Sunday, December 13, 2015

Know Your Marketing: Chapter 1. Know Your Customer

I have been doing marketing for some time, and have decided to write a book about it. This is partly because I want to share my knowledge, and partly because when I offer my marketing experience, some think that it is just a salesman trick to get my foot in the door rather than a sincere offer to help with their marketing.

I would like input as I write so I can stay on the right track, so please comment or email me with your comments and suggestions.

I am tentatively calling the book Know Your Marketing, but I'm open to suggestions.

Chapter 1. Know Your Customer

Customer Versus Consumer
Let us first define one key set of terms: “customer” and “consumer”. The distinction I about to make is slightly different from the definitions you will find in the dictionary, but the dictionary, while excellent for definitions and spellings has never been a strong resource for business advice.
The word customer uses the British root “custom”, as in “If your service is unsatisfactory, I shall take my custom elsewhere.” The customer is the one who gives you money for your goods and services.
The consumer, on the other hand is the one who actually consumes your goods or services.

What’s the difference? For many businesses, there is no difference. The customer and consumer are the same. However, for many businesses they are quite different. If you make scarves and sell them to stores, the store is your customer. However, the store owner and his staff do not wear the 1200 scarves you sell to them. They turn around and sell the scarves to their customers. It is the store’s customers who are your consumers. They “consume” or use your product.

In this indirect business model, the people who actually wear your scarves will never give you money directly, yet they are a critical part of your business. It doesn’t matter if the store owners think your scarves are the best that they have ever seen. If the consumers do not buy them from the stores, the stores will not buy them from you.

It can be even more complex if you are selling to a distributor who sells to stores who sell to customers. To an extreme example, let us say that you make a unique product that is used in crafting gift items. You sell your product to a distributor who sells it to stores who sell it to crafters who put it into gift items which they sell to stores who sell it to consumers.

Why is this important? In the craft example above, you are dealing with 5 separate markets. There must be consumers who want to buy the finished items. There must be stores who believe there is a market for the finished items. There must be crafters who want to make the finished items and believe there are stores to buy them. There must be craft stores who believe there are crafters to buy your product. There must be distributors who believe their stores will buy your product. Each of these constituencies has different needs and motivations, and you must understand all of them and have a compelling story for all of them.

Maybe you are a crafter yourself and you created your product because you know it solves a problem that you have. That gives you a very compelling story for a crafter, but the store does not care about this problem except in so much as it will drive crafter consumers to buy the product.

Influencers Effect on Your Consumer
Whatever you make or do, there is ultimately someone who will make use of it. That individual exists within a system of people and influences. Let us a take a simple example. Imagine a stereotypical 60s TV family: Mom, Dad, and the kids Billy and Suzy. Dad works at the office and Mom takes care of the family affairs.

Most people reading this in the 2010s are probably appalled at my choice of example. A 60’s style nuclear family? I use the example for the same reason that a modern reader might find it peculiar. It is oversimplified. As I move through this example, you will see that even in this oversimplified family, there is great complexity. From there, imagine how much more complex things are with modern and realistic dynamics.

It is important to understand, that we understand the world through simplified models, in which we discard the details which we hope are not crucial. The more details we include, the more accurate the model of a thing is, but the more cumbersome it is to understand. The perfect model would not discard a single aspect of the thing, but such a model would be the thing itself, and thus of no use as a model.

So, back to Mom, Dad, Billy, and Suzy. Mom does all the grocery shopping. She goes to the store, picks the items, and pays for them. Mom appears to have the decision making authority so she would be the target market for any item sold in the grocery store. In the Customer/Consumer model discussed above, she is the consumer. As a maker of a grocery item, you would target your advertising to her, then you would focus your sales efforts on the grocery store that your product is in.

In the real world, we know it’s not that simple. Around a consumer, there is a constellation of “influencers”: people who influence the buying decision even though they are not directly involved in it. Mom must take into account the family’s desires. Mom may be at the store making the choices, but if Dad sees marketing that convinces him that real men eat Westco’s corn-fed beef, then he might push for that purchase. Billy might see cereal commercials that make him want to collect all the toys in SugaryOs. Suzy might have heard in school about the plight of migrant workers and want Mom to buy local produce.

There is a long chain of decision makers that extends from your business down to where your product or service is purchased and beyond that determines the market for your product. To  market successfully, you must understand every link in the chain and how you can influence it. In each transaction that your product passes through, understand who is involved in the decision. Who are the influencers? Is there a business partner or advisor involved? Is there a spouse or family member? Will the buyer be considering the opinions of friends, coworkers, or the community of their purchase?

Tastes Great, Less Filling
Story sources and
In the 1960s, there was a recognized gap in the American beer market. Men were beginning to become more aware of the importance of eating right and staying healthy. Beer is a fairly high calorie beverage, and a lower calorie version would appeal to many men. There was  problem. “Diet” products were generally thought to be for women. Men did not want to be seen as less manly by drinking a “diet” beer, although they might be interested in the health benefits of a healthier drink. With men being the primary consumers of beer, bars, the customers of the beer distributors, stocked very little if any of the diet beer.

Miller Brewing Company had a product that could exploit this market but knew that its consumers were concerned about image, so they launched a marketing campaign to not only appeal to their consumers, but also to change the opinions of those who influenced their direct consumers. They hired retired athletes, coaches and celebrities, including Bubba Smith, Dick Butkus, Bob Uecker, John Madden, Red Auerbach, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, Joe Frazier and Rodney Dangerfield. Manly men! Men so manly that if the ad campaign had shown them carrying purses, it would have made people consider purses manly.

These manliest of men were shown to drink light beer and argue in their manly voices as to whether Miller Lite were better describe as tasting great or being less filling. The one thing no one
was arguing about anymore was whether it was okay for a man to drink light beer in public.

This great shift in the market occurred Miller understood that they needed to first understand and then market to their consumers’ influencers, not just the consumers themselves. Chances are, if you are reading this book, you don’t have the resources to launch a national campaign to change the public’s view of a product, but you can at least seek to understand how the people who influence your consumers feel about your product.

And That Means...
There is a saying in the world of sales: sell the sizzle, not the steak. When someone considers a purchase, their interest is not in what the product is but what it can do for them. In my work selling printing and mailing services, if I am suggesting that someone get a brochure made, I do not tell them about the quality of the paper stock and about how the brochure will contain text and images laid out in a pleasing format. They are not interested in the details of what a brochure is. What they want to know is that a brochure is a low-cost, easy to distribute vehicle to get information about their business to their customer. The brochure is a tool that will bring them more business, because ultimately, that is what a business owner wants: more business!

Think about most marketing that you see. A billboard for Six Flags shows people in a roller coasters with excited expressions. That advertisement is selling fun and excitement. It says, come to Six Flags and be this smiling person. What would be more effective, that kind of advertisement, or a billboard telling you how many rides they have and how late they are open in the season and what admission costs and other factual details? Obviously, the ad that sells the fun, and that is why they use that.

When I sold cars, I had a sales manager who taught us the expression ATM: “And That Means”. Of course, it also means “Automated Teller Machine,” which he said was appropriate because both forms of ATM get you money. It is a great expression because it reminded us to put things in terms that the customer would care about.

“This car has Electronic Stability Control,” says the salesman.

Woop-di-doo, who cares? thinks the customer.

“And that means that when you are driving your family in the car and hit a patch of slick pavement, the vehicle will automatically adjust steering, braking, and engine power to keep you on the road and safe, keeping you safe from an accident that would have otherwise happened.”

That’s something I care about, thinks the customer.

The best examples that we see of this strategy is with products that people don’t like to talk about: products like adult diapers, tampons, and hemorrhoid cream. Think of the commercials that you see for these products. In many of them, the product is never actually shown. Instead, the commercials show people being happy, free, and liberated.

Consider the Charmin “Enjoy the Go” campaign. This is the text on Charmin’s “About Us” page
Life is full of little pleasures.
Watching the sunset. A hug from your kids. Walking barefoot in the sand.
And going to the bathroom.
Trouble is, you might not always take the time to enjoy these little moments as much as you should.
Especially when it comes to going to the bathroom.
At Charmin, we want you to enjoy going to the bathroom as much as we do.
The relief. The calm. The clean. The joy. The pride.
And we believe you can’t do that if you finish it all off with the wrong tissue.
Which is why we make a tissue that’s just right for everybody.
That's why Charmin users actually look forward to going to the bathroom; why they enjoy being in there; and why they aren't afraid to show it.
Fact is…
We all go to the bathroom.
Those who go with Charmin really Enjoy the Go.

For those of you not familiar who may have thought that this was some sort of Tantric enlightenment ritual, Charmin is toilet paper. It’s paper that you use to clean your bumm after you do what you do. It is indeed soft, durable, high quality toilet paper, but it’s still toilet paper. It’s not infused with special herbs and perfumes to bring balance to your spirit.

They compare the experience that Charmin gives you to watching a sunset, getting a hug from your kids and walking barefoot in the sand. Let me tell you that, while I’m not a fan of walking barefoot in the sand, if there were any product sold in the grocery store that compared to getting a hug from my daughter, they could keep enough in stock to satisfy my demand.

Enjoy the Go is a very slick, expensive, marketing campaign, but there is a lot to be learned from it. Join me in this brief exercise.

Think about your own product or service. Take out a piece of paper. At the top of it write what it is. For example: “Brochure Printing”.

Under that, write the problem that is solves. e.g. “Solves the problem of being able to explain our business in depth and being able to share that with other customers”.

Next, we will consider what your product should do for the customer. “Distinguishes their company over the competition and increases sales.”

Here’s where it gets fun. Let us imagine that your product is incredibly successful at what it is supposed to do. Best case scenario. How would it change your customer’s life. “More revenue, more profit, more income personally. Less time spent marketing. Less time spent working. More time with the family.”

Keep following that line of thinking until you have a way to express the value proposition of your product that is incredibly compelling. Then call me and we’ll see about designing a brochure with that value proposition which will grow your business and give you more money and time with your family.

Of course I’m kidding about that last part, but you can see how making more money, having a more stable business, and more time with the family is a much more compelling selling point that a good looking folded piece of paper.