Tag Archives: Marketing Tactics

New Marketing Campaign? Strive to “Fail Quickly”

Marketing Campaign - Fail QuicklyTo Succeed Faster, Consider Embracing Failure

No one builds a marketing campaign to fail, right? While you certainly don’t want to fail intentionally, it is the failure itself that often paves the way to future success. Think of small failures as progress, not as setbacks. Thomas Edison “failed” 10,000 times before he hit on the right combination of elements for the first light bulb. When asked about his “failures” he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Edison knew that each failed attempt brought him one step closer to success.

Marketers often set out to try to construct a “perfect” marketing campaign— (with all of the associated time and money spent developing), only to discover that it doesn’t remotely match expectations when it actually goes live. The thrill of the launch is often quickly met with extreme disappointment. Those same marketers are faced with not only the poor performance of the campaign itself, but also the extra time and money spent on it. Worst of all, the window of opportunity may have closed, with customers often moving on to something else while marketers keep working away in their ivory tower.

There’s a better way, but it involves a different mindset. You need to embrace failure—failing quickly and more often. Why? Because the quick failures allow you to realign strategies and get you much closer to success. A dynamic campaign with a responsive feedback mechanism allows you to make necessary adjustments on an ongoing basis. The feedback you get on these less-than-perfect early efforts makes it possible to make real progress quickly, making valuable changes that your customers will respond to.

So, how do build a marketing campaign to fail (succeed faster)?

  1. Build your campaign in “chunks”.  Deploy in phases which will make adjustments easier (and faster).
  2. Start with a concept test and get quick feedback.  There’s no reason to build a whole campaign around a concept that doesn’t engage your customers.
  3. Act on your feedback as quickly as possible. Your feedback system must gather your metrics and present them to the development team for analysis and next actions.
  4. Tweak the effort Now that you know what your customers like and what they don’t, time to make some quick adjustments.
  5. “Rinse and repeat”. Re-deploy it, get feedback, and make more changes.

The faster your campaign fails, the faster you can get to work on improving it, and turning it into something that your customers will respond to.

When you are developing your new marketing campaign, Don’t try to be perfect—it takes too long and you’ll end up missing your window!

Embracing Innovation

Innovation is a fact of life.  It always has been, always will be.  Just comes at us faster now.  Embracing innovation has always been a path for companies to achieve quantum leaps in status/market share.

You have two options when your business model or market is undergoing significant change:Embracing innovation

  1. Embrace the innovation, and attempt to utilize it to your advantage
  2. Fail

Embracing innovation is not optional!

Contrasting approaches to embracing innovation is apparent in an article last week in the Wall Street Journal.

Apparently James Craigie from laundry soap manufacturer Church and Dwight seems to be living in the past.  Below is an excerpt from the article with Mr. Craigie commenting on a product innovation by Proctor and Gamble.  P and G introduced the unit-dose pods, which are a convenient way to add detergent to the washing machine.

“Pod is killing the laundry detergent category,” Mr. Craigie said at an industry conference in February.

New products ought to expand the revenue pie for manufacturers and retailers, not shrink it, he said. That is what innovation always did in the past, he said.

Can you see the contrasting approaches to this innovation?  The telling words of Mr Craigie are “that is what innovation always did in the past”.  Does it sound to you like Craigie is committed to embracing innovation?  Sounds to me like he is committed to “status quo”. Personally I think he is on a path to failure.  Rather than complaining he should be looking to drive some innovation on his own.  The article states that his firm produces the “low end”  detergents.  He has chosen a very difficult path to profits.  Tough to win the game of “out cheaping” the competition.

P and G has been proactive in a very tough, competitive market.  It is laundry detergent for Heaven’s sake!  If you have a chance to make a significant improvement – you jump at it.  If you launch an innovation and your competition complains about it in an interview, it is probably a pretty good sign you are doing something right.


Cultivating Customer Advocates

If you study the classic sell cycle you often see the process end with “the close”.  In other words, once the sale is made, companies typically move on to the next prospect.  They fail to capitalize on a most valuable resource – current customers.  When it gets right down to it, few things impress a prospect moreTurning Prospects into Customer Advocates than an existing, satisfied customer.  The key is to transform existing satisfied customers into customer advocates.  Customer advocates can be your absolute best salespeople.

Customer Advocates Arise When You Move From Transactions to Relationships

It is human nature for prospects to often assume that a salesperson  detailing product/service information is “selling” them.  On the contrary, a current customer providing the exact same information is “helping them out”.  “Sharing a good thing”.  When advocates speak to prospects, the prospects guards are down.  Prospects generally listen more intently to a peer.  They are on the same team!  Customer advocates carry a lot of credibility.

So how do you make your happy customers turn into advocates?  You plan it of course!  Planning is always key to good marketing.  Here are a few things you can plan do to generate customer advocates.

  1. Communicate – as much as possible. Develop reasons to reach out to existing customers.  Conduct customer satisfaction surveys.  Encourage owner’s clubs (that you sponsor).  Sponsor customer appreciation events, etc.  Frequent positive contact develops relationships.  Relationships mean growth!  
  2. Create incentives for relationship building.  This applies to whoever has customer contact.   Customer service team, sales reps, etc. The goal is to develop high-involvement relationships with customers.  I am familiar with a direct to consumer business who has bonus incentives to keep customers on the phone as long as possible.  Your business will really start humming when you graduate from transactions to relationships.
  3. Capitalize on tough situations.  If you ever have customers who have a challenging experience such as quality or delivery problems, think of it as a great opportunity to build a relationship.  In this situation, a customer is vulnerable.  Vulnerable means volatile.  You have a chance to forge a strong relationship.  Make it a strong positive one!

Developing customer advocates is not difficult, you just have to be dedicated to achieving it.  Just continually come up with ways to delight your customers.  Your business will flourish!


Proper Survey Construction

Begin With Your Plan To Use The ResultsSurvey Construction Checklist

It is convenient and tempting to begin your survey construction by choosing an online service like Survey Monkey or Zoomering as your first step in the process.  This gives you the satisfaction of feeling that you have gotten the project started.   You think all you have to do is “fill in the blanks” and click send.  Proper survey construction is like most things – success is based on proper planning.  To take a page from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:  Begin with the end in mind.   Habit #2 to be exact.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to formulate questions before you have your overall plan in place.  Your planning can begin by asking yourself a few questions:

  • What am I hoping to learn by conducting this survey?
  • Is this survey necessary, or can I obtain the information from other sources (sales results, stored customer information, etc)?
  • Have I determined alternative courses of action based on the results I obtain?

Here are some other tips for proper survey construction:

  1. Let the respondent know why you are seeking to obtain this information.  A good approach is to tell them you are seeking to improve your product, service, customer service, etc.  This increases the chances of getting engagement from the recipient.
  2. Keep the survey short – long surveys will likely not be filled out or the validity of the answers will tail off at the end.  The respondent will tend to rush their answers at the end, just to get done.  
  3. Start with an “easy” question – ideally one that is easy to answer.  This can be a yes/no question.  While basically a “throw away”, his will get the respondent engaged early.  This increases the chances they will complete the survey.
  4. Except for the “easy question” avoid Y/N questions.  Multiple choice questions are generally very effective.
  5. Strive for only one or maybe two “open-ended” questions.  These are questions like “Tell us about your experience with our Customer Service Team”.  These are best saved for the end of the survey.  If you place them up-front, they can scare away the respondent.
  6. Avoid leading questions.  Don’t ask things like “We have recently made dramatic improvements to our customer service team.  Have you noticed an improvement with our customer service experience?  A better questions would be:  “Please rate our customer service experience (1-5)”.

Good survey construction is part art and part science.  If done well you can acquire very useful actionable information.  You will have to dedicate the proper amount of time to do it right.  Note – it is not a 15 minute experience! Please also consider surveying as an ongoing marketing function.  You dont want to make judgements based on a “one and done” survey.  Repeated surveys to different groups will provide you with useful trending.  This is more beneficial than a mere “snapshot” of sentiment.

As always, remember the “genius” formula, modified for this use case.   Survey, measure, refine the initiative, re-survey.


The Art of Persuasion

Call to Action is the Anchor of Your Messaging

Call to Action

Whenever you are trying to change someone’s behavior, you are trying to persuade them.  Selling products, recruiting volunteers, direct marketing, advertisements, etc. are all examples of persuasive requests.  The classic persuasive request is divided into four main steps:

  1. Get the target’s Attention
  2. Develop their Interest
  3. Create a Desire
  4. Include a Call to Action

Keep this classic process in mind whenever you are trying to convince someone to do something.  It can be used universally.  Letters, e-mail marketing (especially important), literature, ads, conversations, etc.  Let’s walk through each step and explore the role each plays in the process.

It all starts with Attention.  This is your intro.   It can be your subject line in an e-mail, the headline of an ad, etc.  If you don’t have a good “attention getter” it is game over.  You need to quickly gain control of the target’s undivided attention.  You will commonly hear there are key buzzwords to include in the intro – words like “Now”, “Save” and “Free” .  This may be the case in general, but ideally you want something that “moves” the target.  Make it count – and make it enticing or the rest of your communication is irrelevant.

Next comes the Interest part.  Assuming you succeeded in getting the target’s attention, you have stay on your game with a good followup.  After the “wow” of getting their attention, you have to develop it with some specifics.  You want the target to think “I can do that”.  Give them a little flavor as to why this is a good thing for them.  Keep them moving through your communication.  If they are a “maybe” at this point, you are on track!

Here comes the crescendo – create their Desire.  Something compelling that makes them think, I WANT THAT, or even better I NEED THAT.  At this point the target has to picture themselves doing what you want them to do.  Think of:  “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, “Just Do It”, etc.  Another appeal:  A happy family enjoying themselves in a Disney World commercial really tugs at a parent’s heartstrings.

This is where it stops for many poorly-constructed communications.  Many good messages are left incomplete without the critical Call to Action.   Without the Call to Action, you have just done an FYI.  You did not CLOSE!  Your target will think to themselves “I’ll have to remember that”.  And then promptly forget it forever.  The Call to Action takes the fuel of desire you created and ignites it!  “Act Now! only three days left.”  “Save 50% on overstock – while supplies last”.

Crafting effective messages is definitely an art.  The more you do it, the better you will get at it.  This is a good starting point.  If you follow this classic formula, you are on your way to effective messaging.

Act Now!



Direct Mail – DOs and DON’Ts

Direct Mail image

I received a direct mail piece the other day. Yes – People are still doing it!!  It was a very nondescript piece of mail.  I only opened it because I am intrigued by all types of marketing, both good and bad.  This one was bad.  It always amazes me that people spend good money on such bad efforts.  Perhaps it is becoming a lost art, because I do notice a significant amount of “bad” direct mail.  Also noticeable is the decline in the volume of direct mail pieces I receive. The US Post Office is experiencing this same phenomenon.  There is an article about it in the New York Times today.  An excerpt appears below:

. . .mail volume, particularly first-class mail, has dropped sharply, to 168 billion pieces in 2011 from a peak of 213 billion in 2006, because of vast changes in the way Americans communicate, move money and even buy books and music.”

Despite this decline, direct mail can still be an effective marketing tool – if you do it wisely.  In fact – since mail volume is down 21% as mentioned in the article, there is less clutter for you to fight thru in your DM efforts.  So what should you do and not do with direct mail?


  • DO add some dimension to your mailer.  ANYTHING that moves from a flat letter to something that makes people wonder “what is in here” will increase your chances of getting it opened.
  • DO hand sign the letters if at all possible.  People can tell if a letter is hand signed.
  • DO have the envelope hand-written.  This makes the effort tougher – but has a GIANT impact on getting it opened.
  • DO send the mailers first class.  When you send them bulk, it suggests you don’t care about the recipient and you are going for cheap.
  • DO include an offer.  Free sample, free trial, coupon, etc.  Something that compels the recipient to action.


  • DON’T use white envelopes.  very BLAH
  • DON’T mail cheap collateral.  The mailer I received that prompted this post had very cheap paper and a poorly written “brochure”.  Remember, you are trying to impress people!
  • DON’T use a postage meter.  Use a stamp – it makes it more personal.
  • DON’T even think about sending the mailer en masse without testing.  Remember the “genius” formula:  Test, measure, refine, retest, retest.

If you follow these basics, you can dramatically improve your direct mail efforts with some simple tweaking.  Think of yourself as the recipient of the mailer:  Would you open it?



Avoid “Chest-Thump” Marketing

Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) male beating chest in threat display, endangered, central Africa

Have you ever been to a zoo and visited the primate area?  One of the activities that the males engage in is the ritual of chest thumping.  In addition to trying to impress the females, they do this as a territorial thing.  It basically means “Hey look at me – I am big and strong.  I am in charge here”.

I recently received an unsolicited e-mail that engages in what I call “chest-thump marketing”.  A portion of the e-mail is below – with areas blurred to avoid exposing the “marketing primate” who sent it.

Chest Thump Image

While this person attempted to personalize the message the format of the e-mail is terrible and worse yet is the message.  It is all about I, I , and I.  What about the person reading the message, are they part of this communication or is this a diatribe?

Here is a marketing secret to keep in mind – FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER!  (just kidding about the secret part).  Of course you must focus on the customer;  their challenges, what keeps them up at night, and of course their opportunities.  Frankly, they don’t really care much about you specifically – unless you have something for them.

I had a technical writing class in college – perhaps the absolute best class I ever had.  The professor took our letters/messaging, and then underlined the occurrences of “you” in the document, and circled the “I’s”.  It is astonishing how often we use the word I in communications with customers.  This has stuck with me ever since.  It is also a very common practice to do it in literature, on web sites, etc.  Except the term “We” is used instead of “I”.

Consider starting communications/literature with something like this as an opening message:

“Have you experienced budget challenges at your firm as a result of the economic downturn?  Are you seeking an effective means of achieving cost reductions without compromising service or quality to your customers?”  

Notice how in these two sentences, the attention is focused on the customer completely.  In fact these sentences have worked in you/your 4 times without a single I/We.  Also, by stating a situation that is likely affecting them (downturn) we have started getting them to do some virtual head-nodding.  To take it up another notch, we could do some homework on the target of the communication and mention something that specifically relates to them.  This will also help with engagement.  It shows the customer we care enough about them to do some up-front research instead of blindly sending mass vanilla messages.

Whether it is the opening sentences in a letter or the home page on your Web site, be aware of the concept of chest-thumping.  Engaging the customer has absolutely nothing to do with your firm or your capabilities – but they have extreme interest in how your firm or capabilities can benefit them.  Make the customer the core of your communications and you will be on your way to better messaging.

Don’t be a primate!  Focus on the customer – especially in communications.




Critical Time In The Sell Cycle

Happy CustomersWhat is the most critical point in the selling process?  The answer is open to debate, with many events playing key roles in the process, including:

  • The initial introduction
  • Fact-gathering by customer
  • Pricing negotiation
  • “The close”

While I am not quite sure which is most important I can assure you that the most under appreciated  segment is right after the sale.  You read it right; AFTER the sale.  There is a common buyer behavior called “buyers remorse”.  This occurs right after a significant purchase is made.  It is the sub-conscious at work, questioning the decision “Did I buy the right thing?  Should I have waited for a better deal?  Should I return it while I still can?”

These are the types of questions we ask ourselves after a purchase – and it is a natural phenomenon, we are only human.  As marketers, however, we have a weapon to fight this.  It is called “purchase reinforcement“.  The best marketers/sales people out there make a common practice to do a lot of “hand holding” with customers right after a purchase.  The best car salespeople, realtors, furniture salespeople, etc. all make it a point to keep on working after the customer signs the agreement.

It can take many forms, from simply a follow-up letter, to free accessories (after the sale is final), follow up phone calls reminding the customer about service schedules, etc.  A simple but effective tactic is to simply call the customers, and ask them how things are going after the purchase.

The key is to “pleasantly surprise” the customer with a little extra something that makes them think they made the wise, informed choice.  Even more importantly it shows them you CARE – care enough to follow up with them to make sure all is going well.  This will have a calming effect on the customer.  It will help quiet that voice in the mind of the customer that is nagging them about the purchase.

Try building purchase reinforcement into the sell cycle for your product or service.  Ask yourself, what little extra thing can I do to show the customer how important they are to me, and that they made a wise choice.  If you do it well, you will be building long-term relationships with your customers.  It gets you out of the mindset of “transactional” events versus relationship building activities.




Marketing Tactics: Like Riding a Bicycle

Do you remember the first time you were able to ride a bicycle?  It is an early defining moment in our lives, it signifies commitment, independence, and achievement.   More importantly it is a major triumph over frustration and failure.  All jammed into a few precious, exhilarating moments when you feel the rush of success.  It is a major achievement in our young lives.

Think about the events that led to that triumphant, albeit fear-filled moment.  What preparation was involved?  How many tries did it take before you had “success”.  Since I recently experienced this with my kids, I have a working knowledge of what the typical experience is:

  • Practice on a tricycle, which of course is very difficult to roll over, making it an ideal first step.Kid riding a bike
  • Advance to a two-wheeler (with training wheels) which is more challenging.  This to gain some moderate exposure to maintaining balance.
  • Taking the training wheels off, and relying on someone else (a parent) to run alongside with you to keep you going.
  • Going solo – 100% on your own.  No training wheels, unassisted.
  • And then you FALL!

That is our focus today – the FALL.  What happened to you as a kid when you fell that first time.  Barring some serious injury, you likely ended up with a scraped knee, maybe a slightly bruised ego, and perhaps a few tears.  BUT YOU SURVIVED and you got back up on the bike and tried again.  Your probably went a little further, and then probably failed again.  Maybe this time you were better at falling, and avoided the scraped knee.  Eventually, through a series of attempts and inevitable failures, you succeeded.  Good thing you did not quit, or worse yet let your fear prevent you from trying in the first place.

If only we could apply this “wisdom of a child” to our marketing efforts; we would be so much better off.  In other words, plan on the scraped knee, since is part of the process.  Marketers are sometimes paralyzed by an extreme fear of failure, and they find comfort in long drawn out research and planning, which can be the handcuffs that prevent them from grabbing the opportunity.  Don’t try to devote a ton of energy and resources trying to deliver the “perfect” campaign, product launch, or promotion.  Don’t let “perfect” stand in the path of “good”.  Refining good repeatedly can get you to great.  Great is not the first part of the process.  You must fail – that is really how you learn how to do things.  You can’t formulate the perfect plan by having fantastic up-front work and preparation.  It simply does not work that way.  Do you remember reading a lot of books as a kid on how to ride a bike?

Be advised I am not advocating spending a bunch of time and money on every random idea.  I am suggesting you try a lot of new things (on a small-scale at first).  I can assure you if you try a lot of things on a trial basis, you will have many failures but also some very pleasant surprises.  Nike built a fantastic campaign around this concept – JUST DO IT!  A scraped knee does not hurt that long anyway.

PS – If I waited to develop the perfect blog post – I would still be editing post Number 1.  But that is not what this is about.  Perfect is not my goal – sharing ideas is.  By that measure I have already had a few “mini-successes”

Bad E-Mail Marketing – A Quick Case Study


Sometimes when you see art, it is hard to describe why you like it.  You just like it – call it gut reaction, it “moves you”, etc.  It works the other way also.  Maybe you don’t like something, and when challenged to describe why, you may struggle.

I received an e-mail from Best Buy the other day – and right out of the chute I did not like it.  I suppose it is not very compelling reading for you if i leave it at that “I just don;t like it” so I will break it down into a couple of tangible reasons.

Let’s start with the overall premise – of Best Buy trying to capitalize on Valentine’s Day.  While they might have a slight advantage over Ace Hardware or Bass Pro Shops, Best Buy does not exactly scream “Valentine’s Day” to me.  But – I will cut them some slack here – they have to try something so I will look past the obvious overall disadvantage they face in this situation.Best Buy e-mail 54

Let’s take a look at the subject line – which we all know is terribly important in e-mail marketing.  “Sweet deals for your Valentine + free shipping on everything” is the subject line.   Sweet deals!  That’s your best shot?  Hearts on a TV screen?  Marketing Genius at work!  Let’s face it – Valentine’s day is for Women – and men go along with it for obvious reasons.  If you had to go with a TV (a stretch for Cupid anyway) maybe a movie scene on the screen.  Something that appeals to women – ‘The Notebook”?

How about the other half of the “offer” – “free shipping on everything“.  Newsflash to Best Buy – we all live in the land of Amazon Prime – and frankly free shipping as an offer “ain’t what it used to be”.    Here is an idea they could have used;  What if they were to partner with a spa like Mario Tricoci and offer a free pedicure for the lady with all big screen TV purchases.  Perhaps we have just entered the land of interesting!

If I were to sum up my overall opinion of this effort in one word – it would be “forced”.  I am sure it is on a promotional calendar of some e-mail marketing person at Best Buy.  So they checked it off of their to do list – however ineffective their effort turned out to be.  Don’t make this mistake.  Your interactions with customers are precious, and should always be your best work.  Don’t waste your precious moments.  Capitalize on the opportunity to show people something great!