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Posts Tagged ‘Transparent Marketing’

Why You Should Thank Your Competitors

March 28th, 2014
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I was at a conference recently and had a very surprising conversation with the person I was sitting next to at lunch.

His company had no competition – and he said it was a bad thing!

 

What happens when you have no competition?

Having worked with a competitive sales office (the team responsible for generating a report explaining why every deal was won or lost) at a previous job, I gained a visceral dislike for the competition.

Much like in sports, we always like to root for the home team and against the rivals even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense.

As a Florida resident, my tax dollars equally flow to the University of Florida and Florida State University. But as an alumnus of UF, it’s hard to cheer for FSU even when the team wins a national championship.

My point is: Competition seems rooted in human nature.

I was surprised when my fellow conference attendee expressed that it was a real challenge not to have competition. Since there was no one else delivering his service, potential customers didn’t view it as category they should consider.

Also, potential customers couldn’t really get competitive bids or issue proposal requests (RFPs).

 

(Another) theory of relativity

There may be another factor at play here. Dan Ariely, who spoke at MarketingSherpa Email Summit, said, “We like to make decisions based on comparisons.”

In his book, Predictably Irrational, Dan gives an example in which if you were shopping for a house and had three choices:

  • A contemporary
  • A colonial
  • A colonial that needs a new roof, but the owner will knock the cost of the roof of the home’s price

According to Dan, people will go with the colonial with the good roof. The contemporary suffers from a lack of competition.

Or, as Dan puts it, “We don’t know much about the contemporary – we don’t have another house to compare it with – so that house goes on the sidelines. But we do know that one of the colonials is better than the other one.”

Decision-making is complex. When we’re making decisions, we usually don’t understand all of the factors that go into it. Yet, we want to feel that we’ve made a logical decision, so we look to the information we have at hand to reassure ourselves.

 

How can we use this information as a marketer?

Some marketers try to avoid the competition and never mention them, especially if they are the market leader. Marketing tradition says that Coke never mentions Pepsi.

However, perhaps you should tell customers more about the competition. You should help them make the best choice between you and the competition and provide them with something to compare your company to.

 

Help your customers make a choice

For example, KAYAK does this with travel pricing:

kayak-comparative-pricing

 

Progressive Insurance very famously does this as well: 

progressive-comparative-pricing

 

This may seem counterintuitive, so think about the brick-and-mortar world for just a moment. Many businesses tend to flock to the same location as their competitors, such as the famed Diamond District in New York City or even car dealership row in almost every city in the U.S.

Customers want choice. They want to make a logical decision and consider their options, or feel like they did at least. Help by giving them options, even when those options come from your competitors.

 

Make sure customers experience a proper comparison

Showing competitive trade-offs is easier in some industries than others. After all, sometimes customers don’t understand what other choices they should compare you product to.

For example, it was rumored that marketers at Best Buy were sad to see Circuit City go out of business. Sure, they dogged competitors. But without Circuit City, would customers now compare Best Buy directly with Amazon.com? While Amazon’s prices are cheaper, is the service the same as a brick-and-mortar store?

The Rodon Group, an American manufacturer of high-volume plastic injection molded parts, faced this challenge. When companies thought of cheap sourcing for small components, they thought of China.

The Rodon Group wanted to change potential customers’ frame of reference and show that it was, in fact, also a low-cost supplier even though it was an American company. The company’s “Cheaper than China” campaign increased sales 33%.

You don’t determine the competition. Your customers do.

But you can help frame customers’ decisions by showing why your product should be compared to another offering.

Read more…

Content Marketing: 9 examples of transparent marketing

February 21st, 2014
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I don’t normally read press releases.

Frankly, most are just spam that I’m constantly trying to remove my email addresses from. However, one recently written by Amanda Presley of MSR Communications caught my eye.

“February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and what better way to pay homage to ‘Honest Abe’ than by looking at all the ways marketers can be more upfront and transparent with customers?”

She went on to discuss how her client, Kentico, viewed content marketing.

“Transparent content marketing: It’s not enough to just sell anymore. You need to inform. [For example, Kentico customer] Corner Bakery makes it easy to get nutrition figures when ordering online.”

So in the spirit of Honest Abe, let’s take a look at a few examples of transparent marketing that Amanda dug up from around the Web, along with key takeaways I provided for each to help you put these lessons into practice.

 

Lesson #1. Customer complaints on social media networks = visible business intelligence

 

Key Takeaway: I feel for Verizon Wireless and other tech companies. Our expectations for always on, always working, always super quick technology must be hard to fulfill. Admittedly, I’m just as impatient and immediately blame the product instead of my own user error.

These complaints, even when unrealistic about technological capabilities, are business intelligence gold. Don’t hide your customer complaints. Do as Verizon Wireless does on its Twitter account – address them very publicly and show how you are using their feedback to improve your product.

We all make mistakes. Most customers are very forgiving if they feel they are being heard and their problems are being considered.

 

Lesson #2. Help customers help themselves

Customers want to eat healthier. 

 

And take care of the environment.

 

Key Takeaway: There are no perfect choices in a free market. Life is a series of tradeoffs.

Help your customers make those tradeoffs to the betterment of themselves by showing the positives and negatives of the different products you offer, as Corner Bakery does with its nutrition calculator, Nike does with its Materials Sustainability Index and Patagonia does with The Footprint Chronicles.

“By being transparent with you, we can invite you into the conversation,” Rick Ridgeway, VP for Environmental Initiatives, Patagonia, told Fast Company’s Simon Mainwaring in an interview.

“Hyper-transparency is a must. It’s not something we should be afraid of; it’s something we welcome,” said Jim Hanna, Environmental Impact Director, Starbucks.

Bonus points when you let customers know why they should buy from a competitor instead of you, when it serves them better.

  Read more…

Transparent Marketing: 3 marketing lessons from the fast-food industry

December 13th, 2013
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Quick, convenient and cost-efficient are three words some marketers hope customers will find synonymous with the fast-food industry.

Deceptive, unrealistic and way too expensive seems to be where conversation about fast food goes with the family and friends that I’ve asked for their thoughts.

Clearly, there is a Hatfield-McCoy relationship between Marketing’s hope and customer perception, but does it have to be this way?

Absolutely not.

Some fast-food chains have started to step away from tactics perceived as nefarious to build brand equity on unique offerings, transparency and customer testimonials.

Before you start thinking of where to go for your next meal, let’s take a look at three restaurant chains that have embraced a brave new world of marketing and what we can learn from them.

 

Much more than a burrito, it’s an upsell

As a frequent flyer to Tex-Mex chains, I have grown skeptical of other burrito-related establishments. I’ve tried plenty of them and the experience is often heartache and, at times, heartburn.

However, one Tex-Mex chain has cleverly strategized a way to increase the likelihood of an upsell with its menu design.

 

Qdoba Mexican Grill has a unique menu presentation. Many competitor menus start with a choice of meat and continue with the ingredients that follow the assembly line.

So what is the difference?

This is a classic example of passive versus active engagement. Offering all of the choices upfront creates a passive experience in that, “I’m just thinking of what I don’t want on my burrito.”

 

Qdoba, however, starts its menu conversation with signature flavors and customization, which puts my focus on actively experimenting with different combinations to find the burrito of dreams.

I can also choose vegan and gluten-free options, which is a smart move as the paradigm of healthy eating continues to shift toward a lifestyle of calorie consciousness or for those who require vegan or gluten-free menu options for health reasons.

So how does this relate to a Web conversion?

Take it from Qdoba, don’t be afraid to show off something signature with your offering. Your site should display its value in a way that is suggestive and not submissive. Promoting one item more than another only bothers those who believe in symmetry.

Also, don’t be afraid to engage customers for the upsell.

 

Why yes, I would like fries from Sugar City, Idaho

Another chain that is helping you decide what to have for lunch at 9:30 a.m. is Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

This establishment utilizes a small menu, a variety of condiments, fries made from Idaho’s finest potatoes, and all the free peanuts you can eat.

What Five Guys offers is a lesson in transparency.

Customers can see their food being made and can be rest assured that their order is fresh with all of the right toppings. This can also serve as a piece of wisdom for marketers to clearly show how a product or service will benefit customers.

In the digital age, transparent marketing is the best way to earn a user’s trust and click.

 

Endorsements are fast track to breaking the mold

In 2012, Subway became the first restaurant in the fast-food industry to receive the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Meal Certification. 

 

This was clearly a game changer for the chain in terms of strategy due to the common preconceived notation that fast food directly translates to unhealthy living.

Subway was able to escape that mold of negative perception by receiving a strong source of third-party credibility.

This goes without saying, but having someone else – including an unbiased group in this case – back your product or service screams credibility and validation.

Read more…

Email Messaging: Start empathizing with your potential customers

September 17th, 2013
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One of the biggest hurdles you face as marketer lies in the mind of your customers.

What do they think when they read your marketing messages? How does your copy make them feel? What impresses them? Are they sold on what you’re saying? Do they understand what you’re saying? Are you coming on too strong? Are they intrigued? Are they frustrated?

You need to uncover the attitude of your consumers and tweak your marketing efforts to appeal to that way of thinking.

 

Understanding a customer’s mindset

In the MECLABS Email Messaging Course, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, dissects the attitude of prospective customers towards marketers. Below is a list of the “Prospect’s Protest,” which illustrates the mindset of your customers: what they want from you and, more importantly, what they don’t.

Brace yourself. These may be harsher than you’d expect:

  • I am not a target. I am a person. Don’t market to me – communicate with me.
  • Don’t wear out my name, and don’t call me “friend” until we know each other.
  • When you say “sell,” I hear “hype.” Clarity trumps persuasion. Don’t sell – say.
  • I don’t buy from companies, I buy from people. Here’s a clue: I dislike companies for the same reason I dislike people.
  • Stop bragging. It’s disgusting.
  • Why is your marketing voice different from your real voice? The people I trust don’t patronize me.
  • In all cases, where the quality of the information is debatable, I will always resort to the quality of the source. My trust is not for sale. You need to earn it.
  • Dazzle me gradually. Tell me what you can’t do, and I might believe you when you tell me what you can do.
  • In case you still don’t get it, I don’t trust you. Your copy is arrogant, your motives seem selfish, and your claims sound inflated. If you want to change how I buy, first change how you market.

No sugarcoating there.

“Sorry if this is strong medicine, but you’ve got to understand this is the attitude that you’ve got to overcome with the way you write your copy,” Flint explained.

 

Adjusting your own marketing attitude

Now that you have a better glimpse into the attitude of your customers, you can adjust your own attitude and approach as a marketer to better suit your consumers and overcome their attitude.

In the course, Flint outlines the “MarketingExperiments Creed,” which is a response to the “Prospect’s Protest.” It’s a way of thinking on the marketer’s side. It’s an attitude syncing to the consumer’s mindset.

 

Article 1: We believe that people buy from people, people don’t buy from companies, from stores or from websites. People buy from people. Marketing is not about programs. It is about relationships.

Article 2: We believe that brand is just reputation. Marketing is just conversation, and buying is an act of trust. Trust is earned with two elements:

  1. Integrity
  2. Effectiveness

Both demand that you put the interest of the customer first.

Article 3: We believe that testing trumps speculation and that clarity trumps persuasion. Marketers need to base their decisions on honest data, and customers need to base their decisions on honest claims.

 

Notice the consistencies between the Prospect’s Protest and the MarketingExperiments Creed. Clarity trumps persuasion. People buy from people. Trust.

“Though you may be a marketer every single day, you’re treated as a consumer, too,” Flint explained. “Because all of us are not just marketers, we’re consumers and we’re tired of it, also.”

As a marketer, you need to empathize with your consumers. After all, you can.

  Read more…

Content Marketing: 3 tips for how to get started

August 17th, 2012
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At Optimization Summit 2012, Michael Lykke Aagaard, Online Copywriter / Landing Page Fanatic, Contentverve, pulled me aside for an interview about content marketing. Below is an excerpt where we discuss three tips for getting started …

 

 

Let me (I hope) exceed your expectations in this blog post by adding three more tips for how to get started, helping you, in this case, to overcome common objections you might receive in trying to launch or expand content marketing in your organization …

  Read more…

Marketing 101: What is conversion?

March 15th, 2012
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I recently attended an event on social media for film and video professionals. There were four panelists: two social media experts and two video pros who are very active in using social media to market their work. The crowd ranged from very green on the topic to a few power users.

What stood out to me was that when the questions got started, one of the social media experts went off on a marketing riff and threw out the term “conversion.” A hand immediately shot up and asked, “What is conversion?”

Flat out the best question of the evening.

Sometimes as marketers, we get lost in a sea of acronyms — CRM, SEO, ROI, CTR, etc. — and it only took one word to remind me that not everyone gets all of these references.

To be a truly successful marketer, you want to be as transparent as possible as well as provide clarity. If your message is anywhere in the world of insider esoterica where the audience might be confused, that message is lost. And maybe worse than just ignored, the audience might even feel left out.

 

What is “conversion”?

The definition in the MarketingSherpa glossary that appears in MarketingSherpa handbooks defines conversion as, “The point at which a recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action.” In other words, conversion is simply getting someone to respond to your call-to-action. Read more…

Is Your Company Embracing ‘Fear-Based’ or ‘Fear-Less’ Marketing in 2012 and Beyond?

December 22nd, 2011
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Does fear rule and dictate your company’s marketing strategy?

Seriously, think about the question for a second because it’s a problem that is prolific around the globe today.

For example, did you know one of the number one reasons why businesses, big and small, elect not to embrace the power of content marketing and social media is because of fear?

Yep, they’re afraid their competition will learn about what they’re doing successfully and copy it.

Sadly, that little bit of fear is what’s keeping businesses around the globe from truly being great at social media.

 

Secret Sauce Doesn’t Exist 

I like to put it this way — As businesses, we’ve got to stop thinking our “secret sauce” is anything more than Thousand Island dressing.

Speaking of “secret sauce,” how many books, case studies, television documentaries, etc. have been produced regarding the business model that is McDonald’s? As you already know, the answer is well into the thousands.

McDonald’s has been poked, prodded and scoured more than any scientific experiment that ever existed. Yet notwithstanding this reality, how many fast-food companies have successfully copied Ray Croc’s masterpiece?

Zero.

None.

Nada.

McDonald’s has no secrets. The business is out there for the world to see, yet no one can successfully mimic the golden arches.

But this little example is simply a single representation of how it works in every industry around the world.

Read more…

Better Window Than Door – a Transparent Marketing primer

November 11th, 2010
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If you’ve spent any time reading content here at MarketingSherpa, or at our sister company, MarketingExperments, I bet you are familiar with this mantra – “People don’t buy from companies. People buy from people.” That very intuitive idea is a big part of a concept – Transparent Marketing – that is the heartbeat driving everything we do. We even offer an article that explains in detail what we mean by Transparent Marketing.

If you just want Transparent Marketing boiled down to the base essentials, here are the five key principles:

  1. Tell (only) the (verifiable) Truth
  2. Purge all vague modifiers
  3. Let someone else do your bragging
  4. Substitute general descriptions with specific facts
  5. Admit your Weaknesses

All five concepts are simple, direct and make a ton of sense. And you know what else? They are harder to implement than you think. Much too often marketers talk to the target audience in the “marketer” voice, and not the “person” voice.

Do you enjoy being spoken down to from up on high by some corporate entity you may or may not even want to engage with in any fashion at all? I know I don’t. Now when that same corporate entity comes at me with little more human-sounding message, suddenly I’m a lot more receptive to donating a bit of my valuable time (and/or cash) to whatever proposition I’m being offered.

Hype is a door, the truth is a window

Here are some daunting figures taken from that article I linked to up there in the very first graf. The numbers are from 2003, but the lesson is timeless:

The average person is assaulted with a barrage of 577 new marketing messages per week.

If we could somehow wire the mind of the consumer as they sift through the conundrum of emails, snail mails, banners and commercials… we would probably hear a resounding response:

“I don’t have time to listen, and I don’t believe you anyway.”

Indeed, experts tell us that people sort their mail in order to find an excuse to trash it. And even if by chance a message somehow escapes this ruthless purge… it probably won’t be remembered.

Statistics indicate that we retain less than 1% of the marketing messages we encounter.

That means that this very week, your company’s pitch is just one of another 577 being hurled at the prospect. You may be #11 or you may be #450, but whatever number you are, it is imperative to win a place among the fortunate 1% that are actually “heard” and remembered.

And this is only half the battle… somehow you must be believed.

The lesson here? If you can avoid churning out the typical jargon and meaningless hype, you have an opportunity to create a very high level of credibility. And credibility leads to trust. Trust builds a bridge to a relationship and that relationship translates into sustained sales. This short thought sequence is also taken directly from our Transparent Marketing article. Did I mention it’d be a great idea to invest in a click and read the whole document?

Here is my editor, and Associate Director of Editorial Content, Daniel Burstein on this topic:

In an age of social media, all marketing is transparent

Flint McGlaughlin’s seminal article, Transparent Marketing: How to earn the trust of a skeptical consumer, was written seven long years ago, and it has never been more prescient. Think of all that has changed since 2003 in the world of digital marketing. The rise of Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and other forms of social media has turned everyone with a device (you don’t even need a computer any more) and a connection into a publisher. So if you produce marketing that isn’t transparent, don’t worry, it soon will be.

From @BPGlobalPR to YouTube songs about broken guitars, you are no longer just up against your competition to grab mindshare about a product or service, you are essentially competing with your audience as well. They are also diligently working to shape perception of the brand. So let a little sunlight in … before someone breaks your window.

What does Transparent Marketing mean to you?

I posed this question at our MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments Optimization and B2B Lead Generation Roundtable LinkedIn groups.

Kirsi Dahl offered this response at the MarketingSherpa discussion:

In brief, to me, transparent marketing is a term we industry types have created to summarize a growing trend among consumers related to their skepticism of sales and advertising.

Consumers migrate towards brands that authentically engage in meaningful relationships with them. Brands can demonstrate this authenticity through listening and engaging in two-way conversations in places and spaces where their consumers are hanging out (online and in store).

First, I want to thank Kirsi for taking the time to share her thoughts with the group, and second, I want to invite everyone to join the conversation at one of the three LinkedIn groups, or in the comment section for this blog post. What does Transparent Marketing mean to you?

Related resources:

MarketingExperiments article on Transparent Marketing

Blog Case Study: Three Lessons Learned from a 232% Increase in Visits over Eight Months

Transparent Marketing and Social Media: Twitter and Facebook are the new Woodward and Bernstein