Monthly Archives: September 2007

five marketing myths

fivemyths.jpgThe other day I was reading from an accomplished marketeer some tips about how to build product champions. While an interesting read, it got me thinking that there’s a lot of snake oil being sold as conventional wisdom about marketing; product champions being one of the more recent ones. It motivated me to sit down and come up with a quick “Five Myths” list to dispute some popular rantings. So here they are in no particular order:

1. People care about your product. Let’s get one thing straight: people have lives and they really don’t care about your product. They have to get the kids dressed and off to school, they have work to do, laundry, bills to pay and dishes to wash. Cars to get fixed, yards to mow, meetings to attend, family to care for and houses to clean. Every now and then they have some down time and during those times they are resting, relaxing, entertaining or just vegging on the couch. They have far too many things to do than to see, read, comprehend and act on your pitch. Get over it.

2. If you send/place it, prospects read it. Now more than ever, we are bombarded with ads, pitches and offers aside what we read, where we drive, in between our entertainment and of course overflowing our postal and electronic mailboxes. Just because I get it, doesn’t mean I read it. And if I read it, it doesn’t mean I’ll act on it.

3. Blogs start conversations. Many of you already know I am a huge advocate of blogs, lest I wouldn’t put my time into maintaining my own. I am a tremendous advocate for nearly everyone and certainly every organization blogging at one level or another. A good friend of mine and I have done a number of blogging projects; all of which gained us a fun level of notoriety in our target markets. But I must admit they were not conversations. Long ago I turned off comments for this site as the number of spam comments outnumbered live comments 1,000 to one. This as of course a sad development. With all this said, I will assert that while blogs are not conversations I will adamantly support the notion they do start conversations.

4. Early adopters fit into a nice scientific profile. I’ve written about my views of early adopters before (early solvers). The key take away from that post was that there is no specific profile for an early adopter. People buy things to solve problems, provide them enjoyment or for nourishment. Even Everett Rogers groundbreaking book, “The Diffusion of Innovation,” hints at the notion that perhaps the reason certain demographics emerge about the adopting class is more systemic than cause and affect: people who are motivated to make changes to better their lives do so instinctively, not so much for the purpose of impacting it. For instance, “I welcome change so I take the risk to go to college” as opposed to “I go to college and there I become a risk taker.”

And lastly 5. Customers become product champions. Of course there are rare exceptions to this observation but in the end very, very , very few products earn the benefit of consumer product champions. For decades I have watched marketing plans drafted in a way to create product champions to spread word of mouth and be an advocate for a product. The “long tail” phenomenon (where the internet lets you sniff out widely dispersed collections of people with like interests), fools us into thinking, no matter what the product, we can create champions for our product in the market. Yes you can find a couple hundred thousand people to visit a website about a soft drink, but does this indicate true and fast customer loyalty; that would seem a huge leap of faith.

What works? Tell me why I need something, after I’ve figured out I have the problem while I’m looking for a solution. My best example? Ever notice how the umbrella rack at Target magically appears near the front entrance on a rainy day? No TV ad, not an early adopter (would have one already), and I could care less beyond some simple features (folding, color) if the price is right I pick one up. Wow. Could marketing actually be that easy?

First Steps

steps.jpgI think all of us have something in our lives we’d like to make better or improve. The question is how do we get started in changing things? Is it some special formula, organizational system, motivational technique or coaching camp? No, I think it’s far simpler than all that: the answer, which you’ve heard before, goes “every journey begins with the first step.” You just have to get started. As an old friend use to say, “the hardest part about going for a jog is just getting out the front door.” I think he’s right.

This “first step” seems to have great implications for those of us who are marketeers. While certainly no guarantee of success, getting someone to consider a product or service first begins with the person figuring out they have a problem, or what I sometimes call “an itch to scratch.” Without an itch there is no reason to begin the effort to find a way to scratch it. Without an itch we don’t see offers, notice advertisements, see related concepts in our lives, ask our friends and colleagues about their experiences or even do the coveted Google search. Without an itch, we never take the first step.

The “first step” concept I also believe is at work when it comes to sustainability and corporate America. While these folks have a very, very long way to go; just taking the first step, if nothing else, makes the second and later steps far easier.

I have to admit I must remind myself of this potential windfall when I visit some of the bigger retailers who have “caught the green bug.” As I walk their apparel isles I see a World Bazaar of which none of the clothing is made in the U.S. and often where the items sharing a rack are from different continents. And all I can think is how sustainable, from a green perspective, is this sort of business model? Should everything we consume/buy, including clothes, adhere to the 250-mile rule as well?

I visit the restroom at one of the most responsibly sustainable retailers I know and notice they don’t use low-water (or no water) consuming fixtures. They hand out plastic bags, have automatic opening doors and still carefully light many of their departments to increase the appeal of their products. And do we really need 30″ of paper to document our itemized list of things we just bought?

While we have a long way to go, you see once you get the itch you take the first step and from there it can get pretty slippery. People are finding that itch when it comes to stewardship of our environment. It is real, and needs to be scratched. I am confident all of this will get fixed; everywhere I shop, work and travel. It is already happening. And it all started with the first step.