Friday, August 29, 2008

Strategic Politicking...

Beth just called me with the news.

Right on the heels of Obama's high-voltage acceptance speech comes McCain's buzz-stirring VP announcement: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

What are most people talking about around the water cooler? Obama? McCain? (Last night’s Bears game?)

Parties and candidate choices aside, McCain made a clever marketing move.

For instance if your competitor's new product announcement is getting a lot of buzz, you need to create a louder buzz.

Did McCain choose the best candidate for the job or just a politically motivated alternative? My opinion doesn't matter. And this isn't a forum for politics.

But planning his VP announcement on the heels of the DNC Convention and choosing an unexpected choice is an interesting strategy.

Sometimes Marketing and Politics are a lot alike. Sometimes they're not.

Homework: What bold moves is your competition taking? What bolder moves can you take to knock them off-center. What's the best timing to announce your new product or service? Is it better to pre-empt them or to cut off their steam with a louder announcement of your innovation?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Olympic Dreams-Part One...

The Olympics begin 8/8/08 at 8:08:08 pm Why all the eights? In Chinese culture, the number 8 is a lucky number.

I don't know about luck, but I find the Olympics intriguing on several levels. Seeing these athletes from around the world at the top of their sport is definitely inspiring. Their focus, determination and discipline are noteworthy. (On a personal note, PJ was so inspired that he took his first steps in 2000 during the Olympics.) I believe the level of the competitors makes each athlete that much better.

I wish there was a Marketing Olympics. I think marketers would rise to another level if they had to face their competition head-on in front of an audience of customers. I think it would make marketing that much better.

But I don't see enough marketers doing the hard work or having the discipline to be on an Olympic level. Many are content plucking the low-hanging fruit. Or they substitute clever sales ploys for the hard work of genuine marketing discipline. And a few even fall to the level of "promotional doping" with underhanded tactics like bait-and-switch, misrepresentations, misleading fine print or false advertising -- giving each of us in the marketing discipline a black eye.

So, as you’re watching the Olympics, be inspired. And act on that inspiration.

Homework: Is your marketing world-class? Are you competing on a level playing field with your competitors? Is your sales attitude about giving your all, or just giving the least you can to make the sale? Are you forsaking long-term profits for questionable short-term selling tactics or low-quality service?

Next time... How do Olympiads handle defeat?

- Phil Sasso

Friday, August 01, 2008

Pull Ads...

How are sales going for you?

I hear ya. The economy is in a deadly downward spiral, fueled in part, by the media.

The more the media tells us how bad the economy is, the more we believe it. As the economist for the Federal Reserve here in Chicago said at an Automotive Aftermarket Symposium I attended in June, we aren't even in a recession, yet! A recession is commonly defined as two quarters with no growth in GDP. (But the National Bureau of Economic Rearch doesn't define recession in these terms. By NBER's definition, we can have both a recession and a positive real GDP at the same time.)

But I'm not an economist. I'm a marketing advisor. So, what can a marketer do to boost sagging sales?

Pull advertising.

I think I just heard you gasp. Why on earth would I say "pull advertising"? Isn't this the most important tool we have to grab any market share we can from our competitors? Absolutely. I didn't say STOP advertising. In fact I didn't even say you should YANK all your dollars from any marketing investment. (Although you might want to shift dollars away from low performing marketing investments into high performing ones.)

What I said was "Pull Advertising" as in using a "Pull Marketing" strategy.

Pull Marketing is an advertising and promotion strategy directed at PULLING sales out of your customer. Pull techniques are things like discount coupons, buy-one-get one free offers, and various buying bonuses (like "25% more free"). Pull marketing's goal is to create a sense of urgency or value so you build demand and win immediate sales. (Yesterday, I printed a Walgreen's coupon for Beth for $5 off $20. A nice discount and a good Pull Strategy.)

Push marketing is an advertising promotional strategy geared to your distribution channels. It's about encouraging them to PUSH your product. Classically, this is seen as volume discounts, wholesale bonuses, trade giveaways, and support materials (like "buy three cases, get one free."). The goal is to get distributors excited about about selling more of your product. (I'm flooded with ads from my suppliers encouraging me to sell more -- as if my goal was to sell LESS!)

In times like this, I don't think you need to push distributors to sell, you need to pull customers to buy. Every distributor wants more sales. But not every customer wants to spend money. This is the time to give your best incentives to your customers.

Although I believe you need to use both Push and Pull strategies to be a balanced marketer, you don't need to use them equally. You need to adjust your strategy to the economy just as a smart investor will shift back and forth between stocks and bonds.

So let me clarify one more time: Pull Advertising doesn't mean pulling your ads. In fact, it might mean buying MORE ads.

Homework: Are you offering incentives to get customers to buy? Are you using discounts, premiums, bonus offers, rebates, contests, sweepstakes, or continuity programs to get customers to buy from you, or buy more often? Are you investing in Pull Advertising or are you cutting back on the best way to communicate your competitive advantage?

-- Phil Sasso