Hardly a day goes by without half a dozen articles about responding to the recession landing on my desk. A few contain pearls of wisdom but sadly, most are largely motherhood and apple pie. And the further you get from the C-suite audience, the less useful the advice seems to get. And that includes advice on marketing your way out of a recession.
Perhaps the best way to think about marketing your way out of the recession is to look at the old 40:30:20:10 rule widely used in direct to customer marketing. It provides a simple framework with which to think about how you should be spending your limited marketing resources so that they reach the largest number of potential buyers. And let’s not forget, the purpose of marketing is not to build a brand (customers do that), nor to win marketing awards (agencies do that for themselves), nor just to spend your marketing budget (you now who you are!); the purpose of marketing is to create a hot lead.
- 40% of success is down to Targeting – That’s right, the majority of success in marketing is knowing who your best customers are. That means the customers most likely to buy your products, services or experiences, most likely to spend lots of money and most likely to stay with you for the duration. It is your job as a marketer to find out who these customers are, to identify what products they are likely to buy from you and to organise all aspects of their consumption chain so that the product creates real value for the customer.
- 30% to Timing – Once you know who your best customers are, the next most important thing is knowing when to talk to them. And I mean to, not at. There is a big difference. You can only do this by really understanding your customers, their needs over the end-to-end consumption process (the jobs they are trying to do and the outcomes they want to achieve from doing them) and how they need help in fulfilling them. Some of this you can do with predictive models, some by knowing key events, but the best way to do this is to be really great at responding to their needs when they raise their hands to ask for help. This is why real-time marketing is becoming so important today. And why you need to make your marketing process lean so that the response flows almost automatically.
- 20% to the Offer – Once you know who your best customers are and when to talk to them, the next most important thing is knowing what to talk to them about. In other words, the offer, or value proposition to give its modern incarnation. This also requires that you know what customers’ need. But it also requires that you know what you can realistically deliver to them over the consumption chain. There is absolutely no point in talking to customers if you can’t deliver what you promise. Not that that stops 80% of marketers from doing exactly that! And 80% of customers from being disappointed when the brand doesn’t deliver the goods. Don’t forget that customers do most of the marketing for the best brands. And for the worst ones too. Go ask Chrysler!
- The remaining 10% to Creative – That leaves only 10% for all that expensive, glossy, colourful creative. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against great creative, just against creative for creative sakes. And it isn’t as important as those marketing agencies who make the bulk of their living from doing it make out. I learnt this the hard way when I ran CRM for an automotive bank. Bank marketing communications were glossy brochures that talked about the automotive brand and were full of pictures of young families (despite the average car buyers age being 55 plus). They were mostly fir for the recycling bin. But dealer marketing communications were generally one page letters thanking customers for their business, recognising the vehicles they were financing and making them a customised offer for something appropriate. And they were very successful. You can imagine how quickly bank marketing communications changed once I discovered that! And nobody complained about the changes once we started getting a 30% plus response rate.
This is all a bit tongue in cheek. Marketing is much more than just direct to customer communications. But that doesn’t stop you applying the same four rules to other marketing communications. Whether above the line advertising, online websites, or even social marketing. It just takes what Ted Levitt called a bit of Marketing Imagination. Oh, and a first class understanding of customers’ needs too. And last but not least, don’t forget that the purpose of marketing is to create a hot lead.
What do you think? Is marketing too complex for simple rules? Or can you market your way out of the recession by talking to the right customers, at the right time, about the right product?
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