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?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Artists.MTV: Smart or Just More Confusion?

It feels a little bit like deja vu.

This month Viacom's MTV announced a "MySpace"-like initiative called Artists.MTV.  The basic idea is to provide music artists a centralized place to access MTV's 60 million+ monthly visitors.  Aritsts.MTV will allow musicians to "claim" their sites and upload music, videos, photos, and link their "pages" with social-media accounts and other online shopping carts. "Pages" will go public at MTV's Video Music Awards this fall.

We've seen this before.  MySpace's music initiative was a mildly successful attempt at the same "thing."  Digital downloads have driven the price of music down to very affordable levels for consumers.   Once there were only a few places for consumers to get their media.  Now the problem is that there are almost too many places to get your music, music videos, and self-promote.  Add the juggernaut of iTunes into the picture, which is estimated to have up to 70% of digital music sales market share, and one has to wonder if anyone can change consumer's buying and mind-share habits.  At first glance, Artist.MTV could just be adding to the current marketplace confusion outside of the iTunes ecosystem.  But if you take another look at it, it very well could be extremely smart.

One of the biggest pet peeves of many artists is that they don't get a large enough cut of music sales revenue.  Over the last decade, declining CD sales revenue, piracy and a paradigm shift to digital music sales have steadily lowered the revenue artists receive from their music. Lower concert-ticket sales have also lowered the income artists receive each year.  According to Shannon Connolly, VP of digital-music strategy at MTV Music Group, "We felt like the world needed a place that's comprehensive and thorough, and that allows artists to connect with fans at scale...The goal is to help artists get paid." Summarizing their efforts, Ms. Connolly commented that ..."the goal here is to give artists the opportunity to monetize what they do...artists can get heard, get promoted and get paid."

What?  They want the artists to get paid?

It may be a basic play off of greed, but quite frankly, it may be enough to make a difference.  The Artists.MTV initiative (which includes the  VH1 and CMT brands) will share sales revenue with artists and ANY ad revenue generated on the pages through an agreement with Topspin Media.  This also gives artists the ability to receive the majority of revenue from sales of music, tickets and merchandise.  An increased share of sales may be the "ticket" to show iTunes, and other record companies, some real competition.

Digital sales, the digital marketplace, self-selling and self distribution are all meant to increase the income of the actual creators and producers.  Artist.MTV may actually be more than lip-service.  It may actually be the real deal.  Only time, and MTV's 60 million monthly visitors, and a significant marketing campaign, will be what tells us if anything can crack the thick shell of the iTunes ecosystem and the traditional record companies distribution network.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Data: Knowing How Your Customers Use Media

I can't say this enough, so I will say it again:  It's all about Data.

Another illustration: today the Pew Research Center released the results of a recent survey, stating that less than 10 percent of people are using social media for up-to-date news.  So what does this mean?

I think we can gleam a few points:

1) This shows that your customers are probably using Facebook and Twitter for other types of information.  Social media is a losing proposition and a waste of resources if it isn't used properly.  Know where your customers are looking before releasing any type of news.

2) Press releases and other types of media announcements should not be on social media as a primary method of dissemination.  Social media should be a part of the whole information release strategy.  As with any properly constructed strategic marketing, a variety of communication methods should be used.  Social media may be cheaper to use, but it's going to cost you real dollars through lost sales if you're not getting information out via the proper channels.

3) Social media's value is in it's ability to give marketer's a more direct, personal connection with their customers.  Press releases and product information don't build customer equity.  Personal, meaningful connections with products and brands build customer equity.  Social media gives us one of the best avenues ever to build equity with our customers.

As always, armed with the right data, our jobs as marketers becomes much easier.  Don't waste your company's time or money.  Arm yourself with the right data so you can use the tools available in the most effective manner.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reality Check: Marketing Defined

Every so often you have to evaluate how you are doing.  If you are a marketing professional, it's your responsibility.  So when is the last time you stepped back, and took a look at what you were doing?  Sometimes the best way to do that is to start with the basic definition of marketing.

The simplest definition of marketing I can think of is: Managing profitable customer relationships.  The goals are to attract new customers through superior value, and to keep growing customers by delivering customer satisfaction.  If you are doing these things, then you will be able to capture value from customers to create profits and customer equity.

So if we break this down, then we get some basic questions that are extremely useful for evaluating your current strategic marketing plans:

1) Are your customer relationships profitable?
If you're not making money, then it's time to start figuring out why.  Start collecting data and begin looking for trends.  It's going to take time to get things back to profitability, so it's best to get started now.

2) Are you attracting new customers?
As much as we hate to admit it, we're always going to lose a customer.  Even the most loyal customers may eventually buy another brand.  If you're not attracting new customers, eventually your sales will fall flat, and you will not be profitable.  So what are you doing to attract new customers?  What value proposition are you presenting to them?  Are you properly differentiated from your competition in your target market?  If your value proposition isn't clear, if you're not clearly different from your competitors, then confusion may be keeping customers from being convinced you are the solution to their want or need.

3) Are you creating satisfied customers?
Are product's perceived performance exceeding expectations?  Meeting expectations? Are customers buying your goods and services again?  Are you gaining new customers?  Or are you dealing with dissatisfied customers and poor sales?  Remember that customer value and satisfaction are the building blocks for developing and managing your customer relationships.

4) Do you have key measurements of your customer equity?  
Customer equity measurements can be better indicators of your performance than sales and market share numbers.  If sales are high, and market share is high, but your customer equity is low, you're going to be losing sales and profits will be tanking soon.  Get some data so you can make some real decisions.

Sit down by yourself, and with your team, and take a day to honestly answer the above questions.  You may be surprised at some of the responses.  Now may be a great time to make adjustments to your strategic marketing plans.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Media Consumption In A Digital Age: It's One Big Experiment

In the past, there was a silver screen, a few broadcasters, and a lot of paper.  If you wanted to watch something, you sat in front of someone's television or a theater screen.  If you wanted to listen to music, it was on a stereo - home or portable.  If you wanted to read something, or take something with you, it was most likely printed on paper.  You were in your home, in a movie theater, picked up the mail, or you went to a store to purchase your entertainment.

A few large companies controlled the publishing and availability of the media you chose to consume.  Prices were pretty much the same everywhere you went.  Competition was non-existent.  That's the way it was.  Then this "thing" called the personal computer appeared.  Then the internet appeared.  Everything changed, and it still is.

Last year Time, Inc. hoped to take advantage of it's multiple consumption and distribution publishing model. Time Inc. was attempting to bundle "digital" media with a traditional print subscription under an "All Access" strategy - which would have eliminated print-only subscriptions in the process - and would have allowed Sports Illustrated to raise its price to $48 from $39. Sports Illustrated reversed course in January.  Said Steve Sachs, Executive VP of Consumer Marketing and Sales, "That price, we found, was higher than the market commanded.  Monica Ray, the Executive Vice President of Conde Nast, commented, "The whole industry has the opportunity to redefine what a subscription is."

What kind of subscriptions do consumers want?  Is a "subscription" model appropriate anymore?  How do I find out?  The only way you can find out is by collecting data.  Without data, you're making decisions in the dark, you are walking around blind.  Since the way consumers consume media is changing, we need to be collecting data and study how our customers are using our media products.  If we don't adapt, if we aren't willing to constantly evolve our model of media delivery, we will forever be stuck in our traditions, and more media institutions will perish.

There are no longer a few ways to consume media.  Now there are many publishers, many screens, and the vast majority of them are portable.  Oh ... there still is some paper too.  Because traditional publishing methods have changed drastically from decades of old, traditional media publishers are walking around blindfolded, feeling their way around a media consumption environment that they no longer control.  Today publishing in a digitally dominated ecosystem has become one big experiment, and understanding what will work for you is all about knowing your customer ... and that requires data.