Bad News for Marketing People

Five years ago it was enough to change what you SAY about what you sell.  Change the ad, more hoopla at the trade show, that sort of thing.

The bad news for marketing people (consultants included): we can’t so easily force people to listen today.  I know, poor us!  We’re being forced to make actual improvements to what we sell.

Change who you are, change what you sell, improve something.  Not just what you say.

There is some good news.  Yes, change the product you sell.  But remember how broadly I’m defining your product.  I’m including how you engage customers, your level of transparency and accessibility, how you support customers and often, yes, your physical product.

But no weasel room.  No “our new micro-lite charcoal filter gives you a cleaner, smoother tasting cigarette.”  I’m talking about the type of change that’s real.

More good news: while profound, game-changing improvements are preferable to us marketing people responsible for generating sales, the changes don’t have to be epic to deliver value and improve sales.

State Farm Insurance will now handle the interaction with your current insurance company when you make a change.  They’re taking away the awkwardness of telling your current insurance company goodbye.  Skype just introduced five-way video calling.  Google just improved Docs and Analytics and Webmaster Tools and Wave.

All improvements.  None game-changing.  But all make tangible improvements.

On the epic end of the spectrum of changes, Domino’s Pizza allegedly now makes pizza that actually tastes good.  Brave!  I wish them well. . .and to be serious, I am impressed with what they are trying to do.  Tackling their perception of below-average pizza that’s cheap and convenient is exactly what they should be doing.  And the hardest thing they could be doing.  I’m rooting for them.

What smaller State Farm-type of things can you improve before you have to — gasp! — contemplate whether your pizza sucks?

Related posts:

Race to the Bottom

Marketing Choices: Good vs. Evil

4 thoughts on “Bad News for Marketing People

  1. Michael Sherman

    If you are a Wholesale Consumer Electronics Distributors, or any company for that matter, looking for a marketing consultant and thinking of hiring an agency, you should consider carefully your choices.

    I worked many years for the two largest ad agencies in the world, J. Walter Thompson Company and Campbell-Ewald Advertising (Managing Director) and also owned a small AAAA agency for 12 years. After managing both the clients and employees at the same time, I came to realize that one-on-one efforts with my clients were the most productive and successful for them and the most enjoyable for me.

    So I opened one, a one-man shop totally dedicated to them, specializing in wholesale consumer electronics manufacturing and distribution marketing consulting and have been successfully representing clients all over the country as a consultant for 11 years.

    I tell you this in hopes that you may conclude that I know what I am talking about.

    Ok, so what is the advice?

    If you’re a wholesale consumer electronics distributor industry, finding a good experienced marketing consultant will have a profound effect on the future of your business. This is particularly true if your business marketing budget is small.

    Too often, choosing one is a matter of chance, such as their proximity to you. In this age of the Internet, Instant messaging, Cell Phones and Video conferencing, the value of proximity is over-rated.

    On the surface, most agencies look alike. But scratch the surface and you will find some dramatic differences in philosophy, ability and in their experience in the wholesale consumer electronics industry of the agency and account executive assigned to you, especially if you have a small marketing budget.

    Why is your account manager so important? He (or she) is the pipeline through which all information flows in both directions, into the agency from you and him, to his support team and back to you. His experience, ability, knowledge of your wholesale suppliers market, dedication and availability determine the success of your marketing investment and the ultimate cost to you.

    Junior account execs (in training) are salesmen and hand-holders and deliver to you what they are told to sell. They have to start earning their wings some place. Unfortunately it is at your expense.

    For those of you who have not found out already the hard way what it is like to be a small account at a large agency or work with a small agency with a very limited number of experienced account executives, I want you to know how dealing with an agency really works.
    Whether you hire a large agency with hundreds or even thousands of employees, or a medium or small sized agency, everything still goes through the account executive they assign to your account, supported by an account supervisor who (on and off) hopefully rides shotgun over him. It is the job of the account executive (also called an account manager) and occasionally his supervisor to…
    1. Learn your business, products, competition and markets, if he doesn’t know already.
    2. Learn your goals and budgets.
    3. Communicate your needs or opportunity to a team the agency assigns you. You do not pick them, the agency does. You would not know who to pick anyway. And a small account does not get their big hitters.
    4. Oversee the team progress, get them back in line when they stray off target, and stray they will.
    5. Review the time sheets with your name on it. And be sure, the straying also gets logged on your time sheet.
    6. Approve or edit their work on your behalf, when they miss the target, again on your nickel.
    7. Present to you the agencies work product and sell hard, mostly in the interest of the sale.
    8. Integrate your feedback into revisions and hopefully disagree when you are wrong –something that is inherently difficult for an agency account man to do; it is much easier to sell you what you want.
    9. See to it that the approved plans are implemented quickly and correctly.
    10. Monitor the programs and their effect on your goals.
    11. Recommend ongoing changes.
    12. Evaluate the results against the expenditure and goals.

    And, as far as the creative product goes, I believe that advertising is supposed to produce sales, not just win awards, a simple fact that sometimes eludes the creative types at agencies. This only becomes a problem for you, the client, when the creative director gets dazzled by his own creative team enthusiasm for their work product, forgets about the goal and sells it to your account manager. Unfortunately, this happens too often. Sales go down, the agency gets fired, the creative team gets fired, they pull their awards off the wall, go across the street, re-hang them and it starts all over again.

    Makes you think you should be interviewing account men who know your business and not agencies, does it not? It should.

    If you choose to go the full service agency route, you basically have three choices:

    1. Hire A Big Agency: You get the prestige of being a client of one of the biggies, if they are interested in your annual expenditure ($1 Million being the lower limit). What you really get is the heavy weights from the agency for the initial presentation, annual contract renewal presentations and multi-client social events. The rest of the time, if you are lucky, you will get a part-time account executive, whose talents and experience (if they have any in our industry) will be a direct reflection of the size of your account, the money you spend with them.

    2. Hire A Regional Agency: One or two steps down in all ways from the big boys.

    3. Hire A Small Local Agency: This is where you need to be the most careful. They most likely will not have a heavy-weight account exec with the talent or consumer electronics experience to deal with the challenges facing you or programs you want to implement in our industry, especially PR designed to get you exposure and Website traffic aimed at the right audience.

    There is a fourth choice that is decidedly different and better.

    4. Hire a marketing consultant, experienced in the wholesale consumer electronic industry, with all the resources and offering all the services needed to get the job done.

    CONSIDER THE DIFFERENCES AND OPPORTUNITIES BEFORE YOU CHOOSE, NOT AFTER!

  2. hamilton Post author

    Feel free to click-through on Michael’s comment/ad. But if you end up hiring him, at least ask him to send me a finder’s fee. 🙂

  3. Pingback: 5 Questions Along the Path to Better Marketing

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