By Alyson Dutch
Marketing. Sales. PR. Influencers. Guerilla tactics. Social media marketing. What does it all mean and which businesses should use which tactic?
After 30 years 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 who they are, which is a demographic (sex, age, location, education, salary); but a psychographic which are attitudes, proclivities, and the many deep details 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 their frustrations, upsets, disappointments, worries, annoyances, concerns, anxieties, and struggles. This applies to everything from OEM 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 the response.”
To prove my point, think of the last time you were looking for a great new restaurant. You probably Googled 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 is a consumer or business-to-business product / service:
Product: everything it takes to get a product ready for sale.
Operations: the sales methodology, systems, money and people required to make it a business.
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 this the POM Principle, and these are the three pillars necessary for any business to launch, grow and be sustained for years to come. This applies to massive corporations and to startups. If any of these three are not very well developed, a product is 100% doomed to fail (sorry for the harsh reality check).
Here’s a secret: as you develop a product, start with a picture and list of attributes of your customer. Do not take one step further, or spend another dime, until you are exceedingly clear on this.
I cannot tell you how many entrepreneurs I’ve met who are so incredibly enamored with their solutions, that they have failed to care what anyone thinks (except waxing poetic about why it’s so incredible). Guess what? That’s not a business; that’s a vanity project; and an expensive one.
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, bus benches, 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 an HR tech built for human resources professionals in manufacturing, you need to get to the decision makers who buy tech for all the NAICS codes that manufacture. Why would you waste your money trying to reach them where they are not?
Did you know that 80% of the global workforce are deskless hourly workers? Amazingly, 90% of the venture capital earmarked for technology innovation is developed for only 20% of knowledge workers. Think about the size of that 80% and what kinds of opportunity exists there. As one of my favorite authors, Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, wrote in Blue Ocean Strategy: 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, if they’ll pay for your product and an operational basis of business is set, it’s time to build a marketing mix. I use a simple Excel sheet with a horizontal row of the 12 months of the year and a vertical column of different modalities. I get costs for the methods that appeal to the customer, choose the ones for which there is a budget, then execute. Here is a list of some options to put into your vertical axis. In next month’s article, I will provide definitions for each of these, so you can load them all into an Excel sheet and start your own:
Advertising (online, print, broadcast, trade)
Digital KPI-driven marketing
Pay Per Click
Public relations (aka PR, publicity)
Retail co-op marketing
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Social media marketing
Word of mouth
And the list goes on.
To make it easiest, think about this as reverse engineering. Think backwards from that customer, because if you don’t sell your stuff, you don’t have a business. This is why the customer is more important than you or your product. It’s not rocket science; but it’s incredibly practical.