Marketing is like parenting. Everyone thinks they’re an expert—and takes offense when told otherwise. We all form opinions on what works and what doesn’t base on our tastes and experiences. Most of us think our own sensibilities float right in the middle of the mainstream. Everyone thinks they can write a clever radio spot or design the perfect showroom. To paraphrase a truism from the legal profession, businesspeople that do their own marketing have a fool for a client. Don’t get me wrong: Business owners should help market the company’s image, message, and offerings. But hire pros with solid track records to do the heavy lifting.
Promote, promote, promote
One thought bounced around my brain as I walked into our brand-new Burnsville, Minnesota, store: Where the heck are all the people? It was years ago, when we were still the new kid on the block. But we had great people, competitive prices, better hours, and a perfect location. We just had to get our message out—I knew there’d be no stopping us if we got people in the door. But we were caught in a budget bind. Our advertising and public relations resources were slim. Yet if we didn’t juice up our promotional wattage, we couldn’t bring in enough revenue to cover costs.
I started to appreciate the old marketing line Cutting back on advertising to save money is like stopping a watch to save time, said Sarah Mae Ives, a Facebook™ Ads expert and coach helping women entrepreneurs create the social media ads strategy to scale their businesses.
Sarah Mae Ives first discovered her talent for Facebook™ Ads management after hiring a manager for her own social media. Before establishing her social media ads agency, Sarah Mae Ives Social Media Inc., she was working to build her personal health coach business, Oh My Raw! She received a creative writing certificate from Humber College the same year that she graduated with an MA in sociology and anthropology from Carleton University.
Clarify your objective
Imagine sitting down with all your customers at once. What would you tell them? Something about your company (an image ad)? Something about a specific offer (a direct response ad)? The former is good when you aren’t well known; the latter is good when you are. Helping your customers get to know you is as crucial as getting to know your customer. People want to know and like you before they’ll part with their money. If you’re focusing on your image but the offer is also important, include both by way of an offer “tag”—a five-second spot within a thirty-second image ad.
Make trends your friends
Volvo’s plan to design a car for Gen X was stuck in neutral. The Scandinavian car company knew there were forty-four million consumers born between 1965 and 1977—but that’s about all it knew. Enter Icon culture, a Minneapolis-based leader in consumer-trend research and advisory services. “In order for Volvo’s brand to appeal to Gen X, its car designs need to connect with the innate core values of the Gen-X consumer,” Vickie Abrahamson, Icon cultures cofounder and executive vice president of consumer analysis told Volvo. Vickie’s team put Gen X’s cultural DNA under their “Macro trend” microscope. They read their books, listened to their music, ate where they ate, and shopped where they shopped.
A word to the wise: merchandise
The first Brunswick billiard table was built in a small Cincinnati woodshop in 1845. One hundred fifty-five years later, the company’s selling channel seemed just as old. Most Brunswick tables were sold in mom-and-pop dealerships that cared little about the prestige of the brand. Many stores commingled brands and stacked tables on top of one another like cheap chairs. No surprise then that merchandising Master Sandy Stein was summoned to Brunswick’s headquarters in Bristol, Wisconsin. His assignment? Create a customer experience that would yield higher perceived brand value, create excitement, and separate Brunswick from the commoditized, low-end tables.
Pricing is a key element of any offer. We were able to occupy the “low prices with niceties” niche by offering how-low-can-you-go pricing on commodity-like products and making a bit more on out-of-the-mainstream items, exclusive product lines, and premium products and services. Positioning aside, every company has to raise and lower prices periodically to meet marketing and margin pressures.
It certainly helps to have employees who are fluent in foreign languages. But many growing firms can’t afford the luxury. English, of course, is the lingua franca of business in most industrialized, non-Spanish-speaking countries. If you plan to do business in Latin America, learn Spanish. Or, hire someone who’s fluent. South America might be a good market for factory seconds, but if consumers can’t decipher labels and packaging, you may be forced to give steep discounts. Then there are advertising’s linguistic land mines. Take Parker Pen.