New Technologies, Old Concepts

November 4, 2011

Simple marketing strategies to get your message across

Sure, life was simpler before the computer age. It seems like just yesterday you could flip between your three television stations and be content. You could walk to the mailbox to get your daily mail. The only Spam we knew of came in a little tin. If you were unsure of who to call, you simply grabbed the yellow pages.

Now, each day we wake up with more choices, more options and more noise. Things are certainly busier, but are they better? That may not be the right question to ask. It is not helpful for a business to bury its head in the sand and long for simpler times.

The good news is that there has never been a better time to transform your company’s communications plan and marketing budget. The even better news is that if you are good at what you do, and you like talking about how you can help people, there has never been a more financially efficient time to gain market share.

A number of companies are poised to grab market share in the coming months without necessarily infusing their marketing budgets with wads of cash. Each of these companies has a similar set of defining characteristics:

  • They are good at what they do.
  • They like talking about what they do.
  • They do not use economic uncertainty and consumer credit instability as excuses.
  • They constantly look toward the future with eyes wide open.
  • They have a plan.
It is the last characteristic that is the most important.

One of the side effects of the recent explosion in technology is the sheer heft of voices and choices hurtling toward us. In 2007, the last time research firm Yankelovich made such an estimate, a person living in a city saw as many as 5,000 messages daily.

How can you craft a strategy to rise above the noise? There are three important elements to any marketing plan. I learned them from an eccentric futurist whom many thought was a whack job. But stick with me.

Frequency

Imagine that a customer calls and accuses you of false advertising. Then you learn that this person only uses your product every other week, but expects the results to be delivered all the time. In other words, the customer does not use the product as directed.

Whichever tactics you opt to include in your marketing plan, you should deliver your message to consumers for as long as you plan to be in business. As my partner Roy H. Williams says, “People don’t stay reached any more than a lawn stays mowed.”

Customers care about what is important to them, which is not necessarily what we think they think should be important. They are busy, distracted and bombarded with advertising messages, so it is important to get your message out and keep it out.

Understanding the degree to which you must scale your commitment is crucial—you must be present in your customers’ worlds a little bit each week for the rest of your business’ existence for your message to be effective.

Consistency

Do your messages, regardless of medium, have the same look and feel? This includes word choice, pacing, white space, fonts, music, audio signatures and more.

Although every president or prime minister has a team of speechwriters, its mission is singular: to write in the voice of the leader. The same should be true for your business’ messaging. Your marketing messages should contain repetitious elements that allow busy consumers to easily connect the dots.

At our advertising firm, we first help clients develop style guidelines that assemble the defining characteristics of a message plan. Your style elements should fit your business naturally and authentically, and should be with you for as long as you plan to be in business.

Relevance

Most critically, given their lack of time and attention, are you talking to consumers about what matters to them in a language they understand?

I have seen business owners who believe that if the consumer only understood the nuances and intricacies of what they were selling, they would do business with them every time. Consumers’ primary concerns, however, are their own lives and their own worlds. You are interrupting their lives, so your message needs to be relevant and delivered quickly.

Talking to consumers about what matters to them in a language they understand is easy. The simplest solution is to talk to your customers. In his book on customer service, Customers for Life, automotive legend Carl Sewell said, “We started asking customers what they didn’t like about doing business with us, and they told us, quite often without mincing words.” After that, Sewell said, he began to think about his company from the customers’ point of view.

A Canine Concept

With these tools, you are ready to gobble up market share, whether with Web video, radio, print or a bi-plane with a banner—or a combination.

Oh, and that whack job futurist? More than 100 years ago, an eccentric scientist repeatedly rubbed meat paste onto a dog’s tongue. Every time he did it, he rang a bell. He repeated the process again and again. Soon the dog began to drool when he heard the bell.

It may sound crazy, but for his experiment in frequency, consistency and relevance, Ivan Pavlov received the Nobel Prize for his research on conditioned response in 1904. Ah, the good old days.
Tim Miles is senior partner with Wizard of Ads. Miles can be reached at timmiles@wizardofads.com or 573.489.1058.

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