- The marketing mix (4 P’s) is still valid today even if it’s boring
- Build it and they will come does not work anymore
- Big budget promotions and fancy ads have morphed into viral marketing and micro-targeting — a profitable unit of one
- It’s always been about the customer and always will be
- Creditability, being authentic and providing value is what it’s all about
The part of the marketing mix that has changed the most is promotion. Nowadays, promotion is radically different than 10-20 years ago. Traditional marketing promotions just don’t work in the Internet age. Well, that’s not entirely true. Just doing the traditional promotions won’t work.
Back in the old days (like 1950-2000), we were basically told what to buy. We believed the ads on TV and in general, were happy to “keep up with the Jones”. Back then, a catchy ad rather than a superior product, sold. Look at GM, Ford or any of the P&G brands. The stuff sold itself as long as the TV, radio and print ads were good enough for the consumer to remember. It was the heyday of advertising. Advertising agencies printed money. Their clients printed money. Everyone was happy.
Customers started to become picky. Advocates for consumer safety and truth in advertising started to get attention. It was no longer OK to stretch the true or lie. The old cigarette commercials were classic in that they showed rugged individuals doing manly things when they were literally killing themselves. Investigative journalism also starting to show companies and products in a more truthful light. The Ford Pinto’s exploding on impact or Enron’s manipulation of the electricity market all challenged the believe that a company could schlock any old product or outright cheat and lie. Now enter the web. Anyone with a website or blog can now review and comment on anything. This has caused a real information explosion that companies can’t ignore. Reviews, where they make their products, what they do with waste are all center stage and easily searchable on the Internet. This creates both good and bad buzz that can make or break a company. The amount of noise to signal on the Internet is astronomical. Trying to get noticed or even be heard can be a real challenge but once a story goes vial, it spreads like mad.
Tradition Has It’s Place
There is a place for the traditional promotion framework. You just can’t rely on it as your sole method nor can you afford the huge price tags unless it’s a big product launch and you nailed the product definition. Building a brand is probably the only place that traditional advertising still plays an important role. Brands nowadays seem so specialized that you really need to think twice about the expense.
Next Generation Promotion
Traditional promotion is a dead end for the vast majority of businesses. That’s not to say that some traditional promotion or media is a waste of time. It just means that the casting a wide net via big budget ads and campaigns no longer have a high return on investment. What’s important nowadays is your “new media”, “social media”, “Web 2.0” or whatever you want to call it plan. This really has to do with creating a following for your product or service by engaging your customer base in authentic ways. Basically, you have to put yourself out on display, warts and all. Seth Godin has a great name for this effort — building your tribe.
Tribesman, Followers or Fans
Tribesman are like minded people who congregate together for a common purpose. When they come together, they form a tribe. The purpose could be anything. Important to building your tribe is authentic, honest dialog. With the web, any fact can be checked instantly, rumors can start just as fast and no one is safe from Google. You don’t sell too directly. It’s almost like you just happen to have something that might be interesting and hey, you should take a look. Another aspect of new media is that there is a lot (and I mean a lot) of noise out there. Getting your message across is harder and harder. Just finding relevant information is no easy task. Building your tribe thus takes a targeted effort that amplifies your message while filtering out all the noise. Think of yourself as a band. How do you get fans for your band? What is going to make your fans remain loyal and want to listen to your “music”? Now, let’s take a look at a few strategies that can build your fan base.
- Web Site: This is a must have for any business. It should be informational, functional and easy to navigate. Your website is your on-line store front. Make it consistent with your product offerings and easy for customers to contact you.
- Blog: Your business probably reflects your expertise. A blog is a great way to build your creditability as an expert by educating your customers. Blogs should have the same branding as your website in terms of visual effects. It gets really confusing if they have different logos or color schemes or whatever.
- E-mail Lists: Collect email addresses from your customers and use it to send them useful stuff. Don’t always do the heavy sales job or constantly nag them about the latest and greatest product offering. Add some interesting content that establishes you as the go to source for information.
- Free eBooks or reports: Better than an email blast is an email blast with a free report. These are great ways to establish your expertise in your area. Make the reports information, relevant and useful. Again, avoid the overselling but do add any enhancements that can be purchased.
- Social Media Presence: Be it Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Friend Feed or whatever, you need to have a presence. These venues are great ways to augment your website and blog by providing another conduit for information to flow.
- Active Community Member: If you are a professional, then you have a community. Be active in both the online and offline community builds your brand. Providing advice and helpful hints to your fellow professionals (and customers) shows that you care about making your profession better. Get involved with local charities by volunteering your expertise. Look into Open Source efforts or release some of your code or materials open source.
- Review sites: Sites like Yelp can make or break a restaurant (or other service business). Know which sites review your industry and make sure that the reviews are accurate. You will get bad reviews but if you manage them appropriately, those bad reviews can be an opportunity to learn and grow your customer base.
None of these strategies can be deployed in isolation. They all need to happen and be coordinated so the message is unified. You have to seek your fans out. Engage them in all sorts of ways. Leave no stone unturned. Leave no new media idle.
Things To Ponder
- Think about the last product you bought. How did you find out about it? What sources did you consult?
- List three promotions that resonated with you. List three that made you cringe. What was it about the three you liked? What about the three you hated? Write a sentence or two about your gut reactions to each one.
- List your favorite website, blog, book, podcast and TV show. How did you find out about your choices? How many different ways do they engage you as a fan? List the media and promotions each one does. Write a sentence on why they are effective/ineffective.
- Find an old, established brand (one more than 50 years old). Why is it still around? Does their promotion strategy work on you? What would you change about how they promote their product. Write a paragraph on each question.
- Traditional Marketing
- New Media, New Marketing Strategies
- Seth Godin’s blog
- Best Biz Practices: Web 2.0 series
- Copyblogger: 5 Social Media Lessons
- Men With Pens: Community Contributions
- Best Biz Practices: Web 2.0 Online Press Releases
- Examples of Business Success using Twitter
- Building your on-line brand
- Copyblogger: Internet Marketing