The marketing myths and rules of thumb I’ve learned over my career, sometimes painfully, sometimes easily, but always with good effect The Easy Way There are no magic bullets. Marketing is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. If anyone tells you that their promotional idea/product/process will transform your business in a flash, they are certainly foolish and probably lying. It’s About Numbers Quality will beat quantity every time. You don’t need millions of visitors to your web site, to promote your product to the widest possible audience or mail 10’s of thousands of people. You need to have a few conversations with the people who are actually in a position to buy, delight in your product and give you glowing references. The long term Most marketing campaigns are far too short. Marketing, particularly lead generation is a cumulative activity. Many businesses try something once, declare it a success or failure and move on to something else. I once ran the same B2B lead generation campaign for 5 years, refusing all encouragement to spend money on refreshing it. The results in year 5 were better than in year 1. Not Now Most people are not ready to buy. A typical B2B customer is ready to buy 5% of the time, don’t beat them over the head with “sales messages” for the 95% of the time they are not ready to buy, you’ll drive people nuts. Better to engage them by delivering some value, you’ll hear soon enough when they are ready to buy. Again and Again Consistency is the key to branding; and not just the name and the logo, it’s important to get the details right too. The more consistent you are the more effective it will be. Don’t neglect the need to live your brand values either; if you say one thing and deliver another you’ll get found out. When did you last hear “your call is important to us” and believe it? The Blunderbuss It’s a great big market and I’ll get a small share of it so everything will be OK is simply not true. Research has shown, many times over; that the successful companies are first, second or the lowest cost in a specific market segment and that everyone else struggles to make money. If you cannot see your way to becoming no1 in your chosen segment and don’t like the idea of being cheapest, refine your segmentation or product offering until you can be number 1. Digital is Free No, it isn’t. It’s true that it doesn’t cost anything to publish, post, tweet, share, like or whatever on any of the social platforms. However, you need to be working with material that reaches customers and potential customers, adds value to them, reflects your brand and is written by someone who has a genuine understanding of what you do. These people are called employees and they cost money. While we are here; be very careful about outsourcing your digital marketing; if the people who actually post don’t understand your business as well as you do then the relevance of the digital content you are paying them to generate will be negligible at best. At best a waste of money; at worst, a complete loss of your credibility. Sales Alignment If your sales and marketing teams are not fully aligned around what a lead is, how it is measured, how it is processed and who is responsible at each stage of the process; then you are most likely wasting your marketing budget, and quite possibly the time of your sales team too. An expensive issue and easily fixed it you take the time to focus on it.
To my knowledge, there isn’t a Marketing Nobel prize, perhaps there should be; maybe marketing folk are not the kind who deserve them; perhaps it’s not academic enough for Nobel prizes? That said there is one individual who has contributed so much to our understanding of how the human race makes decisions to buy, where to invest, which train to take and a myriad of other daily choices that they surely do deserve a Nobel Prize. That individual is Daniel Kahneman. The author of Thinking Fast and Slow, but also a highly skilled empirical psychologist who really established our understanding of judgement, decision making and the inherent cognitive bias that pervades the way that humans behave in real life. It’s perhaps obvious that the human brain doesn’t have unlimited capacity or time when making decisions. Evolution has seen to that, the early humans that didn’t see the Sabre tooth tiger approaching had less chance to pass on their genes than the ones who did! Consequently, we’ve evolved to make quick decisions based on instinct that is informed by past events but conditioned by expectation; even when a deeper understanding or longer consideration would show the decision to be wrong. These are cognitive biases; the genius of Kahneman’s research was to show what these biases were and how they affect our daily decisions. The subject of his book Thinking Fast and Slow is how to avoid these quickfire decisions and reflect more deeply to get better answers. What has this to do with Marketing? Firstly, Marketing people tend to give lots and lots of information about a particular product, particularly if it’s some form of technology. Cognitive bias means that we actually don’t want this we’d rather have just enough to make a choice no more (don’t confuse me with all those facts!) Humans don’t really want to study the details, they just want to decide and move on. How many tender documents are actually read in full? Not many! Humans are programmed to prefer what they have and resist change, Kahneman actually calls this “Status Quo Bias” it’s less challenging and requires less effort than establishing something new. Marketing folk call this brand loyalty. It’s why it’s much easier to keep a customer than win one, the current customer really doesn’t want to go through the pain of finding a new supplier and the prospective one needs a substantial incentive to change. Closely related is the endowment effect, we value what we have far more than an alternative that we don’t; even if that alternative is demonstrably better. The British are particularly good at this, we disguise it with the term “traditional” After all they don’t make them like they used to! A lot of Kahneman’s work was about how well we intuitively understand probabilities, is turns out not well at all. We’d far rather avoid a loss than having a larger gain with a similar probability. It turns out we’d invest about as much effort to avoid losing £5 as we would to gain £10. Consider all those products that are sold with ”free” carriage, it’s not free at all; it’s just that we prefer to pay the asking price and avoid the “loss” of the £5 carriage charge; even if the asking price is £10 more than it should be! We also take a very positive view of our own abilities vs others. Ask 100 drivers if they are better or worse than average, and 70% of them will say they are better; clearly nonsense but it helps us feel good about ourselves with all those other idiots on the road around us. Some years ago, I worked for a company called AMD who sold PC processors in competition with Intel. Their product was faster, cooler and cost 25% less; we had lots of data to prove it. The sales pitch to PC manufacturers was essentially “great news, now you have a choice” At one stroke we’d given the potential customers far too much detail, asked them to make a choice away from something they had already invested in and presented them with an opportunity cost (i.e. a loss) to change. Neatly conflicting with cognitive bias, the status quo bias, the endowment effect and loss aversion in a single sales call. Intel then introduced the Intel Inside programme, providing extra promotional funds it the PC manufacturers followed some rules with the implicit threat that the funds would be removed if they didn’t follow the rules. Compounding the loss aversion. Little wonder it was an uphill struggle! I’d like to say that we studied Kahneman and solved the problem instantly, we didn’t. But we did learn to cut the technical detail, focus on how the PC manufacturers could make “smarter“ choices for their own benefit, provide equivalent promotional funds and persuade PC users that AMD was a good choice, thus taking the major risk away from the PC manufacturers. It took a while, but it worked! Kahneman couldn’t win the Marketing Nobel prize, but, perhaps as consolation was awarded the Nobel prize in Economics in 2002 for his work on behavioural economics. He is listed by The Economist as one of the 10 most influential economists of all time.
During my time as a part time Marketing Director, I’ve developed around 20 web sites. The sites are all different but there are some basic rules about web development that, if followed will make your life easier, give you a better site and probably reduce the cost too. Know What You Want to Achieve at the Beginning Yes, I understand you want a web site, or more probably, a new web site; but that isn’t the question I’m asking. My question is what is the web site for? What do you want to achieve with it? How will you know if it works? Do you want a digital brochure, to educate existing customers, to sell your product or service online, to generate new sales leads? Each of these things will result in a quite different site. Think it through, then write it down and make sure your web developer understands what you need to achieve as well. If they don’t understand what you are trying to achieve it’s pretty difficult for them to build a site that will deliver it! Think Twice Build Once Many web developments run in a spiral, instead of going straight to the answer they spiral round it, getting a bit closer to the desired result on each circuit. An apparently endless process of review and explanation. This is generally because the actual site development starts much too early in the process. Some refinement is inevitable but this spiral is time consuming, frustrating and will drive your developers to try almost anything just to see if you like it this time. Even worse, spiral development frequently results in a committee decision about the final design. After all, a camel would have been a horse if the poor creature hadn’t been designed by a committee. Get the definition right, first. Process, Process, Process To avoid the development spiral, you need a decent development process. Start with that written definition of what you are trying to achieve and think about what pages you need on the site and what each of those pages is for. A good way to think about pages is that every page should either educate, build credibility or sell. If a page you are planning doen’t do any of those three things ask yourelf if it’s genuinely required. Next work with your developer to develop some outline designs for each page (wireframes) and make sure your brand standards are clearly defined (logo, colour, typography, photographic styles as a minimum) Then, and only then, when all this is clear, agreed and understood; you are ready to start building your new site.