Commercial Marketing – The Greatest Fishing Sport There Is

According to scientists, humans have been fishing for over 40,000 years – and they do not appear to be letting up anytime soon. When speaking of the lure (pun intended) of fishing, whether it takes the form of commercial, sporting, or recreational – fishing enthusiasts the world over describe the thrill of the “hunt,” and the euphoria of the “catch.”

Interestingly, I have heard nearly the same terminology used in the business world to describe the ever constant cycle of finding and acquiring new customers. If truth be told, I calculate that there is more “fishing” occurring in global business than in all other forms of fishing combined. Moreover, if we can compare business to the sport of fishing, then commercial marketing is the discipline of fishing, and marketing collateral becomes the gear.

While not intended to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject, this article will focus on six of the fundamental questions a company should ask before creating new pieces of collateral or creating a new marketing campaign. It will also look at some of the common marketing mistakes companies make as they attempt to land the “big” one.

Choosing the Right Gear

1. Who is Your Audience?

The most important thing to know when buying your fishing gear is what type of fish you want to catch. Are you going after salt water, lake, or river fish? The equipment you will need is dependent upon the answer to that question.

One of the largest mistakes I see companies make in their marketing collateral is that they often seem confused as to who their audience is. Your message should be clear and compelling. That is hard to do when you don’t know to whom you are marketing. Are they an end user, a business, a reseller, or perhaps a specifier? The type of collateral and the message it contains should always be a clear reflection of that answer.

Some may state that it doesn’t really matter all that much – the product or service remains the same, right? Well, some may also say that a fishing pole is a fishing pole and it doesn’t really matter which type you use. Any professional fisher will tell you that this just isn’t the case. The actual story (your product or service) may remain the same, but how you tell that story and what form that story takes should depend completely on whom you are telling.

I spent years working with and making presentations to both architects and engineers. While my central message remained the same, I had to tailor that message to my listener because both groups were interested in different things. The architects were interested in the aesthetics and more of the big picture features. The engineers were much more interested in the details and the mechanics of the product.

While some types of collateral may cross over multiple groups, such as a brochure or video, you should try and create multiple versions of the same collateral piece to target the particular type of recipient to whom you are reaching out. If this is too expensive, then you should always tailor the message to your largest, most valuable audience.

Learning How to Use Your Gear

2. What is your Call-to-Action?

There are a lot of different pieces of equipment used in fishing. Before going out to the stream or lake, you should have a clear understanding that every component has a different purpose and not mistake the use of one device for that of another. Individuals often make this type of error. For example, job hunters often mistake the purpose of a resume as a tool to get a job. This is a complete fallacy. The purpose of a resume is to get an interview.

Companies often make the same sort of blunders with their collateral. Just as a lure has a different use and objective than a hook, you should develop different kinds of collateral for all the various stages of the sale. Every brochure, ad, or campaign should have a clear and distinct purpose. Is the piece designed to get someone’s attention, build company credibility, provide product or service information, or perhaps a sales call Leave Behind? Sales personnel should also be trained on the various distinctions between the material and know when and where to use what.

After you know what the objective of your marketing piece is, it becomes much easier to decide what your Call-to-Action should be. Once you have an individual’s attention, what do you want them to do after they have read, heard, or viewed your material? Do you ask for an appointment? Do you ask for an order? Don’t make them guess – tell them. Don’t get them all excited and then walk away. Every campaign or article should leave them with clear instructions on what they should do next. Perhaps you can’t compel a horse to drink once you’ve led it to water, but you would be remiss if you didn’t at least ask it to drink.

Casting Your Line

3. How Are You Delivering Your Message?

Some novice fishers may wonder how far out they should cast their line; will the larger fish be further out or hidden in a hole closer to shore? In business, it is important to know how and where to deliver your message. The answer to this question largely depends on what your product or service is, and how large your business is.

If your product or service is widely used, you may choose to cast your line way out there using global or national press releases, email blasts, and expansive social media campaigns. If your product or service is more of a niche market or industry vertical, you may have more success using a combination of internet, radio, television, email, or direct mailer campaigns that target a particular fishing hole such as specific geographical locations, companies, or individuals. For a standalone retailer, the hole may be as small as a particular town or even distinct neighborhoods. Market research goes a long way to identifying the holes that you should be fishing in.

The size of your business is also important when considering how far you should cast your line. It is important to ensure that you can support your product or service in every location you market. You also need to be confident that your company can handle the amount of business you may generate. While it may seem like the whole point of the game is to bring in as much business as possible, you may not have the inside structural support and manufacturing to handle all of the sales. More than one company has collapsed in on itself because they did not have the infrastructure to handle their incoming sales volume. Your business, marketing, and sales should all grow together at a planned, even rate.

Using the Right Lure

4. What Sort of Impression Do You Want to Make?

Different types of lures attract different types of fish. Using the wrong type of lure can make for a very long, fruitless fishing trip. Whether you like it or not, your marketing collateral can wordlessly make an impression that will either attract buyers or send them scurrying into the water’s depths.

What sort of impression do you want to make on potential customers? First impressions are important and you need to know beforehand whether you want your product or service to be seen as dependable, fun, exciting, expensive, inexpensive, or whatever. Keep in mind that the images, colors, layout, music, and quality of materials you use will all tell a story – you just need to ensure that it is telling the right story.

Besides the typical, “Hey, look at me over here” type of lures, another powerful lure your sales people should carry is the “credibility” lure. This sort of collateral can come in the form of case studies, images of past jobs, testimonials, etc. The use of these devices helps ensure the buyer that you can be trusted to deliver on what you are promising.

One last thing to keep in mind, when it comes to marketing, the truth is not always as important to a buyer as their perceived truth. In other words, if it is true in their mind, there isn’t much you can do to change that. The more your marketing materials reflect the truth as they see it, the more success you’ll have. Now, I am not advocating false advertising or unethical practices. I am merely stating that you should use situations and terminology where with they are most familiar. For example, a widget may be called an “ABC Device” in the engineering world, but if your targeted clientele all think of this particular widget as an “XYZ Component,” then you should probably market it as an “XYZ Component” – regardless of what the engineers say. Yes, it may be semantics, but this can make a big difference as to whether someone will be attracted to your product or not.

Using the Right Bait

5. What Problem Do You Solve?

Depending upon the type of fishing you’re doing, you may use cheese, worms, elaborate flies, or even smaller fish as bait. In marketing, it is important to make sure your intended clientele know which of their problems your product or service is going to solve.

Too often in marketing, companies are scrupulous about listing all of their product’s incredible features, but then they rely on the potential customer to build the bridge in their own mind as to which of their problems that feature is going to solve. Your marketing materials should build that bridge for them. In other words, Product, Feature, Benefit; “Our product is ‘A,’ therefore you should enjoy ‘B.'”

Along these same lines, it may not be enough to share with someone how your product has solved a similar problem in a different market – they want to know how your product is going to solve their problem in their market. This situation is where vertical specific marketing material is hugely beneficial.

Hooking Your Fish

6. Does It Evoke the Desired Emotion?

We have all heard the saying that “People buy emotionally and defend their decisions logically”. Well, it’s true, and if your marketing doesn’t stir any emotion, most of those large fish are going to get away.

If we are honest, we must admit that a portion of that excitement is generated by a sales person, but not every company is fishing with live bait; some rely almost entirely on their marketing materials. Even if you do employ sales people, why should they have to do all the work? They should have professional tools at their disposal to assist them in their efforts.

One of the pitfalls I see many companies fall into (especially those with technical products) is their marketing materials only show the product. There is a place for this in some pieces such as specification sheets, but people have to understand that most individuals are not moved to emotion by an image of an inanimate object. Your marketing materials should include people either a) Needing your product or service, or b) Enjoying the benefits of your product or service.

What if a potential buyer is unable to make a decision at the time of the sales presentation, or perhaps they are not the only decision maker? Your sales professional’s presentation may have generated all the needed emotion for the potential buyer to want to say “yes,” but if they are unable to move forward immediately, you cannot expect that emotion to remain indefinitely. They will settle back down and start thinking about all the reasons why they shouldn’t buy. Alternatively, they will talk to the other decision maker, and because they are not as skilled a presenter or as knowledgeable about the product as your sales person, they will not be able to generate the same level of emotion in their counterpart as they initially experienced themselves and they will decide to pass. This reaction is the reason it is so important to have a good Leave Behind, a video or brochure that can remind the potential buyer of all of the important highlights of the sales presentation. This material will allow them to get excited all over again while remembering all of the relevant facts when sharing the information with others.

To conclude this section, just remember – If they feel nothing, they buy nothing.

Packing Up and Heading Home With Your Catch

Conclusion and Summary

Once again, this article was not meant to be an in-depth discussion on all the salient points of commercial marketing and marketing collateral. Instead, it was designed to focus on some of the fundamental questions a company should ask before creating a new piece of collateral or creating a new marketing campaign. Those questions are:

1. Who is Your Audience?

2. What is your Call-to-Action?

3. How Are You Delivering Your Message?

4. What Sort of Impression Do You Want to Make?

5. What Problem Do You Solve?

6. Does It Evoke the Desired Emotion?

Like fishing, commercial marketing can be very challenging. It can also be an exhilarating and rewarding sport. I wish all those who read this article – Sunny Days, and Good Fishing!

Making the Most of Inbound Marketing

Marketing, as an entity, has been around for a very long time. However, the approaches to marketing have not changed but they have been enhanced by the addition of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing, unlike traditional marketing, allows your clients and prospective clients to come to you as opposed to you having to go after your clients and prospective clients in traditional marketing.

People are clever
In the past, as a marketer, you would have spent a great deal of money on marketing your brand. The payback for that was that your target audience actually paid attention to your marketing materials. However, eventually, people became more sophisticated and found ways to block your marketing efforts. If you bought ads in newspapers, magazines, etc., the other person could simply not read it. If you bought ads on TV, they could change the channel. If you advertised over the phone, the other person could just hang up.

Inbound marketing is a great new approach to marketing
Eventually, inbound marketing was born. Not only is inbound marketing a different approach but it also allows you greater possibilities of succeeding because not only does your client or prospect come to you but that person has chosen to do so willingly. That means that the person is prequalified and he or she would be more than willing to connect with you. The challenges that you always faced in the past when it came to marketing results are less challenging because of inbound marketing. They get to decide if and when they go with you.

How does inbound marketing work?
As was stated previously, inbound marketing only works if the other person opts into what you want them to do. At the very least, that will be basic contact information. In some cases, it will be more than that. However, it is not as simple as the person becoming aware of your existence online and then immediately deciding to connect with you and to cultivate a relationship.

With inbound marketing, it takes time to build the relationship and to trust each other and for your to become credible in the other person’s eyes. It is important that you understand that even though it may feel like a slow process to you, it is actually an extremely effective process and will worth exploring. Inbound marketing works effectively for many different businesses.

The way that it works is that you consistently post top-quality, educational, valuable content and the other person gets to know you and your business through your content. At some point in the near future, that person will want to deepen the connection that he or she has with you and you will begin to interact with each other. With any luck, you start to do that regularly. Before you know it, you have built a solid, meaningful, mutually beneficial relationship that will exist for a very long time.

At this point, you may be wondering how to get started using a strategy that includes inbound marketing.

  • Establish your content marketing strategy: Content is king! That cannot be emphasized enough. Before you do any writing at all, you need to establish your content strategy. It is that strategy (or roadmap) that will keep your content flowing and will hopefully help you to avoid any roadblocks in the way of your writing productivity. Your strategy should contain detailed information about your target audience members, including their wants and needs. Those details will guide you to customize your writing appropriately. Your first objective is to solve the other person’s problem(s). You need to write content that resonates with the other person and that helps you to establish an emotional connection.
  • Build your communities: Assuming that you have created a strong repository of top-quality content, the next thing that you will need to ensure is that your online social communities are in order. The reason for that is so that you have places to share your content. Of course, that means that wherever you post your content, it will elicit positive results. It is recommended that you choose quality over quantity when it comes to your online social connections. However, you should still have a significant number of connections. You should present your content in ways that appeal to your target audience, including words on relevant, compelling topics, graphics, videos, etc.
  • Leverage forms: Once you have gotten the attention of prospects, you will want to deepen the connection. A great vehicle for that is to use a form. You will want to encourage your online connections to complete a form with contact information and other pieces of valuable information that you need. The way that you can accomplish that is by providing a link to your landing page that contains a form (or a link to a form). The landing page will provide additional content that your prospects will find useful.
  • Grow your relationships: Relationships need tender loving care. That is true of personal as well as professional relationships. If you want to make the relationship solid and enduring, you will need to put forth some effort to make that happen. It is not necessarily correct to assume that the minute you connect with the other person, you will become besties! It takes time and effort to develop true relationships. In many cases, the more effort you put into the relationship, the stronger that relationship will become. Always remember that your first objective is to solve the other person’s problem(s). If you can satisfy his or her needs, yours will be met as well.

Conclusion
Inbound marketing is an extremely effective approach in business. Inbound marketing provides you with the opportunity to establish solid, meaningful, enduring relationships. Those relationships will benefit everyone involved. Your online connections exist for you because they want to, not because they have to. Your business will potentially grow at an increased rate and the relationships that you establish will last.

Small And Midsized Company Marketing And Marketing Communications – A Lesson From Large Agencies

Over the past few years, rapidly developing technologies have changed the way marketers think about marketing and marketing communications strategies, plans and tactics. However, somewhat quietly but perhaps more importantly, a significant change has occurred with the world’s largest communications agencies – the dramatic growth of consulting companies at the expense of traditional advertising agencies.

Management and accounting consulting companies with new services are now ranking sixth through tenth among the world’s biggest communications companies. The specialized divisions of Accenture Interactive, PwC Digital Services, Deloitte Digital, Cognizant Interactive and IBMix had total global revenue of over $20 billion in 2017, with an eye-popping 32 percent growth in US revenue versus a year ago.

While traditional advertising industry giants WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Interpublic and Dentsu are ranked as the top five, with global revenue of nearly $62 billion, US revenue barely increased at 0.3 percent (Advertising Age).

Why is this change happening and what can small and midsized marketers learn from it?

Consulting Companies Focus On ROI

There are many reasons for the growth of consulting companies – in B2B, B2C and nonprofit marketing and marketing communications areas – but the top reasons are:

  1. Consulting companies already have deep ties, experience and credibility helping organizations improve their profitability, because of a sharp focus on ROI;
  2. Their existing familiarity with digital technologies, along with the financial resources to acquire specialized digital companies for expansion;
  3. Maintaining a data-based strategy with clients and prospects – not creative alone – which means they are focused on understanding customer wants and needs, as well as customer experiences at all pre- and post- customer purchase points;
  4. A focus on marketing and marketing communications effectiveness and not just efficiency, resulting in a very big difference to a brand’s profitability.

In short, a history and vision of focusing on and improving a brand’s profitability and its ROI. Keeping an eye on the bottom line – cost per customer, not just media cpm efficiency.

ROI Focused Marketing And Marketing Communications Consultants

As a small of midsized marketer, what can be learned from this dramatic shift of larger marketers? With only a small (sometimes inexperienced) staff, limited financial resources and time constraints, what should be considered?

Start with established marketing and marketing communications consultants who are clearly focused on a brand’s profitability and ROI, and not just “likes” or “clicks”. They should have significant experience across industries and brands, both for profit and nonprofit, and have a broad understanding of customer, prospect (and employee) motivations to purchase and repurchase, regardless of the business environment.

But, above all, they must be media neutral and not selling “one size fits all” solutions. As Tom Bradley, former head of marketing at Nestle said, “The best source of marketing communications leverage is the quality of the message… not the media vehicle, new or traditional, that does or does not deliver.” And that also means you must be sure that your consultants have the ability to cultivate and manage the creative process.

Selecting A Consultant

Unsure of how to select a consultant, much less what type of professional to look for? If your business is floundering and in serious need of overall repair, along with financing, you probably would be better served by either a management or accounting consultant.

If, however, your primary need is to establish or improve a weak marketing or marketing communications program for the short and long term your selection should be apparent. You should be looking for rigorous and objective counsel on the entire scope of traditional marketing and marketing communications opportunities available to you (traditional vs. new media; conventional vs. digital; etc.).

Beyond the qualities of the consultants previously mentioned, be sure to look for:

  1. Someone who is disciplined, apolitical, down to earth, and willing to be part of your team; consultants who will promote candor across all levels, who will listen and explain what needs to be done to everyone’s satisfaction; teaching, not lecturing, is very important’;
  2. Professionals with the ability to develop successful strategies, plans and executions with your team or, if necessary, who can provide outside specialists to improve part or all of the program;
  3. People who have strong convictions to use research and measure not only what has been done but also what is proposed to be done; measurement is key to evaluating success or the need to modify a plan;
  4. A flexible organization that can bring in marketing and marketing communications specialists when and as needed so that overhead isn’t an on-going expense.

Most small and midsized companies find themselves with not enough time, skill or financial resources to develop and execute a profitable marketing and marketing communications program. These challenges are growing exponentially, and consultants can be of great value in navigating this complex environment and adding value to your brand.

Hopefully, these ideas will give you food for thought, but as Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”