Oct 21, 2011

Push, Pull and a Hand Shake: The Importance of Mix in Marketing

“We’ve got a killer website. I don’t understand why we aren’t doing well!”  If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that complaint . . . 

Most people going into business for the first time don’t understand that marketing and business development necessarily involve a mix of approaches. While the idea that one single silver bullet will hit the target is understandably appealing, it’s NOT going to work because the target is never one individual who always has the same feelings and needs.  Putting it that way makes obvious the need for multiple techniques and avenues to gain customer awareness and trust.

When I begin helping clients with their marketing plans, I always tell them that we need to plan for a mix of marketing techniques and investment. I use a mnemonic to help them remember the idea: Push, Pull and a Hand Shake.  They need to blend Push marketing techniques with Pull Marketing investment and use personal marketing—that Handshake—for outreach and message correction.

Push Marketing – the Virtual Tap on the Shoulder

When marketers talk about push marketing, they are referring to the wide variety of techniques that can be used to attract the attention of potential customers and motivate them to take the first step in doing business with their clients. Telemarketing, advertising, direct mail—all are examples of this type of “interrupt” activity designed to call attention to a business and responsive action from potential customers.

Although all of these techniques have their quirks: some are more effective for certain products and services than others. But as a rule of thumb, the more you spend, the greater your success: frequency plus good execution yields desired outcome.  Most of these techniques have the advantage of producing results fairly quickly.  

But marketing campaigns based solely on Push, or Interrupt, marketing techniques inevitably fail. Why? This year, the average consumer will see or hear 1 million marketing messages, almost 3,000 daily.  Since most automatically screen out most “interrupt messages,” other techniques must be used to get our attention. 

Pull Marketing Investment

Many marketing tools do not interrupt the customer but, rather, support his intention when he seeks a product or service. The best example is search marketing, which is enabled by a website or blog that, when searched by a search engine, leads your prospect to your online information. You can also pay a fee to have him directed to your online information (pay for click). The more information you put online, on your website, your blog, your social media outlets, the more likely you will be found by a prospect interested in your business. Creating this online footprint can be expensive, and you must shoulder some of the cost before you sell your first widget. 

Why assume the cost of implementing a Pull strategy? Simple: it works.  MediaPost recently reported that U.S. spending on search engine marketing (another pull marketing technique) will grow from $12.2 billion in 2008 to $22.4 billion in 2013.  Indeed, companies are embracing the idea of building entire campaigns around content that is shared through a variety of online and social media platforms. But just like efforts based solely on Push techniques, using Pull techniques in isolation may be self-limiting. For one thing, the expense of investing in and perpetually refreshing content in the absence of immediate demand (and business) is risky. Without continuing feedback from the target market in the form of measurable traffic, engagement, and commitment to the buying process, companies will be hard-pressed to continue to invest in Pull marketing. 

Pressing the Flesh

The least expensive and the most effective marketing technique is personal marketing. It  has long been employed by the smallest businesses. From the business card and referral swapping in networking groups to the attention-getting and positive reinforcement from public speaking events, actually meeting and touching your potential customers can be very gratifying. It provides a level of information and affirmation about you and your offerings that cannot be equaled.  A little time spent honing your 30-second commercial can garner you new business in a single afternoon of networking.  It also gives you immediate feedback about what parts of your message seem relevant and which parts don’t resonate with your prospects. You can also use that information to tweak your push and pull campaigns if they are running at the same time.

Marketing efforts that embody all three of these marketing modalities stand a good chance of being successful. They generate needed immediacy, higher conversion, and lower cost per lead.

Oct 10, 2011

How Much is the Doggie in the Window?

I confess: sometimes when I’m flipping channels, I might occasionally land on the Home Shopping Network. Imagine my surprise last night when I noticed the funny square barcode in the lower right hand part of the screen. The announcer invited me to use my smart phone to get more info and actually make my purchase!

Quick Response (QR) codes got started in Japan as an aide to inventory control. According to Wikipedia, they were created by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. Since then, they have been seized by national manufacturers to provide all kinds of information. Since QR readers are freely available on smart phones, the expectation is that they will become the “vehicle” of choice for conveying detailed info about products and services to exactly the people who want to see it. As my local printer, Terry Doland of Express Printing, has written in his blog: “Using Smartphone technology, people can scan a special QR (Quick Response) code and have their telephone connect to a web address, download a MP3 file, dial a telephone number or prompt the email client with a sender address.”

If you want to market to the hundreds of thousands of “smart phone” users, a demographic growing all the time, you will want to consider how to incorporate into your marketing mix the QR code.
So should you design your next mailing piece or flyer to feature a QR code? 

“Not so fast,” cautions Manie Kohn, President of Don’t Tell Me, Show Me, a Silicon Valley company using an unprecedented combination of progressive online marketing, quality control and Realtor accountability to empower home sellers when choosing a real estate professional.

According to Mr. Kohn, current QR codes are associated with three problems as marketing components:
1.      Small Market – only 6.2% of cell phone users scanned a QR code in June 2011, 23.5% of whom actually scanned from a poster or flyer according to the tracking firm, comScore.
2.      Linked to unreadable content – many firms using QR codes linking them to WebPages that are not optimized for mobile devices. Consequently, “eyeballs” are lost when customers can’t see content easily or quickly
3.      Too many links in the chain – for QR codes to serve up a prompt and positive user experience, phone must have a QR reader app that works well, is instantly accessible, Web connectivity, and readable meaningful content.  Lacking any link loses customers. 
My own opinion is that a QR code does not detract from the marketing message and seems like an easy way to win the attention of prospects with little incremental cost. I have added a QR code to my business card, which links to a mobile-ready version of my bio. I also recommend using QR codes to people trying to sell their car or a house with a flyer. 

QR codes also seem a great way to sell services, especially if they can be linked to videos or podcasts that extend the service value proposition. But most pundits agree that until ALL cell phones come with built-in QR readers, adoption will be hit and miss.