Vampire Marketing 2: Protecting Yourself

July 13th, 2012

‘Vampire’ marketers are sucking the lifeblood out of more and more traditional businesses. Is your brick-and-mortar business in danger of becoming just another showroom for aggressive on-line marketers?

On-line retailers enjoy some significant advantages – breadth of selection, shop-from-home convenience, and sometimes lower prices – our VAMPIRE MARKETING 1 talked about several of the most problematic ones for brick-and-mortar marketers.  Yes, there’s a challenge …

So, what can you do if you’re one of those businesses in danger of losing customers to on-line retailers?  What if you’re already, like Best Buys, feeling the pinch, if your brick-and-mortar store is beginning to feel like a showroom for Amazon?  The short and simple answer is “Provide something that customers really like, that the on-line competitors can’t provide.”  Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Buyers of expensive or complex products or services often value expert advice, explanation, and comparison of alternatives.  Make sure that your employees have the training, experience and personal skills to educate your customers more comfortably and effectively than customers can educate themselves.

2. Many standardized products or service (like computers, home entertainment systems or personal car insurance) can be enhanced (and valued up!) with options and accessories that on-line shoppers may overlook.  In-store ‘lookers’ are less likely to walk away and become internet buyers, if your employees can intelligently advise them and assemble a customized package of attractive features.

3. Court those customers who will always prefer to pay by cash or check, or who are reluctant to commit their personal information to the internet.  If your policies and procedures make it difficult for potential customers to hand their cash or check to you, they’re likely to find another place to spend their $$$.

4. Make sure that customer who prefer to shop the internet have an attractive option for shopping with you.  Seamlessly integrate your web and brick-and-mortar presence.  If your business is only brick-and-mortar – or only internet – you’re ignoring a large segment of the buying public that prefers the other.

5. Indulge internet buyers’ urge for ‘instant gratification’ by offering personalization – like on-line or telephone chat and in-store pick up of on-line orders.

Finally, recognize that some products and service categories are natural fits for web commerce, and no amount of ingenuity or effort can reverse the migration from brick-and-mortar business to the internet.  If that’s the future you face, the earlier you think through your options and formulate a plan, the more likely you are to thrive by managing the modernization of your business on your own schedule, not that dictated by your competitors.

1.  Evolve your business toward products and services with high customization and personal attention content.  Adopt an unsentimental willingness to phase out your traditional offerings and introduce new offerings to your customers.

2. Focus on and cater to the small but high value niche of customers who will continue to demand – and pay for – customized, personal service and hands-on shopping.

Need help getting started?  Contact an independent consultant like Marketing Intelligence & Strategy Assoc.

Recent Marketing Intelligence Articles

July 10th, 2012

Vampire Marketing – Part I

‘Vampire’ marketers are sucking the lifeblood out of more and more traditional businesses. Is your brick-and-mortar business in danger of becoming just another showroom for aggressive on-line marketers?

 Problems and Opportunities

Where to spend my never-quite-enough time, resources, and money?

Better Marketing, Starting Today

Most companies, large and small, can quickly make their business more relevant and appealing to potential customers by addressing 3 areas:


Along with technical excellence and solid finance, attending to these market-facing factors will assure that customers are waiting, $$$ in hand, when you launch.

Marketing Is More Effective When Targeted to Personality Profiles

A recent study proves that incorporating customers’ personality traits into your market segmentation scheme can improve the effectiveness of your advertising and communications.

POWERBALL’s Marketing Strategy

The POWERBALL multi-state lottery recently doubled the basic ticket price.  Like theirs, your customers’ buying decisions are driven by a thicket of motivations – motivations that are at the same time rational and emotional, occasionally conflicting.  Understanding what’s important to your customer – accounting-wise and in her deep psychology – gives you a better chance of winning the big jackpot in your marketplace.

Not Exactly Marketing, but …

I’m continually amazed by my grandparents’ generation, born in the 1880s and 1890s …

Another Plastics from Bio-Mass Discovery

A new discovery at University of Massachusetts Amherst may someday lead to a practical bio- alternative to one of the world’s largest volume consumer plastics.

Maximize Your Research ROI

Here are 5 Rules of Research Strategy that will assure you get a handsome ROI from your research investment, whether you’re in the lab or studying your marketplace.

Marketing on the Web

 Web Businesses Don’t Need Marketing?

I more than occasionally hear or read that modern web-based commerce makes marketing and brand building irrelevant, even obsolete.   Another opinion …

Fundamentals of Marketing and Sales

Deep down, the fundamentals of marketing and selling are just that – fundamental – regardless of the product or service you’re selling.

Greener Materials and the Markets that Use Them

We hear a lot about concepts like ‘sustainable’, ‘renewable’, ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly’, but it’s often not clear what those terms actually mean.

Sunshine, Blue Skies … At Home with Wind and Solar Energy:  Taking the Mystery Out of America’s Energy Options

Four Things You Must Know to Brand Your Way to Success

Your “brand” is the sum of everything that people think, feel, believe and ‘know’ about you, your product and service, and your company

Marketing for Entrepreneurs and Small Business

Under-staffed and under-resourced?  Some things every business, entrepreneur and startup should be doing to assure that the customers will be there when you open for business …

Problems and Opportunities

June 19th, 2012

Where to spend my never-quite-enough time and money?

That question constantly confronts every consumer, every entrepreneur trying to bootstrap her passion and her good idea into a thriving business, every small business owner juggling one-too-many flaming torches, every corporate manager faced with conflicting deadlines, quarterly objectives, and a limited budget.

Whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur or a corporate marketing manager, catching the attention of potential customers is one of the toughest hurdles on your path to business success.

1. Understand the Problems and Opportunities that motivate your potential customers, and focus on the factors that bring them satisfaction and success.  Customers don’t much care whether you prosper or fail, but they’ll reward you handsomely if you can help make them rich.

2. Identify how your product or service affects the things your customers care about most.  Then concentrate on how you can help solve their problems and realize their opportunities.  No matter how cool and innovative you think your product is, it doesn’t matter a bit if your customers can’t see how it builds their own success and satisfaction.

3. Talk about your offering in words and images that resonate with your customers, in venues (electronic, print, or person to person) where your customers are most likely to see your message.  Educating your potential customers, and influencing their behavior, is expensive.  Make sure you’re investing your time, money, and effort in communications that potential customers will actually see, in language and images they’ll embrace.

4. Differentiate yourself.  Your competitors are trying hard to monopolize your customers’ attention.  Make yourself stand out by making yourself more relevant to your customers’ most pressing problems and opportunities.

Getting started?  Set aside a good block of time so that you and your colleagues can step away from the daily press of business.  Then, force yourself to look at the world through the eyes of your potential customer: What are the keys to their success?  What are their most urgent problems, and what opportunities are most important to their future?  What threats do their competitors pose?

If you don’t have the time and resources, or if you just need some help in developing another perspective, consider engaging an independent consultant like Marketing Intelligence & Strategy Assoc.

June 15th, 2012

Design your business (your product or service plus all the other ways your customers interact with you) to best help your customers address the opportunities or problems they face.  These days, the ‘better mousetrap’ is often not the mousetrap itself but the training, services, support, and friendly accessibility that surround it.

Vampire Marketing – Part I

June 14th, 2012

‘Vampire’ marketers are sucking the lifeblood out of more and more traditional businesses. Is your brick-and-mortar business in danger of becoming just another showroom for aggressive on-line marketers?

Earlier this year, Best Buy announced plans to close about 50 of its brick and mortar stores and concentrate on building its wireless and mobile services businesses. The reason?

“Consumers have been using its locations as a testing ground for products before making final purchases at competitors like Amazon and .…”.

First it happened to the music industry, newspapers and magazines – industries whose major product is content, and whose physical form is merely the vehicle which carries the entertainment or informational value.  Then Amazon and a host of on-line book sellers pulled the rug from beneath local bookstores and chains.  Now, brick and mortar retailers – from consumer electronics stores to women’s fashion to toys, Christmas gifts and specialty foods – are seeing more and more of their in-store ‘lookers’ completing their purchases with on-line competitors.

Consumers and B-2-B shoppers are succumbing to the lure of buying on-line:  lower prices, access to lots of purchase options and information, and the convenience of shopping from your office or home.

To judge just how vulnerable your business might be to ‘vampire marketers’ – to having your customers captured by on-line competitors – think for a moment about how your customers interact with you, and with potential on-line competitors.

Do you rely on someone else’s brand to bring customers through your door? Companies like Best Buy can prosper because we all crave products by HP and Panasonic, Samsung, Philips and Toshiba, BUT Best Buy is also vulnerable because those great brands are available almost everywhere – including no frills on-line discounters.

Can on-line competitors readily duplicate what you offer, or do you provide a one-of-a-kind product or service?  I can save a lot of money buying a suit on-line, but the excellent fit of custom alterations only comes from in-person service.  Conversely, use of personal computers, cell phones and other consumer electronics has become so common, and their operation so familiar, that hands-on shopping is unnecessary for many of us.

Do customers buy your product or service on impulse or a spur of the moment decision? Is it an ‘instant gratification’ sale?  Or can your prospective customer’s buying enthusiasm survive the time required to order on-line and wait for delivery?

Do your customers buy to a standardized set of specifications? is your offering ready to go just out of the box?   Or does your product or service require significant customization or instruction before the customer can use it?

No business, of course, is immune to an agile competitor, but your business is especially at risk if a computer can provide as much satisfaction as dealing directly with you.  Conversely, by making yourself indispensable to your customers, you can hold the vampires at bay.

Look for Vampire Marketing – Part II, coming up soon, for some practical steps you can take.

Better Marketing, Starting Tomorrow

June 11th, 2012

Much that passes for marketing advice – get in tune with your customers’ likes and dislikes, address their un-met needs, build your brand equity – sounds overly esoteric and open-ended to an overworked small business owner or busy operations exec.  Good advice, perhaps, but not very actionable.

Most companies, large and small, can quickly make their business more relevant and appealing to potential customers by addressing 3 areas:

1. Take an outsider’s look at the ways your customers can connect with you.  Make sure you’re not discouraging customers before they even walk through your electronic or bricks-and-mortar door.  Does your signage and website make it clear what your business offers, where to find you, when you’re open or closed?  Are your phone and e-communications systems easy to use?  How well do you respond to incoming calls and messages?

Remember – Every point of contact is an opportunity to impress – or to piss off – a potential customer.  If an eager buyer can’t get in touch with you, more than likely, she’ll place her business with your competitor.

2. Are your sales and marketing efforts targeting the people whose decisions make or break your success? Who is most likely to enjoy the benefits of what you’re offering – whose problems can you solve – and who controls the checkbook from which you’ll be paid?  Purchasing agents rarely identify the need for a new product or service, and IT directors rarely detect the business problem that begs a new software solution.

Figure out who suffers most acutely from the problem that your offering is designed to address, and enlist their support in convincing the decision makers of the value of your solution.

3. Learn the terminology and jargon that customers use when they talk about products and services like yours.  Then, make sure that your sales presentations, your advertising, and your website focus on the issues that are especially important to the decision makers, in language that is most likely to resonate with them.  Your customer’s warehouse manager wants to know how your new software will solve his inventory control problem, not how seamlessly it integrates with ERP systems.

Learn to speak your customers’ language instead of expecting them to adapt to yours.

How to do it?  First, talk with the people who know your customers best – your sales people and, perhaps even more important, your customer service representatives and technical service experts.

Then, if you have any doubts about what you’re hearing, or how to make use of it, call a competent, objective consultant like Marketing Intelligence & Strategy Assoc

Assuring Your New Venture’s Success

June 3rd, 2012

Most corporate new business development teams, most inventors, and most start-up entrepreneurs – whether they’re building the newest medical device, 3-D imaging software, or a neighborhood cupcake and cookie business – are stretched just too thin.  Under-resourced, under staffed and under-funded, the typical new venture is forced to prioritize and sacrifice.

Perfecting your product design and development and attending to the financing are vital – but just getting them right isn’t nearly enough to assure the success of your new venture.

Here are 8 often neglected areas that every new venture should be addressing – from your individual small business start-up to corporate new business teams – to assure that the customers will be there, $$$ in hand, when you open for business:

1. Early, Early, EARLY in the life of your new venture, map out the landscape of potential customers, and figure out who will be the most attractive segments of customers for your new business to target.  Who is most frustrated with the status quo?   Who has the $$$ – and the enthusiasm – to buy a new product or service like yours?  Where are you likely to find them?  And even more important, where are they mostly likely to go – on the street or on the internet – to discover a product like yours?

2. Understand what your potential customers love – and what frustrates them – about products or services like yours.  Then, build your offering to provide a solution to the things they hate about the status quo and to emphasize the things they like.  Don’t waste your time and resources on things customers don’t care about (no matter how exciting or ‘sexy’ they seem to you).

3. Test your concept, early and often, and adapt you offering to what you learn.  Ideas that seem obvious on paper or in your discussions around the company coffee pot are often far less than obvious to outsiders – to your potential customers, investors, suppliers, or distribution partners.  Entrepreneurs sometimes fear that competitors will ‘steal’ their ideas or derail their new venture.  Perhaps that happens, but for most start-ups, the much bigger danger is sinking all your hard work and $$$ into a venture that customers just don’t care about.

4.  Your new business will not be operating in a vacuum.  You’ll be relying upon a host of people and tools outside your organization to help connect your creation to the rest of the world – suppliers, existing computer systems or software platforms to link in to, distribution channel partners, formal and informal publicity and promotional voices …. Understand which external tools and partners will be critical to your success – especially the linkages between you and your potential customers – and begin building those relationships long before you launch.

5.  Nothing jump-starts a new venture better than an early success, so focus, Focus, FOCUS! That dazzling set of opportunities that you envision is seductive, but the temptation to pursue them all is an invitation to doing none of them well enough.  Pick a particular offering, a customer segment, and channel to market that is an especially good fit with what you do well.  Then, invest all your effort in making it work.  The credibility, confidence, publicity, and knowledge – not to mention cash flow – that comes from your first success will make it that much easier to pick off the next and the next and the next opportunity.

6.  Remove the hurdles that make it inconvenient for your customers to do business with you. Look at your business through the eyes of a customer:  Is it easy to find and get into your store – on the street or on the internet?  Does your website and your storefront signage clearly and succinctly explain your business?  How can potential buyers learn more about you, your product, your business?  Once potential customers have come through your physical or electronic door, is it easy for them to make their selection and purchase?  Do you offer a convenient assortment of payment options and customer-conscious quality assurance, return and refund policies?

7.  Get to know, understand and appreciate your customers.  Organize your business so that it’s a positive, rewarding and hassle-free experience every time a potential customer touches your business – beginning with their first phone call, email, or their first step inside your digital or brick-and-mortar store.  Reach out to your customers – and especially to those who decided not to buy from you – to learn what you’re doing right and what you could do better.

Share your success.  You deserve to be amply rewarded for your creativity, hard work, and persistence that transformed your idea into a business success.  Don’t, however, forget the ones whose help was vital to getting you there.  It’s the right thing to do – and it’s darned good business.  The more closely that your partners’ success is linked to yours, the harder your employees, your suppliers and your distribution partners will work to preserve and expand your success.

Remember – Your business exists in a complicated marketplace, where customers have lots of distractions and plenty of alternatives for spending their attention and their $$$.  What you think about your business is ultimately a lot less important than what your customers, distribution partners and suppliers think, and their experiences with you.

Marketing Is More Effective When Targeted to Personality Profiles

May 29th, 2012

A study recently reviewed in Science Daily (May 21, 2012) offers some critical insights to the marketing community …

“Advertisers spend enormous amounts … to tailor their advertising campaigns to different demographic groups…. Even within a given demographic, many individual differences, such as personality, shape consumer behavior.  A new study … suggests that advertisements can be more effective when they are tailored to the unique personality profiles of potential consumers.”

Corporations have made good use of personality and work style tools – Meyers Briggs Type Index and StrengthFinders, for example – for internal personnel development, and as team effectiveness tools.  At the same time, it’s no secret to experienced marketers that customers’ personality quirks and decision making styles can have a profound impact on the negotiation and buying process.

Business intelligence professionals, such as Marketing Intelligence & Strategy Assoc, can help you uncover the motivations and influences that shape your customers’ buying decisions.  Using this understanding, MI&SA can then help you build a customer segmentation scheme and a marketing and communications strategy which uniquely appeals to the motivations and hot buttons of your preferred customer base.

Your POWERBALL Marketing Strategy

May 14th, 2012

The POWERBALL multi-state lottery recently doubled the basic ticket price of its bi-weekly drawing, from $1 to $2.  I have no idea – and not a lot interest – in just how that has affected their revenue or profits, but it’s an intriguing example of the interplay of marketing, bottom line accounting, and customer psychology.  First, a sort of mea culpa

I cheerfully admit that I’m an occasional lottery ticket buyer, and that I savor, for a day or two, the fantasy of instant, extravagent 8 or 9 figure wealth.  My more literal minded friends – and my own right brain – point out that the financial ‘return on investment’ of my ticket purchase is about the same as flushing greenbacks down the toilet.  No argument – this accounting analysis is absolutely right.  The lottery ain’t a retirement plan!

Absolutely right – but totally irrelevant to most of us who buy lottery tickets anyway.  The point has little to do with the financial investment value of the ticket, but the entertainment value that comes from fantasizing about what could happen if we did win.   This entertainment is a perfectly valid reason to spend a couple of buck$.  We, after all, don’t bat an eye about investing in the entertainment potential of a movie, book, or theater ticket, or paying to watch a ball game.

Now, back to the POWERBALL –I’ve read that their motivation for doubling ticket prices is to build up multi-hundred million dollar jackpots more quickly and more often, and the ticket buying frenzy that those huge jackpots seem to generate.

I don’t know whether raising ticket price will ultimately help or hurt their bottom line.  I do know that, because  they’ve doubled the price of my fantasy, I’ve stopped buying POWERBALL tickets.  My temporary daydream is worth a $1 ticket, but it doesn’t quite stretch to cover the $2 POWERBALL investment.

Perhaps POWERBALL’s market research and customer segmentation analysis tells them that the loss of customers like me doesn’t really matter to their bottom line, that the extra revenue and more frequent ‘huge jackpot frenzy’ more than make up for the loss of my occasional Dollar.

BUT , there’s a bigger lesson out there for businesses large and small:  Your customers’ decisions to buy from you are driven by a thicket of motivations – motivations that are at the same time rational and emotional, often hidden, and occasionally conflicting.  Understanding what’s important to your customer – accounting-wise and in her deep psychology – gives you a better chance of winning the big jackpot in your marketplace.

Need help discovering just what motivates your customers and how to tap in?  A consultant like Marketing Intelligence & Strategy Assoc can help you figure it out.

Not Exactly Marketing, but …

May 13th, 2012

I’m continually amazed by my grandparents’ generation, born in the 1880s and 1890s …

– before airplanes and cars, radios and TVs, and before most of the country ever saw electric lights or a telephone

– when the US was still fighting Indian Wars, cowboying and the open range were still a dominant way of life in the West, and the US was still settling its frontier

– long before antibiotics or x-rays, when a simple sore throat could kill your child in a matter of days

– before women could vote or the United States carried much weight in the broader world

They fought in the trenches of World War I, endured the Great Depression, provided the leadership and brains to win WWII, and they guided the great American post-war growth boom.

In their old age, they watched color TV and men on the moon, flew in transcontinental jets, and they had the grace, love and humor to leave me some of my most enduring and cherished memories.