Marketing Genius from Maple Creative

Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Up 50% Over June 2005

"Our sales are up 50% over last June."
- Reported recently by a satisfied Maple Creative client

What marketing tactics have we provided to assist our client in achieving such great results? (By the way this is the same client that was up 30% over last May. The results are even better, today!)

We began with research. Through a series of focus groups and analysis of proprietary Scarborough data, we helped our customer to better understand the market and to identify his key customer segments. The research also helped him get smarter about his competition. First learn, then take action!

Next, we helped him refine his advertising strategy. After we analyzed and gained insight into what was bringing results, we simply advised him to do more of what was working. Simple yet effective!

Finally, through great design, we refreshed the brand--just a smidge--to make it more appealing to younger female audiences. Then, we carried out the new design and the new branding consistently--incredibly consistently--throughout the client's physical space, Web site, display materials and advertisements. Light on the tweaking, strong on the consistency!

Most of all, I am thrilled to see this client doing so well, achieving such success. And I invite our fellow marketing geniuses to share their success stories or fire away with their questions.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Weak Messages Won't Work

Actual message spotted today on a retail display rack in a bank:

"Our Featured Product of the Month"

This gem of a headline was spotted on a stand-up rack filled with brochures, right inside the entryway of a bank.

This message is boring and completely void of customer focus. And, I must say, in my experience, this is not uncommon in retail banking marketing materials.

Imagine the customer's thoughts: "I just can't wait for August to arrive so that I can run down to the bank and see what product they'll be featuring!"

I mean, really ... come on!

Who cares what YOU have elected to feature? What does the customer want and need? And, far more importantly, tell me about the benefit of your product. How is this banking product going to improve my life? Give me the benefit! (Here's more information on understanding benefits.)
Is it going to make me wealthier ... more attractive ... perhaps help me to live longer?

"Our Featured Product of the Month."

Does that make you want to pick up the brochure? Does it compel you to learn more about the product?

Suffice to say, I'll bet that the bank does not have to refill that brochure rack very often, if ever! The marketing genius knows that it is ultra-important to craft strong, effective compelling messages.

Keys to Promoting Events Successfully - Part Two

We have found that it is getting tougher and tougher, to get the people you want and need to come to your important event to actually attend. The problem is two-fold. People are busier. They are also being bombarded with requests to attend events. That means there's more competition for their valuable, scarce time.

No matter if your event is an annual meeting or a fundraiser or an educational seminar or a sales presentation. No matter if your event is in the morning or the evening ... food or no food, you have to be lucky or smart to end up with a full room on the appointed date and time of your big event. Oh sure, you could pay people to $100 ... or you could hire a celebrity or sports hero to entice people to attend. Either tactic might boost the numbers. Most of us do not have such a rich marketing treasure chest. Now, as for luck, we'll leave that to others and focus on helping you become a smarter event promoter. So here goes!

Earlier this month we introduced you to the RSVP model for event promotion. Here are more helpful insights for you:

V - Variety
To get your invitee to respond, it is no longer enough to mail him an engraved invitation. You have to communicate the information about your event through a variety of channels. Invite them by way of a mailed piece, fine. But combine that tactic with an e-mail invitation. And don't forget to use the media. Hit your invitee in her mailbox. Hit her in her inbox (e-mail). And also hit her in her newspaper and even her radio station. Yes, if you are crafty and persuasive you can get your event covered in the media. Don't expect an expose, though; a simple announcement is much more likely--and still helpful.

P - Packaging
If you want to cut through the clutter and have your invitees pay attention to your invitation and your event, you have to package it. Make it interesting. Add some sizzle. Build up anticipation for the event. Make it a don't-miss-event-of-the-year. Explain why your event is valuable and important. How can you make it more fun ... more important ... or more enticing? Example: "Attend our annual meeting where you'll have the chance to visit with 20 of the city's most successful business owners."

Another example: one of our client's opened a new facility in one of the city's oldest hotels, a 1920's era building. We gave the grand opening a Roaring Twenties theme, complete with period props, caterers dressed in period costumes and a big band playing swing tunes. It was a smashing success, something different.

Look, there's no cookie-cutter solution. You have to be creative--and you have to know your audience. To be sure there's a fine line between unique and cheesy; your job is to know that balance point. We're not here to give you the one answer. The point is that marketing geniuses avoid going through the same old tired, mindless tactics that no longer work.

Keep visiting this blog. There's more to come on this topic!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Two Things Learned on Vacation

Hello marketing geniuses. I am just back from a nice, long vacation. One week at the beach with family. I have returned feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, if not a tiny bit sluggish. Vacation was wonderful!

While away, intentionally trying not to learn, I learned a couple of things that are worth sharing.

Came across this factoid in some newspaper or magazine--not sure where or what though, because I wasn't trying to learn:

At least 50% of the time, the content in an e-mail message is misinterpreted by the recipient of the message.

Does that fit with your experience. It does with mine. E-mail is fine for some types of communication ... horrible for others.

Less number two. Learned at the Skee ball section of the arcade. You all know Skee ball, right? You roll a series of baseball-sized balls up a ramp, attempting to land them in target rings worth varying points.

This tiny, little girl on the lane next to me is just plain killing it. She's racking up points in the 250 plus range each round, while yours truly is hovering around the 100 range. She ripping off strips of prize tickets longer than my arm; I am getting three or four tickets, max. My strategy, which was clearly not fruitful, was to try to get respectable points on each toss. Aim for the safe middle, more or less. As I'm watching this little, blonde-haired, ponytail wearing, Skee-ball dervish rack up the points, I begin to observe her strategy. She has the devil-may-care, Kamikaze approach. Aim for the smallest, highest-point target every time.

Finally, sporting an ear to ear smile, she turns to me and says, "Hey Mister. You gotta aim for the 100 every time. You gotta go for the big points, man."

I ask you, the marketing geniuses. In your business, are you playing it safe and aiming for the middle? Or are you going for the big points, man?"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

What Does Tiger Woods Have that You Don’t?

If you’re not as successful as you’d like to be, I’d argue its focus. In fact, as I was watching Tiger win the British Open today, it occurred to me that his whole game (and whole life for that matter) is a study in focus. The lesson? Greatness is achieved through the ability to concentrate on what’s important, and ignore the siren call of what’s not.

Along those lines, I commend one of my clients who recognized that their staff was being pulled in too many directions by Board members, committee whims, vendors – even their own lack of direction – and decided to do something about it. In short, they created what I call a “Proclamation of Focus”, which is essentially a letter that outlines what their priorities are for the upcoming year. Here’s an excerpt:

“We must recognize that our resources, particularly staff resources, are very limited. It is incumbent on the Board to allow the staff to focus (as well as focusing their own time and effort) on those areas most likely to make the biggest difference.

If we can do that, we will succeed. If we are distracted from that focus, we will fail. In this critical time, activities undertaken must be evaluated as they relate to this plan, and above all, as they relate to two key considerations: mission and financial bottom line. If an activity does not relate to mission, it must be one that will have a significant impact on the bottom line. If it meets neither criterion, then it is simply not something we can concern itself with at this time.”

Isn’t that great? It goes on to list the organization’s ten goals for the year, followed by the steps needed to achieve them – in bullets no less. As their director said to me recently, “If it’s on the document, we’ll do it. If it’s not, we won’t.”

I think Tiger would be proud.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Keys to Successful Event Promotion

In our increasingly saturated, information overload world, it's getting harder and harder to get people to attend events. It doesn't seem to matter whether it is a party or an educational seminar or a demonstration.

People are busy, to be sure. It also seems that the people who we want to come to our event are getting hit with tons of other invitations from people urging them to come to their events. Not to mention the fact that our invitees are working longer hours, and they're busy parenting their active, involved kids.

So what's a marketing genius to do? Before you raise your arms in exasperation, try the RSVP approach. It's the smarter way of promoting events.

R - Repetition
You have to send your message multiple times. That busy invitee may toss the first invitation. The second one might come at the wrong time ... but that third request catches her just when she has a free moment to focus. If your budget allows, plan and deploy a series of communications to promote your event. Start with a teaser, then send a "Save the Date" message. Continue with the official invitation and follow it with a news clipping about your event. Later, send a friendly reminder, followed by a blurb along the lines of "Look Who's Coming!" If you are operating on a shoe-string budget, you would be wise to send the exact same invitation two or three times, simply to ensure that it gets through. A repetitive communication series gets results. A one-shot invitation gets ignored, misplaced or trashed.

S - Simplicity
How simple can you make it for your invitee to attend your event? I mean, really, really simple. Can you make it so easy that all she has to do is show up? Ask yourself: Is the response step really necessary? Could we go with "Regrets only?" Do not require an RSVP, unless it is truly needed. If you are inviting via e-mail, make it simple for them to just click "Reply" to register. Avoid using a complicated Web form, if possible. Simplify your process; it will make things easier on you and your guests.

There you have the "R" and the "S" of the RSVP approach. We'll share the rest with you over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Word on Copywriting

Why do clients routinely take good, engaging copy and turn it into something that reads like a college textbook? I understand that businesses want their products to be credible and that credibility often comes with some wordy baggage.

BUT, according to the Newspaper Association of America, we are exposed to more than 3,000 advertising images every day in the U.S. If you bore your customer in the first second, you’ve lost them – perhaps for good.

I just randomly opened a magazine and found an ad for a flooring company. Here’s the copy:

We have made it easy for you to add comfort, style and color with new floor covering! With the special pricing now available, you can’t help but redecorate! So come on in and take advantage of…….zzzzzzzz.”

Sorry….I dozed off there. Who writes this stuff and why – why – does it get to print day after day? As someone who writes for a living, I can tell you first-hand that a lot of business owners spend more time analyzing their screensavers than their marketing copy.

So I challenge you to pull out all of your marketing from the last six months or so and take a long, hard look at it. Keep in mind:

- If you skip over the copy in your own materials, chances are your clients will too.

- The more exclamation points you have in your copy, the less your customers will believe you.

- When it comes to copy for print ads, less is more. Make your point with design.

- Save the academic text for academics. Marketing is entertainment. (Didn’t used to be, but it is now.)

In short, copywriting is both an art and a science. To be effective, you have to know what you’re doing. So don’t put Herb from Accounting in charge. Hire a reputable marketing agency or read up on it yourself. One of the best books I’ve found for would-be copywriters is Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads. Good luck!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Marketing Sherpa's Best Blogs 2006

Congratulations to this year's cast of winners! The results are in and the winners of Marketing Sherpa's Best Blogs 2006 - Reader's Choice Awards are posted on their site.
We're so proud to have received recognition in 2005 and to be mentioned along with this prestigious group of marketing geniuses! Please go check out the winning blogs ... and tell them that the folks at Marketing Genius from Maple Creative sent you.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!!