i Beyond the Niche Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results Kathryn Hendershot-Hurd Beyond the Niche Introduction Are you ready to move beyond the "spray and pray" approach to marketing your products or services? Are you tired of the empty promises of secret marketing formulas which promise guaranteed and instant success? Do you want a proven method of creating marketing messages that truly "speak" to your customers? Then this book was written just for you. There is a simple, intuitive formula to uncover what customers are REALLY looking for when they enter the doors of your store or click on your web site. It really is possible to create marketing messages that literally break through the clutter and spur people to take action! My name is Kathy Hendershot-Hurd and I’ve spent 20 years helping businesses you’ve never heard of achieve measurable results, many times within the constraints of ultra thin shoestring budgets. The focus of this book is not on what has worked for corporate giants with seven-figure monthly advertising budgets, but rather what works for the “shop down the street.” Most of these lessons were learned during my tenure as a media rep (for both newspaper and radio) while working with clients who couldn’t afford the services of an advertising agency. Beyond the Niche I spent the formative years of my advertising career as an account executive with a regional advertising agency. The time I spent within those hallowed halls were enlightening. I learned more during my time there than I did earning a BS in marketing and economics. However, I have to admit that the most important lessons I learned were not absorbed while insulated and isolated inside a meeting room with other insulated and isolated advertising execs. In those meetings, we dealt with a lot of theory and we had the luxury of playing in the world of “theoretical reality.” After all, we were dealing with monthly ad budgets of between $8,000- $20,000 per month (in1980’s dollars), so we could afford to express our “creativity” freely. Because we had complete control of our client’s budgets, and because the first course of business when we landed an account was to slash newspaper spending by up to 80%, we were assured that the client would see measurable results. At the time I didn’t know how pampered we were as we literally turned around business after business in the region. During those years, inside those hallowed halls, I learned the theory behind the lessons. Little did I know that the “real lessons” in application were to be learned later, as I sought to apply the “theoretical knowledge” I had gained within the agency to the individual needs of businesses within a small community as a media rep. My husband’s job moved us to an area without the population base to support a full service agency, so as a result I took a position at the local paper as an account Beyond the Niche executive. Because my career had begun in an agency, I had the unique vantage point of knowing the pros-cons of each media, because I’d worked extensively with television, billboard, newspaper, radio and direct mail during my work at the agency. That foundation made me “more than a media rep” with my new clients. As a result, I approached my clients as though they were my advertising clients instead of just trying to sell them advertising space/time. It didn’t take long for my newspaper clients to begin asking me to help them develop their radio campaigns. When I made the move to radio sales, not only did my newspaper clients make the move with me, my radio advertising clients also began seeking my advice for help in developing their message and help with choosing the appropriate supporting media. When I made the move from agency to media sales, it was quite a paradigm shift. Not only was I working in a “highly rural” area as opposed to the “urban jungle” from whence I’d come, but the biggest struggle in making the transition was not traffic (or the lack thereof) or even the sophistication of my clients. The biggest change I encountered was in the monthly budget of my typical media advertiser. When I was working with agency clients, our typical advertising budget was between $8,000 and $20,000 per month. (Remember, these are mid 80’s figures.) As a media rep, I found myself working with clients who spent less on all their advertising in a year than my former clients spent in a month. Suddenly, I was plunged into a situation where it felt like I was Beyond the Niche walking a tightrope without a net. In my work with my “new” clients, there was truly no room for mistakes! It’s little wonder that my time in media sales is where I learned my most valued lessons. It was literally almost a decade of “think tank” experiences for me as I applied the strategies and principles discussed at length during my agency days and applied them to my clients in the “real” world. It’s easy to theorize about what works and what doesn’t when you’re sitting in an air conditioned meeting room. It’s very, very hard to sit down with a client when the campaign falls flat on its face and the buck stops with you. It doesn’t take too many failures to motivate you to learn quickly how to avoid having to sit down with your client at the end of a campaign and perform an autopsy as to why a campaign didn’t work. That is where the rubber meets the road; when there is no “creative staff” or “management team” or anyone else to blame. The tighter your budget, the more you need this information. Here’s to your success. Beyond the Niche Table of Contents 1. Beyond Marketing: The Bigger Picture Mapping Your Strategy Beyond the Basement: The story of Ida Mae's 2. Beyond the Filter: Fishing for Customers Choosing the Right Bait Narrowing your Focus 3. Beyond Statistics: Breaking the Ice Trying to Reach Everyone Creating Conversations 4. Beyond the Basics: Knowing your Audience Operation Survival Focusing upon Solutions Examining the Process Desires vs. Goals Speaking the Language 5. Beyond Targeting: Composite Customers Putting Surveys to work “Me Mode” Marketing The Customer’s Viewpoint Illustrating the Composite Customer Process 6. Beyond Clever: Advertising that Sells The Nissan Story Your Advertising as Sales Staff 7. Beyond Incidental: Advertising the Minor Sale Creating TOMA The Door Buster Tactic Choosing a Loss Leader Product Creating your Own TOMA Beyond the Niche 8. Beyond Information: Advertising and the Major Sale Building Trust in the Major Sale Shifting the Focus The Time Factor Focusing on GDP: Goals, Desires and Problems 9. Beyond Features: Focusing Upon Benefits Why Do They Buy? Creating your USP Distilling your Marketing Message A Compelling Message is a Selling Message 10. Beyond Introductions: Telling Your Story Familiarity Breeds Business Building Familiarity 11. Beyond Familiarity: Delivering Your Message Building a Solid Foundation The Power of Conditioned Response Building Upon the Strong Foundation Advertising Scheduling Basics 12. Beyond Budgeting: Planning Ahead The “What Can I Afford” Method The Reactionary Method The “Whatever It Takes” Method The Fixed Percentage of Sales Method 13. Beyond Basics: Creating Your Campaign Building the Pyramid The Foundation Layer Add Complementary Layers 14.Beyond Measurement: Evaluating Success Beyond the Niche 1. Beyond Advertising: The Bigger Picture I f you’re a business owner who has a love/hate relationship with your marketing and advertising, then you’re in good company. When you consider how little time you have to devote to the task of promoting your business and then consider the fact that advertising media options are rapidly changing - and are very often presented in a confusing manner, it is easy to see why most business owners love the promise but hate the actual execution of a successful marketing strategy. As a result, many business owners often find themselves chasing after an array of marketing tactics instead of implementing a cohesive marketing strategy. Unfortunately, marketing tactics which may result in great success for one business may fail miserably for the next. Yet many business owners attend seminars, buy books and subscribe to newsletters that do little more than provide a never ending Beyond the Niche list of various marketing tactics, hoping that eventually they’ll find the tactic that will provide the significant return on investment they are seeking. The search for tactics to increase the return on investment dates back to the earliest recorded history. One tactic used by early farmers to improve their farming “return on investment” was to plant discarded fish parts to improve their production of corn. Modern science has shown there are practical scientific principles behind this ancient practice. The decaying fish parts provide the steady supply of nitrogen which corn needs to grow abundantly. It seems the decaying fish parts are a great “lo-tech” method for providing the steady fertilization needs of growing corn plants. It turns out that in ancient cultures there were two schools of thought about the role of the planting fish with corn. On one hand, there were the cultures that, at some level, seemed to recognize the science behind the practice. Farmers in these cultures believed that the corn was literally feeding upon the decaying fish. So while they used the “tactic” of planting fish parts with corn, they were aware of the overall strategy behind the tactic which was to provide nourishment for the plants so they could produce an abundant crop. However, there were other cultures that also planted fish parts with their crops but did so without any understanding of the science behind the practice. For these cultures, the fish were thought to have magical properties. They believed that the spirit of the dead fish magically helped the plants to Beyond the Niche grow. These cultures were using the same tactic; however they were using it without any understanding of the strategy behind the tactic’s success. From our 21st Century perspective, it’s easy to see that the farmers that viewed the fish as having magical properties were putting themselves at a severe "IT TOOK MILLIONS OF YEARS FOR MAN'S disadvantage. Without being INSTINCTS TO DEVELOP. aware of the underlying strategy IT WILL TAKE MILLIONS of feeding the plants, the farmers MORE FOR THEM TO EVEN VARY. who subscribed to the fish spirit as magic tactic could not IT IS FASHIONABLE understand how placing too TO TALK ABOUT much fish in with each seed CHANGING MAN. could actually lead to A COMMUNICATION undesirable results. (If you are a MUST BE CONCERNED dog owner and have brown WITH UNCHANGING MAN, WITH HIS spots in your lawn, then you’ve OBSESSIVE DRIVE TO seen firsthand the results of SURVIVE, TO BE excessive nitrogen on ADMIRED, TO SUCCEED, vegetation.) TO LOVE, TO TAKE CARE OF HIS OWN." Imagine that you were a William Bernbach farmer who subscribed to the fish as magic school of thinking. At some point as you watched your corn fail to grow, you would have to ask yourself: Is there such a thing as too much magic? How can some magic be good but more of the same magic be bad? Only when you adopt the scientific view of using the fish as part of a fertilization strategy can Beyond the Niche you begin to see where too much of a good tactic can actually lead to undesirable results. The same is true in modern marketing. For example, offering a limited time discount can improve your sales initially but when used excessively, consumers become conditioned to wait until your next big discount to buy. Even the big players in the market, like GM and Macy’s aren’t immune to the underlying principles at work. Limited time discounts are a great way to motivate buyers to make the final step and purchase; however when used excessively they can actually backfire and condition customers to wait for the next big discount. Not understanding the underlying principle behind the limited time discount (discussed in greater detail in Chapter 8 can lead to misusing the discount. Just as early farmers who didn’t understand the principles of using fish as fertilizer were in danger of destroying their crop by overusing the fish, such are the dangers faced by business owners big and small with regards to their marketing tactics. No matter what size your business, the going gets tough when you learn that there is such a thing as too much “magic.” When you understand the underlying principles behind creating a successful marketing strategy and successful marketing message, then you’ll be able to choose the right marketing tactics that will help you to achieve your marketing objectives. It’s important to realize that the rules of successful message development have not changed due to the latest Beyond the Niche technology. The Internet, iPods or Tivo aren’t the reason advertising messages today aren’t working. The principles behind successful marketing messages remain the same today as they were 50 even 100 years ago. The reason why: Human nature hasn’t changed just because of advancements in technology. While the latest “buzz” in the industry is focused on how to reach an audience that doesn’t appear to be paying attention to the ads, these “experts” fail to realize is that no one in recorded history EVER paid attention to poorly constructed and irrelevant marketing messages. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend years studying the social sciences (psychology and sociology) to create a successful marketing message. Even a simple understanding of the basics of targeting your message will yield better results than just buying ad space and hoping that customers and profits will pour in. If your advertising and marketing messages so far have produced ho-hum results, the good news is the tools within this book will help you to create compelling and selling marketing messages. If you’ve resisted putting a marketing strategy together in the first place, then this book will help you to lay the foundation. The first step in creating a marketing strategy is to identify your niche or target market. This will provide the foundation you need to develop your marketing strategy. Much of the focus of this book is to help you zero in on your target customer. Many businesses find identifying a niche Beyond the Niche market difficult and this book will help simplify the process for you. Once you’ve identified your target audience and identified their Goals, Desires and Problems, then the second step of creating a marketing strategy is identifying how your product/service helps solve a problem, quench the customer’s desire or help the customer achieve that goal. Once you have those two steps nailed down, then you can get down to crafting your message. The final step is finding the right method of delivering your message to the people who want or need your products or services. In case you were wondering, "STRATEGY AND there is a difference between TIMING ARE THE HIMALAYAS OF marketing and advertising: MARKETING. Marketing is the bigger picture. It is EVERTHING ELSE IS the whole set of the activities THE CATSKILLS.” involved in transferring goods or Al Ries and Jack Trout services from you to the consumer. Advertising, on the other hand, is just one facet of marketing. It is the act of paying someone to deliver your message to the masses. If you retain nothing else, know that your advertising is just one small part of your marketing; it’s the part that issues the invitation to visit or call the business. When you think about it, effective advertising is merely a persuasive conversation between you and your prospective customers. Just as you can’t force your political or religious views down people’s throats, your advertising will never Beyond the Niche convince them to buy a product or service they don’t need or don’t want, no matter how many times you shove your message at your target audience. When your goal is to persuade someone, you must get to know them first. This is true whether your goal is to persuade someone to change their political stance or their religious views, not to mention trying to persuade them to change what they buy and from whom! You’ve probably heard the advice of “Just get your message in front of more eyeballs and you’ll be successful.” If you’ve been unfortunate enough to try to follow that advice, you’ve probably already learned that the wrong message, even when it’s delivered the right people, still delivers mediocre results. The time spent getting to know your customer is a wise investment. It will enable you to open the lines of communication between you and your target customer so you will effectively communicate your marketing message. You’ll be delivering the right message to the right people and that is the foundation for marketing success. Once you recognize your customers as individuals, it becomes a simple matter to choose the best media to deliver your message. Then, as new technologies emerge, you’ll know enough to decide whether or not you need to integrate it into your marketing program. Beyond the Niche Remember the days before email? Even then, there were small businesses that recognized the value of staying in touch with their current customers MANY CUTTING on a regular basis. These forward- EDGE COMPANIES thinking companies sent out a WHO WERE THE regular newsletter using what was FIRST TO USE EMAIL TO DELIVER then the current technology - the THEIR United States Postal Service. The NEWSLETTERS ARE purpose of the newsletter was to NOW SHIFTING keep in touch with existing BACK TO “SNAIL MAIL” DELIVERY, customers. These newsletters were an THANKS TO THE opportunity to keep the company AVALANCHE OF name in front of people and keep not SPAM NOW FLOODING OUR only the company’s name before its INBOXES. customers, but also to keep customers informed of new products and services. When new technology provided email to the masses, these companies didn’t have to scramble to find a use for the exciting new medium. They just switched to mailing those newsletters electronically. When Myspace.com exploded in 2006, many businesses were scrambling to try to capitalize upon the social networking site’s immense popularity. For those who were already well-prepared with a marketing strategy were able to simply refer to the marketing strategy already established to determine how the new technology fits into the current marketing plan. Beyond the Niche One such “company” was the United States Marine Corp. The USMC knows who its target market is and it didn’t take long for them to recognize that many of its target market members were using Myspace.com. So, the USMC set up a free Myspace.com account. At last count, the USMC had 350 “friends” listed and, according to a press release issued by the USMC, approximately 170 people have enlisted as a result of their Myspace.com contact. Not a bad return considering the investment on the part of the USMC was a few hours creating the page and content. Of course, it is possible to advertise without a marketing strategy. Launching an advertising campaign without a marketing strategy in place may or may not drive new customers through your doors and increase sales. However, one thing is certain; at best a poorly executed campaign will do little to increase your bottom line. At worst, a well- executed campaign that delivers the wrong message could actually hurt your business. Mapping Your Strategy Planning your marketing strategy is like mapping out a road trip. You identify in advance where you want to be so you can easily see which roads will take you to there. Advertising is merely gas you’ll pay to put into your vehicle so you can reach your destination. The key to a successful road trip is to determine your destination in advance. Let’s say you’re planning to drive from Detroit to Miami. On your way, you’ll pass hundreds Beyond the Niche of intersecting highways that can take you east or west. You might think you’d only take roads that go south. But if you consult a trip planner or map, you’ll see that it’s necessary to take a few of these east/west highways to reach your final destination. Without a destination in mind, any intersecting road will take you to interesting places, but few of those roads will take you to Miami. Similarly, the key to successful advertising is to use a marketing strategy to map your route to wherever you want your business to go. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself taking unproductive detours that can not only waste your precious operating capital, but also have the potential to do damage to your company’s reputation along the way. A plastic surgeon recently made one such unwanted detour. His series of full-page, four-color ads featured some truly impressive “before and after” photos of patients. From a technical standpoint, the ad was superbly put together. It was a design success! The problem was that he placed this ad in a freely distributed “junk” advertising mailer. Advertising was the only content of this low cost publication delivered via the US Post Office to tens of thousands of homes. In each issue, the plastic surgeon’s ad was positioned directly across from a page filled with various coupons, ranging from oil change specials and “free” real estate market appraisals to “buy one, get one free” coupons from local sub shops. The surgeon, as if inspired to join in the coupon madness, actually included his own coupon - $100 off your initial consultation. Beyond the Niche How do you want to choose your plastic surgeon? If you’re like most, it wouldn’t be from a coupon in a piece of junk mail. As a matter of fact, the appearance of that ad alone might be enough to cross that surgeon off your list all together. Talk about poor positioning! The use of the coupon mailer by the plastic surgeon for his advertising can immediately cause readers to question this doctor’s credibility. Even if he is as gifted as the before and after photos indicate, the plastic surgeon will have to work long and hard to overcome his coupon-wielding image. Sans the coupons, the superbly designed ad should have appeared in a publication that would not only reach the clients he hopes to attract, but would also enhance his image as a skilled and practiced professional. Nearly every major metro area has at least one upscale magazine which would be a better fit for this surgeon than the coupon magazine. This is not to say that the coupon magazine mailer has no place in a successful advertising campaign. It does, just for other businesses wishing to reach this market. The furniture dealer who proclaims he is the “DISCOUNT FURNITURE KING” should have his message delivered via this medium, rather than via a high-end Style and Living magazine. A coupon mailer is a perfectly good “highway.” It just doesn’t go in the direction that a highly skilled plastic surgeon should have wanted to go. The discount furniture Beyond the Niche king’s final marketing destination is not the same as the final marketing destination for a plastic surgeon. Your marketing destination or "I KNOW OF A strategy should be to let the right BREWER WHO SELLS people know about your MORE OF HIS BEER TO THE PEOPLE WHO business and what your product NEVER SEE HIS and services can do for them. ADVERTISING THAN TO Developing a marketing strategy THE PEOPLE WHO SEE will then help you determine IT EVERY WEEK. who the right people are and BAD ADVERTISING CAN how you will deliver your UNSELL A PRODUCT." message to these people. In David Ogilvy marketing lingo, the right people are defined as your target market or target customers. Quite simply, these are the people who need or want whatever it is you are selling. You’ve already reached some of these people; they’re already customers of your business. You just need to find more of these kinds of people, the ones who are the most likely to be receptive to your marketing message. As you begin mapping out your own marketing journey, it is important to remember that no form of advertising ever forced anyone to buy something s/he did not need or want. Many authors and “marketing experts” seem to overlook this important detail. They preach, and their followers seem to believe, that if they pummel a message long enough and hard enough, they’ll eventually get results. That’s not to say that it’s not your advertising’s job to persuade people, it’s Beyond the Niche just that you need to remember that brute force is rarely effective when it comes to advertising. Pinpoint those people with whom you would like to engage in conversation. Ideally, these are people who are most likely to purchase your goods or services. That’s your target market. Once you recognize who they are, then you need to take a good, hard look at your product or service and determine why these people are coming to you. Only then will you be able to construct a message to persuade that specific group of people. Beyond the Basement: The story of Ida Mae’s Ida Mae’s (name changed to protect the client’s privacy) was a small bakery started by two retired nurses who launched their business with very little cash and a huge investment of “sweat equity.” The two women had found space for their business in the basement of an aging office building, which was located in the heart of a dying downtown area. Originally constructed in the 1950’s as a four story office building, the building they chose for their business also housed an eclectic and ever-changing assortment of offices and shops in its attempt to remain viable in the midst of small scale urban decay. Most of the businesses that were tenants in the building were poorly funded start-ups who hoped to buck the trend of the downtown decline and make a go of it despite the odds. Beyond the Niche The reason the women chose the location was simple; the rent was cheap. We’re not talking cheap as in “cheap rent,” we’re talking cheap as in “cheap suit.” There was a reason the rent was so cheap: To say the women had chosen a terrible location for Ida Mae’s would be an understatement. Even if the bakery had been located on one of the floors above ground, it still would not have had the benefit of foot traffic. Very few determined souls ventured downtown from the busy bypass that had drawn virtually every remaining retailer in town five miles to the west. "I’VE NEVER FOUND A By locating their bakery in the CLIENT’S BUSINESS PROBLMEN THAT basement, the owners had signed COULD BE SOLVED a lease on the worst spot within SOLELY THROUGH the worst building in a dying ADVERTISING.” Rust Belt factory town. Lee Clow Location wasn’t the only obstacle that Ida Mae’s needed to overcome. The bakery also had to contend with limited parking for their customers. The nearest parking area was located more than a half a block away, and it was a strictly enforced pay lot. Customers who wanted to visit the bakery would have to be unwavering to their mission. The little bakery would have to be their intended destination and they would have to be very determined to find and then reach the bakery. Ida Mae’s had been in business for over a year when I entered the picture. The owners had been desperately trying to build their business. Their first choice was to use word of Beyond the Niche mouth advertising, since their creations were truly above and beyond anything else available in the area. However, the ugly reality of the situation was the fact that customers are necessary to build a word of mouth campaign, and Ida Mae’s had very few customers. They had tried to attract those initial customers with a regular dose of print ads which was failing to deliver results. By the time I met with them, it was obvious that this hobby bakery was going under if business didn’t turn around quickly. Ida Mae’s shoestring budget meant that we needed to create a tightly targeted marketing strategy. We couldn’t afford to waste our precious ad budget on spray and pray marketing tactics. Their advertising dollars were so limited that we needed a method of message delivery that provided maximum “bang for the buck.” First, we identified the target market for the bakery. The two founders of Ida Mae’s had always loved baking but rarely had the time while pursuing their careers in nursing. Only upon their retirement from nursing and their headlong plunge into entrepreneurship were they able to bake to their hearts delight. So we chose to target working women who also didn’t have the time to pamper their families or friends with lavish home baked “goodies.” The message we created spoke directly to these women’s desire to have their cake and eat it to, so to speak. They could work full time and still treat their friends and family to delicious, home-style baked goodies. Beyond the Niche Once we identified our target audience, we then had to choose a media to deliver the message directly to these women. Because of our shoestring thin budget, we chose a small AM radio station which featured a nationally syndicated talk show as part of its programming. Due to the nature and content of the show, show’s audience was primarily women. Because this station only had about 10,000 listeners (it was the lowest rated station in the market), we were able to afford a schedule of ads airing exclusively during this show. By choosing a single show, we reached the same audience repeatedly with the carefully crafted messages while staying within the confines of Ida Mae’s extremely limited budget. The campaign began in April and by the following August, the results were beginning to be seen. People were actually coming to the basement of this building in the middle of a dead downtown area in search of the bakery. By Thanksgiving, Ida Mae’s had a backlog of holiday orders. By Christmas, the bakery’s owners were actually looking forward to a first quarter slowdown and a return to “business as usual.” In the chapters that follow, I will share with you the basis for the success of Ida Mae’s advertising campaign. While the Ida Mae story is now over 15 years old, it’s a theme that has been repeated hundreds of times throughout my history of working with small businesses in creating effective advertising and marketing messages. Beyond the Niche I chose to share Ida Mae’s story with you here because I have never seen a case, before or since, where the odds were stacked so heavily against success. Their location was horrid, their budget was tiny and the competition was fierce. The only glimmer of hope for their fledgling business was that they had a truly outstanding product. Probably the biggest reason their story stands out in my mind is because of their awful location; hidden in a basement of an office building, with no signage, no parking and no other businesses to help draw foot traffic. When their business began to improve, there was no doubt that it was the advertising that had made the difference. However, had the women who founded Ida Mae’s not been creating culinary perfection combined with treating each and every customer who walked down those basement stairs as a long lost friend, then their advertising campaign wouldn’t have achieved anything other than accelerating the micro business’ demise. Ida Mae’s built success within six months on an extremely limited budget by advertising on the lowest-rated station in the market. You can build a success story like that as well by using the principles in this book as well. Beyond the Niche A word of caution: Launching an "A GREAT AD effective advertising campaign will CAMPAIGN WILL MAKE A BAD bring new customers to your business, PRODUCT FAIL but that is only the beginning. FASTER. IT WILL Remember, marketing includes all GET MORE activities involved in transferring PEOPLE TO KNOW IT'S BAD.” goods and services from you to your customers. Advertising is just one William Bernbach piece of that complicated puzzle. Just as advertising can work for you or against you, so can all of your other marketing activities. An effective advertising campaign that promotes a business with shoddy product or lousy customer service will merely hasten that business’ demise. Your advertising won’t make your business an overnight success. There are many factors that will come into play to determine your level of success and your advertising and marketing messages are just a few pieces of the puzzle. Whether or not the increased customer traffic that results from your effective advertising leads to a healthy bottom line is up to your execution of the rest of your business model.