Professional Services Marketing; a Must Add to your Business Book Library

 

When I surveyed CEO’s years ago, I asked; what is it that worries you? A common answer was ; not knowing about something new that could help my business, help us grow quicker and more profitably. I have to admit that makes me anxious as well. What if what has my hair on fire today has already been solved by someone else (in my experience is always has) and I am suffering needlessly?Wasting time trying to solve a problem already solved?  I received a copy of of the book: Professional Services Marketing in the mail , second edition, and found it helps solve that common problem business leaders share as it relates to marketing.

 

 

I enjoy receiving new books, new thought leadership in the mail. I often have authors reach out asking me to read their book and talk about it in my network communities and in my blog. When the team from Hinge Marketing contacted me about their new book I could not wait to receive it as I follow their content on a regular basis and find it smart and easy to  apply. The good news when you love reading is that  you are always learning something new. I had a mentor at Frito Lay once say; remember Mark, Leaders are Readers, and that has stuck ever since.

 

 

A common problem in service businesses is marketing. I have served a number of service related businesses; marketing and advertising firms, a third party administration firm for retirement benefits, financial advisers, attorneys, the market leader in product management and marketing seminars for high tech companies, internet marketing and blog service providers, PR firms, a podiatrist, a chiropractor, a software company that helped doctor’s offices become paperless, and sat on church boards ( the ultimate service business if you ask me)…to name a few and marketing was always a struggle. The most ironic of those were the marketing and advertising firms as well as PR firms who sold marketing services and created strategies to help businesses grow for their livelihood, but they struggled to market themselves. This gives me pause ….why? and what can be done to solve this market problem?

 

You do not need to figure this one out on your own…

 

Read the book: Professional Services Marketing, How the best firms build premier brands, thriving lead generation engines and cultures of business development success.

 

The authors; Mike Schutz ( co-president of RAIN Group) , John Doer ( co-president of RAIN Group ) and Lee Frederikson ( Managing Partner at Hinge) are seasoned professionals who learned how to serve their clients in the trenches, out in the markets with the rest of us. They are not theoretical but practical in their approach and application of the principles they share in this book. Their content is research based and I have followed their thought leadership independently for some time.

 

I must say I was skeptical when the book arrived (sorry guys) as I am a huge fan of the first edition of this book and I wondered how they could make it any better. I still have my copy highlighted with notes to myself in the margins. I remember buying copies of it when it came out in 2009 and sending it to clients and would be clients who were are struggling with how to market their services. However what I found was this second edition was needed as the authors point out;

 

In the old days, professional service firms could survive without much marketing effort. Put together a team of good people, deliver strong services to clients, and you might get by just fine on repeat business and client referrals. ..today you also need smart, effective marketing and a culture of business development success to attract a steady stream of clients and grow your business in an increasingly competitive world.

 

The second edition continues their field tested , research based approach to providing advice you can apply but also adds content about social media marketing, the importance on line marketing plays and they share case studies by market leaders we all know and admire. In one chapter they discuss; The battle to attract and retain a quality workforce is a key success driver in many professional services firms. Having lived in this world, when the authors share their thoughts on topics like this it immediately makes them credible….they have walked in my shoes and their content resonates with me. In another chapter they share what I refer to as politically incorrect secrets of most service firms; they spend way too much time focused on their competitors and not enough time understanding their ideal client and their problems. Been there, done that, lived that, helped my clients through that.

 

After finishing the book I have only one criticism: what this book shares is not just true for “professional service firms” but all the companies I have served. Many industries face the same problems and all would value reading this book and applying its principles. I hear the authors saying; “what Mark did you miss the chapter on identifying and focusing on the best market?” No, I did not miss your point and I believe in what you are saying. However what I have found is businesses from large manufacturers of mechanical equipment in the B2B market to B2C consumer product companies would value the advice found in this book. The reality is none of us are in the widget making business, we are all serving our markets, solving their problems while identifying the new ones that arrive. The sooner businesses adapt to what I teach in my seminars; “serve don’t sell” the faster they will see rapid, profitable growth. I think every church pastor needs a copy of this book. You solve so many problems for people ….if they only knew….that’s a marketing problem that has already been solved in the wisdom in this book.

 

I highly recommend you add the second edition of Professional Services Marketing to your list of books within arms reach of your desk. You will find yourself reaching for it often for practical advice that works in the markets we serve today just like the book: Crtl Alt Delete that I shared a few weeks ago.

”V” is for “Velocity of Message In New Cadillac Commercial”…without any words

 

 Cadillac Performance Team!

The burden of clearly communicating your message is on you as the manufacturer and or supplier. Recognizing this you must develop a concise message that reflects the problems your product or service solves for your buyers. Given the amount of messages the average consumer receives each day, you have a “minute to win it” …their attention that is.

Messages that are clear based on a thorough understanding of your buyers, buyer unresolved problems, and buying criteria instantly connect.

 

Messages that require an interpreter result in: Big-Money-Wasted as I shared in my post about a BMW message that literally made a theater of consumers grown when it came on.

 

Below is a good example of understanding what your buyers want and communicating your message…even without words. Cadillac has “Velocity of Message” which will result in sales velocity. (Sales that have direction, growth, and create momentum)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz0jCTJ2sys

What do you think Cadillac was trying to communicate in this ad?

As consumers do you miss the “feature and benefit BINGO” approach or do you value companies that have a clear message…even without words?

 

If your buyers were to view your creative, your message, without copy, would they understand your message?

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

tool acc backgrounbd

 

 

As an entrepreneur you will have a number of people approach you to “help you grow” your company. Far too often these local “experts” are really “marketing tools” who are like the terrible boy friends on the popular show Tool Academy focused on themselves and not aligning to your objectives and are not trying to solve your problems. So how do you know if you are dealing with a strategic partner or a tool? In this post I will share how to discern the “marketing tools” from strategic partners.

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop reading before my first appointment and off to my left, …the pitch was on. First of all the meeting I was listening to should have occurred in private and not in a public place, this young entrepreneur needs to learn to… police his rounds.

It was painful for me to listen and not walk over to the table and tell this young entrepreneur to quickly dismiss this person posing as a thought leader and strategic partner but who was obviously a marketing tool. Some of the lessons we must learn in the bootstrapping phase build our future leadership muscles, so I hoped this experience would not be a too expensive lesson.

How did I quickly know this guy pitching was a marketing tool and not a key strategic partner? Maybe it’s from personally being taken advantage of by fast talking marketing tools early in my career, or maybe it’s a by product of what my daughter used to call “ sparkly’s” in my hair now. Maybe it’s from knowing what I know as well as what I do not know?

As an entrepreneur cash management should be your top priority. Investments must accelerate the achievement of your objectives and align with your flight plan. They should be tied closely to a measurable goal that is in alignment with one of your key initiatives.

Back to the conversation…the pitch was on. From what I gathered the entrepreneur’s sales were down over 30% and felt his problem was marketing or the lack there of. The person pitching worked for a marketing firm, and from what I could gather the only tool they had any real experience with was print ads and direct mail. Therefore the solution to this entrepreneur’s problem was direct mail and print ads. I have lived this “marketing play “many times over the past 25 years with various actors (vendors) pitching me and the companies I was serving. Sometimes it’s a new website, search engine optimization, PR, social media, media buys, email marketing,  new brochures…and the list goes on.

 

tool acc

 

 

How do I discern the “marketing tools” from strategic outsource partners?

 

 

Below are the things I look for to quickly dismiss tools

 

 

Tools talk more than they listen

 

Tools talk about their solution as a “cure all” for all my needs

 

Tools can not produce a list of past customer referrals as they often only have one transaction with clients and move on

 

Tools argue with you and keep coming back to their solution as if it were the only way to solve your problem

 

Tools lack an understanding for integrated marketing and dismiss other strategies they do not understand ( but as proposed thought leaders, marketing experts,… they should)

 

Tools cloud the discussion with industry terminology they do not explain (they try to baffle you with BS)

 

 

Tools do not listen to your goals; they are focused on their goal: getting your money

 

Tools do not ask a lot of questions

 

Tools do not share the downside, the risk, or the expected return on investing in their tool(s)

 

Tools take cell phone calls and text messages when they are supposed to be focused on your needs during your meeting

 

Tools avoid ROI discussions, and when you bring it up, they change the subject

 

Tools do not ask about how your buyers buy, nor have an intimate understanding of this process themselves

 

When (if) Tools follow up, they will be connected to getting your money and not in alignment with your goals ( they can’t because they were not listening)

 

 

 

It was pretty easy to make the above list as I sit here listening to the pitch as within 20 minutes this marketing tool violated most of them. I hear the tool discussing; the need to “merge, purge and perform list hygiene” as well as the need for a 12 month commitment for various ads they will test, and how the 12 month commitment will help the entrepreneur with the media buy… What is the problem the entrepreneur has? Shouldn’t you know this prior to pitching your solution?

 

It makes me want to scream: RUN AWAY!

 

 

 

As an entrepreneur your main focus is now on building your business and not working in it.

 

 

 

A proven strategy to grow your business is to align yourself with market leading strategic partners who are thought leaders in their space.

 

 

Too often entrepreneurs try to become experts in areas that are far from their core competency and instead of growing their business they dilute their effectiveness.

 

 

I am a big advocate of strategically aligning yourself with outsourced partners that provide solutions that align with your objectives. I am not an advocate of hiring marketing tools with one tool that fixes everything they feel is broken.

 

 

When you look for a strategic partner with knowledge and skills to compliment your core competencies, you must quickly dismiss the marketing tools as their work will only deplete your cash and not produce your desired ROI.

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

 

 

Do you want to share any experiences you have had with tools?

 

 

 

 

Has your organization ever hired a tool? How did that work for you?

 

 

 

 

What are some other ways to quickly discern tools from strategic partners who can help you achieve your objectives?

 

 

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

hippo2

Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of focusing the majority of their attention on what their competitors are doing instead of gaining first hand market data. When entrepreneurs play “follow the leader” they are playing a dangerous game that assumes the perceived market leading competitor is connected to the needs and pains of market buyers.

Market leaders are aware of competitor activity; however they plan their strategy with first hand market data.

 

Market losers set out to do what their competitors are doing…but better.

 

When you copy what your competitors are doing you are making one key erroneous assumption: that your competitor knows your market, your buyers, and your buyer’s buying process. ( which is often not the case)

If we recognize most marketing is developed at board room tables with gut , intuition and “back when I was in the market…” information following your competitor is a dangerous game to play.Or as David Daniels put it in his eBook : Is your Product Launch Doomed?…” Mimicing a competitor can lead to lost market opportunity, misdirection of resources, and loss of focus…”

hippo3

More often than not marketing strategy is made by HIPPOS; the Highest Paid Person in marketing’s Opinions.

 

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For example, I had to run some errands in Mesa Saturday and imagine my surprise when I returned to my car and I saw a sea of purple windshield fliers in the parking lot creating marketing litter. In my recent post I discussed how we must make sure when we Chase new business we do so in a way consistent with our brand and our brand promise.

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I shared how Chase Bank used a purple windshield wiper flier to drive new accounts at month end in my last post. Do the leaders at TCF Bank think Purple windshield fliers ( Like Chase Bank) is an industry best practice since one of the market leaders does it? Or was the nimble , much smaller TCf Bank’s efforts the reason Chase Bank tried this strategy?

You have been in those meetings…everyone on the cross functional team share their views , and then the highest paid person in the room (hippo)  calls an audible from left field based on their gut and or what a market leading competitor is currently doing ( after they are real smart right?). The cross functional team is left scratching its collectives heads as strategy direction is made based on the gut and past experience of the highest paid person in the room.

 

Market leaders gather first hand market data and shape their strategy based on current information.

 

They say ; “rational people, if given the right data will make rational decisions” .What we learn in “rational choice theory” that people make decisions about how they should act by comparing the costs and benefits of different courses of action. Patterns of behavior will develop within the society those results from those choices. The society in this case is competing suppliers battling for market share each day.

 

 

Decisions made with first hand current market data drive successful strategies.

 

 

Strategies that are initiated based on what market leading competitors do often fail.

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

Are Hippo’s calling an audible that lacks market data justification?

 

 

Does your marketing team kick off campaigns that mirror what market leaders in your industry are doing?

 

…how’s that working for you?

 

  

Are your sales tools built by corporate Hippos who have not met with a customer in over six months…twelve months?

 

 

Playing follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly if your Hippos insist you mirror a competitor with the assumption the competitor must know what they are doing.

 

Smart entrepreneurs are aware of what the 800 lb gorilla in their market is doing, but do not blindly mirror their strategies and tactics.

 

Smaller competitors are often more connected to the needs of their market and more nimble.

Have you mirrored a competitor and it drove sales that surpassed your ROI goals?

Can you share a Hippo based initiative that mirrored a competitor and failed miserably?

Besides,when you choose  follow , competitor and or a Hippo,the view rarely changes,..ad the outcome often stinks.

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

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I have heard entrepreneurs say; “any marketing is better than no marketing at all…” and they can say this…but they would be wrong! Entrepreneurial leaders must insure the marketing vehicles and tactics  they use support their brand and do not create an interruption.

 

 

Market leaders understand their buyers, their buying process and buying criteria.

 

Market leaders create sales velocity because everything they do has continuity with their brand.

 

 

Market losers create a variety of marketing tools and “throw them against the wall” of their market and wait to… “see what sticks”.

 

Market losers scare business away, and their energy and budgets are used to grow competitors’ businesses.

 

I Love being a Chase Bank customer.

 

I have used a number of banks over the years…Bank of America, Key Corp, and so on. However the service I get from Chase Bank seems to feel different, it’s as if they know me, and they answer my questions before I ask them. Just yesterday my wife and I met with Dennis at our local branch and he was obviously trained to serve his clients. When other banks have made us feel like we were putting their associates out , Dennis was like the Van’s Golf employees name tags that say “sure not problem” Even the experience of walking into one of their locations “feels” different in how you are greeted and guided to the right person to help you. So imagine my surprise after a doctor appointment to come out to my car and see a windshield flier under my wiper from Chase Bank. This was an interruption for me.

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Marketing interruptions make current customers pause…and bad things happen when customers pause.

 

For example, at first I smiled and threw their flier in my trunk to throw away later. As I drove to my next appointment however my mind wandered…

I have been reading about banks in trouble

 

Is my bank…Chase Bank, in trouble?

 

Should I maybe check out Wells Fargo or maybe open an account with Bank America again just to play it safe?

 

Didn’t I just read they were downsizing?…. ut oh

However my mind quickly came to terms with what has a higher probability of truth; It was the end of August ( end of the month race to hit numbers), and some salesperson , a hunter by nature ( which is awesome) needed business. So as opposed to sitting in the branch waiting for business to come to them, they took initiative and made some purple fliers and more than likely spent hours in the 104 degree Arizona heat stuffing them under windshield wipers in hopes this would drive new business. I had a pizza shop as a client years ago that could ramp up or down his sales by the number of windshield fliers he would have his drivers place. It became a predictable outcome for him over time.

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However, the way a pizza shop or even a gas station chases new business is significantly different than what I would expect from my trusted bank, and the two should never be confused.

As I discussed, entrepreneurial leaders have bad things happen when they “assume”. “Well if windshield fliers work for pizza shops and gas stations…why not…” The “why not” is whatever you do must be intentional and have continuity with your brand image, your brand promise in the minds of buyers in your market.

In defense of Chase Bank, I have had rogue sales guys and even sales managers do much worst over the years. As I said I have to smile that at least they tried! Leaders, no matter what the size of their organization, must remember;

If marketing does not create tools that help salespeople hit their objectives, sales will create their own…and although you appreciate their “be a part of the solution” attitude it may cause your market to pause. When markets experience a pause, an interruption in the brand image …bad things happens.

 

 

How about your company…..

 

Are your salespeople creating their own tools to hit their numbers?

…Are you sure?

 

What policies and procedures do you have in place to insure your brand image is protected and reinforced?

 

Have you ever had your salespeople create their own tools…tell me about it.

 

 

From the number of fliers blowing around in the parking lot now as “marketing litter” I could tell most of the people who had fliers under their wipers did not value this communication attempt by Chase Bank. I would be interested to know from Chase Bank if this tactic is a marketing approved new business program or if I was correct a local branch went off the marketing reservation. If this tactic does in fact drive needed new business at moth end that is greater the negative impact it has on their brand in the mind of the market.

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging

obama head

 

Marketers who build their message from within the perceived safety of their office walls create lazy marketing messages that are perceived as safe, but do not resonate in the marketplace. When marketing and their creative teams build messaging from an inside out approach, versus the market needs and problems in, they create noise and buyers learn to tune out to the noise. If you continue to violate your buyer trust with luke warm messaging that fails to explain the problems you solve for them, your buyers become tone deaf to all you’re marketing.

Scientists who have studied people who are tone deaf have found they lack specific connections in their brains. These individuals have an interruption in the synapses and thus no longer able to distinguish changes in pitch.

Your market becomes tone deaf by hearing repeated messages that do not resonate so they learn to disconnect from your product and your Brand.

The Obama administration is now in that ever so common place entrepreneurs find themselves after rushing to launch without doing the market research and connecting to buyer needs early on. When you launch products with a; Ready-Fire-Aim approach you miss your target and may actually hurt your relationships with buyers in your market.

The current administration was so focused on hitting a launch date (hasting) they compromised the needed upfront strategy work. When this occurs in your business, you launch expecting to sell 3,000 units of your new product or service and in reality you only sell 3.

Market Leaders recognize they have a problem early on, conduct win loss interviews, dive deep into their market to gain understanding (and not sell), and create learning’s.

In the Bible it talks about the sailors sending out “soundings” in the black of the night during storms at sea. What they were doing was listening for land, and more importantly rocks that could sink their ships. The Obama administration needs to be connecting to the market, and listening for soundings and not selling.

Once you learn more about your buyers, their problems, their buying process, buying criteria, and develop buyer personas, you can speak to them in a voice they hear an understand.

Market Losers just tell the same message, over and over again.( hoping this time it sticks)

taxi mex

Market losers are like Americans hiring taxi cabs in foreign countries…if the driver does not speak English…we just speak LOUDER!

Market Losers create Lazy messaging because they failed to do the strategy work upfront and pay in missing ROI targets and more importantly broken brand trust in their market.

If you find yourself in the middle of a storm brought on by underperforming sales to goal…

If you find your marketing team trying to convince you to spend more, have more placements and impressions, you may be dealing with a tone deaf market.

What do Market leaders do?

  • understand the value of spending time upfront in their markets

  • understand buyers and their problems

  • segment those buyers into common groups

  • create buyer persona

  • speak to their buyers in a voice that resonates

  • Constantly send out soundings in their markets, always listening…

 

How about your company…

 

Are you in a Taxi cab In Mexico City trying to speak louder in your market?

Does your team practice; Ready-Fire- Aim Product Launch?

Have you learned to become Tone deaf to the Obama administration messaging?

Is your messaging resonating with your buyers…or is it lazy marketing noise?

Can you afford to have your lazy marketing negatively affect your Brand image in the minds of your buyers?

 

More Big-Money-Wasted by BMW in new ad campaign? We will have to wait and see…

I read an article on BrandWeek today by Anthony Crupi titled: BMW Pumps Diesel and Anthony did a particularly good job in grasping BMW’s objectives behind what we are about to see in a new BMW ad;

“For us, it’s about changing the perception that diesel is still that noisy and smelly [technology] many people remember from the ‘70s.” “For us, it’s about changing the perception that diesel is still that noisy and smelly [technology] many people remember from the ‘70s.”

The trouble is, as a potential consumer of one of your driving machines…I really do not care Patrick (the guy in charge at BMW) what it is about “for you”.

What problem are you solving for me?

Affluent Americans don’t want to sacrifice performance for fuel efficiency,” McKenna said. “The 335d can go from 0-60 [mph] in 6 seconds flat …That’s immediate power.”

Now you are talking!

But what about starting my diesel car at the Cleveland airport in the winters…did you solve this?

Although not as focused on the environment and fuel efficiency as I should be, I do follow the cost per gallon of fuel, and if I am not mistaken, one of the historical advantages of why consumers chose diesel vehicles was the lower cost per gallon.

On the one side you have Mercedes, who did a great job of connecting their product to; Luxury, power and torch, and longevity (they run forever)

On the other side you have VW who have raving fans of their economical diesel vehicles that are fun to drive and last forever as well. VW too is tapping consumers on the shoulder today with a message of ““Better performance AND higher gas mileage than a Prius”.

From my days in international sales I still have relationships with past JV partners in Germany that are now friends and they openly share how fun their BMW 3 series are to drive.

GO TALK WITH CURRENT RAVING FANS NOW; CONNECT TO THEIR VOICE, THEIR PASSION, CLEARLY UNDERSTAND, IN THEIR VOICE THE PROBLEMS YOU SOLVE.

What this “feels” like is you are trying to win the hearts and pocket books of “potentials” those people who are not current customers, and are not currently shopping, but thinking about diesel vehicles? So you are actively attacking their perceived problems with your solution. Your current raving fans in the US who own M5’s will pass on your new offering.

So who is your targeted buyer persona?

New buyers of diesel vehicles are more likely to swing into VW’s camp as their position is clearly defined if their need is; fun to drive, economical, and longevity. If what they want is performance and Luxury, they will swing to Mercedes who currently owns this position.

Is this Product Launch (re launch really as you are one of the leaders in diesel vehicles in Europe) an example of “Right idea but late?” We will see…

I am looking forward to see this ad, as I am a huge fan of your vehicles, engineering, fit and finish, just not a fan of your execution of marketing “messaging” as of late as I discussed in my blog post : The Expression of Joy Ad campaign by BMW; May be an Expression of Big Money Wasted http://nosmokeandmirrors.wordpress.com/2009/07/28/the-expression-of-joy-ad-campaign-by-bmw-may-be-an-expression-of-big-money-wasted/ . Business leaders follow you “Big Guys” and I would hate to see smaller businesses clouding their messaging with “creative that requires an interpreter”. (But there I go again being a ROI driven Neanderthal)

Again Patrick, you make amazing vehicles, but because of that my expectation is your messaging will also be amazing. To be amazing I want to “get it” when I see it, and not be like everyone else in a packed movie theater and groan when your ad is played.

I want you to clearly state the problem you solve for me. I do not want some “foo foo marketing creative” that requires an interpreter, because then BMW means Big – Money- Wasted to me.

 

How about your business….

 

Does a big expensive ad add value in your business?

 

Or do they send a message you are disconnected to the market’s true needs?

 

Or worst, do these big budget ads and media buys make you, as a loyal customer feel you must have over paid for their product if they can afford such Big Money Wasted?

 

I predict this campaign will be a flop if I need an art director to explain it to me and they do not explain their distinctive competence clearly with an emotional attachment  that resonates with me.

 

The Expression of Joy Ad campaign by BMW; May be an Expression of Big Money Wasted

 

Companies spend millions and often billions to advertise their products in their marketplace however the effort to be creative often results in a dilution of their message. When your message lacks clarity, it requires an interpreter…and the variability of the individual interpreters’ ability (your salespeople) to articulate your value is not something market leading companies leave to chance today.

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When its 114 degrees in Scottsdale Arizona there is not much to do on weekends unless you head for the higher elevations to escape the heat. As I said when I wrote: Are interruptions “transforming “your customers into shoppers again? I like to go to movies. Now that we are into the hottest part of our summer I am seeing a number of movies.

Is it me or are the ads prior to the movies getting longer? Do they really need to advertise TV series in movie theaters? Recently, I observed something interesting, the “Expression of Joy ad” by BMW. The ad starts out with a Z4 driving through paint and painting the surface like it were a huge canvas, with just one problem…when the ad came on the audience in the theater verbally groaned. So I’m not the only one who has seen this ad and hates it? Is it the music or is it because the ad feels like “the never ending ad?”

Personally I think BMW’s make amazing vehicles, and I get what they were trying to do with this ad; however the audience I shared the theater with not only failed to appreciate this ad’s artistic expression, but verbally groaned when the ad started.

I hear comments in front of me sharing their disdain for this ad. Now mind you, there were a number of other ads from an air conditioned indoor storage facility to a counter top manufacturer who supplies four different surfaces based on your needs, budget, and overall design objectives. None of the other ads caused a group audience response like the BMW ad, again…interesting.

Did BMW test this ad prior to its release? I am curious what the total cost of this ad was and is it driving the desired sales revenues, or just another Addy award for the creative team that developed and produced this masterpiece?

To me this ad says: our cars have so much margin in them we can afford to produce ads like this… 

The reason for this post is not to bash BMW, as I said they engineer amazing driving machines, their fit and finish is best in class, but more so to challenge everyone reading this to listen to the responses your market is making to your advertising. Are you listening? Is your advertising about driving revenue, adding value to your bottom line, or helping your ad firm win another award to dust on a shelf before their next new account pitch? As I discussed in my post: 88% of Those Surveyed Said Advertising Services Have Become Commoditized? Ad Firms Heal Thy Self! I discuss how ad firms must fight the perception their services have become commoditized. Perhaps the firm that created the BMW Z4 ad swung the pendulum too far in the creative direction? At the end of the day, my single opinion does not mean much, but an audience of consumers in north Scottsdale Arizona, groaning when your ad comes on should get BMW’s attention.

Are you listening to the response or lack of response to your advertising?

Have you tested your soon to be released creative in your market?

When you developed the creative, did you do so with a specific buyer persona in mind?

Or do you think I am just a ROI Neanderthal who lacks an appreciation for artistic expression?

 

Market leading companies create messages that resonate not repulse their market.

Mentor Moment #5: Brand with Intention or the Market will “Brand you by Default”

The reason I wrote my first book in 2007 was to solve a problem a number of businesses had; they did not intentionally brand their product or service in the minds of those in their market(s) and the net result was the market” branded them by default”.Branding_Backwards_-_thumb

After I workout in the morning I like to relax in the steam room. Today I entered the misty dim lit room to wind down after my workout and noticed someone else sitting in the far corner. We exchanged pleasantries and very quickly he asked the common question; “So what do you do for a living?” I answered as I have done for years and then it was my turn…”what do you do?” His answer was symptomatic of why I wrote my first book titled: Branding Backwards; a Brand’s Odyssey Toward Self-Discovery. He stated … “I am in real-estate” and he stopped there. I try not to engage in what could be long conversations in the steam room, particularly days like today when someone had jimmied the thermostat and it was excessively hot.

Do I tell him that what he just said really does not help me understand the problems he solves? Ah …what the heck (I did bring my water bottle)…. So I asked some additional questions and found he was not someone who helped homeowners sell their personal property, but someone who owned a real-estate development company that develops commercial real-estate throughout North America in a very specific niche.

This quick conversation reminded me how critical it is for businesses to clearly articulate their positioning , brand, and the problems they solve for their market using their market’s voice.  Fail to do so and the market will “brand you by default”, and there is a high probability they will get it wrong.

As in this example, very quickly when he said he was in real-estate, I mentally branded him as someone who helps consumers sell their personal property. I mentally logged his name in my referral database in the event someone I know may need that service. It was not until after my additional questions I understood what his company does.

I offer 10 tips to avoid Branding Backwards in my book,  the first is;

“If you do not state who you are, others in the marketplace will create a mental image of how you may or may not be able to meet their needs”

If you would like to download a free copy of my book you can do so here.

(I want to warn you, I wrote it in the form of a story. I find stories seem to stick with people much more than just stating facts.)

How about your company? Can your targeted new customers and or existing customers clearly articulate the problems your product or service can solve for them, or are you branding by default? Over the years I have found it disturbing when I engage with a new sales team how quickly and concisely the salespeople can explain what problems their competitors products solve and do not solve, and yet when asked to describe the products that fill their own commission rice bowls each week they ramble on and on with features, benefits, and how their company is the market leader…and better than….that is not what I asked!

Is your company Branding with intention, or by default?

If I were to ask one of your customers what problems you solve, would they get it right? Would they clearly understand all you solve?

Ask your one of your salespeople today; “What problem does our competitor ________’s product solve for our customers? “

Now ask them “what problem do our products solve?”

Ask people in your market you have never sold to tell you what problems they think you solve…what did they say?

Can you afford for your market not understand what problems your company or its specific products can solve for them?

What are we supposed to do when the Heat is on and our market dries up?…SOW!

 

The bible is very clear that we are to SOW in the dry spells, in the time our business hits a dry spell, yet so many market losers do the oppofamily pics 069site.

It was 114 degrees yesterday, here in the Arizona, and I know people say it’s a “dry heat” but that does not seem to console me…it’s hot. Simple errands seem to drain you, suck the life out of you even. For example in this time of the year all the trees are dropping their pods full of seeds. Although the animals welcome the food, they quickly make quite a mess. So there I was at 6:00 am (102 degrees) picking up pods in my yard before it got hot. How ironic that the trees are dropping seeds when we are in the hottest part of the summer, where’s natures wisdom in that? Actually it is smart because when the pods fall they are baked in the desert sun and they crack open allowing their seeds to fall into the earth. When the rains return, the seed is now in an environment to take root and grow.

I was thinking about the wisdom in this as it relates to what we as business people must do when our market becomes dry and the heat is on to hit our numbers. The Bible is very clear we are to “SOW” in these times. What does it mean to “SOW”? At Dictionary.com the definition is;

1. to scatter (seed) over land, earth, etc., for growth; plant.
2. to plant seed for: to sow a crop.
3. to scatter seed over (land, earth, etc.) for the purpose of growth.
4. to implant, introduce, or promulgate; seek to propagate or extend; disseminate: to sow distrust or dissension.
5. to strew or sprinkle with anything.

 

The Bible has a number of lessons about sowing. It is very clear we are to;

 

“Sow in the midst of suffering”

“There may be no fruit now, but the grains of love and faithfulness you have scattered will produce a rich harvest”

“Let your eyes be on the field which you reap”

“Each will receive what he has earned.”

 

If you feel your market has dried up, it’s time to start sowing. Ironic however that I see a number of companies doing just the opposite; cutting back on marketing and sales travel. Market leaders are taking this time to sow.

As I explore this deeper it is often the result of not having and understanding of what marketing and sales activities actually produce fruit and what are just “ Activities”. To ensure you are sowing to produce the greatest harvest the first thing you must do is understand how your buyers buy. What makes their soil fertile, and what causes the seeds you plant to be washed away? What marketing initiatives are you doing today that are falling among the rocks and will never take root? What marketing and sales activities are you doing today that are falling among the thorns only to have sales spend time on them as “good leads” only to have the life choked out of them before they produce fruit?

 

The key is to know your market and more specifically your buyers.

 

How about your company…

 

How well do you know how your customers shop for your product?

What do your buyers use as buying criteria?

Where do your buyers go when they have a problem they need solved?

Who are the key influencers that impact your buyer’s ability to purchase today?

Answer the above and compare the answers to what your team is currently doing and you will be well on your way to a bountiful future harvest.

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