Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Archive for December 2008

Hit ’em where they are.

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boxingBesides being a marketer, I’m also a consumer. I have some value to advertisers. I have to buy things occasionally just like everyone else. And, just like everyone else, I’m susceptible to advertising messaging.

By try reaching me. I’m not easy to get a hold of.

I’m media and tech savvy. That means I’m not necessarily easy to reach via normal media channels. Typically I watch broadcasting content via TiVo or other digital delivery like iTunes or Hulu. My commute to the office in the morning is typically spent with a podcast (if I’m not conducting business by cell phone – hands free of course). Like many my age and younger, I don’t consume news via newspapers. My magazine consumption is limited to trade magazines, but I do allow myself the guilty pleasure of a Macworld subscription.

Let’s say that you have some goods or services that you want to market to me. How do you reach me or others like me? And I’m approaching 40. If you think I’m difficult, just try the current 18-34 demographic. They don’t trust standard media messaging techniques. Their interactions with any media is typically divided as this new generation is shaping up to be one of the best multi-tasking generations in history.

My original question is now expanded and is still unanswered. How do you reach people like me?

Have you researched a social media channel lately?

I’m on LinkedIn. I have email (which I bring with me everywhere in the form of a Blackberry). I listen to/watch podcasts. And I do consume some locally originated broadcast. If this doesn’t provide you with enough clues on how to reach this new media savvy and over-connected pool, you need to email me and let me set you straight.

Because if you don’t learn this today, it’s going to be too late.

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Written by Jeff York

December 29, 2008 at 3:11 am

Does it have value?

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smartcarChristmas is right around the corner and the economy is still struggling. For all the reasons that we’re all now well aware of, banks and certain manufacturing sectors are on the brink of collapse. With continual bad news bombarding us throughout the 24/7 news cycle, you would think that everyone has cut up their credit cards and stashed all their money into their mattresses.

Yet, dig through doom and gloom stories and read the fine print. People are still spending money. What’s changed is the amount and the rational behind each purchase. What’s the driving force?

Value.

People aren’t spending money on new cars. People are spending money to keep their current cars on the road. People aren’t spending money on new houses. People are spending money on fixing up their current home and making it their castle. People aren’t spending money on vacations. People are spending money on high definition TVs and surround sound systems.

Why? People see value in these types of purchases. Keeping your current car on the road is cheaper in the long run than simply buying a new car when facing a big repair bill. Fixing up your home today makes your home more livable today and more valuable tomorrow. Vacations are nights out on the town are great, but night’s in with a nice TV and a sound system that rivals the theater is cheaper in the long run (really, how much is microwave popcorn?).

But you’re a business owner. How do you take advantage of this shift in thinking?

Simple. How do you project value of your goods and services to the customer? If you’re thinking about packing in your marketing efforts because of the economy causes you to believe that you can’t make money, then you’re examining your marketing efforts from the wrong angle. Talking about how your goods/services are cheaper doesn’t mean value. Today’s consumer is happy to spend more today for something that will perfectly suit their needs and last a long time.

Here’s an example. When gas broke the $4/gallon mark, you might have thought that owning a Smart Car dealership would be like printing money. Here’s a street legal car that drove forever between fill-ups. Once the initial wow-factor wore off, people took a good look at the car. It is an impractical two-seater with just enough room for the driver and his lunch. Consequently, it’s been months since I’ve seen one on the road. No value.

Focus on the value you offer your customers. Play up what’s in it for them. And keep marketing. The pie is smaller. If you want the same amount of income, you have a take a bigger slice of the smaller pie. That means taking from your competition. How do you do that? Smart Marketing.

What do you want?

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megaphoneThere is an unfortunate saying in our business: “Just because we work in communications doesn’t mean there is communications.”

Imagine that. In the very field that we work in, we are less than expert in executing the practice ourselves. Given that, how can we expect our clients to provide us with clarity in their communications. We often get frustrated by the perceived lack of clarity in message from the client.

We are the experts here. It is up to us to spend time with the client to derive from them what exactly is the message and position they want to convey to their (potential) client base. That is something our company pledges to do for our customers first and foremost for every client on every project.

However, that doesn’t preclude you, the small business owner, from having to do some homework yourself. Good marketing firms will do anything they can to help you to fine tune your message. But you need to know what it is you hope to accomplish first. Are you looking to establish points of differentiation from your competition? Are you looking to build market share? Are you launching either your company or a new product/service offering? Most marketing firms will work diligently with you to help you to figure out what your goals can be as well as what the right message and medium would be. However, if you’re reading this blog, then I’m thinking that you are possible not in a financial position to simply turn over your entire marketing efforts over to another firm. Therefore, much of this homework falls on your, the owner, to figure out.

It is difficult to have a good objective view of your company when you are internal. This is why large companies often rely on focus groups to help them gain perspective. Given that you don’t have the budget to perform any kind of formal focus group, reach out to people that know your company the best: your customers. Ask them what they think of when they think of your company. What images come to mind. The important thing here is to allow them to respond in a way that supports openness and honesty. Give them an avenue to remain anonymous.

There is a danger here. By asking only your current (and/or past) customer base, you are restricting yourself to views from people that already know your company. Seek opportunities to ask beyond that universe. The effort to gain this additional information is greater, but so are the rewards.

Of course you’re important, but…

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8020ruleI’m sure you’ve heard of the 80/20 rule before. It’s been applied to so many things in so many ways. Here’s the context in which I’m exploring it this week.

You will spend 80 percent of your time on 20 percent of your clients.

Some people just need more handholding. Some people need more coaxing. Some people know they need help, but are unsure about getting off the fence and moving forward with a marketing campaign (for example).

I love those people in the same way that I love vegetables.

The bottom line is your bottom line. There are times in which we find ourselves in a place where we might have to pull back on the attention that we’ve been giving a client simply because they’re receiving too much of our resources. In the past, I’ve been with companies that have made the difficult and unfortuante decision to “fire a client.” It’s not a decision that we ever took lightly, but was forced on us if we wanted to be able to continue to grow.

I’d love to hear if you’ve been in this type of situation and had a successful outcome that we can all learn from. Was it simply a function of better educating a client and turning them into one of the better 80 percents or was there another method you used to rectify the situation?

Written by Jeff York

December 1, 2008 at 1:12 am