Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Customer Alienation

In this age of sharper political conflict, a truly sad consequence is alienation of customers.  Some of this alienation is forced upon a business through a boycott, either because a business has taken a stand of some kind that others find disagreeable or worse, because the business owner is identified as a target because of their ethnicity or gender.

There is another class of alienation that I just don't get.  In this case a business owner (or CEO or other high ranking official) affirmatively drives off customers.  In the cases of which I am aware the rejected customers voted a certain way.  This goes beyond saying, "If you voted that way, you'd best understand we have different values than you, so don't complain".

There is a huge danger here.

Consider that it is hard to win customers.  Proof?  Consider how much money or time we spent promoting, advertising and marketing businesses.  If you spurn a large segment of the marketplace, you're going to have to make it with what's left.  In these political cases some of these businesses are redlining half or more of their prospect base.  And they're doing so when research is showing that quite a few of the remaining prospects don't like those businesses because they're national franchise operations lacking local charm and character.

This is no way to run a business.  Shouldn't this be about serving people with the best product or service?

Bottom Line:  It's hard to build a customer base and easy to destroy one.  Business owners should be leery of putting agendas before customers.  Stay away from toxic messaging!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Video Marketing Uh Ohs

Video is coming of its own as a marketing channel.  It's fresh, it's real, it's inexpensive.  Many small businesses are projecting a wonderful image using this technology that not long ago was beyond the reach of all but the biggest players.

But video can be a headache, especially when easily avoided pitfalls arise.  I have seen plenty of videos from small marketeers and there are some small matters to avoid.  Here are a few.

1) Watch your audio.  Cell phone and camcorder cameras usually yield a low quality audio or one that sounds hollow and cheap.  A wireless microphone can make a world of difference.

2) Frame the picture.  Don't find yourself hiding in the bottom third of the screen.  Try a test video to fine tune the actual framing.

3) Beware reversed letterings.  Many home made videographers find that signs, labels and other items with words on them get reversed and that doesn't look good!  Remove obvious distractions or print them reversed so they come out right.

4) Finally, watch those verbal tics.  Be careful of "ums", "and uhs" and other tics that distract from the message.

Bottom Line: Video can be an impressive tool for small business marketing success.  Be sure yours is as outstanding as possible by tending to the little details!

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Strange Way to Market

Lately I have been watching a strange marketing campaign.  It strikes me as one that violates all of the rules of successful marketing strategy.  It isn't working, but its promoter is only doubling down and making a more frantic effort along the same lines.

The marketeer chose as the strategy a variation of the old "Brand X" model where a brand seeks an advantage over a competitor by pointing at defects in the competitive product.  Over time Brand X campaigns have gotten shallower and even nastier.  (An example: an ISP even practically grunts, Tarzan-style, "Us good. Them bad".)

Our example advertiser doesn't spend any time or energy promoting their own product.  Everything is directed at assailing the competitor, describing it and the competitor in the vilest way, advancing extremely dubious claims that often don't hold water, and hinting rather conspicuously that the product could only be desirable to subhumans.  What is worse is that the marketeer in question actually attacks consumers of the alternative product as idiots---and much worse.

Step back and think about this.  You want to command the market and sell your product.  To do that you need more consumers.  To do that you need to convince those prospects to buy yours.  And yet you....insult--and attack--those prospects.  What a strange, foolish way to do business.  It is no wonder that the advertiser is failing miserably with declining sales over time.  Yet that advertiser persists and is doubling down with stronger, nastier insults.

Bottom Line:  Are you selling with a Brand X or derivative strategy?  Are you finding yourself, even unintentionally, attacking prospects who go elsewhere?  Always return to basic principles of informing and courting prospects and where competitors exist only pointing out your own competitive advantages rather than any self-perceived deficiencies.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Rushing to Re-cohort

Take a look around you and everywhere everyone is proclaiming that it is essential to re-engineer what they do to cater to the so-called "Millennial cohort" (which I would characterize as those in the economy who are in their 20s and 30s).  This goes beyond simply ensuring that new and younger prospects are not overlooked: it is a full bore demand that the entire marketplace adapt to these consumers.

I think there's way too much change being sought.  And it could backfire on those who reshape their appeal.

A business that puts all its eggs in the Millennial basket and fails to make the sale to that archetypically-feckless cohort risks losing its existing customer base and then has no choice but to fold.  I am seeing this sort of thing playing out with some large department chains and casual restaurants.

Even some businesses that play the Millennials' game are doing poorly because the stated Millennial core philosophies don't always lead to market success.  The fingerprints here are seen in greatly reduced productivity and unfocused management.

Perhaps worst of all, I see increasingly inane advertising campaigns darn near everywhere that I am certain are generated by older cohorts in search of Millennials they don't understand.

Bottom Line:  I continue to believe that products and services will continue to make sense if they solve real consumer needs and represent quality and attention to the customer.  Flighty efforts to focus on a single age cohort may not be appropriate in all circumstances.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Case Study in Image Self-Defeat

I recently encountered a gentleman who promotes himself as an exceptional specialist in his field, one that charges considerable fees.  I don't have any personal experience with or know anyone who has been able to speak to this fellow's competence, but I was instantly skeptical.

The clincher was the brochure.  It simply didn't look like it came from an exceptional, experienced professional.  It was home-generated on a loud, garish colored paper.  It used fonts that were hard to read.  Much of the text was written poorly.   It wasn't even folded into a neat trifold!

Was I unfair to the professional?  I don't think so.  It is one of the first tenets of marketing that you take the trouble to build the best possible image.  And for someone who has had some decades of business behind him, there's just no excuse for getting easy stuff right.  I looked at the brochure (and listened to a rambling and fairly incoherent presentation) and concluded that if he was that sloppy with his image, the advice I might get would likely be as questionable.

Bottom Line:  Take the time and expense to do the best possible image work.  Don't let easy mistakes happen that can cause a prospect to question you.  An image can be destroyed in seconds.