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Why some marketing doesn’t work – and what you can do about it

April 7, 2010
A brochure for the 1970s BSA range

Rocket Power - by the early 1970s, BSA had fallen into the hands of marketing consultants and stylists who lost touch with customer trends

 

Marketers trying to improve the performance of their activities look first at their database. Quite right too – it is by the far the greatest driver of profitable marketing.  But the slavish use of data alone will ultimately produce tired marketing.  A fresh approach is needed. Here are some useful pointers to consider when using data and constructing the marketing message: 

1. Who exactly is your customer these days? 

In a B2C environment, often the customer is the end user. But this is less true than before. Today, brand and image mean that B2C purchases also require peer-approval so marketing needs to focus on not just the user but also the social approver. In B2B, a whole host of decision-makers come into play so marketing messages need to be generated for the decision-maker, influencer, recipient, etc. So messages need to create benefits to all the in the decision panel. But think carefully who these people may be – they could differ significantly from who they used to be.  For example, in the past, the IT manager might have approved an online solution whereas today it is more likely to be the marketing person. 

2. How have your customers changed in their expectations of what they want from you? 

30 years ago, the encyclopaedias market was a significant revenue driver for legal publishers. Today, markets have become more savvy with demand for vertical products, pay as you go access etc. The web provides free information so why should customers pay for yours? Can marketers make the case for paid-for information after years of taking it free – as readers of the Times Online edition are now being asked to do. Failure to anticipate or understand these drivers and to produce old marketing will result in marketing failures and poor ROI. 

3. Have your markets segmented into ever-tighter niche groups? 

In the past, companies could get by with umbrella branding to create an emotional stickiness implant into their consumers’ minds. But today, many old brands have begun to produce sub-brands to attract different needs. Some publishers, such as John Wiley, have successfully created niche brands such as the “For Dummies” series or the Capstone range of accessible business books. But new brands require new personalities and those personalities need to reflect their intended users’ aspirations. Simply redesigning a series of book jackets, for example, rather than reinvigorating the contents merely continues to engender a product range with the same weariness it was trying to cast off. 

4. How do your customers decide? 

What are the emotions onto which you can pin a brand addiction? Are your customers outgrowing your brand model and exercising greater power? A brand cannot simply be invented, it needs a power of its own if it is to resist customers who know how to drive a hard bargain. In recessionary times, for example, different purchasing criteria come into play. We know that people don’t stop buying in a recession but we don’t know what percentage may stop buying as a result of belt-tightening. The marketer needs to understand those segments which might be most at risk and develop profitable strategies to deal with them rather than either surrendering a sale altogether or offering over-lenient price cuts. Equally, they need to understand those segments most likely to continue paying top dollar and develop retention strategies to suit them too. 

I have worked in a range of different businesses and methodology varies according to financial circumstance. Yet in no business have I seen a policy of panic and fear create true customer understanding. Now, more than ever before, businesses need to invest in product management policies, sophisticated competitive intelligence and strong data management in order to change with their customers. Data lies at the centre of this approach but only if managed with sophistication tied in with business strategy. 

Hoping simply to ride the storm rather than trying to understand the future is a recipe for disaster. Planning and predictive intelligence is now crucial as the world moves ever faster.

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