Friday 26 November 2010

Can you work effectively without caffeine?

I saw an old friend today (yes – all my friends are now old) and as we ordered drinks he made a reference to my caffeine-free beverage. Whilst it’s true that orange juice doesn’t contain caffeine and his Coca Cola did, it wouldn’t be true to say I’m caffeine-free these days. Which surprises me as much as it surprises a few others.

The reason is simply that on many occasions during the day I feel I need a bit of an energy boost.

Caffeine came back into my life during a particularly stressful few months with long days and not quite enough sleep. Caffeine seemed a reasonable reaction, and it sort of stayed. And it makes me wonder whether other people have tried and failed to banish caffeine from their work-a-day lives.

In theory I would live without caffeine. But in theory I would get enough sleep and banish deadlines. In practice my working life is often stressful and doesn’t fit into the hours I would like to allocate to it.

So I’m wondering, in a blogging type way, what do others think? Have you tried to give up caffeine and quietly gone back to it? Can man (or woman) work effectively on peppermint tea alone? And if you never want me to mention caffeine ever again, that’s also a reasonable response …

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Basic human drivers

Good marketing and advertising reaches us at an emotional level, without us even realising. Or putting it a different way, it answers needs inside of us that we are not really aware of.

But what are our needs? What are the emotions that we respond to? I found a list of basic human drivers attributed to Dr Kevin Hogan, which I thought made rather interesting reading.

Do you agree or disagree with the list? Would you add or remove anything? Should marketing be considering such psychological factors? Comments, thoughts and debate all welcome.

Here’s the list: 16 basic human drivers
  1. Sex/romance
  2. Acquisition/saving
  3. Bonding/connecting
  4. Learning/curiosity
  5. Eating
  6. Defence/fight or flight
  7. Nesting
  8. Vengence
  9. Status
  10. Power
  11. Loyalty
  12. Order and organisation
  13. Independence
  14. Acceptance
  15. Altruism
  16. Physical activity

Friday 19 November 2010

Marketing messages that delight

Work can get pressured, can’t it? Deadlines, stuff running late, things not happening when you want them to happen. It’s all pretty normal in my world.

So when my Friday morning gets interrupted by an email that makes me laugh out loud, it’s a real delight.

Let me be plain, this was a sales email from a determined and focused young man. It did not contain pictures of cats with orange peel on their heads, nor did it try to amuse with jokes or overt humour.

It was just well researched, well targeted and well written. And whilst he had in no way bombarded me with emails he had kept in touch: quietly and appropriately. It was a delight. And I wrote and told him. I have no doubt he will go far.

The late and oh so great David Ogilvy would have approved. He made the point that you can’t bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them in buying it. His italics.

Maybe I’m unlucky, because so much of what hits my desk either in paper or by email is uninteresting, untargeted and uninspired. So when someone takes the trouble to stand out from the crowd, he has at least got my attention - in all the right ways.

Nice to end the week on a positive.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Keep on communicating

I've taken up running recently, and am still pretty useless. I'm slow, get out of breath quickly and generally find the whole thing exhausting. Not unnaturally, this has the effect of me wanting to stay in with a nice bottle of wine and a good film. Like a normal person.

Except that once a week I get an email from the nice people at parkrun. Parkrun organise a Saturday morning 5k dash round the local park, or in my case the Thames. It is also exhausting, but I’ve got to know a few people and am getting used to the mud. So the combination of the little reminder, the social, and some small conscience that I should be keeping fit, means I actually turn up on a Saturday morning as often as I can.

It dawns on me that the urge NOT to go running is a great deal greater than the urge to run; by quite a long way. So this little communiqué is doing a good job in reminding me to get out there.

And so it is with all marketing communications. Out of sight is out of mind, particularly if it’s something we can put off. It absolutely helps that this email is something I have opted to receive, is relevant to my interests and contains relevant news, but shouldn’t all our marketing communications have the same attributes?

It’s a challenge for all companies to regularly communicate relevant and interesting material to our target market. And the parkrun email seems to me to be a good example.

Meanwhile I am carbohydrate loading ready for my run on Saturday. The only part of the whole process I find really rewarding …

Wednesday 17 November 2010

How interactive is your marketing?

I get an enormous number of sales emails. Many businesses think that my life would be better off with their product or service. That’s what I like to think. Otherwise why would they email me?

Oddly enough, I get the impression a lot them think THEIR lives would be better if I bought their product or service, not mine! Well - that’s what business is all about, isn’t it? Hmmm …

The trouble is, these emails get deleted faster than you can say “Recycle Bin”! They contain no benefit to me and so whatever it costs to write and send them is completely wasted. Many companies just play the numbers game, and there is some sense in that. They blast out huge quantities to any email address they can find, regardless of quality or suitability. Maybe enough reply to make the exercise worthwhile. I’m guessing they must, otherwise people wouldn’t do it. I’ll be honest, though, I think a lot of people would go out of their way to NEVER buy their wares.

But other companies get despondent with low conversion rates. With such a good product, backed by such good service, why aren’t people buying?

It may be they are sending carefully though-out marketing to the wrong people. Whilst it’s difficult to create a list of people waiting to buy your product as soon as it is produced - hats off to Apple, the only recent example I can think of - it is possible to have a list of people who are likely to be interested in your product or service. How? By designing marketing activities to learn something about prospective customers. In other words, instead of broadcasting to them, interacting with them. Asking questions and using the answers in marketing promotions.

Then maybe, over time, what is being sold will come closer into line with what people want to buy – by just listening.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Don't call me average

I’m going to have a rant. I’ve just had yet another email from a local business man who assures me he is in the business of selling. But it’s the funniest looking selling I’ve ever seen.

He doesn’t know me, he doesn’t know my business, and he doesn’t know my priorities, yet he assumes he does. He writes about my knowledge and my concerns. The only trouble is he is absolutely wrong. This might be forgivable if we hadn’t already exchanged emails, and if he didn’t have ample opportunity to figure out a little bit about me.

In other words, he is treating me as average. Which I can assure anyone who is trying to sell to me, I am anything but average.

Broadcast marketing is suitable for broadcast media, like the cinema, the TV or radio. Even then there is a great deal that advertisers can do to target their message to their audience. People want to be entertained at the cinema, and Orange devised a brilliant set of advertisements that are funnier than many films. Cooker manufacturers sponsor foodie programs. Instead of being bored by the idea of a new kitchen appliance, I am inspired to recreate part of Tuscany for my own adoring family.

So why, oh why, do people use broadcast messages on personal platforms? Email is personal. It is addressed to me individually, in the middle of my busy day when I am worrying about other things. My business colleagues use email to talk to me, as do my family and friends. So why do people broadcast their offerings with no thought of the suitability for their audience?

Twitter is personal; I follow individuals, not homogeneous globs. So why are people writing direct messages to me as if I were a tiny fraction of a homogeneous glob? Maybe they too think I am average. A girl could get a complex …

There is a lovely (old) video clip of a famous (m)ad man having a rant about not knowing him, not knowing his company, not knowing his problems, etc etc Now what did the salesperson want to sell him? For the life me I can’t find the clip, otherwise I’d give you a link. But it’s oh, so relevant to anyone in the business of finding new customers. Because none of us are average.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

What marketers can learn from road signs

My route into work is currently plagued by road works. After a summer of pot holes, they are resurfacing the road just in time for this year’s snow and ice. So I get to notice all sorts of things as I wait for the cars in front of me to move.

The other day I noticed a little sign for a local village fete. Upton and Somewhere. Sometime in November. A Saturday I think. It was a beautifully printed coloured flyer lovingly enclosed in plastic and tied to a lamp post. Someone had thought carefully about how much traffic passed by, and strategically positioned the advertisement for maximum viewing.

The trouble is, that’s all they thought about.

It was printed on A4 in tiny type and placed close to ground level. Whilst I noticed the notice, I couldn’t possibly read it. Not without causing an accident and even more delays.

Just a few feet away was another sign. This was about 6 feet off the ground and maybe 2 or 3 foot square. It simply says:

Free Recovery Starts Here

Four words on an area many, many times larger than the village fete ad. And you know what? I must have driven past it maybe a dozen times before I noticed it.

This is a stark lesson for all of us involved in marketing. Whilst we lovingly craft our carefully worded emails and web pages about our complicated propositions, our customers are flying past with their minds half on something else entirely. Anyone who has ever been caught speeding knows they may well have seen the sign once or even twice, but didn’t really register what they saw.

So in marketing, we need to ensure our messages are clear; very clear. And repeated - many times. Rather than boring our prospects, we may still not have got their attention.

I counted the number of road signs that warned me to slow down as I approached a village on my route home. The signs appeared 3 or 4 times, and in a number of different ways (30 miles, flashing light bulb thing, 20 mile sign, 20 miles painted on the road). And people still drive too fast.

Of course road signs are there for safety, not to sell anything. But it is sobering to realise how large and flashing and enforceable they have to be before we even notice them. We can’t make our marketing legally enforceable (probably a good thing!) but we can make it stand out.

I’d like to be able to tell the people who are organising the village fete during the cold and windy November, but I have no idea where they are …

Thursday 4 November 2010

Be remarkable – or be invisible

“Be remarkable, or be invisible.” Seth Godin of Purple Cow fame throws down the gauntlet to the ordinary everywhere. Being remarkable sounds great in theory, but in practice it involves risk.

I was chatting to the Over 60's World Champion of Bog Snorkelling last night, which in itself is pretty remarkable. I suppose he carried his share of risk by taking part, but not quite much risk as the bright sparks who thought up this unlikely sport. The story goes something like this …

Locals in the pub were chatting about how to attract more tourists to the pretty Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells. Having decided that consonants were not necessarily a selling point, someone had the great idea of digging a ditch in a field and hosting the Bog Snorkelling World Championship. I think they must have had a few pints ….

As remarkable (in every respect) as this sounds, the idea was and is a great success. Over 200 entrants take part in the annual event held every August bank holiday, and the sport has spread to Australia and Ireland. Contestants wear snorkels and flippers and are not allowed to swim. Wet suits are usually worn but I believe the current Over 60 World Champion ruined a beautiful white T-shirt during his attempt.

Tourism is not an easy business to promote. Yes, you have beautiful hills, sandy beaches and friendly locals, but so does Scotland, Spain and France. And at least two of those places has a lot less rain. It is easy to be ordinary, safe and ineffective.

No doubt a great many people scoffed at the idea of bog snorkelling. But by being remarkable, the people of Llanwrtyd Wells got themselves on the world map, got an entry in Wikipedia and the Over 60’s champion has been on TV in Brazil. None of those things would have happened if they had carried on promoting beaches. Or consonants. Or the fact that the pubs close on a Sunday.

Monday 1 November 2010

Customer-Centric Marketing

“Boost your Assets!” ran the promotional pitch at my local La Senza store. “£15 off gel bras!”

The offer was accompanied by a picture of an attractive girl who clearly had no qualms about showing off her assets, in all their boosted glory.

The promotion is fun, appropriate and eye-catching to both male and female shoppers. The blokes probably don’t know (or care) what a gel bra is, whilst the girls know exactly what it is, what it does, and why they want one. £15 off is an attractive sweetener to the whole deal, and enough to entice you into the shop. Looks like great benefits-led marketing to me.

So what’s with the undies-led theme to the blog today? Well, I seem to have been surrounded by small businesses promoting at their customers, instead of for their customers.

My local hairdresser ran an offer that said "buy two heat styling products and get one free". The age of the products indicated these had not been the run-away success they had hoped for. By way of an after-thought the author had written "BOGOF!" I wondered if this was by way of suggestion to their customers ...

So seeing a customer-centric promotion made my day. Understanding what customers really, really want, and finding ways to fulfil that need is what marketing is all about. Must look up when La Senza’s offer finishes …