Envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath — these are what we commonly think of as the seven deadly sins. However, in marketing today, there is another sin being committed by companies the world over. This offence creates so much dissatisfaction for prospects and customers alike, the punishment for committing such a crime is becoming increasingly severe.
This deadliest of marketing sins is — irrelevance.
There was a time when we all regularly received irrelevant communications. This is because there were very few companies who knew the timing of a purchase. For example, a car insurance company may be able to ascertain when your car insurance was due for renewal based on an enquiry from the previous year. However, how would a training provider know you were looking for training, an accountant know you were looking for a change or a watch manufacturer appreciate that you were currently saving for this luxury purchase?
Most companies would have no reasonable way of knowing who was interested in their products or services. It is because of this that companies focused very much on the demography of their clientele. If you had no idea who was specifically interested in buying your product or service, at least you could target the “most likely” group of people. The result of this is “business owners” would receive messages about an accountancy service even though they were delighted with their current supplier. Meanwhile, HR directors would receive training catalogues even though they were not currently purchasing training, and people living in affluent areas would receive communications about a new luxury watch although they had no current desire to make a purchase.
However, we all put up with these irrelevant communications for one good reason. In a world before the internet, where we had relatively little access to information, it was often marketing that informed us of what was going on in the world. The value exchange was clear. We would often find out about interesting developments in products and services that we may have not discovered in any other way. In turn, however, we would have to put up with irrelevant messages which we could ignore if we wished. For most, the exchange was worthwhile.
Widespread access to information
Today, however, the value of being interrupted by these marketing messages has all but disappeared. The internet, combined with the ubiquity of modern communication devices, means that we can now access all the information we require wherever we are in the world. Consequently, we no longer want to be interrupted by communications when a company feels like shouting at us. Today, we will go and find the information we require at our time of choosing.
Of course, if a company were to send a direct mail about their new carpet cleaning service at the very moment we were thinking of having our carpets cleaned, then we may appreciate the communication. The problem for most companies is, in order to get the timing right for one customer, they have to send a mass mail out which annoys another 5,000 potential clients. Of course, when we do require a carpet cleaning service, between our networks and the web we are assured that we will be able to access all the information we require to make an informed buying decision.
The point of many digital platforms such as websites, blogs and social networks is not that companies can shout at individuals in lots of new irritating ways. Rather, it is that when people are interested in what you do, they can access your marketing at any time of the day or night. This is when it is both convenient and more importantly relevant for them.
Customers have been empowered. The most effective companies are the ones that understand this new paradigm and leverage it to involve customers in what they do. The cardinal sin committed by the businesses that don’t understand this, is to shout at prospects with irrelevant messages.
For customers and prospects alike, receiving irrelevant communications from any quarter is irritating and will leave a bad taste in the mouth. Consequently this sin is one that will be increasingly unforgiven by consumers who will vote with their wallets and no longer engage with that business.
Many businesses have rigidly defined the respective roles and responsibilities of their customer service and marketing departments. This is often the source of frustrations as, on one hand, the marketing guys do not have the opportunity to interact with the customers and, on the other hand, the customer service team has only a limited opportunity to influence product design and communication.
Small businesses have much more room for manoeuvre, as they can chop and change, test and experiment without affecting a large volume of customers. Very frequently, small companies manage their customers through a single channel, handling social interactions, marketing efforts, customer service and many other activities in one place. They use mishaps as a marketing opportunity and dispatch little gifts and samples to “compensate” customers. Customer service is clearly being used as a marketing tool.
Whilst larger operators are busy leveraging their social media reach by pushing multitudes of promotions, special offers, coupons, vouchers and deals, small businesses can build a long-term advantage by establishing close-knit communities of customers. Positioning customer service at the heart of the marketing strategy contributes to the exchange of ideas and the resolution of problems whilst creating a platform for future recommendations.
All this contributes to the development of a very strong sense of loyalty.
The challenge comes when the business grows and someone makes the suggestion that life would be much easier if dedicated marketing and customer service teams were established…it will be hard but just make sure you resist the temptation.
Guest blog by Very Good Service.
Read more in our dedicated section about customer service.
Powerful design enables you to connect with your ideal clients. It’ll help you attract, engage and seduce them into buying from you or working with you, and of course, it’s a wider thing than just design. It’s about your powerful design fitting into a powerful brand strategy.
How can you be sure, when you’re working with a design agency, that they’re going to provide you with powerful design and not just good design?
What is the difference that makes the difference?
Powerful design requires an in-depth understanding of your business, your objectives and your customers. Run a mile from anyone who asks you what colours you want or to sketch out how you’d like something to look.
Powerful design takes time. Coming up with creative concepts that will really connect with your audience and unlock something within them doesn’t happen in a matter of moments. It’s going to take time to develop those concepts and produce polished artwork.
Powerful design uses colour psychology to unlock your goals, values and message and also use it to authentically communicate with your ideal clients. There’s more to colour psychology than simply knowing that blue is calming and red can be aggressive. Colour psychology enables us to help our clients communicate coherently, authentically and with clarity.
Powerful design is creative. When we create powerful design we think outside the box. A business that works with large corporates should have a website that is bland and safe, right? Wrong! A designer must tap into a client’s brand values and company ethos to create a site that firmly differentiates their company from their competitors and enables them to connect with their customers. Oh, and win a whole pile more business.
Powerful design sweats the small stuff. Often the difference that makes the difference is the attention to detail. When you look through a powerfully designed website, it’s not just the homepage that looks lovely — that strong design runs throughout the site and reassures and engages.
Powerful design will cost you more than good design. You need to find a really good agency – one that has a firm understanding of not just how to layout a page, but typography, design trends and colour psychology. They’ll probably be very serious about investing in their team, which means that their hourly rate will reflect that. They won’t be the cheapest, but they will give you the best results.
OK, so obviously I don’t think marketing is a load of rubbish. But, I understand why so many people do. Especially small business owners, sales people, and our colleagues in finance. It’s because marketing people insist on speaking in their own language. Which is ironic, given that, as marketers, we are meant to be the masters of communication.
Imagine going into a meeting and saying something along the lines of… “We’ve nailed a really great concept, I’m totally loving the big idea, I reckon this campaign will go viral, generating excellent word-of-mouth amongst our advocates. I’m really looking forward to tracking the buzz metrics.”
Those of you who are up to your eyes in the latest “marketing thinking” day-in, day-out might think that sounds great but many more will roll your eyes in dismay.
But, what’s for sure is that most business people will have heard something like… “I’ve just spent a load of money with hand-waving creative types doing something that I think is fun, but that will generate little but hot air.”
The problem isn’t confined to marketing. It’s in any expert discipline or established community. Business disciplines, like IT, law, marketing, finance, operations and human resources all have their own jargon. It’s worth taking a moment to consider whether the people you’re talking to actually understand a word you’re saying. If not, think again. Find someone outside your area to give you some honest feedback — do your words sound like gobbledygook to them?
The message is — always consider the language your business is using because what you mean to say is not always what people hear. I’m not completely anti-jargon, but I do advise you to handle it with care.
Many small and medium-sized businesses struggle to maintain a consistent level of marketing activity because energies and resources are diverted to deliver work for paying customers. Indeed, many don’t see the point in spending precious budget, and even more precious time, when they have plenty of work on the go.
As a business owner myself I certainly recognise the dilemma and can understand why marketing can slip to the bottom of the to-do list at times. But, if you want to grow your business, you need to maintain your marketing momentum.
Marketing for growth means marketing consistently. Here are five reasons to maintain a steady level of marketing activity for your growing business.
1. Build a steady and predictable sales pipeline
When new business becomes a rollercoaster, it is exhausting. Many small businesses find themselves in “feast or famine” mode — consistent marketing can break this cycle. If you know that the buying process in your business takes six days, six weeks or six months, then you know that you need to be generating those initial enquiries six days, six weeks or six months before you actually do the work or deliver the product. Famine happens when you forget to do your prospecting because you’re too busy feasting.
2. It’s worth repeating yourself
You may have heard talk of changing the education system to reduce the long Summer breaks, because it has been shown that children forget what they’ve learned over the long holidays. The same is true of your market. If you haven’t said anything for a while, you’ll have to forgive people for not immediately recalling who you are and what you do. If, however, you have a programme of regular communications that continually keeps you front of mind, when you do pick up the phone or bump into a potential buyer at an event, you’re one step further on in the conversation because you’ve not had to introduce yourself from scratch.
3. Generate the right kind of work for your business
Yes, there is a right and a wrong kind of work for your business. The right kind is profitable, enjoyable and builds skills and credibility. The wrong kind simply takes up time and barely turns a profit. Being busy does not always equate to being profitable, or fulfilled. By continually presenting your business as the experts in the right kind of work, you’ll get more of it. But, if you all have your heads down simply fulfilling the wrong kind — when will you get a chance to tell people about what you’re really good at?
4. Maintain those marketing muscles
Marketing is made up of many different skills and techniques. If you only pick them up from time to time, you’re likely to need to re-learn what you once knew. What’s more, with digital marketing techniques moving on at a staggering pace, if you look away for more than a few weeks it is likely that some new technique will have passed you by. Regular, consistent marketing activities undertaken throughout your firm will embed the skills so that it becomes second nature. And, when that happens, it’s no longer a chore — it’s just a great habit.
5. If you generate enough demand, you can put your prices up
Scarcity builds demand. Take the recent strikes in France and the impact on the availability of fuel. If people had simply bought the same as usual, there would have been no shortage. But, the sense of shortage prompted them to stock-up. Now, I’m not advocating scaring people into buying your products, but you’d be amazed how much more people seem to want what you have (and are willing to pay) if it seems like it’s in high demand. Taking this on board, it makes sense to keep marketing even when you’re full to capacity.
I learned what irritates business people most a few weeks ago. It's jargon. In fact a few years ago I read that over 25 per cent of business executives admitted to using jargon they didn't understand in meetings.
No wonder, then, that when it comes to selling technological things, so many messages dissolve into a sort of linguistic swamp.
Here's a good example from an e-mail someone sent me:
At Blah-co we have just developed an email stationery online software package that allows one in house member of staff to deploy all email users with a professionally designed Email stationery template, designed by one of our team of designers to all users and to include their unique contact details, meaning not only will the presentation of their emails improve but equally as important all be consistent throughout your organisation. (whew!)
Because of the way the templates are constructed our solutions avoid all types filtering ensuring your mail always arrives.
Well, I think I understand the beginning and the end and recognise all the words but I'm damned if I know what they mean when put together.
Here's another series of examples extracted from mailings sent by another firm.
"Are you one of those lucky few who have bedded down IT operations?"
"Would you realise a significant increase in business agility, accelerated decision making, employees pursuing a common agenda and a heightened awareness of your strategy?"
"Miss or ignore priority system availability or leadership messages"
"Adopting a new change driver that communicates change and strategy in a high impact and engaging way"
"Intranets suffer the limitations of pull technology"
"A controlled feedback channel enables you to capture a snapshot of employee morale in real time"
"Cascade this down to your people"
They actually have something great to sell, so we tried to translate their stuff into English.
Every day, you send tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of e-mails to people who want or need to hear from you.
Maybe they're your colleagues, your customers, your employees or your prospects: many may actually have asked to hear from you.
Then what happens?
Your "wanted" messages get lost in a sea of Spam. So the poor recipients go through the infuriating task of fishing out what really interests them from all that rubbish.
A **** sends your messages on a different route. One that avoids the traffic jams. It's a desktop alert that jumps onto your screen no matter what you're doing. You can't ignore it; it appears whether you're onscreen or off.
And that's why firms as varied as Sky, Arsenal Football Club. Kelloggs and Warner Brothers use them.
Winston Churchill said, "Use simple words everyone knows, then everyone will understand."
This is important especially if you're selling a financial or technical product or service. Use a bit of jargon to reassure the anoraks, but put the rest in plain English.
Confucius said that if language is used incorrectly, what is said is not what is meant, everything goes to pot and "the people stand about in helpless confusion".
If you wish for a few text-book cases, consider the National Health Service or the police force.
On the other hand, if you actually relish a little chaos, you need the economy bullshit generator. Click here and give it a go. It will add a welcome touch of drivel to your meetings.