Renee Prejean-Motanky

Archive for the ‘Business Strategies’ Category

The Six Questions You Should Ask to Get a Powerful Testimonial Are:

In Business Strategies, Communications, Integrated Marketing Strategy, marketing, marketing campaign, Public Relations, Tips You Can Use on August 13, 2013 at 3:44 pm


1. What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from buying this product/service?
2. What did you find as a result of buying this product/service?
3. What specific feature did you like most about this product/service?
4. What would be three other benefits about this product/service?
5. Would you recommend this product/service? If so, why?
6. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Holistic Market Research

In Business Strategies, Integrated Marketing Strategy, marketing, Marketing Plan, Marketing Research on July 9, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Holistic market research2

Let’s face it. Most business leaders and marketers don’t do a sufficient job with the market research component of their strategic planning. There are a few reasons behind this:

  • It’s not real exciting (unless you’re the analytical type and really into data)
  • It can be incredibly expensive (and everyone wants to save the budget for the fun stuff)
  • We’re afraid of what we might find out (it can be easier to create a view of the market we want than to face the market realities).

Holistic market research

And, for those of you who do go through the considerable effort of market research, scouring the reports from Jupiter, Gartner, or other industry watchdogs, you’re still missing the boat. This global look at the market is important, but not complete.

Unless you have unlimited budgets (and if you do, RPM would love to talk to you), the critical step of market research can’t be short-changed. To make sure you’ve covered all the bases, consider these four methods for a holistic market research effort:

  1. SURVEY Customers and potential customers, as well as colleagues in or around your industry or target market. One of the best market research sources you have, is your own customer base and      sphere of influence. Conduct a web survey (of no more than 5 questions) aimed  at pulling future trends from this valuable resource. Ask your customers  a) what the most important factor is for buying a product like yours; b) what is the biggest hurdle they’ll face in      next 12-months; and/or c) if they could change your product or service,  what would they like to see (and why). Choose three of the most important      research questions and have your sales team actually call those customers  who didn’t respond to the web survey for their answers!
  2. GATHER Team Input  It is important to include your internal staff when conducting market research. Your “front lines”  can pass on valuable “feet-on-the street” trends they see and  hear every day. Every team member from sales to product development to customer service can contribute important data that should be considered  in your marketing plan. It is also important to solicit team feedback INDIVIDUALLY and not as group input.  Research shows that group dynamics tend toward having the more vocal opinions expressed at the expense of quieter group members, or having such a general response as to not be relevant.    Once you’ve collected individual feedback, compile the results into one document and review for completeness, consistency, and consensus. Where      consensus is lacking, address as a team—using the data from your other research methods to guide the way.
  3. STUDY  Your Competition (consider “secret shopping” to  get the “real experience”).  I often      hear from clients “we know our competition.” Then, as our marketing team studies and “secret shops” the competition on their behalf, a completely different picture unveils itself. It’s important to an effective marketing strategy that we not make assumptions      about our competition (who they are, how they position themselves, their      strengths/weaknesses, etc.). If you don’t have the resources to conduct a thorough competitive study, hire someone who can. It will be enlightening, as well as valuable to the research you need for an effective marketing strategy.
  4. EVALUATE The Market (concentrate on information that indicates size, trends, and need). This is the method where most marketers focus all of their attention. It doesn’t, in and of itself,      provide a complete picture, but it is important to your strategic planning. When evaluating the market perspective, start with trade associations, publications, and research companies focused on your industry. Many of you can’t afford the reports or fees from the research companies covering your industry, but don’t be discouraged. Most of the reports include free executive summaries that will give you what you need.

Once you have gathered, compiled, and analyzed the information from these four research methods, you’ll want to summarize the significant points from your learning in the research section of your Marketing Plan.

This holistic approach to market research will give you everything you need to create an effective marketing roadmap.


In Business Strategies, Integrated Marketing Strategy, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on June 23, 2013 at 12:45 am

Content Beast

Web Content Development

We’ve all done it. Whipped out some copy for a website, brochure, ad, or direct marketing piece on the fly and then edited it in the layout to make it more appropriate for the vehicle. Sometimes this is necessary due to time and other resource constraints, but ultimately it can be a killer to the effectiveness of your marketing communications vehicles, a lot more expensive, and take even more time.
We’ve said it before, but it is important enough to say it again—in marketing messaging you must live by the rant “repetition, repetition, repetition.” If you say the same thing, the same way, over and over again, eventually your audience will be able to repeat your message in the exact way you want it told. And then they tell two friends, and so on. Now, among many other positive results (like efficiency), your brand not only gains awareness, but relevance.
Writing effective marketing copy for websites, brochures, and other marketing communication pieces efficiently not only takes copywriting talent, but also the ability to create a structure that can be repurposed across all vehicles consistently. Over the years, we have helped many clients refresh their marketing materials to reflect a clear, compelling, and consistent message, ending with the one tool necessary to repurpose their content into new materials consistently and efficiently—the Content Specification. The truth is, taming the content beast does take a little elbow grease at first, but it can be easier when you use the following steps:
Audit Your Materials. First look at all of your company’s marketing materials—direct mail, brochures, website, press releases, media kit, etc—and perform an audit. Make note of what content is used, the inconsistencies you find, and the gaps of content that may simply be missing or inaccurate in each piece.
Identify “Repurposeable Content.” Once you have completed your audit, you should now be able to identify or create the content that will be repurposed across all vehicles into a Content Specification. We recommend you document your specification in Word, as it is easy to copy and paste from it into all types of design applications. At a minimum, your Content Specification should include your company and product positioning (in 25, 50, and 100 word versions), brand story (your background of how you came to be), brand identity (logo, taglines, etc.), and contact information. These elements should be present in every marketing communication piece. Be sure to store the Content Specification somewhere where anyone tasked with content creation can locate and use it.
Roll In Your Content. The final step is to take the content from your Content Specification and roll it into each of your existing marketing pieces, taking great care
to make sure that any edits you make in the process get reflected in the master spec.
Now that you have a structure for your marketing content, you can quickly pull copy together for new pieces and ensure that your marketing pieces work more powerfully together as
a system.
During this process, you may discover that your company’s messaging is no longer relevant and needs to be refreshed before moving forward. If this is the case, you may want to hire an outside resource to help you develop the consistency you need. A third party brings an outside perspective and an objectivity that is essential to creating clear and compelling messaging for all types of audiences.
With a comprehensive approach to content creation and execution, you can put the power of repetition to work for your company. Creating a Content Specification allows you to cost-effectively create consistent marketing messaging and ensures your team can efficiently use it—every time.

10 Cool Things You Can Do With a USB Flash Drive

In Consulting, Tips You Can Use, Uncategorized on June 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm
USB Flash Drive SuperTalent Pico-C 8 GB. Stain...

Image via Wikipedia

Transporting your data is probably the most common use for a USB flash drive. But there’s a world of other things you can do with these handy pocket-size drives. Here are 10 ways you can use that USB flash drive to do more than just move data.

1: Run portable applications

In addition to storing your data, you can run portable applications from a USB flash drive. For example, OpenOffice, which is a complete office suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, drawing package, and database, is available as a portable application. Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird are also available as portable applications. When you combine the office suite with the ability to surf the Web and check email, you’ll be able to take your most vital computing applications with you wherever you go — right in your pocket.

If that’s not enough, you can choose other applications to install on your USB flash drive from You can even install an entire prepackaged suite of applications that includes such things as an audio player, games, an antivirus utility, and a handy menu system.

The suite comes with a menu system to allow you to easily access your portable applications.

2: Boot an operating system

If you want to do more than just run your own applications, you might want to consider booting an entire operating system from your USB flash drive. You can boot either Windows or Linux from a USB flash drive; however, the process is not an exact science and you may be in for a technical adventure.

Fortunately, there are some guides you can follow. To learn how to boot Windows XP from a USB flash drive, see the article Creating a bootable USB flash drive for Windows XP. To learn how to boot a version of Linux from a USB flash drive, see the article Puppy Linux teaches an old dog new tricks.  Watch this video to learn how to create a bootable USB Flash Drive for Windows 7:

3: Connect to a wireless network

If you have a wireless network, you can use the Wireless Network Setup Wizard in Windows XP or the Windows Connect Now (WCN) feature built into Vista and Windows 7 to save wireless network configuration information to a USB flash drive. You can then use your drive to quickly and easily connect another computer or a WCN-compatible device, such as a router or printer, to your wireless network. To learn more about using the Wireless Network Setup Wizard, see the Help And Support Center, which is accessible from Windows XP’s Start menu. To learn more about using the Windows Connect Now feature, see Windows Help And Support, which is accessible from Windows  Start menu.

4: Create a password reset disk

A password reset disk can really come in handy if you forget the password to your user account on a Windows system that is not a part of a domain. If you find yourself in that situation, you can use the password reset disk to reset your password and quickly get back into your user account. In Windows Vista, you can use USB flash drive rather than a floppy disk as a password reset disk . For details on how to do so, see the article Create a Vista password reset disk using a USB flash drive.  Or visit this link: for Windows 7. 

You can use your USB flash drive as a password reset disk.

5: Boost performance

If you’re running Windows Vista, you can use a USB flash drive to speed up your system with the ReadyBoost technology. ReadyBoost can use the storage space on a USB Flash drive as an additional memory cache to aid the memory cache on your hard disk. And because flash memory is more responsive than a hard disk, with its physical moving parts, the memory cache provided by ReadyBoost can significantly improve system responsiveness.

Using ReadyBoost is easy. You just insert your USB flash drive into your Vista system and follow the onscreen prompts to configure and use ReadyBoost. If you want more details, check out the article How SuperFetch and ReadyBoost work together.  You can do the same for Windows 7.

6.  Manage it

If all you really want to do with your USB flash drive is transport data, and you’re running Windows XP, you can do so more efficiently with the Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager (Figure C). Once you have installed this manager, you can easily copy files to and from your drive, back up and restore the entire flash drive to and from your hard disk, change the drive label, and even create an autorun.inf file to launch Drive Manager automatically when you plug in the drive. To learn more about and download the USB Flash Drive Manager visit the Microsoft TechNet Magazine site.

The Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager provides you with a host of features, such as drive backup.

7: Use it as an MP3 player

Would you like to be listening to music when you’re using a computer at the office, but you don’t have an MP3 player? If so, you can use a USB flash drive as an MP3 player along with Windows Media Player and a set of headphones. Just copy your MP3 files to your USB flash drive, plug it into your computer, and direct Windows Media Player to build a library of the songs on your drive. You can use all of Windows Media Player’s playback features, such as playlists and favorites, to easily customize your music listening experience. And best of all, you won’t have to worry about running low on battery power

8: Password-protect it

If you use a USB flash drive to transport sensitive data that you would prefer to protect from prying eyes, should you lose the drive, Rohos Mini Drive  can safeguard that data. This security tool allows you to create a secret partition on the drive and then password-protect/encrypt that partition, thus protecting any documents you copy to that partition via the utility’s file manager. You can download (and read a review of) Rohos Mini Drive.

Using Rohos Mini Drive, you can secure sensitive files on your USB flash drive.

9: Run a Web site from it

If you are a Web developer, you may be interested to know that with Server2Go, you can easily run a Web server that supports Apache, PHP, MySQL, and Perl right from a USB flash drive. You can use Server2Go right out of the box without any installation. It runs on all versions of Windows, supports most common browsers, and is completely free. To a developer, the benefits of having a portable Web server on a USB drive are numerous. For example, imagine being able to carry a live Web site demo into a sales pitch meeting. For more information about this package, visit the Server2Go site.

10: Lock your PC

Have you ever seen a movie in which a person in some secret government installation simply inserts and removes a card to log in and log out of a PC? If you thought that idea was cool, you’ll definitely want to investigate Predator (Figure E). Once installed and configured, this little freeware utility will allow you to turn a USB flash drive into a key you can use to lock and unlock your computer. 

With Predator, you can use a USB flash drive as a key to lock and unlock your computer.

While the USB flash drive is connected to your computer, everything works as it normally would. Once you remove the USB flash drive, your computer is locked down — the keyboard and mouse are disabled and the screen darkens. To unlock your computer, you just plug in the USB flash drive and the computer will be unlocked and you can begin using it. To learn more about Predator, and/or to download it, visit the developer’s Web site.

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Getting The Most Out of LinkedIn

In Business Strategies, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on May 11, 2011 at 8:26 am
Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

 I’ve heard a bezillion questions about LinkedIn, the most common of which is….”I signed up on LinkedIn, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it. Does it really have value?”

Think of it this way:  

  • Linked In has more than 20 million users with an average age of 41-years old and an average income of $110,000.00.  
  • Every Fortune 500 company is represented on Linked In.
  • 500,000 small and mid-sized businesses use Linked In.
  • More than 150 industries are represented.

So the answer to “does it have value” is a resounding, YES!  But it requires more than just “signing up” to have value.

You have to put the effort in up front when you set up your page  and then you have to remain active in a strategic way (that you’ve, of course, given some thought to on the front end.)  Once you’re comfortably established there are many valuable ways to use linked:

  • Prospecting. You can locate and introduce yourself to contacts in the accounts you are targeting. Communicating through Linked In significantly increases the liklihood to get a response over a direct email or phone call. You can learn a lot about your prospect by reading their profile (what they’re currently working on, their employment history, who they recommend and who recommends them, where they went to school, their personal interests, etc.)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Having a COMPLETE profile on Linked In will drastically improve your SEO results. You can include up to three URLs in your profile that are indexed by Google and other search engines, as well as create your own Linked In URL that is searchable. 
  •  Job Search/Recruiting and Reference Checks. If you are searching for a job or looking to hire someone, Linked In can help. Not only can you search for positions and candidates on Linked In, if you’re a recruiter you can verify job experience and contact other contacts within Linked In who were at a company during the same time for references. Or, as the job seeker, you can  pre-screen prospective bosses and co-workers.
  • Thought Leadership. LinkedIn has a Q&A section where members can ask and answer questions about pertinent topics. This is a great place to get some of your most pressing questions answered. OR, if you are trying to establish yourself or your company as a thought leader in a given field, this is the place for you to post brilliant answers to those who’ve posted questions. When doing so, you can include URLs and links to support your answer, or to drive traffic to your Website which will improve its SEO.

Linked In is a powerful business networking tool–one that no sales or marketing person should be without.

The site offers several membership levels, ranging from FREE  to $500 per/year.  It’s best to evaluate what makes the most sense for you and then Just Do It!

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Engaging Fans on Facebook

In Business Strategies, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on May 5, 2011 at 5:16 am
Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase


Engaging the “social” customer is a topic that is getting a lot of air time these days and  for good reason. The more customers migrate to the social web the more engagement becomes a priority for successful brands and is tied to the overall customer experience.  Moving from a strictly transactional relationship to one of trust and engagement is fundamentally about customer experience and a positive or negative experience overtakes everything else.

Simply setting up a page is not enough.  It requires vigilance and energy with a mix of content.  A key point to be stressed is that social media efforts need to be tailored to what your target audience is interested in and it should be done in a way that stimulates discussion and interaction.  So you have to have a handle on what your audience is interested in.  Coming across like you’re broadcasting (the “old school” marketing monologue) is the kiss of death.

Marketing on Facebook is lots of fun and lots of work.  Here are a few “best practices”:

  • Post frequently  to keep content fresh. Generally the best times to post are mornings, around lunch time and early evenings. Posting too frequently is not advisable. Facebook is an engagement platform, so don’t broadcast.
  • “Like” and “Share” are powerful tools that can be used together to increase engagement. On your company web site and blog you can encourage the use of  “Like” for products and services, and the use of “Share” for asking questions and letting others showcase items that peak their interest.
  • Make your page interactive. Solicit interactions by asking questions.
  • Personal connections are powerful, personalize your posts… use names and other personalization often.
  • Respond to comments and do it in a timely manner. Conversation is engaging.
  • If you have company blogs syndicate the content on your Facebook page by using Notes.
  • Add value to the conversation and bring in outside content that is relevant to show folks that you want to provide value, not just sell them something.
  • People like free stuff, so offer coupons, discounts, specials if you can, but don’t over do it.
  • Mix in the use of other media like video. This helps engage customers.
  • Deal with negativity and misinformation openly and clearly. Don’t overreact or attack.
  • Share the love. promote and recognize other members of your community.
  • Make it easy to connect to your other social and online efforts by posting links to your other accounts like Twitter, YouTube,  your BLOGs, Websites, etc.
  • Include Facebook and Twitter tags on all of your traditional media.
  • Analyze and use the data to improve your Facebook presence.
  • If you make a mistake (and everyone makes mistakes), apologize!

What do you think?

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In Business Development, Business Strategies, marketing, Marketing Plan on December 1, 2010 at 3:18 am

 If the ongoing stream of news about economic recovery is tempting businesses to breathe a sigh of relief, that’s a mistake!

Being number one or number two is vital to gaining the scale and profile that generates profitable growth in a marketplace.  So, if you are stuck in the middle of the pack, it’s time to redefine your market if your goal is future growth. No need to be trapped by existing market definitions.  First, figure out what needs to be done, then act upon it.

To redefined your market for growth, you must first challenge your existing assumptions.  For example:

  1. Are you currently limited by your assumptions about geographical reach?
  2. The Products and service you offer?
  3. The types of customers you are targeting?
  4. The technology you will deploy?
  5. Your existing operational capacity and capability?

The second stage is to develop what if scenarios for potential new market assumptions.  Identify what new opportunities, risks and/or threats could emerge from these changes and determine the fit of your existing capabilities with these potential business ideas.

If new capabilities are required, ask what options exist for building them?  Businesses fall into the trap of competing within the status quo, when to be successful we ought to be reinventing the rules of the game.  The companies that capture the lion’s share of the marketplace are those that help customers realize wants and needs they didn’t even know they had.  In other words, by challenging the assumptions of their industries, these companies are propelled to greatness.  They have no competition, because they have redefined the essence of  their product or service.

Following are some great examples of what three well-known businesses did:

Southwest Airlines plane
Image via Wikipedia
  1. Southwest Airlines.  Airlines are notorious for price competition — a dangerous trap many businesses fall into with their competitors.  Southwest took a completely different approach to attracting customers by focusing on a target market all other airlines had previously ignored.  Southwest didn’t compete head-to-head against other airlines by offering better meals or other incentives.  Instead, it attracted those who typically drove to their destinations by making flying closer to driving… It offered the speed of the airplane with the economics and flexibility of driving.  The result? A profitable and healthy airline at a time when others are struggling to keep from closing their doors.
  2. Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...
    Image via CrunchBase

    When Steve Jobs returned to run Apple in the late 1990s, he faced a personal computer business that had been out-gunned by Microsoft.  Since then Jobs has transformed Apple from a niche player focused on dedicated Mac users, to a global powerhouse that has created an ecosystem of providers and partners dedicated to bringing the best digital-based products and services to everyone.  Apple’s release of the iPod back in 2001 when most of us were carrying around clunky CD players and purchasing 12 songs at a time by one artist, Apple redefined how we access music.  With iTunes and the iPod, the marketplace changed dramatically.  We still receive the same end product — personal music, but with the added convenience of a “skip-free” interface the size of a tube of lipstick.  We can purchase one song at a time for .99 or $1.29 each.  When Apple launched the iPod there was virtually no competition.  Consumer access to music was exponentially increased.  While costs diminished substantially.  Rather than compete with the recording industry, Apple created its own industry and rewrote the rules.  Apple has used third parties to create the systems that underpin many of its products and services.  Most innovative, the company has generated a new industry focused on the development of iPhone applications.

  3. An example of a Trader Joe's storefront
    Image via Wikipedia

    Trader Joe‘s

    has redefined the neighborhood specialty supermarket experience for its customers.  AT Trader Joe’s, listening to customers –and their valued feedback– is not about a carefully calibrated contact center or extensive customer research. Rather, it’s about something much more simple, and simply human: a conversation among the customer and the “captains” and “crew members,” as its Hawaiian shirt-clad managers and employees are called.  In the end, Trader Joe’s business model allows it to respond to customer feedback in ways that other supermarkets cannot.   Suppliers do not pay stocking fees or “rent,” to place products on Trader Joe’s shelves, a widespread industry practice that’s anything but customer-focused.  With drastically smaller square footage and inventories than typical grocery stores, the company removes items that don’t sell well to make room for new products.  In a sense, Trader Joe’s entire inventory is the result of listening to customers –both their feedback and their dollars.  “We like to think of Trader Joe’s as an economic food democracy.” says management.

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How to Get Others to Market For You

In Business Development, Business Strategies, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on August 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm

It’s a well-known fact that word-of-mouth referrals are a powerful form of marketing. When people speak positively about your products and services, they often influence others to work with you.These days, with so many people communicating via social media networks, there are many more communications channels open to entrepreneurs…many ways to help build new relationships.

Word Gets Around

Here are some suggestions for getting others to spread the word about your business:

1.      Twitter.  Twitter is a world filled with sound bites.  It’s a great way to create a following, direct Web traffic, build brand recognition, and get feedback from all over the place. Not only can you, your employees and customers Tweet about your business, so can other businesses.  It’s important to remember that the conversations must be authentic or Twitterers will know.  It’s also important that you or someone in your company monitors what’s being said in order to respond or jump into the conversation when necessary.  Just as positive messages can be Tweeted, so can negative.  The ability for an idea or thought or message to generate a huge following is fascinating on Twitter. Since the emphasis on Twitter is brevity (A post can’t be longer than 140 characters) it’s important to learn the lingo—lots of abbreviations to become familiar with.

2.      LinkedIn.   LinkedIn is a great place to go to network for business. It’s also a great way to see who knows who within a business network so that you can leverage existing business relationships. A couple of good ways to use LinkedIn as a tool are:
                   1.   Answer Questions. The more substantive your answer is the more likely folks will want to connect with  you, refer you and/or work with you.
                  2.   Ask Questions.  By asking questions that generate a lot of responses, you can identify “qualified  prospects” in many arenas.  It takes thought and creativity on the part of the asker.

3.      Offer customer incentives. Some of the most valuable references can come from current customers since they are speaking from experience and their words will be more readily accepted than the words in an advertisement or marketing pitch. You might even share the wealth you receive as a result of customer referrals by offering discounts on future purchases or by offering cash back if a customer referral leads to a piece of new business for you. Not can this encourage customers to be vocal about your products and services but, by giving back, you’ll be strengthening your relationship with them.

4.      Pay for links. Your business’ website is only a click away on the Internet. Take advantage of that by offering incentives to other website owners who refer business by linking to your site. You should, of course, reciprocate and always say thank you.  You can also offer a percentage — such as 5 percent — to the site for any referral that results in new business for your company. There are companies that will automate much of the process for you and act as an intermediary between your company and those with websites who are interested in doing this type of promotion.

5.      Make cross promotion work.  Every business need to do some kind of marketing. Look for other businesses whose products and/or services complement yours and strike up a strategic alliance where you’ll market for each other. You can promote each others’ businesses with your respective clients. The agreement can be as simple as linking to each other’s Web sites, or you can each share the other’s collateral materials with customers.

6.      Facebook.  Facebook is an extremely useful to keep in touch with and reconnect with people. Creating an online profile to inform your personal network of what it is that you’re doing and/or creating “Groups” that you solicit your network to participate in can be a useful means of driving traffic and it can be a great publicity tool. Facebook traffic has been increasing steadily, currently taking the position as the ninth most popular domain in the U.S., accounting for 1% of all Internet visits

Executing plans like these can be a highly effective way of building brand awareness which, in turn, motivates new people to try your products or services when they are in need of them.

If you want to utilize social media successfully as a marketing tool to grow your business, remember that you have to use social media sites and tools in the same ways that your customers do, and for the same reasons. You also have to accept each community’s rules, you can’t make your own. Social media isn’t a one-way promotional channel; it’s a many-way interaction/communication channel. The key is Audience. You’ve got to know who you’re talking to.

Anyone else have any tried and true methods to share?

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In Business Strategies, marketing, marketing campaign, Marketing Plan, political campaign on July 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm

First it’s important to understand that a political campaign is a marketing campaign.

A campaign is defined and remembered by its message. How that message is crafted and delivered — is called positioning. Positioning is, perhaps, the most important element of a campaign.  While all of the components of any marketing campaign contribute to a success or failure, it is the message that differentiates and it is how it is determined, how it is shaped, how it is used and conveyed in a political campaign that we, as marketers, can best learn from.  

Positioning is a process that begins with understanding and defining consumer expectations (best determined by research) if it is to be effective. 

And while it’s true that in an election campaign the winner is usually the candidate with the best organization to raise funds, rally voters, and get them to the polls, it is the message that generates the excitement and trust that ultimately wins the campaign. It is the message that builds trust, and builds the foundation for a working relationship.

The first Clinton for President Campaign, with James Carville’s core message of; “It’s the economy, stupid,” makes the point very clearly that campaigning is marketing. It was a classic case of positioning. It was only a prelude to the campaign that elected Barack Obama which was brilliantly positioned. The campaign’s message; “Yes we can!” based on a carefully devised position, was supported by a number of highly focused voter concerns.

While there are obvious differences between a presidential election and a campaign to sell a product or service, there are sufficient parallels between the two to allow for a profitable comparison. At the same time, the success of both the political and marketing campaign relies not merely on the mechanics of marketing, but on the strategy.

No campaign is successful if its mechanics aren’t deployed strategically.

There are seven key components in successful political and marketing campaigns:  

            Political Campaign

  1. The candidate, who has qualifications and some appeal that warrants the candidacy, demands trust in many more areas than a business does. The political candidate must persuade a constituency of a great many capabilities and characteristics.
  2. The electorate, which, while generally diverse, has some reason for considering one candidate over another based on issues and concerns as well as the perception that one candidate, is better able to address those issues and concerns.
  3. The message, which addresses the candidate’s solution to those concerns.
  4. The (political) organization, which disseminates the message, raises funds, and gets out the vote.
  5. The research, opinion polling, which helps determine the concerns of the electorate, and monitors the efficacy of the strategy throughout the campaign.
  6. 6.     The strategy, the structured plan to inform, persuade, and, generally speaking, get the candidate’s message out.
  7. The execution, carrying out of the plan from its beginning through the Election Day.

Markting Campaign

  1. The business (service or product) to be sold.  A business seeking to convert prospects must project understanding of their industry and business, and the particular nature of their needs as well as its ability to fulfill them. 
  2. The prospect, which, like the electorate, is faced with specific needs, desires, wishes, and opportunities.
  3. The message, which is the information about the firm and its services, specifically addresses the needs of the target audience, and should convince them that it can address these needs effectively and efficiently (at a competitive price.)
  4. The organization, which is the marketing structure that brings the message to the audience and executes the marketing plan.
  5. The research, which supplies the information needed to appropriately shape the selling message so that it speaks to the needs and wants of prospects.
  6. The strategy, which is the plan.  It defines the market, its needs, wants and strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, and determines the tools that best convey the ability to offer solutions to those needs.
  7. The execution, which is the carrying out of the structured plan. It brings together all of these elements to produce a client.

A political campaign is more complex in the design and execution of these factors because it has a broader target audience than a marketing campaign will have. A political campaign persuades people to vote for a candidate based on identification with his/her personality, credibility and charisma while a marketing campaign addresses solutions for the very specific needs of an individual or corporation. Most often the solution offered requires very specific expertise and credentials. That’s why positioning is key… it is what differentiates you from your competitors. 

Beware!  Positioning is, too often, misconstrued as a determination of how a business wants to be perceived.  But that isn’t positioning, it’s wishful thinking! 

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In Business Strategies, Consulting, marketing, Random Thoughts on July 21, 2010 at 12:04 am

Here’s What They Should Know


 There’s a great cartoon where a guy in a business suit is looking over the shoulder of an artist at work. The artist is saying; “I used to dabble a bit in accounting, too.”

Then there’s the guy who said to me, “If you’re smart enough to be a lawyer, then you’re smart enough to do your own advertising.” To which I replied, “Yes that’s true. You may also be smart enough to be a scientist, but it doesn’t make you one.”

Then there’s the guy who read a book about sky diving. He knew everything about sky diving — except how to do it.

My point is that while marketing may not be rocket science, it does have its craft, its artistry, its techniques, its experiences, and its history. And if you’re not experienced within the realm of those things, you don’t know much about marketing. Having only read a book about something doesn’t make for expertise and falling prey to the belief, “I can do it because I, after all, have a graduate degree,” is egocentric nonsense.  Oddly enough, a lot of people in business seem to feel this way.

 Every marketing professional can tell you a story about a client or an employer who retained the marketer for his/her expertise, and then proceeded to drown them by micro-managing and second-guessing. A former employer of mine, an engineer, always started conversations we had with the words; “I started out as a marketing coordinator” (translation; “I know all about marketing…”)   He also fancied himself to be a good writer, but he wasn’t!  He wasn’t he worse writer I’ve ever run across, but he was far from good.  Needless to say, that relationship was doomed from the beginning. 

Beyond that, an even greater problem was not the presumption of knowledge where none really existed, it was in the drive to an expectation that skipped right over a pervasive mound of reality. I should have known better when he said to me, “We’ve been a small firm for seven years, and now it’s time for us to be a big firm…”  The salary offer and benefit package that followed, made it hard for me to say no even though I pride myself on being “wise.”

Too bad, because what happened was to be expected: not only acute second-guessing, but entrenched ideas steeped in marketing mythology. Take it from me; when the marketer in you says, from the depths of experience, “This is what we have to do,” to which the reply is, “But we’ve never done it that way. Let’s do it the way we always have.” Or they simply ignore your advice and do whatever they want to.  The tenure of the marketer in that situation is usually brief, at which point the client goes out to either find another marketer or appoint someone they already know, and the cycle is either repeated or the new person does whatever is asked with a big smile until they’ve acquired enough experience to move on to a greener pasture.

This type of client, if the truth be told, may think/say he or she wants to be big – but isn’t willing to go through the rigors of getting there.

What, then, should clients or employers know about what they don’t know – in order to really benefit from the knowledgeable, experienced, and thoughtful marketer? A lot, but let’s start with…

  • Marketing has specific skills that improve with experience. How to understand the client’s market. How to write a program that achieves a marketing objective. How to use the tools of marketing, and how to manage those tools.
  • Marketers understand what works and what doesn’t. Many years ago I developed an ad campaign for a client who had some ideas of his own that he wanted to try out. OK, I said, let’s run your ad, which seemed to be a good one, against my ad, which he didn’t like as much as his ad. My ad out-pulled his by 50%. Why? Because he didn’t understand the psychology of advertising, which is learned only after long experience.
  • There is no greater artistry in marketing than in direct mail. Knowing how to capture the reader in the first line of the letter. Knowing how to time a mailing. Knowing how to get the reader to think that the bright idea to buy was the reader’s, not the writer’s. And that’s just a sample of what the professional marketer knows. “Why are we paying this guy so much for direct mail?” an accounting firm partner once asked. “I’ve been writing letters all my life. I can do it.”
  • Marketers understand that trying to tell people how to think about the firm doesn’t work. That’s why you can’t say things like, “We put clients first,” or “We do high quality work.” It may be what you want the reader to think about you, but they’re not going to just because you ask them to. More brochures are expensive and useless garbage because they attempt to get readers to believe things that just aren’t credible by simply expounding them. Professional marketers know better.
  • Good marketers understand the difference between firm objectives and marketing objectives. They’re not the same, although you can’t have one without the other, as the song goes.
  • Ultimately, marketing is an art form that uses skills, techniques and experience to achieve its ends. As we’ve said, if you want a good marketing program, don’t hire a mechanic, hire an artist.

As a professional, you should have some inkling about how expensive it is to hire marketers whose work you don’t understand or appreciate, only to have a frustrating parting of the ways. It’s even worse when you have a strong feeling that marketing is something you have to do in this competitive environment, but aren’t quite sure about how to hire, much less understand and live with, that peculiar breed of professional services marketers.

And now a word to clients and partners who think they know marketing. Unless you’re that rare bird with some kind of inborn talent for marketing – and there are some of you like that – you don’t know beans.

You should know, first, that the mechanics of marketing – this includes media relations, writing, direct mail, sales and such – are not marketing. They are tools.  Marketing, in the final analysis, is an art form. The mechanics and tools are not the art. And, when you’re hiring a marketer, don’t look for a mechanic – look for an artist. The artist is the individual who’ll pull it all together for you in a way that makes you stand out from the rest.

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