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A very simple answer to the question, “What does your customer think about all the time?” is: THE FUTURE! The customer thinks constantly about the future. In fact, since you’re a customer, too, consider how often “the future” is what you think about.

For example, we may be motivated to get an education so we can have a better job so we can provide for our loved ones so we can retire comfortably and hopefully leave them a legacy of some kind when we’re gone. In every decision we make, we are thinking about the future. If we’re unhappy in the present, we’re thinking about what we can do to be happy in the future. If we’re currently happy, we think about how we can keep the happiness going. Think about what you think about all the time and you’ll see we all think constantly about the future.

The marketing challenge then becomes finding out what “future” the customer desires, then we frame our value proposition in such a way that it helps contribute to that future. Maybe it’s not so easy, but it is that simple. 

A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine.” ─Murphy’s Law of Computing

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Mail BoxThe U.S. Postal Service has announced it’s licensing a clothing line in 2014 as a way to boost revenue and to help reposition its ailing brand among consumers. This kind of thing is a common way for companies who have strong brand equity and favorable brand associations to leverage that brand into additional revenue. So in theory, the idea is not all bad. Harley Davidson, for example, licenses its brand for use on lines of everything from key rings to Ford F-150s. They have a huge clothing line, too, but they are Harley Davidson…Those same folks who proudly call themselves, or aspire to be HOGS (members of the Harley Owners Group), proudly wear the Harley Davidson logo. They have extremely favorable brand associations and strong brand equity as a result.

The postal service? Well, not so much.

For one thing, the Postal Service isn’t exactly known as a winner. So who wants to walk around wearing a garment that says, “I support losers?” Or “I dress like the losers?” This ain’t the spot you want to be in. Just follow me around the mall when I wear my Dallas Cowboys ball cap and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.

At the very least, even if this wasn’t a terrible idea (did I mention that I think it is a terrible idea?), it would, at best, be a short-term gain. And when an organization has BIG problems, a short term gain is ultimately no gain at all. It’s highly unlikely that a USPS clothing line will become a new standard in apparel. At best, it’ll be a short-term fad, and without a follow up plan to put legs under it, collapse is inevitable.

Having said all that, let me also say that it’s very sad to watch what has happened to the USPS over the past 25 years or so. I hope they can get back on track. I just don’t see this as the way to get there.

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toastingSometimes being dead wrong can turn out to be a good thing! When the idea last year for doing an evening event at the Oklahoma City Chapter of the American Marketing Association came up, a banquet-type event (translation: labor-intensive event!), I was skeptical at first, and I said so. I did it in the same vein as so many good past-presidents had advised me over the years when I was in leadership, which was just to say, “Hey, let’s be careful…, these things cost a lot of money and it’s often hard to find the labor to pull it off, evening events are a tough to get people to attend, have you thought about this, have you thought about that, etc…” Never intending to be a big ol’ downer, and I hope I didn’t say something like “We tried that once and it didn’t go so well…,” because statements like that guarantee an organization will have a mediocre future. But, since a not-for-profit kind of has to be able to justify every dollar it spends because it’s somebody else’s money you’re spending, that has to be the big filter through which every decision is made. I just didn’t think overall this was a good one. So I just had to get my two cents in. Nobody listened, and that was a good thing, it turns out, because the inaugural Marketini event, as it was so cleverly named, was a huge success. People literally had to be turned away. Plus, the event elevated the stature of the already prestigious Excellence in Marketing Awards by showcasing their presentation in a venue that gives them the attention they deserve. The event happened to be held in the OKC Chapter’s 50th year, and since I’ve been a member for nearly 20 of those years, that was kinda neat to reflect upon. The Marketini had this cool, Mad Men theme and everybody dressed “50s,” it was really something.

I might also point out that even though I didn’t agree with the idea, once it was green-lighted, I tried to do what past-presidents did for me so well any time I had an idea, and I sometimes had some crazy ones – I supported it. Our company was a sponsor and I spent the day of the event helping the committee with the set up and the Saturday morning after helping with the take down (Side note – if you drive a pickup truck, be careful who knows it! A good line to memorize is “I’d love to haul that for you, but since this is a company-owned vehicle our insurance prohibits it.” Then shrug and shake your head slowly while wearing your most convincing  expression of regret…).  Seriously, it was fun to be a part of that historical occasion and I’ll always be proud my financial support and sweat equity helped make it so.

Usually this is where I conclude the post with an action or a marketing lesson you can use, and there are actually several positive, long-range, strategic, branding lessons to be gleamed from my 2012 Marketini experience, which I’ll talk about another time. They’ll probably find their way into my next book, as a matter of fact, because there were some great lessons learned.

I wanted this post to just be a much-deserved thank-you, because a LOT of hard work goes into such an undertaking.

As the second annual Marketini approaches, a toast to the professional chapter of the American Marketing Association of Oklahoma City and its current leadership. Hear, hear!

 Try a lot of stuff, keep what works.” – Jim Collins, Built to Last

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thumbs downWorking to make a sale or otherwise win someone to your way of thinking? Encountering resistance or an objection is just part of the journey. How you handle it will determine whether you are to succeed in influencing the other person or be rejected altogether.

An old (let’s instead call it “time-honored”!) model for handling objections is the “Feel, Felt, Found” model. It uses a buffered, non-confrontational approach in helping the prospective buyer address concerns/objections they have.

Here’s an example of how it might be put to work…

“I can understand why you might FEEL that way…” In this manner, we are listening intently, acknowledging the concern of the prospect and treating it respectfully and importantly.

“A lot of my very best customers once FELT that way too…” Customers who were once prospects just like this prospect once had the exact concern. The fact that they are now customers and no longer just prospects indirectly demonstrates that the concern proved to be unwarranted, which can be reassuring to your current prospect.

“…Until they FOUND how <your PRODUCT/SOLUTION> gave them <whatever BENEFIT(s) they are seeking>.” The product delivered exactly what the once skeptical prospect who is now a customer had hoped for. You could then present a testimonial letter that further substantiates the claim. There is no better evidence than a satisfied customer.

You could even make it more personal if you liked.

“Mrs. Prospect, I can certainly understand why you might FEEL that way. These days we all have to be prudent in how we allocate our resources, especially when it comes to a big decision like this. Are you familiar with the ABC company? As this testimonial letter shows, Fred Jones, the director of operations for ABC, FELT the exact same way until he FOUND our <Product/Solution> delivered exactly what he had hoped for. In fact, as you can read for yourself, in his own words, he says the product exceeded his expectations. Is it fair to say that that’s the kind of return on investment you’re looking for, too?”

Granted, that language may sound a little hokey, but this is a framework you can take, customize, and use any time you’re working to address a buyer’s concern. That is, make the framework fit YOUR personality. It’s an oldie, but a goodie!

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” – John F. Kennedy

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