Have You Made This Dumb Marketing Mistake?

Ford Edsel

Image by Supermac1961 via Flickr

Long ago (OK, it wasn’t the first, or the last, time) I made a dumb marketing mistake.  I was reminded of it recently, and thought I’d share.

I had just gotten promoted to a brand-new job (yay!).  We were doing a direct marketing campaign for some training products (a video and training manual).  I don’t remember how much it cost, but let’s call it $200. While we were putting the package together, my boss (also new), said, “Hey, we’ve also got a book (which cost $14) about that, let’s throw that in too.”  So I did.

A casual suggestion leads to a big problem

At first, we thought we were doing well. The list was good and the copy was convincing. Our sales started streaming in.  It should have been a great success.  There was only one problem. And, it was a big one.

People went straight for the $14 book and virtually ignored the $200 training video.  We sold plenty of books, but almost no videos.  Oops.

Unfortunately, I had (in a way) done my job both too well and not well at all.  I successfully sold the material, but didn’t do enough to differentiate the book from the video.  Since they both seemed like equally good choices, people bought the book because it cost less.

If there’s a cheaper option, or too many options, it will confuse people, dilute the value of your higher-priced product, and reduce your earnings.

One thing at a time

Don’t try to sell several things at once.  Ever watch an infomercial or direct TV ad (think sham-wow or slap-chopper), or even QVC?  They sell one thing at a time. They give reasons to buy it. They tell you the price.  And ask for the sale.  They never try to sell the $10 sham-wow and the $15 chopper in the same ad.

One good thing though – at least I wasn’t trying to sell an Edsel.

A Little Marketing Secret from Great Restaurants

Amuse Bouche
Image by jspatchwork via Flickr

Have you ever been to a restaurant that gave you something extra?

Maybe a small plate of appetizers (often called an amuse bouche, loosely meaning fun in your mouth), or a serving of sorbet to clear your taste buds between courses.

It’s fun, it’s unexpected, and it’s (hopefully) delicious.

An amuse bouche for your customers

Try this technique on your own clients.  Throw in a little something extra.  Something that brings delight in a way that’s unexpected.

A touch of humor. For example, I have a client whose offices had suffered a series of floods.  They eventually moved to a new location (far away from any rivers or bodies of water). I sent them a photo of a castle, perched on a high hill, to congratulate them.

You might also try an extra freebie.  Send a copy of a book by the client’s favorite author (or a favorite of yours that you think they’d like).  Or a card on their birthday (or a no particular reason card or note when it isn’t their birthday).

Try a faster turnaround time than promised.

Or send a box of cookies. Or even an actual amuse bouche.

Why Marketing is Like Ice Cream

Say it’s hot (which it is).  Your girlfriend wants ice cream and there’s none in the freezer.  So you go off to the purple cow ice cream store.

Chocolate ice cream

Image via Wikipedia

Let’s pretend they have two flavors each day, and only those two flavors.

(OK, it’s an odd store. The ice cream is hand-made, hand-churned and completely organic)

Today’s flavors are  chocolate and strawberry.

Her favorite is chocolate, you prefer strawberry.  Which do you buy?

Look outward, not inward

Well, if you got the chocolate, you made a decision based on what she likes, rather than what you like.  If you did, you’ll get some handy girlfriend bonus points.  If not, well, you may be unwelcome for a while.

Same thing with your marketing.  When you make decisions about colors, ad layout, copy, web design, etc., think about what your visitors want.  What will make it easier for them to use your site?

What do your visitors want?

Have you identified a problem that your visitor has?  Not your problem, theirs (your problem is selling stuff, their problem is wanting a logo  or needing a database).  Did you talk about how your product or service fixes that problem? Are you using colors they like? Or colors you like?  Talking about your company’s expertise and years of experience? Or how quickly you can deliver?

Oh, and I’ll have the chocolate ice cream please.

A Lesson in Penny-Pinching from the Pentagon

penniesNewsweek reported (April 19, 2009) that the Pentagon is using a new “weapon” in Iraq. A redesigned Humvee? An improved rifle? Nope. An iTouch.

What Can the iTouch Do for the Pentagon?

It’s certainly not the first gadget that comes to mind when you think of the army, but they’re using it to translate, store video (say of a tribal leader advising villagers to cooperate with the soldiers), and share data about suspected insurgents. Since it has an existing support structure and development tools, it’s not difficult to find programmers to produce specialized applications to display video from drones or use the iTouch as a remote control for a bomb-disposal robot.

Say Goodbye to $400 Hammers

Instead of following the well-worn path to $400 hammers and $5,000 toilets, someone decided to look past the military-industrial complex and use comparatively cheap, off-the-shelf tools.

You don’t need boatloads of money to be successful; you do need to think creatively. Leverage what you have. Use existing resources in different ways. The founders of Apple, Yahoo!, Blogger, etc. didn’t have VC funding. They had ideas, and the ability to execute them (dreaming is great, but without execution it goes nowhere).

Draw Outside the Lines

In a recession, it’s even more important to look at where you’re spending money and figuring out how to get better results from your efforts. Are you better off Twittering? Or putting an ad in a (gasp) magazine? Should you concentrate on brand awareness? Or monitor the Internet for mentions of your company name and brand (positive or negative)?

It’s not about the money. I once ran a very successful marketing campaign for $75; more on this Monday.

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