One thing that's intrigued me over nearly 30 years in the marcom business is the commonality of marketing retail products vs. technology products vs. industrial products. Clients, of course, believe their industries are 'totally unique' -- which is true to a certain extent. But one of the advantages of being an objective outsider/consultant is that we can sometimes see patterns and parallels you may not see when you're in among the trees.
As one for instance, consider how the leverage point for marketing products can shift, if circumstances are right, from the manufacturers of said products to their distribution or 'channel' partners... Typically this happens when it dawns on the channel that it has the more enviable position of being closer to the end-customer. Some examples:
Why should such parallels matter to you as a marketer?
Most importantly, setting your sights on trends, technologies, and behaviors in adjacent or even distant industries can yield insights or ideas that might be applied in your own, in turn yielding competitive advantages.
A few years back, I was fortunate enough to be a sub-contracted copywriter on a project for the razor giant Gillette: The project in question entailed turning an old razor blade factory in Boston into a very slick Retail Innovation Center, where the company would develop, test, and spotlight its latest retail marketing concepts (e.g. packaging, displays, promotions) for increasingly the tough-to-please retailers mentioned above. Even though the category here was decidedly consumer -- wouldn't Gillette's approach be of interest to any industrial or tech OEM faced with increasing mindshare at their own, increasingly tough-to-please channel partners?
Point is, looking past your particular forest can really get your noodle going. And that's when you're most likely to generate business-building ideas and, yes, maybe even a genuine breakthrough or two.
Cheers! -- JH
I can't tell you how many people start a dialogue with me about marketing with "I need a brochure." Far from the glee you'd expect of me to feel on these occasions, I'm usually fearful that my colleague has come to the answer before he or she has even asked the right question.
Like "Is a brochure really the best way to sell to or connect with my audience?" Or "Who is really the decision maker we're trying to reach?" Or, even before either of these, "Why us vs the bazillions of other competitors out there who are ready, willing, and able to munch our lunch?"
To add even more misfortune to this scenario, rare is the printer or one-person graphic design shop who'll raise these more fundamental questions rather than chalk up an easy brochure job, a la: "Whoa Bob... Sounds to me like your brochure budget is better spent on enhancing your call center or doing some market research!"
Look, with or without an outside strategist like SMS, you owe it to yourself to take aim before you pull the trigger. Because the awful truth is maybe you don't need a new brochure, or a new logo, or a new website.
Case in point: A few years back, I headed up a creative department assigned to the Scientific-Atlanta account. (At that time, SA was a $1.8 billion manufacturer of technology for the cable-TV market; today, they are embedded in Cisco). Our client-side contact at the time needed to launch a new type of rack-mounted transceiver to cable system operators (MSOs) around the U.S. (Without getting into too much detail here, this product offered a more modular way to handle/juggle multiple data streams of then-popular shows like The Sopranos and Pimp My Ride.) The client assumed a double-truck ad in the major cable-industry trade rags was pretty much a given. We replied: "But why? Your target audience is literally comprised of 50 or so chief technical officers at these cable systems -- so while you'd certainly hit some of them, you'd be wasting a ton of money on the many other largely disinterested eyeballs who subscribed to these pubs."
Research further indicated that face-to-face contact was critical to opening up any sort of serious dialogue with the audience on this sort of product.
So, instead of an ad, we recommended purchasing 50 disposable voice recorders... Having SA's VP of biz dev read a scripted but also customized message to each recipient on the list, including a request for an interview at the upcoming industry-favorite trade-show... And then mailed the recorders in a cool box to the target list.
Far from the 2-4% response considered strong by the standards of those days, we secured 22 appointments -- all of them with heavy hitters and most of them abuzz with how cool the invitation was.
So, before you leap, are you SURE you need a BROCHURE?
Cheers! -- JH
Welcome to the official blog of Ithaca, NY-based Smith Marketing Services. Authored by members of the SMS team (we take turns or just chime in when inspiration strikes), MarketingMinds offers up