read + learn
When we were founded, Nixon was in the White House. And after more than 45 years in this industry, you learn a thing or two. About shaping strategy. Making customers happier. Raising more money. Delighting employees. Navigating the sharp curves of business. Here are some words of marketing wisdom.
“Corporate folklore is bad for business. It's marketplace realities that really count.”
Some companies waste a lot of time and money talking to themselves. It’s called “corporate folklore” – beliefs that exist only within a firm’s culture. Deeply ingrained convictions passed down through the ranks that lead to sentences ending in, “because we’ve always done it that way.”
Before any initiative has a chance to succeed, marketers must separate these beliefs from undeniable facts – not merely feelings. Facts that come from current, lost and prospective customers.
Here’s an example of how we help our clients using a process we call ThinkMapping. At a Big Six accounting firm, we spoke with a group of partners responsible for rainmaking. When asked what was the glue that kept their mid-market clients so loyal, they replied with beliefs like “We’re accurate,” “We don’t miss deadlines,” and “We charge fairly for our services.”
Then we asked some clients the same question. And the response was dramatically different.
What was really going on
Clients overwhelmingly said their loyalty stemmed from one simple fact: they loved their accountant. The connection with their contact at the firm was the reason for their unwavering allegiance. When confronted with this marketplace reality, the partners were shocked, never realizing that something so fundamental as relationships could ensure firm’s longevity with a client. This finding formed the basis of a fresh go-to-market strategy and ongoing communications that followed.
Something so obvious was hidden in plain sight. Yet many companies overlook the realities of business in the race to explain things colored by their own beliefs.
“The most important sound in the world is the cash register ringing. Anything else is just noise.”
A lot of clients tell us that the objective of their marketing investment is awareness. We always (respectfully) disagree. The best strategists in the business know that in the beginning, you start at the end.
Let’s think about it.
If your awareness increases by 15%, and your top line or net profit remains flat or – worse yet – drops, you’ve achieved your awareness objective. But failed in your mission to grow your business.
That’s because awareness is merely a means to an end. And that end is always a quantifiable and tangible result – like increased volume, greater net profit generated from new customers, more members, new or boosted donations.
Find your cha-ching
To rationalize any budget expenditure, each new customer gain must be viewed through the lens of customer lifetime value (LTV) – the worth of a customer, patient, donor or new member…not on the initial transaction but the value over time.
The same approach applies equally to awareness-building initiatives as well as direct business-building efforts. Creativity in any form of marketing is important…but not if it fails to achieve a monetary objective. So the only thing that is creative is what sells.
“JFK once asked a custodian at NASA what he did, and he replied, “Mr. President, I¹m helping to put a man on the moon.’”
Sometimes the words we use work against us.
Take “employees” for example. The term defines a group of people who work for your company. End of story. But is it?
The fact is, each and every one of your employees, regardless of title or function, is a representative of your brand. That’s why we recommend that companies elevate their employees to brand owners.
This concept puts those who work for you on a pedestal. When you call your employees brand owners, you tell the world that your people are so good that you directly connect them to the success of your business. And they are. They contribute to your brand equity. They are invested in your company – not with money but with actions.
Power to the people
The people who work for you – anyone who comes in contact with your customers, donors or members either directly or indirectly – are your brand. Your brand is much more than advertising, logos, packaging and websites. So no matter how much money you pour into marketing, if service delivery fails to meet or exceed expectations, your brand is meaningless. We call it “branding from the inside out.” If your staff isn’t on board with delivering your promise, you’ll never build and sustain an indelible brand.
Brand owners are great for your business because they each see themselves as contributing something greater than the task they perform. This makes everyone feel better and perform better. It makes customers want to continue doing business with your brand because of the way they are treated…by an owner, not just an employee.