December 30, 2013

Cutting your community down to size

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:13 am

Our Phoenix-based marketing agency commissioned a sampling survey of the 8,000-plus subscribers to our newsletter. We did it in order to get a handle on a profile of our readership across many categories. We found that the majority   are 29-54 years of age and are either an entrepreneur, a general manager or sales and marketing executive for a (on average) 24-employee firm.

Something else of interest was our discovery that out of the 282 individual communities represented by our readership, a full 68% were in marketing areas of well over one million residents. And because, as they say, “all business is local,” it got us thinking about the importance of the visibility within a community of a marketing agency, or any other kind of business.  

Regardless of what percentage of your business is national in scope, even placed by decision makers in far away places in some instances, you must have a broad-based local contact network for things like supply chain support and referrals. In order to “reduce” your community to a manageable size, it is desirable to have as strong a presence as possible where you are based.

Rising like a Phoenix 

Like that mythological, rising Phoenix Bird that rises from the ashes, the Phoenix, AZ of my birth, to this day, our headquarters, has risen from a community of some 100,000 to become the nation’s 5th-largest city, fast approaching five million persons. Obviously, the local marketplace of today bears little resemblance to that of 34 years ago when our company was founded.  

As a boy in the ‘40s, walking down Central Avenue with my dad became a seemingly endless succession of him greeting friends and the exchange of pleasantries. Today in Phoenix, one can spend the better part of a day in the midst of a crowd and see nary a familiar face.  Alas, what is one to do in order to gain even a glint of recognition, let alone become a household word?

 We’ll leave the proposition of becoming a household word to those dealing with Verizon- or McDonald’s-sized marketing budgets and, for our purposes, relate this message to those among us who have smaller-niche prospect groups, yet feel a need for visibility within them. What it comes down to is that old marketing line that goes,” If you want to hunt elephants, you’ve got to go where the elephants are.”

Advertising, and publicity releases aside, to me what this axiom speaks of is the concept of “rubbing elbows” with the decision makers you seek to attract. To network with them through memberships in organizations is the obvious answer. But because your time is your most precious commodity, the emphasis must be on selectivity.

And — take it from a wizened old “networker,” surface superficiality does not  “cut it” on the networking art’s best practices chart. Rather, the magic word is involvement. You must, over a protracted period of time, become immersed in the organizations you choose, up to and including leadership roles. In short, the key is to become a “household word” within smaller but carefully selected community segment`s.”

Making an investment


There is one more key word to consider in any discussion of networking. That word is investment. And, I refer not just to your time and money, which are givens with any meaningful affiliation, but an investment of your abilities, input and effort. The success and recognition gained from any group involvement will be in direct proportion to what it is you have contributed to the advancement of the mission of that particular group.




December 23, 2013

The case for one-way communication

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:49 am

 The fundamental premise on which all marketing is based is: If the consumer isn’t aware that you exist, you can’t sell your product.

When encountering a prospect on the showroom floor or at a trade show, in every case, he or she was “delivered” to that critical point by an awareness of you; whether through an advertisement, a referral or, in the trade show circumstance, merely because you were there.

What takes place at that point is two-way communication (you standing face to face with the prospect, closing the sale). Though your degree of success will be determined by your persuasiveness, product, knowledge, price, etc., something that happened before that gave you the opportunity: a prospect had to be delivered.

The associates who are working closely with clients at our Phoenix advertising agency have come to realize that in today’s highly competitive marketplace, real success is largely a numbers game. To survive, let alone be a leader in your category, you have to close many sales. In order to do so, you have to have ample numbers of prospects with which to work.

A friend at another Phoenix public agency recently agreed that the key point is this: Developing adequate numbers of prospects cannot be accomplished through two-way communication, either face to face, by phone, the mail or, even, the Internet. Neither you nor your sales staff has anywhere near the time necessary for this crucial function. Prominent publisher McGraw Hill & Co. has estimated that the average sales call requires approximately 45 minutes, and that an average of three calls is required to close a sale. Surely, it’s no way to prospect.

Prospecting is what marketing ¾ the one-way communication element of sales ¾ is ideally suited for. Expensive, time-consuming two-way communication simply isn’t efficient, nor is it effective in developing prospects in the numbers sufficient for business success. Marketing communication, in one form or another, is the answer.

Most anti-marketing hard-liners got that way because they, at some point, were turned off by poor marketing efforts that failed to produce results. This is understandable, because much marketing is misguided or misplaced ¾ but it is not justifiable, and more than likely will be hazardous to bottom-line business health.  

Is marketing foolproof? Will it always produce infallible, guaranteed results? No it won’t, nor is it fair to expect it to (after all, what does?). But it is more science than art, and, as such, has something very important on its side: LOGIC.  Marketing is measurable, quite often yielding predictable results, and as practiced by good professionals, should ¾ and most often does ¾ more than pay for itself.





December 16, 2013

Marketing Point: Zig when others zag

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:19 am


I’m frequently asked for an answer to some “pressing question” about marketing, advertising or public relations. Many of these seem to have to do with isolating the most important elements in some copy. Perhaps, therefore, it is pertinent for me to go on record with what I regard as the vital keys to effective marketing communication. To that end, I am offering several key points for your consideration.

The most compelling things in marketing communication are:

  1. A better (or, at least, worthy) product/service to promote
  2. Favorable word-of-mouth “advertising”
  3. A clear explanation of benefits
  4. A persuasive presentation
  5. Appropriate audience selection

Surprise: These are not necessarily listed in their order of importance!

About number one:

This one doesn’t ensure success; it merely establishes a solid foundation upon which to build the marketing. There are other considerations, e.g. a) did you put it in front of the right target audience and b) did you do so in a timely manner

About number two:

Though this can be the most powerful, it is always the slowest

About number three:

It’s amazing to see how frequently marketing messages deal with features rather than benefits, and when benefits ARE stressed, how often it is done with “inside” terminology or “cute” buzzwords rather than the language of the street or, at least, the target audience.

 About number four:

Don’t fear a fresh approach. If others are saying it this way, don’t be afraid to say it that way. If others are being overly serious, don’t hesitate to incorporate a little humor; just make sure it makes your point and is in good taste.

About number five:

A tried and true (though ancient) marketing idiom says, “If you want to shoot elephants, go where the elephants are.”

In this age of overused superlatives, silly gimmicks, self-impressed copy and non-credible claims of superiority, grab the opportunity to be refreshingly different and shockingly simple. And remember, “brevity is the soul of wit” (thank you, Will Shakespeare). If you can say it just as well – or better – with nine words rather than 20 words, by all means, do it!

At the end of the day . . .  (forgive me: just once, I couldn’t resist the temptation to use the number one cliché of this century) . . . the thing that separates effective marketing communication from the blah, blah, blah variety is sharp-edged prose flavored with points of differentiation. Although even the infallible Google couldn’t tell me the originator of the term, Dare to be different (it has been co-opted so very many times), I’ll dare to use it here. Alas:

Dare to be different!  The other choice is to blend in and be unnoticed or forgotten. And, dare I add, neither is desirable nor affordable. What’s more, bad communication usually costs every bit as much to put out there as good communication. The only important difference is found in the results.



December 11, 2013

What makes one a consultant?

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 8:29 am

Marketing Memo from A. Starr –

Being a consultant involves requirements
We were interested recently to hear a radio station sales manager describe his sales department’s status as that of “marketing consultants.”

Indeed? . . . we thought.

Actually, the three indispensable requisites of a consultant are:

  1. A thorough understanding of client objectives
  2. An in-depth knowledge of the available options
  3. Objectivity

If one accepts the above standard, the sales manager’s claim was a case of . . . three strikesyou’re out!

What if paint isn’t enough?

If one were to retain a painting contractor as a “real estate consultant,” to advise us as to the best method for adding value to our home, it’s a fairly safe bet the answer would come back, “paint the house.” Likewise, selecting the representative of a specific advertising medium to create a valid, cost effective marketing plan would be, at best, a dubious exercise.

As a source frequently retained to develop marketing plans for clients, we would be the first to admit that a marketing campaign has the potential for being the biggest money–eating black hole there is. At the same time, it has the greatest potential for delivering bottom–line results that can make it not only a self–liquidating expense but one of the most cost–effective of all investments.

A most exciting part of our experiences in this business is seeing how an effective marketing plan can transform a seemingly marginal business into a highly profitable one, while it can propel a very good well above the growth charts (in this regard, ask us about our experiences with Standard Optical, Universal Roofers and Arizona International Travel).

A high–stakes game

Though, of course, it isn’t really a game, business owners and corporate marketing managers often play it like it were, betting the company’s precious funds on the basis of the flimsiest marketing information and knowledge imaginable. We marvel at how often we’ve seen a convincing media salesman induce their prospect to literally bet the company store on a half–baked advertising idea that an authentic marketing pro could see was doomed from the start.

The very least a marketing consultant should bring to the table is absence of any monetary stake (can you say, commission) in the client’s decision. Better yet, a consultant’s recommendations should be based on a comprehensive and current knowledge of the client’s market, and include an intelligent and frank analysis.

Ignorance is no excuse

Like the driver who professes to not have been aware of the speed limit, the client is ultimately the party that bears the consequences for marketing choices that are made. There are alternatives. He either can seek the assistance of a truly qualified party, or learn the rules of the road (in this case, some viable options) and have a “road map” (marketing plan) before heading out on that marketing excursion.



December 9, 2013

Tips for entering new markets

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:29 am


Sooner or later, it probably will happen to you. You are going to consider entering into a new market. Staking out a new territory can involve a geographic expansion, or even a whole new field in addition to, or as a replacement for your current one.

.Entrepreneurs usually do this for one of two reasons: 1) business needs a shot in the arm or 2) business is good, and it seems like it could be the right time to capitalize on current earnings or other funds by spreading out into other pursuits.

As one who over the past few decades has engaged in such expansion several times – with wildly varying degrees of success – I feel it incumbent to advise you to pause to consider some of the actions listed below before entering untested waters:

35 things to consider when entering new markets:

  1. Examine your motives. Are they frivolous, fact-driven or ego-driven?
  2. Consult family, partners, trusted friends, associates, advisors, skeptics, optimists or any number of others to find a comfort level.
  3. Conduct a capabilities “self-exam.”
  4. Examine existing versus required financial and human resources.
  5. Determine how it will impact current key personal and business relationships.
  6. Consider existing and prospective vendor relationships
  7. Go slowly, and understand that smart growth usually takes time
  8. Utilize research, e.g. type of expansion, market-suitability, timing, etc.
  9.  The open minded about the value of focus groups.
  10. Look closely at economic and consumer conditions and trends.
  11. Examine appropriate case histories
  12. Will new skills, techniques and business methods be required?
  13. Seek expert counsel accounting in legalities, business, finance and marketing.
  14. Leave the things that are hardest to change for last
  15.  Evaluate your administrative systems and management team.
  16. Ponder the ramifications of staff reorganization.
  17. Pay mind to the Peter Principle.
  18. Select vendors, employees, partners, alliances with care.
  19.  Commission a professional business plan and a marketing plan. Be sure the latter includes a SWOT analysis.
  20. Avail yourself of short-  and long-term strategies
  21. Set clear objectives, goals and expectations.
  22. Focus on budgets and demand-capital.
  23. Assess advisability of product and price adjustments.
  24. Consider new products for new markets.
  25. Survey capitalization sources, e.g. investors, angels, joint ventures and venture capital.
  26. Gage your staying power conservatively.
  27.  Compare your “gut” to hard, cold facts.
  28. Establish startup and ongoing progress benchmarks.
  29. Make “why I should” and “why I shouldn’t” lists.
  30. Keep meticulous notes and records from the start.
  31. Weigh demand for the products or services you will offer, as well as. your   sales and marketing capabilities.
  32. Will you engage in traditional and/or unconventional marketing techniques?
  33. Conduct competitive intelligence for the new market.
  34. Interviewing prospects for employment and consumer support.
  35. Be sure to use every avenue for securing the long-term future of your prospective enterprise.

December 2, 2013

Marketing talk was golden opportunity

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:21 am


A golden opportunity

Recently I had the opportunity to present a program for members the Executives’ Association of Greater Phoenix (EAGP). For the benefit of Marketing Monthly’s 700-plus out-of-state subscribers, let me explain that EAGP, founded in 1956, has a select and very diverse membership   comprised of entrepreneurs and senior management people representing almost any SIC code you could imagine..

Because this speaking appearance represented a fine opportunity for yours truly to speak his marketing mind, it was my purpose to relate within the 30-minute time frame I was given some of those things I consider to be the most important. I will use this month’s newsletter to relate a few of those points to you.

Owing to the fact that the format of this missive is also finite, I will, in this space, deal with a couple of the more salient points, but only in brief. Perhaps there are some of you who will have other ideas of the relative importance of these (there are more than four hundred of our subscribers who are marketing firm principals and corporate marketing managers), and I would love to hear from you.

Seven essential marketing ingredients  

To be really effective, marketing communication should include these seven elements:

  • Truth

If what you have to say – and sell – needs to be “doctored up” even a bit in communicating it to your prospects, you are on the wrong track coming right out of the box. An immediate and critical reappraisal of your products and services is called for.

  •      Relevance

Your target audience has neither the time nor inclination to wade through a lot of poppycock. Tell them only those things they need to know. They will probably have you repeat these if you are fortunate to have a follow-up call, so why water them down with confusing irrelevancies and meaningless fluff.

  • ·       Clarity

Have you noticed those marketing communications that make you wonder if you and the “perpetrator” are even speaking the same language, let alone leave you to wonder if you are on the same page? Chances are this does not trigger your buying impulse. More likely, you will move along to the next competitor on the list. It should come as no surprise, then, that your prospects will react similarly.

  • ·       Brevity

I believe I may have quoted this Shakespearian line before, but here goes: Brevity is the soul of with. David Belasco, the famed theatrical producer of another era, hit the nail on the head when he uttered the following: ”If what you have to tell me can’t be written on the back of your business card, you don’t have a clear idea.” Or, as a young lady I fancied in my youth once exhorted me, “Are you trying to say you want to sleep make love to me? .  .  . Why not just spit it out?

  • ·       Timeliness

Having the right selling proposition at the wrong time amounts to little more than an exercise in futility. Getting caught in a torrential rainstorm, as I did last summer in Aspen, CO, made me easy pickings for the umbrella salesperson. Had she been pushing sunscreen, her task would have been more difficult by a several magnitudes. Though an oversimplification, the point in nonetheless valid – timing matters (have you noticed?).

  • ·       Persuasiveness

People like me are hired by people who know more than we know, because, perhaps among other things, we can say it better than they can. Things that are written better tend to stick to our mind – at least long enough for us to remember long enough to place an order.

  • ·       Uniqueness

The cardinal rule of marketing communication is this: Build it upon and around things your competitors can’t say (enough said?).

 Don’t overload your salespeople

Too many companies send their sales force out into the field without providing them with the kind of marketing support that is required to help them gain appointments and, in affect, “grease the skids” for making sales. It is important to remember that developing prospects is not the exclusive province of sales staff. As a matter of fact, it is more effective to let one-way communication – through the use of marketing materials – do the heavy lifting.

Use your salespeople, not to open the sale, but, rather, to close it. It is a far easier sale if the prospect is already “leaning in your company’s direction” BEFORE that first sales call is made. And, remember, it takes an average of six calls by a salesperson to get an appointment, making it a very expensive appointment, indeed.


One more point

Make sure your communication effectively reflects the tenets listed above. After all, the radio or TV station, billboard advertising company, printer or other media vendors won’t grant you a discount for poorly conceived advertisements or marketing communication that fill their time or space, or that go on the printing press. You will pay precisely the same amount as if it were an effective example of marketing communication.