Think it Through

As marketers, it’s our job to get inside people’s heads to figure out how to attract their attention and then match our product/service’s attributes to their needs. We spend a lot time thinking about what triggers and what impedes actions. How does a prospect go from awareness, to consideration, to selection? A new Comcast ad is a good reminder to THINK through your value proposition to see if it will make any sense, or throw up red flags.

The ad touts Comcast’s DVR service and its ability to be programmed remotely through a PC, phone, or mobile device. Then it offers an iPod Touch as an incentive to new subscribers. Unfortunately, IMMEDIATELY after that offer comes the disclaimer. That disclaimer says, “Service not compatible with iPod Touch”.


You’re promoting a feature, and then offering an incentive that probably should, but doesn’t actually work with this feature? Would you be pushing new left-handed golf clubs, only to follow-up with the condition that they’re not available to left-handed people?

This seems so basic. At some point, you need to step back (or find an outside perspective) and look at your approach. Do all the elements fit together? Is anything going to cause the prospect to make that funny *dog head tilt* when they hear it? If so, then change it.

Be Different. Be Simple.

Just returned from a major industrial trade show in Chicago. It was interesting to see some things surprisingly it seemed a pretty healthy show.

One big takeaway was the benefits of two things:

1. Being different.

2. Being simple and direct with your message.

Blue and grey are the new business camouflage. What was once comfortable and conservative now seems just dated in these new economic times. That doesn’t mean if you logo is those colors you have to drive everything off that. Be different. This show had a lot of European companies more willing to experiment with vibrant oranges, greens, and other colors. And it works. These booths really caught your eye. Machine builder Sidel was an excellent example. All black tombstones, highlighted with bold neon color stripes and VERY little messaging. Really stood out.

Another trend was overcrowding. Many booths looked as if someone just walked in and sneezed on the walls. Just a machine-gun spray of tech specs. But a few had given thought to integrating a clear, simple message everywhere. And those exhibitors were hard to overlook. Do your products make manufacturers more green? Say so. Do they cut operating costs? Then tell people. But pick one. And then stick with it. No one needs to see that your cycle time is 3.5 seconds, or that your new chiller has a 1,000mm by 1,500mm footprint. Save that for other tools.

Be different. Be simple. Be noticed.

What does it look like?

A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting coincidence of ideas. On my morning ride to nowhere (my elliptical trainer) I was reading Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior. The authors told an interesting story of how Joshua Bell, the brilliant young violinist was in the subway, opened his violin case, which held a million dollar Stratavarius and started giving a concert. Few of the passers by recognized him or appreciated just what they were hearing and seeing, after all how often are the street musicians you hear in the subway brilliant virtuosos? People where swayed in their appreciation by the surroundings.

Later that day, in the office, I looked at a proof for a brochure we were producing for one of our clients. The brochure focused on using their technology in health care applications, an area they were hoping to penetrate using this tool. Our client’s reaction to the brochure was, “Well it sure looks like we’re in healthcare.” They were clearly hoping that this piece would help them to make that claim a fact.

Whether we like it or not, we, and our prospects are influenced, swayed as it were, by how we look. We’re often called upon to help clients move into new areas. They find it is easier to do if they look like they belong there. Some may be concerned that this is deceptive, we prefer to think of it as prophetic.

Open Your Mind

“Do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always got.” I wish this hackneyed quote was even still true. The reality is that in the new economy even this perspective doesn’t work anymore. I’ve heard far too many business people tell me they’re working twice as hard for half as much money.

But I’ve heard lots of interesting stories, too. A friend owns a fly fishing/hunting outfitter here in town. He was telling me he’s doing OK this year. But he’s doing it by adding a speaker’s series, working his e-mail list harder, going to shows he’s never attended, and more. All of these things are outside the norm and require an extra investment of time and effort, but they’re paying off.

One of my client’s markets industrial machinery – not exactly the most solid of markets in these risk-averse times. But they’re having a solid year. How? By recognizing that telling their story of expertise and systems solutions in developing economies affords great opportunity.

The point is simple – try new things. Take risks. Now more than ever they may pay off. But don’t dump your whole marketing program on these experiments. Go slow, measure your results, and do more of what works.

Content is King

Redone your website lately? Did you get held up when it was time to build out as all that content you thought you had wasn’t really there? Or it wasn’t in a form that was appropriate for the web?

We’re routinely finding that clients underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to generate good quality copy that’s useful for branding online marketing. And most clients I talk to about this are quick to agree that it’s a problem in their organization.

We’re currently running a program on mechatronics (the integration of electrical, mechanical, and software design in a single device like a cell phone or a car) with a major industry publication’s website. Over the course of the year, we quickly discovered that having fresh content fuels tremendous increases in traffic and click-thru’s. And, that consistently getting this content is harder than anyone thought it would be.

There’s no magic bullet for solving this problem, but we find that the organizations who take the difficulty of generating good, web-friendly content seriously have fewer problems. We suggest designating an “owner” who’s responsible for ensuring that content is gathered and is consistent with company branding. Of course, if you need help with generating content, we can help you. But to simply figure, “Ah, I’ve got it in my brochures‚” is probably not going to result in the best outcome.