Entrepreneurs and effective marketing

We worked on increasing the effectiveness of their marketing through understanding the Broken Windows Theory for marketing and how it can increase the effectiveness of marketing for their business. 

Last night I had the pleasure to work with 25 entrepreneurs/small business owners as part of an Idea Village workshop in New Orleans. We focused on increasing the effectiveness of the marketing of their businesses through understanding the Broken Windows Theory.

Thank you to everyone who came to the workshop. I look forward to continuing dialogue with you all (y’all)!

Further reading about Broken Windows Theory for marketing:

Effective marketing using the Broken Windows Theory

Addressing the question: Why is branding so important

Your employees can make or break your marketing

The small touches in your business ensure success

Broken Window: TOO nice of a vehicle

Broken Window: Bad drivers in company vehicles

Breast Cancer Sponsorship, is it really a good thing?

“Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely believe in the search for a cure for breast cancer and all harmful diseases and I support any woman, family, friend, affected by breast cancer. This post is merely to discuss whether or not marketers should be involved in the process.

For my Masters in Advertising, I had to take a course titled, “Advertising and Society.” The textbook we used was “Advertising and Society. Controversies and Consequences” edited by Carol J. Pardun. The book was set-up with a point and counterpoint for every argument. At first, it struck me as odd that there would even be a counterpoint to cause marketing. “Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Why is breast cancer such a popular sponsorship choice?

One of the most popular causes to sponsor is breast cancer. Everywhere you look, particularly in October because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are pink ribbons, pink shirts, pink products, etc. Kershel points out that there are three main reasons breast cancer is the end-all, be-all of organization sponsorship:

  1. Breast cancer is a safe bet when it comes to corporate sponsorship. Who really is going to be against curing breast cancer? Pretty much no one. But, another cause, such as AIDS, is not such a safe bet. There are a lot of sexual connotations about AIDS and what lifestyles contract AIDS. So, by supporting AIDS research, corporations risk offending some of their consumer base who have negative views about AIDS and those that contract AIDS.
  2. Breast cancer has an easily recognized symbol and color. Everyone knows it and knows what it means to attach a corporation’s name to it.
  3. Women have significant buying power when it comes to their families and their home. Breast cancer sponsorship is an easy way for a corporation to show middle-aged women that they are their friends.
breast cancer pink ribbon pin and reflection
“Breast cancer reflection” by Williami5, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What’s controversial about corporations sponsoring breast cancer?

Two of Kreshel’s answers are the following:

  • “…decisions regarding resource allocation in some of the most vital arenas of public welfare – health, environment, education – are made by marketing professionals and corporate executives focus on corporate needs and objectives, rather than by professionals in the relevant areas…Do corporate decision-makers have the knowledge base and experience to weigh the efficacy of these approaches to solving the social problem?” (198). Basically, what we have now, through corporate sponsorship, is millions of dollars going to causes based on what will be best for the corporation vs. what is best for society. And, it’s encouraging us to only focus on causes that have marketing and sponsorship opportunities rather than those causes that need the funding the most.
  • “The fact that the disease [breast cancer] is increasing in industrialized nations suggests the possibility of environmental factors” (198). But, “[feminist] emphasis on ecological factors…is not shared by groups such as Komen and the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer would hardly be the darling of corporate American if it’s complexion changed from pink to green” (Ehrenrich as cited in Kreshel, pg. 198). This is a tough pill to swallow, but it brings up a good point. Causes that are sponsored by corporations want to stay on their good side and stay neutral so the corporations see no risks and all benefits when sponsoring them. So what if, as suggested, breast cancer was linked to environmental factors? The environment is a hot political issue right now and, if Komen and the American Cancer Society were to give those environmental factors their proper emphasis, they risk loss of sponsorships because they will be seen as swinging to one side politically. In this way, corporations are shaping the path to the cause. If true, it also creates an ethical issue for researchers of breast cancer. Will they tell the truth and risk their corporate funding or will they remain silent?

Overall, I’m glad that corporations give money to causes and I do support corporations and businesses who give money to charity. However, reading Kreschel’s full argument really has made me less-likely to jump on any cause-marketing bandwagon. Perhaps we need to find another solution that allows corporations to give money in a way that shows social charity/responsibility, but still allows the money to be distributed to where it truly needs to go while also allowing causes the freedom to do what is best for their cause.

Stop putting your building in ads! Features vs. benefits in marketing

A while ago, I watched a local business give a presentation to the local chamber of commerce about their law firm. And they talked about…their building.  Apparently they had just finished a remodel of their offices and wanted to show them off. Slide after slide after slide was photos of the inside and outside of their building. It was beautiful, but a complete waste of the audience’s time and a complete missed marketing opportunity for the business.

Features vs. benefits

Because businesses are empowered by computer programs that allow them to design their own fliers, brochures, and webpages (although I recommend against this), it’s important to remember features vs. benefits.

Features describe something. Usually they describe something about your business or your product.

Benefits are how those features benefit the customer.  Basically, they describe why the customer cares.

An easy way to tell the difference between your company or product’s features vs. benefits can be done with a simple sentence:

  1. Start by naming something about your business or product.
  2. Now, pretend that you are talking to your potential customer and finish the sentence by saying “so you can…” and adding an ending.

Examples (remember you are talking directly to your customer):

  • Our coffee is only made with the freshest beans (feature), so you can be sure that every cup of coffee will be a great sensory experience (benefit).
  • The homes we build are made to withstand hurricane winds (feature) so you can be free of worry because your family will be protected when the next storm comes (benefit).
  • Our lawn tractors last twice as long as any of our competitor’s lawn tractors (feature) so you can save money in the long-term by purchasing one of our lawn tractors even though it is more expensive (benefit).
  • Every plumber that works for us is certified and has a minimum of 10 years of experience (feature) so you can be sure that the problem will be fixed the first time and you won’t have to worry about it again or take another day off work to fix it (benefits).
A photo of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous waterfall house, Fallingwater
“Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright)” by brian donovan, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Features vs. Benefits in Marketing

Your final marketing message doesn’t have to be in that format. It can be delivered in a wide variety of ways, which is where the beauty of good advertising comes in. But, the point that is absolutely critical is that your marketing should focus on them (benefits) and not focus on you (features).

With the constantly increasing number of advertising messages that your potential customers are exposed to every day, in order to stand out, you must speak directly to your customers in a way that resonates with them. You must explain or show them that your product or service benefits them in some way that will motivate them to act.

It’s Not About Your Building!

Going back to our law firm example, this is the biggest features vs. benefits mistake I see a lot of businesses make is to focus on their building (although poor facilities can affect your marketing effectiveness).

If I were advising the law firm, considering that their audience was primarily small business owners at that meeting, I would have recommended that they focused their talk on how their services benefit small business owners by saving them money, protecting their business, etc.  By doing so, they would be focusing on how they can benefit the people in the room and they would have had a much better chance of walking out with some new leads.

Take a Fresh Look

So I challenge you to take a fresh look at your marketing materials and review tapes of your past presentations, and ask yourself if you are talking about features or benefits.  Are you talking about yourself or are you talking about them? Are you focused on what comes after “so you can…” in your marketing? If not, it’s time to start rewriting.

Crisis communications: Think about your competition

A group of bikers riding in a bike race
Just as athletes have to plan for their own or a competitor’s mistake, we also need to consider our competition in crisis communications

In crisis communications, we’re trained to think about all of our stakeholders including customers, employees, partners, etc. But we need to also think about and react to how our competitors will respond our crisis. How will they respond? How will they try to gain market share or serve their purposes during and after a crisis?

And how will we respond if our competitors have a crisis? Should we react (public comment, changing production amounts, etc.)? Will we need to change our messaging during that time? Could their crisis spread to us?

We need to consider our competition before, during, and after a crisis.

Suggested reading:

Crisis Communications: A tale of marijuana and two U.S. Presidents

The one thing companies are still doing wrong in crisis communications

One thing missing from crisis communications advice: Resume community relations as fast as you can

Prevent a PR crisis: Explain why upfront

Dear company representatives, stop commenting on controversial issues!

Photo: “Philadelphia Bike Race – flying off Lemon Hill” by joiseyshowaa, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sometimes it makes sense to make fun of your brand

Wearing a t-shirt that reads "Cornflake U"
Cornflake U t-shirt

A few years ago, when I was working as the Director of Public Information and Marketing at Kellogg Community College, a fellow employee who had an interest in marketing came to me with a question about a particular t-shirt being sold in the bookstore. The t-shirt read “Cornflake University” and was a spoof on the Kellogg part of our name. He was concerned that it violated our branding standards and made fun of the school. He wanted my opinion.

 

I’m a huge champion of branding and consistency (see Addressing the question: Why branding is important), but there’s a part of “the brand” that he wasn’t considering; the brand “personality.” Our brand had a lot of personality characteristics, including personable, approachable, and fun. Considering that, we both agreed that the shirts really didn’t violate our brand, they enhanced it.

 

To this day, one of the most popular items in the bookstore is the “Cornflake U” shirts. I wear mine proudly.

Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI

One of the hardest questions, I think, for marketers and advertisers to answer is the dreaded question “How can I measure my advertising?” because, unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple. That isn’t to say that there is no way to do it, it just is a lot more complex than most would think. So, this post is a listing of my three favorite ideas on how to explain the complexity of advertising return on investment  (ROI) to someone when they ask the question.

The Team Concept

Especially helpful if the person plays or watches sports, for this explanation, you ask the person to think of a team sport, such as hockey. Then, ask the person to identify only one person from the team who responsible for the most recent win of that team. Depending on what type of sports fan they are, they might mention the coach or the star of the team, but the reality is, it takes the whole team to win or lose a game. Each person plays a part in the end goal. Then you can explain how advertising works similarly, because some combination of advertising, promotions, and other marketing caused the purchase through reach, branding, frequency, etc.

Google does a good job of explaining this in the video below. You only need to watch the first minute of the video though. After that, they try to provide you with a solution that also isn’t reasonable because it assumes all communications come from the company (friends and family are a huge part of purchase decisions!) and assumes only an online strategy. Nonetheless, they highlight the team approach very well.

Go Ahead and Do a Survey

Especially if you are being asked by someone who likes numbers, actually doing a “How did you hear about us?” survey will help your case. Those of us in advertising and marketing know that people have no idea where they see or hear things or, at a grander scale, even what causes them to purchase something. But others don’t. For these people, a simple, “How did you hear about us?” will help you prove the problems with measuring advertising ROI because people will report seeing or hearing from you in a lot of places you weren’t.

I used this approach years ago using Facebook advertising. I created Facebook ads that linked to a “please contact me” style form. The only way to get to the link and the form was through the Facebook advertising. But, just to prove my point, on the bottom of the form was the “How did you hear about us?” question with a listing of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc). Keeping in mind that they could not get to the survey through any other means than Facebook and the fact that they had just clicked on the link. Now, here’s the results: 50% of respondents clicked on some other social media site than Facebook. I know, I was shocked too, but that’s completely the truth.

Tell Me About Your Last Major Purchase?

Probably my favorite way of showing the difficulty of measuring advertising ROI, however, is to ask the person about themselves. I generally pick a car, but you can pick any major purchase, and then just ask them what specific ad caused them to make the purchase.

I used this technique with a friend of mine. In his case, he had just bought a new car so I asked him what specific advertisement had caused him to buy that particular car. At first, he pointed to the 0% financing deal that had just came out. But, after asking him if that really was the only thing that caused his decision, he then talked at length about how his family always buys Fords, how he had read a lot of good reviews on it, how he’d seen a lot of ads about what his particular Ford could do, and even how he had seen multiple ads for the 0% financing. After all of that, he went silent. Then he just said “I get what you mean now.” “Perfect,” I said and that was the end of the discussion.

What’s your favorite way of explaining the difficulty of measuring advertising and marketing ROI?