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Yep, I’ve got a sure fire, time-honored, market-proven system that’ll help you have all the success you want in your endeavor, and then some.

Three simple steps:

1. Find out what your customers want.

2. Find a cost-effective and profitable way to give it to them.

3. Repeat.

Just that simple. Start doing this and you’ll be amazed at the results you get. If you’re already doing something like this, go back and make sure you’re not leaving a step out.

Test it for yourself and I’ll bet you’ll have a hard time arguing that it’s a simple strategy.

Simple, yes. Easy? Not so much. And that’s why so many fail.

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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Every time I attend a seminar or pick up a book on marketing I find myself fighting the urge to go down one rabbit trail after another. While it’s good to keep an open mind and check out lots of different ideas and viewpoints, I think a much wiser approach is to peek through the forest and be sure you see the trees. Focus on what is most important.

In marketing, the most important thing is the customer! Your customer!

If the latest and greatest idea, whether it be related to big data or social media or any of the other new buzzwords out there, seems like something that would enhance your relationships with your customers or help you get more of your ideal customers, then it’s probably worth pursuing. If you’re not sure whether it would enhance those relationships, ASK your customers. And if you’re still not sure, try whatever it is (if it’s not too costly or risky to your brand) and study whether or not it enhances customer relationships. Whatever it is. Focus on what matters most: Your customer!

A similar strategy could be employed in life, too. Rather than chasing after the wind (Thank you King Solomon), figure out what is MOST important to you and be sure that becomes your main focus.

It may not be easy, but it is that simple.

Go get ‘em!

“Starve your distractions, feed your focus.” – Unknown

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Do I think we’re headed for an economic downturn?

Yes. Absolutely. Definitely.

Why do I say that?

And for that matter, why would I say such a thing when it’s usually my goal to offer you mostly positive stuff when you visit here?

I say yes, we absolutely, definitely are headed for an economic downturn. And it could be rough.

I say that with such confidence because that’s what economies do. They go through periods of prosperity, recession, depression, and recovery. 

You can take that to the bank, friends. 

When can we expect the next downturn? How bad will it be? How long will it last? 

Beats me. Knowing how economies work and what to expect is one thing. Knowing all the particulars and specifics is something else. And I’ll also say, I’ve read the works of many authors and trend spotters over the years to it’s pretty clear that nobody knows nothin’ for sure when it comes to timing predictions in the economy. 

You may not be able to time predictions exactly, but knowing that what goes up also comes down can help you make better decisions in terms of planning ahead. Store up a little something for the winter, in other words.

That way, you don’t have to worry so much about the economy, you can focus on your economy.

Our old friend SWOT the PEST may be of use to you in that regard. 

It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” – Harry S. Truman

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A while back a little crisis erupted when a local fuel vendor announced that a few batches of its gasoline had too high an ethanol content. High enough to potentially cause engine damage. Several Oklahoma City metro convenience store locations were affected, and they of course had to notify the public of the unfortunate news.

Fortunately for OnCue and its customers, the recall didn’t affect them. Or, more accurately, as a loyal On-Cue customer, I should say it didn’t affect us. OnCue made a point of making sure their customers knew it, too, by placing signs that prominently shared that important message on the front doors of its Oklahoma City locations.

If your value offers a competitive advantage, even if it’s a short-term advantage, showcase it. Let the world know about it.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it, baby!

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If there is an opportunity to get in front of an audience, you can bet marketers will find it. The picture to the left illustrates one such example.

The good folks at Coca Cola determined that those concrete poles that serve as safety/security barriers to the entrance to such places as Wal-Mart were not being used to their full potential. So they came up with a cardboard overlay that featured their latest promotion. Hard to miss as you walk through the main entrance, and I offer them a tip of my marketing hat for their creativity.

A while back we talked about how Amazon did something similar.

A good idea is to look for “underutlized real estate” where you might be able to get your message out there. The more unique, and the more clever, the better.

Doing business without advertising is like winking in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” – Unknown

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There is a logical part of us that knows economic downturns are inevitable. But emotionally, they’re still hard to accept and even harder to muddle through.

But the truth is, just as a robust economy offers opportunities, so does a downturn.

A downturn may be a good time to grow. If you’ve been wanting to expand, you may be able to acquire assets for your business that were overpriced during the boom times. This is especially true for real estate.

If you’re wanting to build, those construction firms who were too busy to return your calls during the good times may now be very eager to negotiate a price you’ll really like.

Now may be the best time to advertise. Because your competitors have likely scaled back on their advertising, your messages can stand out on a less cluttered landscape. You may also find that ad rates suddenly become easier to negotiate in a downturn.

Your workforce should also be happy to have jobs, so they should be focused more on how to increase their personal productivity and offer stellar customer service than on how to find that “next, better job” that always seems to present itself in an up economy.

It’s been said that we all turn into much better managers during a downturn because the scarcity of resources forces us to make better, smarter decisions and find more innovative solutions.

A downturn certainly isn’t preferred, but it may not be the end of the world, either. If think a downturn suddenly erases all opportunity, consider that success stories like Microsoft, GE, FedEx, Revlon, and Hyatt, and plenty of others, started during a recession.Then go out and make some history of your own!

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” - Napoleon

 

 

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I‘m a huge fan of using guiding principles. In fact, I often suggest trying to replace formal strategic plans with a good set of memorable, actionable guiding principles wherever possible.

You can find more on that HERE if you’re interested.

The idea of forgoing formal strategic plans for a handful of guiding principles may sound a bit far fetched, and granted it may not work for everyone, but when you stop and consider what we’re really trying to accomplish with strategic plans in the first place, which is ACTION, then I think it makes sense to at least take a look.

Here’s what Nordsrom’s did:

In an effort to train its entire team in how to deliver stellar customer service on a consistent basis, they tossed out the giant, three-ring binder that contained all kinds of policies and FAQs regarding customer service. All new hires are now trained with one phrase: “Use your good judgment in all situations.” That’s it.

Of course, there are plenty of stories that are then told in their ongoing training sessions as examples of what kinds of situations might come up, how employees have handled such issues in the past, and what can be learned from both the good and bad outcomes. The guiding principles lead to action, the action can then be studied and refined, and continuous improvement occurs. As the old Shewart Cycle reads, “Plan, Do, Check, Act,” then do it all over again.

Success is a process, not an event, and guiding principles can help keep that process in motion.

I will never put my name on anything that does not have in it the best that is in me.” – John Deere

 

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Good copy, Home Depot!

By Dr. Burt Smith December 14th, 2015

2015-12-11 11.20.38Pop quiz: Is this good marketing? The answer in a moment (like you didn’t already know what the answer is!). (Psst… you can find a hint here if need be.

Anyhow, on with the story.

I spied this display right outside the main entrance to Home Depot. They had an immaculately trimmed Christmas tree with a sign that read “Visit our Garden Center for your fresh cut tree,” and an arrow directed prospects to the entrance to the Garden Center.

Loved it! I thought the copy was well done. “Visit” is always a pleasant word, and the “for your fresh cut tree” verbiage really resonated with me. Just very well done.

So back to the to the original question:”Is this good marketing?” The answer is, “Does it get results?” Here’s where I have to say, in my case it didn’t.

I thought it was clever, well placed, well done, and so forth, it just didn’t move me to want to purchase a live tree. We’re an artificial, pre-lit tree kind of family.

To be fair, though, am I really their target market? If we’re not a live tree kind of family, my answer may not count. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this message did in fact resonate with its intended target market, that prospect who actually wants a fresh-cut tree. For that matter, it might even spur a purchase from someone who has thought about trying a fresh cut tree but just hadn’t yet made the plunge.  Were those things to occur, then indeed it would have to be considered “good marketing” because it did indeed get results!

All that aside, I still just really liked it, doggone it! Someone once said that advertising is “Art for the masses,” and I’d have to agree. A worthwhile attempt needs to be appreciated!

I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.” – John Wanamaker

 

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text mobile phoneI know a lot of today’s generation tends to communicate via text. Many have said that’s their preferred means of receiving messages, which has led a lot of marketers to adopt this as the next big way to disseminate information. To be fair, usually such information is requested via subscription or something, so it is indeed something the customer did ask for.

But I wonder if the possible brand damage that tactic could inflict has really been considered.

Here’s what I mean…

Let’s imagine you’ve subscribed to receive short little Burtisms, similar to these blog entries, via text here and there. One would hope we’d have the same great experience we have here, me sharing ideas from time to time and you getting a little something useful. Once a week a little Burtism text pops up in your text inbox, you read it at your convenience, it brightens your day, you happily go on about your life.

But what if my happy little Burtism text pops up right in the middle of an important conversation you’re trying to have? What if I’m interrupting good news? Wouldn’t that be rather an aggravation? What if my happy little Burtism pops up during bad/sad news? In addition to being an aggravation, might that be  considered inappropriate, even it it’s not intentionally so? Even if you could forgive such an intrusion, might my brand then carry that negative association with it from then on?

As my friend –  and quite the marketer himself – Nic Bittle said, “What we sign up for today might be a nuisance tomorrow.”

Indeed, and that’s not the kind of brand association you want.

The answer remains to be seen, but a it’s not a bad idea to ask these kinds of “then what” questions as you go.

 

 

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Gillette has always made a good razor, one capable of commanding a premium price and maintaining a loyal following, which is an excellent formula for success in any market sector. Procter & Gamble recognized this several years ago and wisely purchased the company to add to its stable of other category-dominating brands.

But sometimes even being the absolute best in your category isn’t enough. 

Marketing takes place in a dynamic environment, and what makes the environment dynamic is the constant interaction of the forces in the environment. Sometimes these environmental forces can be your toughest competition. More on that here if you’re interested.

In this case, the culprit is a socio-cultural force. Procter & Gamble says the reason the sales of razors and razor blades have declined is because more and more of their male customers are sporting beards rather than the clean-shaven look. Beards and goatees are more popular in the current culture, which means less shaving, which in turns means decreased demand for razors. I’m sporting a goatee myself as I write this and I’ve got to say, getting to skip buying so many $20 packages of blades here and there is like getting a raise!

Understanding that forces in the environment are beyond our control is a pretty straightforward concept to grasp, but in your analysis, recognize also that these forces could turn out to be the stiffest competition you face so you can plan accordingly.

In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” – Warren Buffett

 

 

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