Only The Lazy Rely On Marketing

A better chair, delivered better.

We fixate on marketing. With my fancy marketing background, I could make big money selling people complex marketing strategies. The best marketing isn’t marketing, but is much more effective and costs a lot less money, too. The problem is it’s work. We don’t like work. Even when it makes us successful. We’d rather do marketing.

Clever Marketing 101 – Not Sustainable
People buy great marketing once. If the product isn’t great, they’re out.

There are a myriad of marketing firms out there showing you how to get someone to give you more than the three-second glance at a trade show or on your website and how to take them deeper and deeper through a series of bigger and bigger commitments until they finally buy something from you at the bottom of the website.

People tell me this is great marketing, but I believe that by itself, it’s terrible marketing and does more damage than good in the long run. It’s also the lazy man’s approach and because of that, not sustainable.

Recency & Frequency
The two main tenants of good marketing are “recency” and “frequency”. If you talked to me recently, but only once, I’m not likely to buy. If you talked to me often a year ago but not since, I’m not likely to buy. You must do both all the time.

This costs a lot of money if you’re doing it via traditional print, radio or TV advertising. One of my clients spends $2million a year in one mid-sized market alone just to stay in the recency/frequency game. If you’re going to use money to do marketing, you usually have to have a lot of it to make enough noise to drown out the other guy with only $250,000.

Then there is the clever website approach, that gets people to go deeper and deeper down the page and finally click on $27.77 (clever marketing says your price should always end in 7). What if people finally respond to your clever website or your $2 million in advertising? Neither of these are your best marketing – not even close.

Future Clients Come From…
Where do the overwhelming majority of your future customers come from? When I ask this question to live audiences, almost every person will say – “from existing clients and existing friends/relationships.” Then why are we investing so much time in cool logos, tortured websites that lead me down a clever spiral path to a commitment, and advertising to find people you’ve never met?

One of my clients has a company called “Jungle Quest”, a ropes and repelling environment for kids, that is franchising nationally now. In the early days he had $1,000/ mth in profit to reinvest in the company. His first instinct was to buy $1,000/mth in advertising. He decided instead that he would use the $1,000 each month to do something to make the customer experience more “Jungle-icious” as he describes it.

It was a brilliant move. He improved the look and feel of the environment, added new experiences, improved the clothing on the staff and trained them better, and instituted a customer satisfaction program to stay in touch (recency and frequency). Today virtually all of his future clients come from his existing clients because he has done such a good job delivering a better product. It was hard work, but with a sustainable result – a better product and better relationships with customers.

Better Marketing? Absolutely.
Most people would say he didn’t improve his marketing, only his product. But in fact he did both because the best marketing you can do is to make a better chair, deliver it with flair, and apply “recency and frequency” to staying in touch with your existing customers and friends. It’s lot less expensive and more effective than chasing people you’ve never met.

The problem is that it takes work. We have to constantly work at our craft and get better and better at it. And we have to regularly find a way to touch our existing clients, say hello, and let them know we care. All of that sounds too much like work. We’d rather put together a clever website or marketing campaign that does this for us.

People buy great marketing once. If your product isn’t more jungle-icious than the next one, they won’t be back. But if you work hard over a number of years to make your offering distinctive, unique and presented with great customer service, people will refer you to all their friends.

The Best Marketing of All
Make a better chair and say hello to people you already know. It’s the best marketing you can do.

A Focus on Finding Customers Online Doesn’t Work.

But social networking does – there’s a big difference.

If you’re focusing on getting new customers online, research shows you’re not going to get many. By they way, it’s no different offline. This study could rock the online marketing world, or at least the SEO’rs, who focus on activity vs. results.

In the dark ages (Nov. 2008), when the biggest Twitter account had “only” 73,395 followers, I did a post on Why Social Networking Can Be a Bad Idea . A year later (Sept. 2009) I challenged the common usage of the term Social Networking .

This month Gallup released results of an intensive survey – Social Media: The Three Big Myths – saying much the same thing – you won’t get new clients from social media. So why do it?

Stop Focusing on Selling
The big myth is that using social media to focus on getting new clients works. Gallup confirmed that it doesn’t. They surveyed 17,000 people to find out this big duh. Gallup went on to say that we should instead focus on engaging our CURRENT and ENGAGED customers instead. Another big duh.

We just don’t believe being human works.

Social Networking is Best Done in Person, THEN Online
We keep trying to digitize our relationships, and big surprise, people actually want to talk with people instead. A study by the Wharton School backed this up in Dec. of 2010 – over 90% of word-of-mouth product discussions happen offline and a significant chunk of the 10% of online discussions, start offline. Social networking has always been, and will always be more of an offline way for people to engage with each other.

Here’s a clue:

People buy from people, and they buy more from people they like.

This manic need to avoid relationships and just sell our shiny object isn’t new. You’ve all met “that guy” at a networking event who is the offline version of the pop-up ad, always in your face with a product you weren’t looking for. He has no interest in you as a person, just as a target. Online marketing suffers from the same self-focus.

We just assume that because our product is so great, all we have to do is get it in front of new potential clients and they will buy. Gallup confirms that not only will this focus on new customers not work online, you can’t even expect to retain your existing ones via online communications.

The key word here – focus.

Gallup confirms what I’ve believed about online media all along – you are unlikely to engage new prospects by focusing on them directly through online media. Instead, Gallup shows that the best use of online media is to engage with your most ACTIVE and COMMITTED customers online, and as you engage them, gently encourage them to advocate for you.

We think social engagement online will make someone want to buy, but now we have hard core evidence that’s not true. Just the opposite – being engaged as a customer will drive social engagement and make them want to talk to you online. And those existing customers will advocate and bring new clients – you won’t.

The Game Changing Conclusion
Want to win new clients online? Stop focusing on them, and go back to building raving fans with your existing clients – they will bring others to you.

Again is there anything new here? My wife went to this place called Panera Bread many years ago. They focused on her as a customer, not me as a potential customer. She came home and told me about the place, and I’ve spent thousands there since.

The big successes will come when you can engage your existing clients and raving fans both online and offline simultaneously. That’s a powerful use of the online world – as another place to meet your friends.

The SEO’rs won’t like this, but it’s not about click-throughs, which by this study, are largely added noise. It’s about existing committed/loyal clients bringing others to your site.

Why are you online? To get new customers? Think again. The best way to make that happen is to focus instead on the people who already love you, and let them do the Panera Bread thing for you.