Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Luke, I Am Your Customer"

I know, lame Star Wars reference.  The point is, do you know who your customer is?  We have become specialists at "targeting" and speaking to the "right" people.  This concept goes waaay back.  Remember when people would place ads in newspaper?  You could reach men in the Sports Section, women in the Entertainment features and kids in the Comics.  Later, radio used the same methodology, "we reach more women 35-44 than any station in town", "we're number 1 with adults 3-5am on Sunday mornings!"

This brings up the question, "do we all have to look alike to think alike?"  As I look at the people I hang out with, I see men and women.  There are folks several years older than me and even some of my best friends are decades younger than me.  But, in spite of these differences we share many of the same passions.  The same is true for the people I attend church with.  They are old and young, male and female, Dutch, African, Italian and just about every other nationality you can think of and yet we hold true many of the same core values and beliefs.

Check out my family, my wife and I are complete 180 degree opposites but we enjoy many of the same things.  My daughters; completely different but passionate like me.  The point, use targeting and you lose many of the same people who are "like" me.  Create a great product, communicate it in a relevant and compelling fashion and then, let the whole world know.  The "right" people will be knocking down your door.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Than Ever, A Little Goes a Long Way

I heard a salesguy today mention that his time is best spent, "on the streets".  Really?  It takes a lot of effort to acquire any new customer.  There's the calls to get an appointment, the appointments to make your pitch,  wooing with spec spots, rate comparisons, demographics, schedule, copy and finally, a buy.  And you want to do this all over again?  That's a lot of effort!  It takes way more exertion to put an object in motion than to keep it in motion.

What if I took half the time I'd spend "on the streets" and used it this way instead; first, sit down with my  clients to discuss expectations and make sure they're realistic.  Next, insure that they have the proper schedule and rotation of spots and finally, spend some quality time to write copy that is both relevant and compelling.  Maintaining delighted customers is waaaay better than replacing disgruntled ones.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What They're Really Buying

There's a Starbuck's right down the block from my office.  Of all the coffee shops in town it's definitely the most convenient place for me to stop.  I used to go there a few times a week but, lately it's been much less.  Over the course of the past three years there's only been one or two people who have worked there the entire time.  One is Suzy.  I know Suzy's name, a little about her family, her likes, dislikes, etc.  Yet whenever I stop in Suzy will still ask what my name is (hasn't changed) and what I want to drink (same boring Americano).  Now, I go out of my way not to stop at that Starbuck's.

Gourmet coffee is a premium product.  If a 16oz cafe latte costs $3.50 you're paying $28 per gallon (and you thought gas was expensive)!  The expectations are different at Starbuck's than they are at the 7/11 across the street.  At 7/11 I get pretty much what I expect; coffee that's hot and sweet and a smile at the checkout stand.  But, at the premium coffee shop I expect a pleasant greeting, prompt service and a superior product.  I expect that eventually they'll learn my name and maybe even what I order.  Every once in a while they might do something to surprise and delight me.  It doesn't have to be much; a free sample, special deal or even original conversation could keep me coming back.

Was it the quality of the product or it's cost that caused me to avoid the Starbuck's down the street?  No, it was the human element.  I didn't want to buy from those people anymore.  They didn't seem to care about me because they never took a moment to get to know me.  You want to be a better Marketeer?  Get to know your customers.  Talk with them and not just when it's time to make a sale.  Learn their likes and dislikes, about their family, their goals in life and their dreams and how you can you help them acheive them.  Surprise them once in while; it could be a gift certificate to a restaurant they love, green fees at their favorite course or something daring like a Chinese foot massage.  Maybe it's as simple as a handwritten note.  Getting to know your customers will not only make you better at business but make you a better person as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

That One Thing

In the classic movie, "City Slickers" Jack Palance explains to Billy Crystal what the secret of life is, "One thing, just one thing.  You stick to that and everything else don't mean s#@%".  It's up to you and me to figure out what the one thing is.

In this second part of being a better marketeer I'd have to say the one thing for me is, WIIFM?  "What's In It For Me?"  It's universal, whether you're brokering a deal or sending a message, the respondent demands to know and know now or they won't listen.

Several years ago I was working with a certain car dealer.  His business was doing well but growth had stalled.  In every ad he loved to share how his family had owned the business for three generations, that they were the biggest truck dealer in the state and were located on a road that had even been named after them.  Blah, blah, blah, who cares?  Why don't you talk to me and address my needs?  I don't have time for you and your cars because you bore me.

Meeting after meeting and I couldn't wrestle the "me" talk from him.  He held on so tight his knuckles glowed red.  One day he was sharing about a guy who had approached him and wanted to set up a latte stand on his lot.  My dealer friend figured he could keep his employees and customers happy (and on the lot) and even make out with a cut of the profits.  I urged him to dig deeper to see if we could uncover a better solution.  One thing he was especially proud of was that they were closed on Sundays.  In spite of that, people like to stop by and window shop and that rolled over to creating brisk business on Monday.  "So, what you're saying is people enjoy coming here when there are no salespeople and browsing at their leisure?" I asked.  "Yes, it seems that way" was his slightly reluctant response.  "Why don't we capitalize on that?" I enquired.

He agreed to a "test period".  We changed his ad to read, "Hi this is Mike Smith from Smith Motors.  Here at Smith Motors we share the same values as you and that's why we're closed on Sunday.  We do invite you to stop by and take a look at our vehicles.  You won't find any salespeople on the premises but you will meet Mark.  Mark works in the latte stand in our parking lot and he'd love to prepare your favorite beverage; absolutely free."  Now you're talking my Love Language!

Years later when I no longer worked at that station I heard those familiar ads on the radio.  Business is good.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Boring IS Avoidable

A little more than one time every 12 seconds.  That's more than 312 times per waking hour, 5,000 times per day and about 1,825,000 times per year.  That's how often your brain is exposed to "buying messages".  Think back, how many of those can you recall from today?  From yesterday?  Exactly.  Your brain does an outstanding job of protecting you from messages you're not interested in.  Thank you brain!

Given this, we in the advertising profession must work harder than ever before at crafting concepts that will effectively interrupt people's lives and get them to act in a desired manner.  No wonder we're so stressed out!  How do I get you to do what I want you to do?  Better yet, how do I even get you to remember me?

Step 1: Learn a new language.  Have you ever used a cliche in any of your advertising?  Here's a few winners; "It's that time of the year again...", "For all your ______ needs", "Conveniently located at ______", "The friendly professionals at _______ "  I'd go on but I'm afraid I'm already boring you.  The point is, you're better than that.  Problem is, we all get busy, have tight deadlines and truth be told, a bit lazy.  Thus the cliche lives on!  Cliches are predictable and predictable is boring.  Your brain is wonderful at saving your from boring.

Why do songs get stuck in your head?  Nice melody, clever lyrics presented in interesting patterns.  Have you noticed how songwriters are the poets of today?  They present many of the same ideas you and I have had about love, life and anything else but, in new and interesting ways.  If you want to write better ads you need to learn to think like a songwriter.  If this sounds daunting it's because it is.  But, if you are willing to make some changes you can easily rise to the top 95% of your professtion.

How do you do it?  I don't know but, I can share what I do.  Every day I read a poem from a book called "Poem A Day".  I also read a Proverb and a Psalm.  You may not be a Bible reader but you can learn a lot just from the way these books are written.  I also never sit when writing an ad.  Sitting smothers creativity.  I got one of those hydraulic desks so I can stand when crafting copy.  Everything I write I read out loud.  It's amazing what a difference hearing your ad makes.  When possible, I try to get out of the office and walk around the building or take a drive in my car.  Any change to the environment tends to lead to more creative thoughts.  I invite you to try a few of these techniques and share how they work for you.  Tomorrow it's on to step deux!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

When Free Isn't Free

All my life my sister has loved Jack In The Box.  In particular, the tacos.  Being a "foody" myself this was a passion I could not relate to.  A couple decades ago my sister moved to the East Coast and no longer had access to the food she was so passionate about.  She was so desperate to enjoy Jack's cuisine she even applied for a franchise but, was ultimately turned down.  The only time she could enjoy the taco of her dreams was when she visited the West Coast.  In between, we would tease her by shipping her empty taco wrappers.  She would actually save them and savor the aroma for weeks!

A few weeks ago my wife and I attended the final game of the Sacramento King's regular season against my beloved Los Angeles Lakers (sad today).  Throughout the game, the PA announcer would call out different sections of the arena and they would win free food from a participating sponsor.  Toward the end of the game we heard the announcement that made my heart leap, "Section 108 has won FREE Food from Jack in the Box!"

Two weeks later I was at the airport picking up my sister.  Within moments of gathering her she excitedly asked, "Can we stop at Jack In The Box?"  Knowing I had saved the coupons I was eager to comply.  As we proceeded through the drive through window I proudly handed the clerk my coupons.  It was at that moment she humiliated me with this statement, "I'm sorry sir, I cannot accept these coupons unless you've purchased a beverage".

What?  The food wasn't FREE unless I PURCHASED something?  Okay, I get it.  You make a huge profit on selling flavored high fructose corn syrup but, what's really better for your business, to make a couple dollars today or have customers who love you for life?  I don't normally go to fast food restaurants.  You had this one chance to make an impression and delight me.  Instead, you made me angry.  Guess what Jack, I won't be back!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's Not About You It's About Me; How To Turn Pee Into Gold

Somehow, I had the tremendous fortune to grow up in Southern California.  My grade school years were spent in Huntington Beach where we lived just a quarter-mile from the beach.  My older brother owned what seemed like a massive (to me) six-foot surfboard.  On days when he was out I would gather a couple of friends to sneak my brother's surfboard out of the garage and carry it down to the beach.  We'd take turns learning to ride a few waves and then hurry it back to the garage before he returned home.  One day we dinged the board on a rock and I blamed it on my sister.  Somehow, he actually believed that until I finally confessed decades later.

Fifth grade saw mom and dad divorce, I remember crying real hard on the curb outside my house when they broke the news.  How could mom and dad not love each other any more?  After a couple of years of bouncing back and forth and the introduction of step dad I finally settled in to live with my father up the coast in Redondo Beach.  By now I was entering 8th grade and began to make friendships that still exist to this day.  Guess that's what happens when your family splits up; your friends fill in the holes.

Once family life settled down I enjoyed some truly care-free years in Redondo.  My friends and I enjoyed the beach at every possible moment and learned some valuable life skills; body surfing, rollerblading, how to toss a frisbee and the proper way to celebrate the magic of a sunset.  We also discovered the wonders of our neighbor to the south; Baja Mexico.  We'd go to Baja to surf, eat fish tacos and enjoy cheap Mexican beer.  Our favorite was Corona, primarily because in the 80's you could get a six pack for less than $2,  We would laugh and joke how it looked like we were drinking pee primarily because it was the only beer that came in a clear glass bottle.  Of course, when we returned back to the states we would only order Heineken. Holding that green bottle said a lot about who you are.

Corono began exporting to the US in 1979.  To be like other American brews they packaged their product in short brown bottles with "Made in Mexico" prominent on the label.  Not surprisingly, sales were disappointing.  The company took note.  A few years later they reintroduced the product in the clear longneck bottles that surfers and tourists to Mexico had become familiar with.  Corona's research revealed that American college males preferred this because it reminded them of another liquid.  Instead of backpeddling Corona stayed with the traditional look.  In 1986 the brand exploded with a new ritual; young men would order a bottle of Corona with a slice of lime.  Instead of emptying the contents into a mug they would smash the lime into the bottle.  Competitors figured this fad would quickly pass and to hasten it a rival started a rumor that the beer was contaminated with urine.  Young male consumers quickly laughed this off.

Embracing it's new image and attitude Corona examined its slogan "Go For the Border".  They decided to scrap it and hired Jimmy Buffett, who was already a consumer, and rolled out the "Change Your Whole Latitude" campaign.  The company also took note of the number of Mexican immigrants moving into the US.  They even took a secondary holiday; Cinco de Mayo and transformed it into a national event and excuse to enjoy Corona.  Never once during this process did Corona change what was in the bottle.  They did take note of how consumers were enjoying their product and adapted their packaging and marketing to meet those trends.  Take a moment to think how your company can do that today as you raise your bottle and toast the "Drinko of Cinco".

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Interrupting Me Does Not Make Me Like You

I was watching Biggest Loser on NBC tonight and noticed they had placed a watermark on the bottom left of my screen to promote their new program, The Voice.  Now, we've all seen these type of ads and grown accustomed to everything from a subtle watermark to people dancing on the screen while we're trying to watch the program we tuned in for.

But, this one was a new breed.  Not only did it stay on the bottom of my screen but, it counted down the number of minutes until The Voice was to begin.  The Voice in 59 Minutes, The Voice in 58 Minutes, The Voice in 57 Minutes.  Add to this that during every commercial break there was an ad for, you guessed it, The Voice!

Now, I might have been interested in checking out The Voice before this barrage commenced.  But, now I was being bludgeoned by interruptions!  Not only was this practice irritating, it also reduced the chances of me ever watching The Voice out of protest.  As an added consequence, this constant advertising made my experience of watching Biggest Loser much less enjoyable.

When I was in fifth grade our class would sometimes get loud and a bit unruly.  I noticed that our fabulous instructor, Mrs. Mitchell would whisper during these occasions rather than shout above the noise.  This forced our class to quickly settle down and tune in because we thought we might miss something important.  I think NBC could learn a valuable lesson from Mrs. Mitchell.