The Value Proposition

Why should a consumer buy from you?

Competitive Advantages

What makes you better than your competition?

Choosing A Differentiation Strategy

You chose a target market, now what?

Monday, January 30, 2012

What Are You Doing To Create Awareness Today?

Did you do anything to market yourself today other than think about it?

Marketing doesn't happen by itself.  You have to do it.

People don't find out about you on their own.  They won't bring up Google and search for you unless they have a reason to do so.

So what are you doing today to create awareness?

If you need a jump start, here are some ideas that might be relevant to your customers:

1. Offer A Discount
Sometimes the easiest way to drive traffic to your website, or to retailer locations, is to offer a discount or a coupon.  However, remember that spending money can be an incredibly emotional thing.  The right price, or discount, can drive a person to spend money "easily" without any thought.  5%-10% off might not be the ticket.  Don't be afraid to explore 20%, even 30-40% off.  If you're concerned about your margins, make it a limited or exclusive offer to a select group of customers.  Once they are in the door, they tend to buy more.

2. Hold A Product Demo Event
People love to research products, and price-shop online.  But at the end of the day, a consumer that touches the product, tries it, and likes it, usually ends up buying it.  Consider putting on a demo event in a location that contains your primary customer demographic.

3. Ask For Product Testimonials Via Social Media
Social media makes it very easy to connect with your customers.  It can be a customer service haven and nightmare.  One of my favorite uses of social media is testimonials.  It's as easy as this:  Ask users of your product to submit positive experiences of your product: video is preferred, text and pictures are great as well.  Incentives are a must.  Offer discounts off of new product, or free accessories to those consumers whose testimonial you choose to post.  Post one a week for 13 weeks - the length of a typical television or radio ad buy.

4. Participate In Online Communities
This fourth option can take the most work, but it can reap some of the largest gains for building your brand's credibility.  It's as simple as joining relevant forums and blogs.  Put your name and company in your signature.  Make it clear who you are.  Offer advice and sensible solutions.  However, you cannot blatantly advertise your product in your posts.  It's best to offer sound advice that may or may not include any of your specific products.  Over time you will see a few benefits:
- Community members will see you as an expert
- Community members will begin to explore your website and your product
- All of your posts will be indexed by search engines (like Google) and it will increase the amount of searchable, relevant content about you online.

It's a good idea to put one of your best PR reps or customer service representatives in charge of online community participation.  Your Social Media Director is a great fit as well.  You can take this a step further by becoming an advertiser in that online community.  This allows you to blatantly post about your product and any specials you may be offering.

These four things are simple, yet highly effective ways to increase Brand Awareness for little cost other than labor and time.  If appropriate, and if used in a focused manner, they are a great way to connect with current and future customers, and can provide a great ROI for a little marketing budget expenditure.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Department Store Finally Evolves

Well maybe it already did, through Kohls.  But I digress...back on topic.

Yesterday JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson announced sweeping changes in an effort to refresh the brand, and the department store "way" of selling product. 

It's about time. 

During Mr. Johnson's tenure at Apple, his team, "always parked at the department stores...because there 'weren't any cars.'.  You know you have a problem when people are using your parking lots to visit other retail locations other than your own.  Mr. Johnson, while noting that JC Penney was in it's 110th year, said, "I believe the department store is the No. 1 opportunity in American retail. And this isn't something I decided last June when I took the job. This is something I decided 10, 15 years ago."

So what does this new opportunity look like? 

First, it starts with a dramatically more realistic product pricing structure.  Consumers rarely purchase products at full price.  In any economy, up or down, consumers are more willing to part with their dollars when products cost less, ie: when they are on sale.  Mr. Johnson, acknowledging this, is leading JC Penney to adopt a "fair and square" pricing model.  It's this simple: If a T-shirt that usually is priced at $14 but typically sold for closer to $6, will be priced at $7. This puts it right in line with what a consumer was actually paying for that shirt.  If it's a featured product, it will be priced at $6. Clearance time: $4. This change alone should help to drive sales.  Why?  It allows JC Penney to sell product at prices consumers are willing to pay, instead of constantly holding onto inventory, and hoping to clear it out every quarter. 

The second thing Mr. Johnson is doing is completely revamping JC Penney's promotional calendar and spending.  Currently, JC Penney's sales year has 590 promotional events.  Mr. Johnson wants to reduce that to 12.  The reason: noise.  When you are constantly promoting promotion after promotion, it creates "noise" for the consumer, and eventually it all blends together and the consumer doesn't know what to focus on.  As a retailer, you become less relevant and harder to keep track of. 

To illustrate his point, Mr. Johnson had presentation attendees walk down a hall covered with old ads and circulars, calling it the "Hall of Hell." Promotional spending will also change; instead of $2 million per promotion, JC Penney will now devote $80 million a month towards entire product line promotion.

This is so refreshing.  To finally see a department store (or any big-box retailer other than Walmart) understand that their pricing structure and promotional model is so out of touch with consumer buying habits is amazing.  For that brand to make realistic ... frankly common sense changes ... is fantastic.  I sincerely believe that, if successful, JC Penney will force their competitors to re-brand and re-price.

Consumers will be the beneficiaries of these changes.  Products will sell for lower, more realistic prices.  Sales will increase, and retailers may begin to see the growth that they have been hoping for. 

I hope JC Penney succeeds.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Targeting Ads Via Smart TV's Will Alienate Consumers

Let me say that I love technology.  I love gadgets.  I wish I had the money to buy more gadgets and try them out.  I love iPads, and iPods, and TV's and game consoles.  I have a special affinity for the good old fashioned television.  I'm a picture snob.  The idea of a "smart tv" with services such as Hulu and Netflix built in are interesting to me.  I've also come to accept the fact that "free" TV comes at a cost: the advertisement. 

I love the "ad".  It's a great way to reach a targeted audience.  It's an effective marketing and branding tool when used appropriately.  But allowing manufacturers to create their own ad networks and present ads via "smart tv's" is just a really fast way to alienate both the buyers of TV's and the viewers of media content.

At CES on January 9th, Samsung announced that it would enable the delivery of ads to a TV user's "home screen", even in 3-D on so-equipped models.  In November 2011, LG made a similar announcement.  This isn't a new model.  TIVO has delivered ads in it's DVR software, and many MSO's such as Cox and Time Warner display ads or poll-type questions via set top box software as well.

As it stands now, the current model is mostly passive.  A user may see an ad on a part of a screen they are on.  It is not part of the content they are about to consume, and it is not a road block that they must endure before viewing content, like the Hulu model for free users.  However, this could easily turn into a model where a television user, through the TV's operating system software, is forced to view an ad before tuning a live channel or opening an "app".  This absolutely cannot happen.  If after spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a television, I must be forced to view an ad to do anything on my set, you will immediately alienate me as a customer, and the ad sponsor may also lose brand credibility with me.  The potential consumer backlash could be considerable.

Television is a passive form of entertainment.  It should never be active.  It should never be difficult for a consumer to get to the content they want to consume.  If there are too many road blocks (ads), then they will give up and not view the content.  This could keep eye balls off of sets, and off of normal broadcast and cable content, reducing ratings and potentially lowering the inherent value of  advertisement delivery via television.

This development does nothing but attempt to give TV's manufacturers a slice of the ad revenue pie, and in the process hurt the advertising industry as a whole.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Organic Thinking

As we begin the new year, we often reflect on the past.  We think about our good and bad habits.  We think about what we loved, what we regretted, and what we want to change.  We sometimes spend a lot of time thinking, and very little time doing.  Maybe it's time to change the way we think, which in turn, may help us to "do" more effectively.

Have you ever thought about thinking organically?

Organic thinking is less organized and less structured.  Similar to brainstorming, organic thinking allows your thoughts and ideas to appear freely, without immediate evaluation or consideration.  Simply put, when you are organically thinking, you are allowing one thought to lead to another, and another, and another. Why would you want to do this?  Why would you effectively allow your brain to think without "thinking"?

The first reason is it makes it easier for you to be creative.  When you think organically, you don't constrain yourself with constant self-evaluation.  You don't hold back.  You suggest ideas as they come.  As with brainstorming, you must make sure you document everything that pours out of your brain.  Once you do that, then it is the appropriate time to evaluate and critique.

By holding back your critique until after an organic thinking session, you make it safer for you and your team to put any and all ideas out there, no matter how outlandish or "stupid" one might be.  What you will often find is a couple of golden nuggets of suggestions, solutions or paths that no one person on their own may have come up with if they are scared to be judged by someone else.  Often a combination of ideas will lead to a better solution.

The next time you have a problem to solve or a product to pitch, allowing yourself to think organically will give you and your team more freedom to explore any and all possible ideas.  You will also find that as a whole, you will be more creative as well.