loved about this book is that it goes beyond listing the eight elements.  Robyn tells amazing, impossible to forget stories, offers pragmatic exercises and what she calls synergy starters – ways to actually put the teaching into practice.

If you’ve already achieved success and want to make sure that you, your family and your co-workers experience even more or if you’re just starting out and are hungry for success – grab this book and enjoy your adventure with Robyn.

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How badly do you want it?

June 1, 2012

There’s a remarkable difference between wishing for something and the relentless pursuit of a dream.

On this, the 65th anniversary of when they broke ground on Walt Disney World… I ask you this:

What do you want so badly that you’d ignore all the nay sayers, tune out all of negativity, keep getting up every time you get knocked down and when you close your eyes… you don’t see what might be, you see what WILL be?

And… when are you going to start making it a reality?  Walt Disney faced bankruptcy, professional ruin, and more “no’s” than you or I could ever imagine hearing.  But the vision was so strong, so real and so non-negotiable – he simply kept at it.

There’s a famous story that I love.  On the opening day of Walt Disney World, Walt’s brother Roy was being interviewed.  The reporter commented that it was a shame that Walt did not live to see it.  Roy quietly replied, “if Walt hadn’t seen it first, we wouldn’t be seeing it today.”

When you let yourself close your eyes and see the most audacious, crazy but spectacular thing in the world… what do you see and what are you doing to create it?

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How non-profits can get media coverage for their events

April 18, 2012

I was recently asked how a non profit can get one of one of their local TV stations to run PSAs to promote a fundraising event.

Here’s what I replied:

Most TV stations (and many radio stations as well) DO NOT donate a ton of time to run local PSAs because:

  • Although they are bound by law to run a certain number of PSAs, they are not bound to produce any (which is also what the charity wants them to do for them)
  • Very few local charities can afford (or bother) to produce a radio or TV PSA
  • If a local charity does produce a radio or TV PSA — they do it on the cheap and it looks it, so the stations don’t want to run it because honestly — they’re can be pretty awful
  • Every radio and TV station gets a ton of professionally produced PSAs, far beyond what they have to run
  • Another downside of running one local charity’s PSA — everyone else demands equal treatment and they simply don’t have the capacity to do it for everyone

So…first things first — local charities need to abandon the PSA idea. The likelihood that they would be successful is not very good and they’d have to put some serious money into the production of a spot to get the media’s attention and even at that — there’s no guarantee.

So — what can they do?

There are several ways to increase the likelihood that the media will provide some exposure for a non-profit event. But NONE of these come with a guarantee. And all of these might get you news exposure. Most likely, none of them will get you ad time.

  • Get one of the on air talent to participate in the event – hopefully you’ll get news exposure
  • Schedule the event during a slow news time (10 am on weekdays) and (Sunday early afternoons for the weekends)
  • Make it very visual, crazy or something people would love to witness (watching people play basketball is not such a thing. Watching people play basketball while riding donkeys — is.) and try to get news time — as opposed to advertising time
  • Have someone from the station (reporter, sales person etc.) serve on the event committee (this takes time to cultivate….these people know why they’re being invited) and hope they can be helpful to at least get news coverage

And there are three ways to pretty much guarantee coverage/spots run:

  • Partner with someone who advertises on the TV station and ask them to donate a portion of their buy to run spots for the event. Sometimes the station will (after they see their customer’s commitment to it) donate some extra spots.
  • Get the TV station on board as your media sponsor. This is incredibly difficult — because everyone asks them. The event has to be truly unique, have a very wide appeal (like Jolly Holiday Lights) and be able to become an annual event of significant size (like the Duck Derby). Every TV station probably has a half dozen of these each. They can’t really take on more than that and give each event what it needs.  (disclosure: McLellan Marketing Group is very proud to have launched both of the mentioned events and negotiated their media partnerships)
  • Get a sponsor to buy a certain amount of media time (radio or TV) and ask the station to match or at least provide some bonus spots. (easiest and most likely to happen)

I know it’s discouraging but keep in mind that the media does not exist to give away what they sell.

They’re all incredibly generous to the community — but most communities  simply have too many good causes and too many good charities. They simply can’t support them all.

(I know many of my readers serve on local boards and volunteer a lot of their time…so I hope this is helpful!)

Stock photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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Marketing insights question: What’s your legacy sentence?

December 28, 2011

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What’s your legacy sentence?

Over the next few weeks, as we head towards 2012, I want to get you thinking about your business in a new/fresh way.  I’m going to ask a single question in each post — but I’m warning you, these aren’t slam dunk questions.

I’m hopeful that as you ponder my question — it will give you some ideas for making 2012 a break out year for your organization.  If nothing else — this exercise should fine tune some of your marketing efforts.

What’s your legacy sentence?   If a customer/potential buyer was going to describe your business in a single statement, what would it be?  Imagine yourself at a networking event and someone says…what do you do?

You can either say, “I’m a financial planner” or you could say, “I help women in transition get on firm financial footing.”

The first option tells me your profession.  The second tells me 1) who you serve, 2) how you add value, 3) what to ask you next (as opposed to just saying, “oh, that’s nice.”)

Which one would you want people to repeat as they introduce you to someone new?

Whether you’re talking about your personal brand/reputation or your company’s reputation — the rule is the same.  You need a single sentence.  Mary Stier wrote a blog post about this and she quoted Dan Pink‘s book Drive, saying:

“In 1962, Clare Boothe Luce, one of the first women to serve in the U.S. Congress, offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy. ‘A great man,’ she told him, ‘is a sentence.’

Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed slaves.”  Franklin Roosevelt’s was ”He lifted us out of the Great Depression and helped us win a world war.”

Luce was worried that Kennedy’s attention had been splintered and he wouldn’t be able to solidify the nation’s definition of his presidency.

How about you?  Are you marketing messages laser pointed to a single sentence or are they scattered all over your features, benefits and copy hyperbole?

What single sentence can you use in person, on your marketing materials, in sales proposals, and in all of your sign offs and signatures?

 

Stock photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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Marketing insights question: Who is your ideal customer?

December 6, 2011

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Do you really know your ideal customer?

Over the next few weeks, as we head towards 2012, I want to get you thinking about your business in a new/fresh way.  I’m going to ask a single question in each post — but I’m warning you, these aren’t slam dunk questions.

I’m hopeful that as you ponder my question — it will give you some ideas for making 2012 a break out year for your organization.  If nothing else — this exercise should fine tune some of your marketing efforts.

Who is your ideal customer? One of the biggest mistakes most businesses make is that they cast too wide a net, when it comes to prospecting.  Not all money on the table is good money.   We’ve all had a bad customer.  But if we’re really honest, we’ll admit that they weren’t a bad customer.  They were just bad for us.

Assuming you have a finite marketing budget or that you still haven’t figured out how to extend the day past 24 hours — you have to make some choices.  So why not target the very best possible customers?

Your intentional marketing efforts should be laser focused on those people/companies who are ideally suited to benefit the most from your offerings AND bring you the best benefit (profits, repeat business, referrals, longevity etc.) back to your organization.

Are you running around like Chicken Little, trying to make sure that everyone and anyone knows about your business?  Do you spend marketing dollars on long shots and Hail Mary passes?  If you are — stop it.  Now.

Instead, invest that energy into discovering who your best customer is.  Describe them.  Be able to tell me what matters to them and how they get their kicks.  Know what they drive and why they chose it.  When they go to a restaurant, do they pay attention to the fat content of the offerings, the prices or if there’s a 16 z steak on the menu?

Once you really know who they are — you’ll know how you can help them.  Talk to them about it.  Help them a little so they get to know you before you ask them to buy.  Tell them stories of how you’ve helped other people.  In other words — market to your best customers in a way that creates trust and familiarity.  have you noticed how your best customers end up being your friends?

That should tell you something, shouldn’t it?

Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget and time on your hands – you can’t afford to waste one minute or one dollar on anyone who isn’t ideal.  So figure out who that is…. and stay focused on the people/companies you can help the most.

 

Photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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What Josh Groban can teach us about marketing

November 7, 2011

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Josh Groban, the master marketer

If you also follow me on Twitter or Facebook — odds are you know that I have an 18 year old daughter who loves Josh Groban and his music.

This past summer was all about Josh for the McLellans.  We saw his concert in 3 different states, culminating in front row seats, backstage passes (see the picture of my daughter and Josh) and him wearing a t-shirt that she gave him on stage during the encore.

I tell you all of this because as we’ve done our family Josh Groban deep dive, I couldn’t help but notice something:

Josh Groban is a brilliant marketer.

You may not like his music (seriously, what’s not to like?) but you can take emulate his marketing prowess, no matter what you sell.

He has build a solid marketing foundation: Josh has all the usual things you’d expect a singing sensation to have these days.  A robust website, an active fan club, lots of Josh Groban personalized items (Yes, we do have a pair of Josh Groban flip flops at our house), and plenty of ticket giveaways on radio stations etc.

Lesson for us: While the marketing foundation might not be sexy — it’s necessary.  You can’t start off in the middle.  Build a rock solid foundation and then grow from there.

He gives his best customers exclusive content/access: He gives fan club members exclusive access to front row seats.  He also offers $25 tickets for all students at every show, which is not advertising anywhere but on his fan page.

For every concert, he selects one local fan club member to be his “road reporter.”  That person gets back stage passes, a press pass (to sit with the media during the concert and have special photo taking opportunities) and gets to write a review of the concert — which is posted on Josh’s website.  As you can imagine…every road reporter includes the photo of themselves with Josh.  Do you think that drives some traffic to the page?

Lessons for us: Rewarding your best customers transforms them into fans.  Fans who brag and spread the word.   That’s marketing you can’t buy, but you sure can influence and encourage.

He uses social media to be a real human being, not a robot: His tweets are his own and often, not about his music or singing.  (One that amused me was when he was trying to imitate the sound of a train)   He hosts webinar/chats with his fan club members and he really does just hang out and talk with them.

He does some crazy stuff on YouTube like this cooking show video.  He also did a couple where he interviews himself.  He’s goofy.  Which makes him very real and very likable.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFMMRJ9K5u0[/youtube]

Lessons for us: I don’t care if you’re a huge brand like Nike or a local shopkeeper — people want you to be real.  They want to like you.  But they can’t do that if you hide behind corporate speak or “official statements.”

He shows his heart: Josh launched a foundation years ago, but really has sharpened the focus of it to raise money for arts organizations for kids.  It might be a youth symphony, buying instruments for a disadvantaged elementary school or a theatre camp.  At every concert, he talks about his Find Your Light Foundation, offers his fans a chance to text in a donation and introduces a group of kids from that local city who are benefiting from those donations.  It’s all very nicely handled.

Lessons for us: Your customers want to know that you stand for something.  And if you truly show them your heart, they’ll join you in the fight.  Look at what Avon has done for breast cancer.  That’s not the company doing it — it’s their loyal customers.  Who are even more loyal because they share a passion now.

Bottom line — if a 30+ year old singer can launch a marketing tsunami mostly through gile and technology — so can you.  What Josh reminds us is — if it’s real, people gravitate towards it.

Thanks for the lessons Josh…and for the summer that will live in Mclellan infamy!

 

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What can the average Joe learn from Steve Jobs?

October 10, 2011

I can’t remember a world mourning the loss of a business leader like we’ve witnessed this past week after the announcement of Steve Job’s death.  The fact that FEEL the loss, that we GRIEVE this man’s passing and that we WORRY that no one can take his place tells you something.

What other business leader do you have genuine feelings for?  What other CEO’s speech did you search for on YouTube?  For me, the answer is no one.

As I read, watched and listened to the many eulogies and memorials written for Steve, I kept thinking — but how does who and what Steve Jobs was all about relate to you and me?

Odds are, we aren’t going to work for a company like Apple.  We aren’t going to bring products to market that literally re-define the category.  We aren’t going to have hundreds of thousands of people downloading our “state of the company” addresses.

So what’s the take away?  Other than loving our Apple products and marveling at how they’ve changed our behaviors and habits — how can we emulate the legacy of Steve Jobs when we’re just average Joes?

I believe that Steve Jobs was genuine and that he would have been the same Steve Jobs had he run a hardware store or worked in obscurity for his lifetime.  Here’s what I think he would have been like, no matter what, and what you and I can strive for:

He believed with his whole heart in what he was doing: There were plenty of naysayers and we all seem to forget that Steve and Apple had a falling out.  But he believed in it to his core.  He believed in it enough to go back and try again.

How about you?  Do you believe in your product/service to that degree?  If the company fired you…. would you fight to get back there to finish what you started?

He understood the power of simplicity: Whether it was a speech or a product, Jobs boiled things down to the essential and then made it easy for us to grasp.  He didn’t blather on — he told us a story that led to one core message that we could remember and re-tell.

Take a look at your website, your brochures, your sales proposals and your presentations.  Are you trying to shove five pounds worth of information and bullet points into a one pound bag?  At a glance… could I tell you the most important takeaway?

He knew you couldn’t fake it long term: The man was who he was, warts and all.  He didn’t try to be anything different.  He knew he couldn’t sustain it.  He didn’t wear ties because a meeting was important.  He didn’t hide his giddiness over a new product because it would be unprofessional.  He wore his heart on his sleeve because he understood that for many people — he was the brand.  And brands are all about consistency and trust.

If I visit your office, your website or your home — do I see the same person?  Do I recognize the same values and beliefs?  Even if you don’t own the joint — surely you want to work for a company that shares your values, don’t you?  Do you not allow your business contacts to be Facebook friends because they might see something you don’t want them to?

He understood marketing: Watch this very old and so so quality video as a very young Steve Jobs talks about marketing and brands.  He got it.  I think much of his success can be tied to his understanding that every company, big or small, needs to stand for something.

If you asked your clients what your company was all about — would they list what you sell or would they talk about what you believe?  (Email subscribers — click here to watch the video)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmG9jzCHtSQ&feature=channel_video_title[/youtube]

No matter what you do — you can bring a little of Steve’s heart and business acumen to your work.

Godspeed Steve Jobs — thanks for reminding all of us how it should be done.

HT to our friends at brand dna for reminding me that this video was worth sharing.

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Do you take yourself seriously?

October 7, 2011

At McLellan Marketing Group, we live by our core beliefs.  One of them is:

We take our work seriously.  Ourselves… not so much.

Let’s be honest here.  None of us save lives every day.  (Okay, if you actually do… you have my permission to skip this post) Sometimes, I think we need to just get over how important our work is and lighten up.  In front of our clients.  Let them see we have a sense of humor about ourselves.

Why?  Because they’ll actually enjoy working with you more.

Check out these planes from Kulula Airlines.  No doubt their work is serious.  They propel humans 30,000 feet into the sky and have to get them back down safely.  But that doesn’t mean they have to be uptight about everything.  Southwest Airlines has nothing on them!

What do you suppose the flying experience is like?  I’d sure want to try it!

That’s delivering the brand and some word of mouth worthiness at the same time!

Check out these photos… and enjoy your Friday.  Be sure you read the labels.  Some of them are hysterical. (Email subscribers — if you can’t see the pictures, click here to view them.)

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Kulula Airlines #1
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Kulula Airlines #2
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Kulula Airlines #3
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Kulula Airlines #4

 

My thanks to blog reader Amy Roppe for sharing these with me!

 

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