Are You Marketing Like a Republican?

People in bubbles

People in bubbles (Photo credit: viralbus)

A few days ago, the United States re-elected our president.  Most media predictions were for a tight race.  Republicans were crowing that they would win.

On election night, Republican advisor Karl Rove was stunned when the statisticians on Fox News called the state of Ohio for Obama. It was a massive disaster for the Republican party.

The next morning, radio host Rush Limbaugh seemed dazed. Instead of talking crow, they were eating it.

What caused this disastrous marketing campaign failure?

They were in a bubble.   All they heard were their own opinions and the views of other people who shared the same ideas.  They called other outlets the “lamestream media” or “liberals” (their synonym for dirty rotten scoundrels).

The Republicans kept trying to appeal to a shrinking demographic of older white men.  They kept beating the drums, throwing “red meat” to their party base; and never stopped to ask anyone else for an opinion.

The growing minority majority of Latinos, women, and African-Americans were appalled by calls to deport themselves, attempts to restrict voting, and medieval views on women’s rights.

They all voted for Obama  in huge numbers.

The Republicans lost.

Staying in your own bubble can be dangerous for political parties.  It’s hazardous for businesses as well.

Research your market

Think for a moment about your own business.  We can get caught up in our own bubbles too.  We know our products and services cold.  Our staff and partners know it.  We believe we should be hired over our competition.

Know your “why”

Is it clear to them how your product works?  Do they know about your special expertise in say, business-to-government selling?  Or are they aware of the successful email campaign you ran?  The one you had to stop promoting because it was a fire hazard.

Have you reached out to them?  Listened to their concerns?  Or just passed your new app back and forth between your engineers and your friends? Have you created a bra dryer? or an Iphone?

Send a survey occasionally  Or call for no particular reason.

Stand for something your customers care about and stick to it

Instead of stooping to the lowest level, or switching views every other day, stand for something.  Be different, and follow through.  If you say you’re great at customer service, then show it.  Percolate that mindset through every level of your company.

True story: Google sent a popular blogger a new Nexus tablet to review.  When he asked them when he should return it, they told him to keep it (and wished him an early happy birthday!).

Fix their problems

Republicans spent a lot of time talking about voter fraud.  There isn’t much.  They wanted to make the tragedy in Benghazi a talking point.  Then they kept supporting men who said almost unbelievably stupid things about women, veterans, and non-heterosexuals.

The country didn’t care about those things.  We cared about jobs.  And the economy.  And getting help from our national government when a natural disaster hit.

Delight your customers

Look at your own marketing efforts.  What compelling story do you tell?  What big (or even small, but annoying) problem do you solve?

How do you delight your customers?  I know a graphic designer who sends coasters (with her own original artwork) to her clients each holiday season.  Her clients love them, and eagerly await the new ones every year.

Another example of both delight and great service.  I bought something recently from Bare Necessities, washed it, and it turned horrid colors (like a bruise).  I emailed the company, they apologized, told me to send it back, and sent me a new one (with free shipping).  And, they delivered in the middle of a storm.

Guts or data?

Republicans relied on “gut feelings”, big donors, and lots of money.

Democrats went for data.  Time magazine reported that the Obama campaign had a huge data-crunching operation.  They tested email marketing subject lines.  They micro-targeted specific populations and counties.  They checked to see which appeals worked best for different demographics, and used them accordingly.

The campaign bought ads the same way, ignoring conventional news programming and opting for commercials on programs such as The Walking Dead.  Instead of gut feelings, they used hard data to find the right message, get that message to the right people, and get out the vote.

When you market your business, test your assumptions.  Create the perfect landing page.  Use different channels.  Test new offers.  Change prices.  Don’t assume you know what works (unless it’s worked before). Obama’s data team had pools on what would work.  Their guesses were often wrong.

Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, a chemical company, a store owner, or a graphic designer, you can’t succeed or stay in business without listening, researching, and testing.  Now go try something.

Are You Marketing the Wrong Way?

A reverse-colors "Wrong Way" sign on...

A reverse-color “Wrong Way” sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People try to sell you a lot of things nowadays.  There are ads nearly everywhere you look.  Subways, billboards, TV, even elevators and bathrooms.

You see it whether you want to or not.  Most of it is unfocused and rather random.  Ads for diapers, followed by one for beer, and then one for grass seed.

After a while, you start to tune it all out.  Rather than paying attention, you fast-forward, walk faster, or head to the kitchen for a snack.

Indundating isn’t marketing

They don’t seem to know, or care, what you want, so they bombard you with messages, hoping something sticks. Often, they repeat the same tired ad over and over (as if repetition will make it more interesting).

None of it is remarkable.

None of it is memorable.

GM just pulled its advertising from Facebook.  Nobody was buying cars from their ads.  None of the ads started a conversation; they just shouted.

It’s all failed marketing.

Trying to sell your services that way (a barrage of me! me! me!) doesn’t work. Customers aren’t there for you, you’re there for them.

Stop the failed marketing

Skip the “me! me! me!” and talk about “you! you! you!” instead.  Tell a story about previous customers used your products or services.  Describe how your customers feel after they buy from you.  Talk about what they will get from it and how your previous customers (and other people like your prospects) felt after using your services.  

Rather than “I’m a video trainer, hire me”, try “become a video star” or “go viral on Youtube.”

Notice the focus on emotions, rather than hard, cold facts.  People don’t make decisions based on facts; they make them based on feelings. Then they use the facts to justify their emotional choice.

Sell the hole, not the drill

It’s an old, old saying in marketing that you sell the result, not the how you got it: the hole, not the drill.

Processes are hard.  Results are fun. Many people want to lose weight, for example, but few people want to diet or exercise.  Exercising and dieting aren’t a lot of fun. Looking and feeling better (after you’ve lost those extra pounds is.)  Ads for diets never sell the process, only the result. What are  you really selling? Fame?  Money? Pride?  Happiness? Figure that out and your marketing will succeed.


The One Rule Your Marketing Writing Must Follow

one marketing ruleYou hear it often.

Everyone seems to agree on it.

It’s the only way that you’ll get attention. If you don’t follow this rule, your sales letters won’t be read, your posts will be abandoned, and your emails will sit unopened and unloved.

It’s funny how everyone says the same thing, and repeats it knowingly.

It’s too long

They said the same thing in Claude Hopkins’ day, back in 1920. People won’t read it. You have to write shorter sales letters or posts. People have short attention spans.  If you write something too long, nobody will read it. Some bloggers go so far as to include word counts and estimated reading times on their posts (don’t worry, I’ll only take up 3:31 of your time!). There’s even an internet abbreviation: TL, DR (too long, didn’t read).

It’s a trap

Readers avidly devour each Game of Thrones installment, despite the fact that the books are  about 1,000 pages long. A friend told me she read Shantaram in a few days (even though it’s 944 pages), because she was so entranced by it.

It’s not the length

The length of your email or sales letter, or post, isn’t what stops people from reading all of it. People don’t turn away because something is long. They leave because it’s dull. If you keep your readers’ interest, they’ll read every word. Bore them, and they’re gone.

Format for the screen

If you’re used to print, you will need to make a few changes for the web.  Break up the paragraphs into smaller pieces.  Use more line breaks, and more subheads.  It’s easier to read on a screen that way.

Good enough to share

Memorable, interesting posts (even ads) get shared, read, or watched over and over.  The length isn’t relevant. Don’t worry if it’s long; just make it interesting.

Meanwhile, if you could get George R.R. Martin to write faster, I’d appreciate it!

Photo: walknboston on flickr

Can a Great Guarantee Be Worthless?

My brother (the geek) told me that one of the big computer memory manufacturers offers a two-year guarantee.  If their memory fails, call them up and they’ll replace it.

Thumbs down

Image via Wikipedia

It sounds great, doesn’t it?

And refreshing too, since so few companies seem to want to stand by their products lately.

When I first heard this, I was ready to write down the name, and tell other people how great this business was.

They believed in guarantees, they took care of their customers, and it all sounded wonderful.

Almost too good to be true.

Turns out it is too good to be true. The company will fix your problem, but there’s a “cost.” Not in money, but in something else that’s valuable (and not replaceable).

There’s a catch

Apparently, it takes two hours to convince them to honor the guarantee.  Two hours that could be spent on something a bit more… billable.  So, he’s stopped asking for it. If something fails, it’s faster and cheaper to just buy a new one.

Yes, you can get more sales by offering a refund.  But you have to honor it in a way that helps your customers, not hurts them.

The idea behind a guarantee is to make your customers and clients feel good about  using your products and services, even when something goes wrong. This company may have a two year guarantee, but the way they “support” it makes that guarantee worthless.

If this company honored the guarantee in a meaningful way, my brother would be singing their praises (as would I).  This way, well, they just go in the crappy company file.


7 Bad Clients and How to Spot Them

hurricane flag

Whether you’re a brand-new freelancer, or an established veteran, there are going to be times when you come across a bad client.  They may seem like mild-mannered Dr. Jekyls at first, but then they turn into slathering, dangerous Mr. Hydes.  Here’s a field guide to bad clients (and how to spot the red flags).

1. The Schnorrer (sponger).  The schnorrer loves freebies, and is always trying to get more.  They’ll take a few minutes of your time here, another few there.  It seems innocuous, but pretty soon those few minutes start to add up.

Tell the client you’re implementing a minimum fee structure.  Bill in fifteen or thirty minute increments (if you charge hourly), and invoice the client monthly.

If they want free samples (especially suspiciously detailed free samples: a 500-word blog post with 15 ways students can save on summer travel in Ontario), politely decline and point them to relevant examples of work you’ve already done for other clients.

2. The Waffler: They take up lots of time, want endless meetings, but can never quite bring themselves to sign on the dotted line. If you can’t get them to make a commitment, try the “reluctant rock star close.”  Tell them you want to work with them, but your schedule is getting tight, and want to make sure you can give them the attention and time they deserve  If they’re not ready, that’s OK, but it will mean you can’t turn everything around as quickly. (thanks to Peter Bowerman for this idea).

3. The Cheapskate: Close cousin to the schnorrer, they’ll offer to “buy you coffee” or take you to breakfast in return for “picking your brain.” This can be tricky if it’s a friend. Offer to share a limited amount of time with them. Do it over the phone if possible, and be very clear about what you can and cannot do for free (or for coffee).

If you get the same questions repeatedly, set up pre-written answers, or point people to resources on your blog or an FAQ page.

4. The Guilt-Tripper: (often non-profits) they’ll try to make you feel guilty about turning them down, insist you cut your rates, or even demand that you work for free. If it’s a cause you love, and you have some extra time, or are just starting out, then sure, work for free or cut your rates.

If not, politely and firmly point out that you devote X time to non-profit and have reached your limit, or cannot take on any additional pro bono projects.

5. The Illusionist: It will be the next [Facebook, Twitter]! We’ll pay you in stock! It may be; but it probably isn’t. Don’t do it.

6. The Nickel and Dimers: They question every expense, and every minute you spend working on their project. Get around this by charging a flat project rate, rather than by the hour.

Explain in your contract exactly how many revisions are included, and which expenses will be billed. If they want extra revisions, quote them a fee, ask for a paypal payment and set a start/end date.

(I’ll sometimes do a tweak for free, as a favor: I tell clients that a tweak is changing your shoes; a revision is changing your shoes and putting on a different jacket).

7. The Discounter: related to the nickel and dimer, they want a price cut on everything. If they can’t afford the full package, offer a streamlined version, with fewer revisions or a reduced workload, such as 15 blog posts instead of 25.

Have you had bad experiences with clients? What happened and how did you handle it?
Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Has this gotten worse with the economic downturn?

image: NOAA