Why Marketing Fails In Small and Midsize Businesses

Why does marketing fail? The E Myth Revisited, the classic on entrepreneurism by Michael Gerber, talks about the needless management failures of small businesses. I’m reading it for the first time (thanks Kaarina Dillabough for suggesting it). It reminds me of the needless, all-too-familiar small and midsize business marketing failures I’ve seen over and over again.

So here are the top five causes for marketing failure that make me wonder: “What are these people thinking?”   Continue reading

How To Avoid The “Solutions That Matter” Trap

Strategic marketing messages aren't complicated

It’s message development, not rocket science.

For this post on strategic marketing messages, I was trying to invent a vague and completely meaningless example. The result: “Solutions That Matter.” 

Then I Googled it, just for fun. I invite you to do the same. 

I’m not sure how “Solutions That Matter” could add value to any brand, in any situation. Is it supposed to contrast with “Solutions That Don’t Matter”? 

Major brands can spend millions developing strategic messages to use throughout their marketing.  And still they get it wrong. Your business can do better, even if you’re bootstrapping it.

So with no further ado…

Continue reading

Rethink B2B Marketing

Rethnk B2B marketing

We’ve all been there.

 What if your B2B sales and marketing team consisted of high-level executives from your customer companies?

What if they were as committed to your company’s success as you are?

What if they had ample opportunities to directly influence high-level decision makers at companies that aren’t currently buying from you? 

According to a thought-provoking book, all this can happen, but not by accident.

Continue reading

Two Grocery Stores, Two Lessons

Yesterday, I went to Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe's is doing something rightUnfamiliar with it? It has small tropical-themed stores, good to high-quality products, unusual brands and lots of neat imported “foodie” products (hence the “Trader”). There are free samples and friendly, knowledgable people. A lot of products have natural or organic ingredients. And nothing is sale-priced, ever. It’s all priced fairly to begin with.

It does have a limited selection. It’s not one-stop shopping like Target or Walmart. But I actually have fun shopping at TJ’s.

Then, on to Safeway

Most Safeway stores are big and beautiful. Their people are nice. They carry fine products, with many choices. What’s not to like? Continue reading

Musical Advice For Bloggers

Long before any of us had any concept of the web or blogs, Kenny G had something to say about the risks you take in expressing yourself. What he said then, with sax in hand, is timely for bloggers today:

Kenny G

“During the show I play completely  alone. The rest of the band leaves the stage and I sit there (he plays a quick sax riff to demonstrate) and do that stuff.And I mean I’m putting my neck right out there. If people don’t like it, I’m gonna be feeling terrible…But, yeah, you’re vulnerable.

Because whenever you express yourself honestly, you have to put yourself in a position to where people may not agree with what you’re saying or what you’re playing.

And if you can do that, and just feel inside that you’re doing the right thing, then you can live with it.” Continue reading

On Protecting Your Integrity And Your Credibility

A few years ago, small IT companies could a make a pretty good profit on disaster recovery services and automated data backup systems.

They had a great “fact” to help them. There were a number of versions that went something like this:

According to a Gartner study, 80% of businesses that suffered major data loss due to a disaster (such as hurricane or fire damage) went out of business within three years.

Protect Your Integrity and Credibility

… but it can be hard to find.

Sometimes it was a Gartner study. Or a FEMA report. Sometimes it was from IBM. It was 2 out of 3, or 70%, or 90%. They referenced Hurricane Katrina sometimes, other times 9/11.

Funny thing, no one could seem to find the original source.

Now, was the whole IT industry scamming the market? Or were these small businesses just so desperate, they were willing to repeat without question claims they had read somewhere, and had come to accept as fact? Continue reading

Does It Really Matter What You, Or Anyone, Thinks Of Chick-fil-A?

I ask this purely from a marketing perspective.

Here’s why: Chick-fil-A takes in more than $4 billion each year by aligning perfectly with the community it serves: traditional, family-oriented people of all ages, races and creeds.

Chick-fil-A has raving fans

Meanwhile, they’re extraordinarily efficient about not expending resources elsewhere. They’ve targeted exceptionally well, just by being who they are.

If you’re not a part of their extended community, you may be unfamiliar with how the company became so successful. It’s more than just tasty sandwiches and lemonade, or cool ads from The Richards Group.

No matter where you stand on Chick-fil-A’s values, or the size of your business, or what markets you serve, you can take lessons from their success.

The secrets of Chick-fil-A’s brand power Continue reading

How not to engage in social media: A personal story

Coca-Cola North America does more marketing in a day than most of us do in years. And judging by the record, they do it extremely well. At the risk of seeming picayune, here’s some constructive criticism. Continue reading

Email marketing: Is it a part of Inbound marketing?

Like a lot of us who began marketing careers in the pre-Internet era, I try to avoid traditional marketing whenever I can. Frankly, I’m sick of it. I don’t like 99% of commercials, print ads, billboards or direct mail. I’m disgusted by telemarketing. I’m not a big fan of most email advertising, either.

Is email part of Inbound Marketing?

And yet, I recommend that almost every business develop an email marketing program. What gives? How can email marketing, which is generally fodder for the trash or junk box, be included in the Inbound marketing strategies I support?

It depends on two criteria.

One: Do you have permission to email?

Permission takes what would otherwise be a disruptive, unwelcome marketing technique, and makes it welcome. The only difference is that instead of the prospect actively reaching out to your website, they’ve asked you to send them information. They’re still coming to you – you’ve just made it more convenient for them. Continue reading

Three lessons from a Coke napkin

A pleasant surprise from my airline experience last week: This modest little Coca-Cola cocktail napkin delivers one of the nicest, most pitch-perfect marketing messages that I’ve seen in a while. Check it out, front and back:

Coca-Cola cocktail napkin from Delta flight

Coca-Cola cocktail napkin back from Delta flight

Why is Coke’s message so smart?

Strategically: It reflects everything the Coke brand tries to stand for: friendliness to all, “real thing” authenticity, and a distinctive taste in a world of wannabes.

Tactically: It delivers the message to a captive audience that has a free sample the product right in front of it. The message is completely appropriate and relevant. It’s beautifully written and designed, and as engaging as a napkin can possibly be. The right message, to the right people, at the right time. Perfect.

Three lessons for all marketers

1. Work on your key (strategic) messages.
If you think this message was simple and easy to produce — well, Coke and their marketing partners are so good at messaging that it only seems easy. Can you state your value proposition so easily? Does your company have a consistent voice and personality? These elements are central to your effective messages. Work on them and reinforce them — now, and constantly. A week or two before your trade show, or the day before your press release is due, is way too late.

2. Anytime, anywhere your company or brand interacts with your customers, there’s a profound opportunity.
Never take “small” touchpoints for granted. How easy it would be for Coke just to put a logo on the napkin, with an inane slogan. (I don’t believe “Open Happiness” is inane in any way, shape or form, but feel free to disagree.) This is powerful messaging where you’d least expect it. What are some small touchpoints that you’ve overlooked?

3. It’s harder than it looks to maintain market leadership in a commoditized category.
Coke has a hard job compared smaller brands that talk to more focused segments. Yet Coke still hit home runs. Think about it: Red Bull and Mountain Dew have created their own sub-categories. With much more focused audiences, their job of creating relevant communication is relatively easy. (Red Bull and Mountain Dew are tremendously successful, that’s part of the lesson.) But Coke must connect with 12-year-olds as well as their great grandparents, and they do a great job.

(Coke seems to be moving from “most liked” to “beloved” with their current efforts. Contrast this to the sad state of affairs over at Pepsi — their Super Bowl commercials, in particular). If Coke can rise to this challenge, how about you — whether you’re a market leader, or a challenger?

What do you think?

Do you agree that this example from Coke is a particularly strong bit of marketing? What lessons do you take from it?