Alyson Dutch is a product launch maven, CEO, Brown + Dutch PR, product & press matchmaker, Consumer Product Events, and author of two books.
Marketing. Public relations. Influencers. Guerrilla tactics. Social media marketing. What does it all mean, and which businesses should use which tactic?
After 30 years of bringing new products to market, I have only one answer: It depends upon the profile of your customer. If you are even slightly flummoxed by marketing, do this: Stop listening to what everyone is talking about, and take a deep dive into the reasons why customers buy your stuff. This is not based on who they are (their demographic characteristics like sex, age, location, education level, salary, etc.), but rather their psychographic characteristics (the attitudes and proclivities that drive them). At the top of that heap are pain points that make someone, or a company, really need what you have to offer. According to sales guru David Sandler, humans buy things based on emotions — their frustrations, upsets, disappointments, worries, annoyances, concerns, anxieties and struggles. This applies to everything from original equipment manufacturer technologies and hydraulic oil to glitzy skincare lines and Jimmy Choo shoes. I’ll add to that and say that humans buy things they have heard about from others, something I call the, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that” response.
To prove my point, think about the last time you were looking for a great new restaurant. You probably googled it or asked a friend for a recommendation. When you saw two or three mentions of the same restaurant, I bet you said to yourself, or aloud, “Oh, this looks like it’s good.”
There are three parts of any business, no matter what industry or whether it offers a consumer or business-to-business product/service.
1. Product: everything it takes to get a product ready for sale.
2. Operations: the sales methodology, systems, money and people required to make it a business.
3. Marketing: any maneuver used to get the product into the hands of the end customer, who is inspired to buy it (and quickly).
I call these the POM principles, and they are the three pillars necessary for any business to launch, grow and be sustained for years to come. They apply to massive corporations and to startups. If any of these three pillars is not very well developed, a product is likely to fail (sorry for the harsh reality check).
Here’s a secret: As you develop a product, start with a picture and list of the attributes of your customer. Do not take one more step, or spend another dime, until you are exceedingly clear on this. Over the past 30 years, I have worked with more than 10,000 entrepreneurs, many of whom are so in love with their own ideas that they overlook the needs of the customers whose purchases make their idea into a true business.
There are so many faces of marketing; influencers, social media and online marketing may not be part of your marketing mix. How can that be in today’s climate?
Well, imagine that your customer rides the bus every day, they don’t own a computer and they are paid in paper checks every week. Buying ads on buses, on bus benches and at depots and partnering with check-cashing services would provide direct access to them. If you sell a glitter filter for selfies and videos, you have a good chance of reaching your customer on TikTok or Instagram. If you make a human resources technology built for human resources professionals in manufacturing, you need to get to the decision makers who buy that kind of tech. Why would you waste your money trying to reach them where they are not going to be?
Did you know that 80% of the global workforce don’t sit at a desk to do their jobs? Think about the size of that 80% and what kinds of opportunities exist there. As two of my favorite authors, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, wrote in Blue Ocean Strategy, “In today’s overcrowded industries, competing head-on results in nothing but a bloody ‘red ocean’ of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.” So why thrash about in bloody red waters of competition when there’s a huge blue ocean out there?
When you know who your customer is, and whether they’ll pay for your product, and have set an operational basis of business, it’s time to build a marketing mix. I use a simple Excel sheet with a row of the 12 months of the year and a column of different modalities. I get costs for the methods that appeal to the customer, choose the ones for which there is a budget and then execute. Here is a list of some options to put into your vertical axis.
• Advertising (online, print, broadcast, trade).
• Affiliate marketing.
• Ambassador marketing.
• Association marketing.
• Cause marketing.
• Corporate communications.
• Demand generation.
• Digital KPI-driven marketing.
• Direct mail.
• Email marketing.
• Guerrilla tactics.
• Influencer marketing.
• Online marketing.
• Partner marketing.
• Pay per click.
• Public relations (a.k.a. publicity).
• Referral programs.
• Retail coop marketing.
• Search engine optimization.
• Social media marketing.
• Special events.
• Trade shows.
• Viral marketing.
• Word of mouth.
And the list goes on.
To make it easiest, think about this as reverse engineering. Deciding which marketing method to use requires thinking backward from the customers’ needs first and how you want to present your product second. Why? Well, if you don’t sell your stuff, you don’t have a business. It’s not rocket science, but it’s incredibly practical.