Marketing Is Not This

Marketing has always meant different things to different people. For many, marketing is associated with communication to customers and prospects--advertising messages, slogans, and logos. Others tend to focus on the digital or social sides of things. If you have ever taken a marketing class, then you likely learned the “4 Ps” of the marketing mix: product, promotion, pricing, and place. (“Place” generally referred to distribution strategy…but I suppose “4 Ps” sounds better than “3 Ps and a D.”) All of those assumptions still apply, yet they are no longer the complete story. These days marketers are also charged with (among other things) driving leads and revenue, creating an excellent customer experience, protecting the organizational brand and reputation, and building the technology needed for future success. According to the tech-research firm Gartner, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are now spending as much or more on technology than are chief information officers (CIOs). In order to meet new expectations, I’m finding that marketing leaders are necessarily shedding old assumptions and identities. As a former chief marketing officer and now advisor, I have dealt with this metamorphosis firsthand. ...

Five Myths of Messaging

The topic of messaging continues to be a hot one for marketers – at all levels and across industries. Whether your marketing world is B2C, B2B, or a combination (as it was for me while a CMO), the right words, stories, and pictures can set you apart. Messaging drives differentiation, even without you necessarily having to change your pricing, distribution, people, or product offerings. My definition of messaging is simple: the way people talk about the business. Those people doing the talking certainly includes executives as well as customer-facing workers. But many others could be—or should be—talking about the business. What are “back-office” workers, current customers, alumni, suppliers, and various professional friends saying as well? Some executives find the whole topic of messaging to be a bit soft and mysterious. It does involve varying helpings of strategy, branding, communications, and psychology. Still, effective messaging might be more practical and accessible than you think. ...

Two Out of Three is Bad, Part 1: When the Message is Missing

While doing interviews for a new client, I spoke at length with one of the company’s highly decorated, A-player-type sales people. He was no fan of his company’s website. “I steer prospects away from it,“ he admitted. “It has a lot of words but doesn’t say anything.”

I asked him for specifics. He showed me a section that actually read, “our platform facilitates world-class solutions for our customers’ business 

problems.” Yikes—he was right. The company’s self-focused and vacuous message only served to make them sound like everyone else.

While working with many different types of companies, I have discovered that three components—Message, Messengers, and Management—contribute to a company’s success (or failure) in customer conversations. Some organizations are strong in two components but need to address weakness in the third. In a case when the Messengers and Management are in place but the Message itself is weak, the result is commoditization in the eyes of potential buyers.   ...

Could Shell (or others) lure you to the expensive middle?

As I was standing at the gas pumps, cringing and preparing to fill the tank again, I noticed this Shell station’s clever use of a psychological shortcut. Do you see it?

You might reasonably assume that the three product options—Regular, V-Power, and Plus—would be arranged according to price with the lowest-priced variety on the left. However, the Shell people placed their highest-priced gas variety right in the middle.

Perhaps they did an online search and found this column which demonstrated how consumers tend to respond to a “center-stage effect.” People tend to disproportionately select product options that are place in the center, even when the number of choices or product features are varied.

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How Meeting Professionals are Meeting Needs — in a More Virtual World

What is the value of professional meetings when one can GoToMeeting without going to a meeting?

As someone who speaks at meetings, attends meetings, and uses virtual-meeting tools on a regular basis I am continually evaluating what works in various settings these days. And by “works” I consider the degree to which meeting participants gain knowledge (including cultural knowledge), specific skills, and confidence for performing better in their jobs.

On the PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) website Michelle Crowley shared this expert view:

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“That Went By Fast!” and Other Lessons on the Sales Pitch

What’s your sales pitch? I recently led a “Pitch-IT” program at the Arkansas Venture Center for a group of salespeople, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and everyotherpreneurs. The goal was to, in less than 90 minutes, help these (mostly young) business people learn to quickly position their product or idea.

The program was titled “Elements of the Perfect Pitch.” Before getting into the meat of the event—when the participants would draft and practice their own pitches—I shared these tenets:

This is not about perfection, the program title notwithstanding. Your conversation will need regular honing and revising. (I changed the title to “Elements of the (Nearly) Perfect Pitch.”) This is not an elevator pitch, unless you’re the extremely rare person whose conversations occur mostly in elevators.   This is not just an investor spiel. You should build conversation points for potential customers, people in the media, influencers, and networks of family and friends as well. When I asked th ...

Classic Message: Subliminal Advertising, or Not

(Note: I published this column in 2002 in Arkansas Business. Some incorrect assumptions are unfortunately durable. Just ask Leo.)

Pardon me — do you have the time? If your watch is showing a time other than 10:10, then you're obviously not living in the world according to magazine and newspaper advertising.

The vast majority of print ads for watches and clocks show the time as 10:10 or something close to it. Why? Legend has it that someone in the business, some time ago, believed that at 10:10, the hands on a clock made a kind of smiley face — and that this smiley face subliminally would encourage consumers to be so happy that they would want to purchase said advertised watch or clock. (I guess 8:20 would conjure up Mister Frowny Face.) The practice is so embedded within the industry that even ads for digital watches and clocks (which can neither smile nor frown) generally show the time as 10:10.

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Sales has to make the Top 101, right?

I went through 101 Things I Learned in Business School, a hardcover business bestseller by Michael W. Preis and Matthew Frederick. It’s an easy and interesting read, with 101 single-page notes ranging from definitions (a stock indicates ownership; a bond is an I.O.U.) to tips (a manager usually should have no more than six to eight workers reporting to him or her) to pithy quotes (Not to decide is to decide, by Harvey Cox). 

The authors say their book ‘seeks to present lessons in the areas of business that are most likely to be useful to you.’ But, if the often-quoted maxim (nothing happens until somebody sells something) is true, then why is it that none of these supposedly 101 top lessons directly addresses how to sell something? 

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How to Market Change

Almost every element of my work these days involves helping clients anticipate changes, adapt to them, and especially to implement change across customer-facing teams. Here’s what I see working. 

As one example, through my affiliation with DSG I have been helping a Fortune 500 client to better communicate internally about new-product launches. Many of these new products represent substantially different types of solutions or pricing models for the team. How can you best get an organization to transform its messaging for the long term?  

This client follows the change-management model popularized by Harvard Business School professor John Kotter. Kotter’s model has eight stages:

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Change Needs Marketing

In “Take It From an ex-Journalist: Adapt or Die,” a recent opinion piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Byron P. White has a strong message for administrators and faculty members about change. 

When I was a university professor, I appreciated the predictable cycles and traditions on campus. But having served as a marketing consultant to a few schools and universities, and having heard from numerous administrators at conferences and events, I also realize the severe difficulties that many institutions have in trying to transform themselves. 

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