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Archive for March 2010

Don’t Stand So Close to Me

When I worked on cruise ships, the bigger ones in particular, we were constantly having our photos taken – by the ship’s photographers, passengers and friends. Some of the people you had your arms around you barely knew – staged camaraderie for the folks at home. (Which is how so many politicians end up shaking terrorists' hands at fundraising dinners.)

I am reminded of this because I have been doing a lot of hard thinking (and chewing) on marketing these days: selling, being a platform speaker, writing marketing copy for myself and others. There are various components that I am gnawing on that I will address in future posts. One is whether or not you have to make hyperbolic claims to sell. Another is whether or not people really want truth in marketing or do they want to be sold a dream. And today I am thinking about cross-promoting, joint ventures and really, endorsing others.

More and more I am asked to do “send outs” to my list to promote people’s events. Some people I know personally; I know their work and I have no problem recommending that people go to their events. Others I may know peripherally or maybe they have attended one or two of my events. Still others I have not met at all – they are on the “circuit” and promoting someone will give you a chip to cash in when you need something promoted. And finally, probably what got me started on this rant today, are the people who I just think either bring nothing to the table or who are hucksters or both.

I can be endorsed by some of the biggest names in the book/speaking business if I write a big enough check. I can write a chapter in their next bestselling book. I have seen these people endorse just about anybody and anything, from truly poorly written work to just flat out stupid theories. I’ve also seen them endorse some good work, too. But at this point, any time I see certain names attached to a launch, my eyes roll back in my head and my B.S. detector goes into overdrive. They have no credibility with me. But (and here’s the rub and not a good massage-y kind of rub but a “don’t touch my second-degree sunburn” kind of rub) millions of people still believe in them, buy their books and the products they recommend.

So do you close your eyes and think of England and jump into bed with these people, rationalizing it by telling yourself that you are putting out quality work and this will help get the word out to the people who need it? Do you keep marketing slow and steadily, never getting into the inner, higher circles because you don’t want to play the game? Do you sit there in your humble home with your five year old car and pile of monthly bills saying, “Well, at least I can sleep at night.” The truth is that these people are extremely successful, they make a lot of money and even if their credibility is eventually shot (which is doubtful because it’s a great big world) they still are living an extraordinary lifestyle and yes, they are very happy. They have no problem sleeping at night.

I know this is marketing. I’m not stupid or naïve, but there has to be a certain level of truth in what you say to the general public, whether it is policed by the FTC or not. Where do you draw the line between creative marketing and outright lies? At what point does the fat of the steak become the sizzle? Who do you endorse and whose email do you pretend you never received? And am I the only one stupid enough to be worrying about this stuff?

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I was behind a mattress company truck on the highway the other day and their slogan, written across the side of the truck was “Number one in customer satisfaction.”
On the surface, that sounds pretty good. Reassuring to a certain extent. And then I thought about it…

Far be it from me to be harsh… ok. Stop snickering, pick yourself up from the floor and keep reading! As I was saying, far be it from me to be harsh, but I don’t really care if the company is number one in customer satisfaction. I want to make sure I am satisfied. I mean really, if everyone else is enjoying their meal but yours has a cigarette butt sitting in the middle of it, do you really feel good that everybody else is happy??? See. It’s not just me.

You know what I’d rather see? A picture of a manager and a crew delivering a new mattress to a house in the dead of night with the message: “We don’t sleep until you sleep.” Or “If you’re not satisfied, we don’t sleep.” Heck, if I’m going to suffer because of shoddy workmanship, I want the company to suffer too.

How not to “tweet”:A judge running for reelection put this one out and it somehow caught my eye amid all the clutter on my “twit-stream”. (Don’t ask.)

@Judgesoandso: Join mailing list to receive information about re-election campaign, learn how you can volunteer! http://idiotslink

Oh Joy! Be still my beating heart! I can help this guy get a great paying job and not get paid myself? Where do I sign up? Well, not with the link which dropped me on his FaceBook page. If I didn’t have a FaceBook account, I wouldn’t have access to the information to volunteer. As it stood, I didn’t even have the inclination to sign into FaceBook and investigate further.

Not that I suspect he is a self-centered flaming jerk, because really, he looked like a nice guy, but let’s just say that he wasn’t aware of the necessity of benefit-driven marketing. Granted, it’s hard to work an entire political platform into 140 characters, but when you are going into a field which pretty much allows you to lie and lie big, why not take advantage of that leeway? How about “Volunteer for my re-election campaign and I’ll wipe out your first three speeding tickets. Sign up here.” Now that’s a benefit.

OK. So maybe that’s a little far-fetched but you see where I’m going with this. So how about “It’s time Joe Average got a fair shake in the legal system. Help make justice better for you.” A little more reason to help this guy get re-elected.

My point? People buy something or do something when it is to their advantage to do so. What YOU consider a benefit may not be what THEY consider a benefit. You need to really think about what your customer needs and wants and be able to present yourself in such a way that you bring value to them. A benefit isn’t a benefit when it doesn’t benefit the end user. Wasn’t that fun?

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March 2010
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