Think Like a Minimalist to Get Your Marketing Message Across

I’m helping a client design a consumer rewards program, with the goal of increasing our competitive advantage and attracting new customers. Because the product mix has excellent margins, we can offer a program that provides high value to the customer. To give you an idea, joining the rewards program includes ALL THESE GREAT BENEFITS:

  • Minimalist Marketing StrategyFree product for signing up
  • Points on every purchase
  • Free product on your birthday
  • Referral rewards

Our marketing challenge is to motivate customers to sign up for the program through on-site signage and online advertising.

Because customers will only give your marketing messages a glance (if you’re lucky!), what they see needs to be arresting. Our marketing strategy for launching the consumer rewards program is to minimize what we tell customers– only try to communicate what the customer needs to know for the next step.

Marketing Communication Strategy

Step 1: Sign Up – Enjoy a free product today for signing up

Step 2: Repeat Purchases – Earn points on every purchase

Step 3: Feel Delighted by Our Brand – Surprise customers with a free product on their birthday

Step 4: Refer a Friend – Earn referral rewards

Although it’s tempting to tell customers all the great reasons they should sign up for this program and the many ways they will benefit, they may be too busy or distracted to notice a list of features. It’s the marketing communication corollary to Steve Yastrow’s sales tip, Don’t Load the Slingshot.

By sharing one compelling benefit at each stage of the customer lifecycle, we’re offering a reward for taking one specific action right away. Minimalist marketing goes against many companies’ instincts, but it matches customer behavior and attention spans perfectly.

 

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Precise language is one of my joys. It’s exhilarating to find exactly the right word that communicates in the best way possible.

Which is why it pains me to admit that accuracy isn’t all that important if it’s boring. For marketing communications, you must be interesting first and precise second. To catch a customer’s attention, it’s best to spark their curiosity with memorable content.

Words become boring through overuse. When a word is ubiquitous in the culture, customers start to overlook it, like static in the background. Sometimes, these words are useful descriptors of what your company does, but it doesn’t matter if customers have grown accustomed to ignoring them.

Instead, choose words that are easily understood but unique in the context of your business. Compare these two marketing campaign approaches from Mosquito Joe and JH Mosquito Control Services. Mosquito Joe takes a friendly approach that is much more interesting and memorable than JH’s technical description of its service special.

Mosquito Joe – Outside is fun again.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

JH Mosquito Control Services – Mosquito Control Special!

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Some Terms that Might be Accurate, but are Terribly Boring:

  • Solutions
  • Collaborative
  • Communication
  • Service
  • Special
  • Alignment
  • Outside the box
  • Cutting edge
  • Turnkey
  • Innovative
  • Expert

Perfection is Illusive, but Keep Working on It!

True marketing magic happens when you find precisely the right words that also perfectly describe what you do and why customers should buy from you. I advocate striving for that goal!

In the meantime, though, you have to keep marketing and selling. “Don’t let perfection become the enemy of good,” is a powerful business adage. As you move forward, infuse more interesting and unique language into your marketing. You’ll attract customers’ attention, and they will allow you more time to explain accurately what you do.

For Better Marketing, Get to Know Your Customers

Marketing can be simply defined as the ways you influence customers to buy from you. And to influence effectively, you should understand your customers. Knowing your customers will help you communicate with them in meaningful ways and choose media channels they will actually see.

For better marketing, get to know your customers

Here are checklists of the kinds of demographic and characteristic knowledge you should have about your customers.

Customer Demographic Checklist

Understanding facts and figures about your customers is the first step to designing marketing campaigns that will appeal to them. You should know:

  • Size of your target market
  • Your current share of this market
  • Geography – where your customers live and work
  • Percentage of your customers who are men vs. women
  • Percentage of your customers at various ages/stages of their lives
  • Which media channels they find most compelling, i.e., radio, Facebook, Yelp, magazines, etc.

Customer Characteristic Checklist

Demographics are only the start, though. They can help you choose where to place your messages, and give some guidance on where to start with message development. For instance, a Boomer woman near retirement will generally require a different marketing approach from a Millennial man who just started a business.

To truly influence and persuade customers, you need a knowledge of their personalities, preferences and characteristics. Things like:

  • How do products/services like yours affect their lives?
  • What do they love about your industry?
  • What do they hate?
  • When do they make purchasing decisions?
  • How much research do customers complete before they buy?
  • What makes you special to your customers and differentiates you from competition
  • Who is your indirect competition? What different products/services might a customer buy instead of yours?

If you know less than half of the items on my checklists, your marketing strategy needs more research! Start talking to customers, and let them tell you how to persuade them.

Don’t Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

Since I named my small business marketing firm Zoo in a Jungle Marketing, it’s pretty clear that I approve of marketing metaphors. Taken from Peter DeVries’ quote “Life is a zoo in a jungle,” my company name promotes stepping outside the constraining zoo of your immediate business environment into the jungles of possibility.

But some brands take marketing metaphors too far. For instance, Roehr Insurance:

Don't Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

When I first saw this banner, I thought, “Okay, a lion shield for a logo. I get it– lions symbolize strength, wealth and honor. Those are all desirable attributes in an insurance agency.” The lion shield serves as a clear, quickly-understood metaphor for the service you hopefully would receive from this firm.

Then I saw the tagline,”Put the Roehr back in your insurance,” and the pun-inducing groans started. Heavy-handed and silly are NOT desirable attributes for an insurance agency. (Not to mention confusing– what would it mean to have insurance that roars?)

While I certainly encourage the use of well-placed marketing metaphors, watch out for instances that give the impression of amateur efforts instead of well-crafted expertise.

Campfire Stories and Small Business Marketing

Campfire Stories and Small Business MarketingA great campfire story compels the audience to listen, eager to hear what happens next. And they will remember the story, to share with others later. Wouldn’t you love for your marketing to capture some of that feeling? Unfortunately, small business marketing tends to focus on tangible features and benefits, i.e., “Enjoy life in your new kitchen with a state-of-the-art redesign!” A new kitchen is great, but communicating in facts and figures just isn’t that memorable or motivating.

If campfire stories were like most small business marketing campaigns, they would go something like this:

“It was a dark and stormy night, exactly 7:03 P.M. Scattered thunderstorms approached from the west, as lightning created significant property damage. Seeking shelter from these dangerous conditions, two young adults overcame their fears and entered a house that had a reputation for being haunted. After recording some rather disturbing experiences in a journal, they disappeared… never to be heard from again.”

“Just the facts” is a terrible way to interest and motivate customers. Get out your marshmallows and dream up a story that will help customers remember you in a meaningful way.

Why I Love Small Business Marketing

Why I Love Small Business MarketingSmall businesses are my favorite marketing clients. I love them!

With big businesses (and sometimes with medium-sized ones), there are so many considerations outside the actual process of making a product, marketing it and selling it to customers who want it. Petty politics and communication breakdowns prevent departments from working together. Budgeting can get fuzzy, with resources being spent inefficiently. And one person or group can only make so much of an impact in an organization of hundreds or thousands.

In contrast, successful small businesses emphasize results over personalities. Customers take center stage, and every marketing dollar can be spent for maximum impact. Small businesses are nimble and can put smart new marketing strategies into place right away. Working with these clients is incredibly rewarding, because we can see the results of our work together almost immediately.

Small businesses, focus on these strengths. These are the reasons I love small business marketing, and the keys for small business success.

Why Make Big Problems Out of Little Problems?

Here’s some great marketing advice from author P.D. Eastman, in the toddler board book, Big Dog… Little Dog:

Why make big problems out of little problems?

Every small business faces marketing problems. Keep in mind that your problems are probably not big problems. Big problems are literally life and death decisions. If you aren’t facing something that serious, consider yourself blessed and calmly address the little problems that arise.

Like the book’s wise bird, take time to think about and investigate the true source of each problem. Often, the reason will be as simple as, “Big dogs need big beds. Little dogs need little beds.” If your profit margin is too low, perhaps you’ll discover your customer acquisition cost is too high. Or lack of customer loyalty might be traced to poor customer service practices.

Once you identify the facts surrounding your problem, make sure to fix it! Problems never fix themselves, and they only grow bigger. For the problem of high customer acquisition costs, a business might implement a referral program or further optimize its online advertising. A customer service problem likely requires some procedure changes and employee training.

The next time a marketing problem pops up, keep things in perspective. Why make big problems out of little problems?

Well, that was easy to do!

Marketing Podcast: Skip the Marketing Gimmicks

In this interview, Dave Weatherholt plays a bit of devil’s advocate, challenging my assertion that brands should avoid marketing gimmicks. But I remain firm– marketing gimmicks are bad for long-term success. Stick to what your business is passionate about, and your customers will notice.

Download or listen below:

Skip the Marketing Gimmicks

Marketing Podcast: Skip the Marketing Gimmicks (5.3 MB)

This segment first aired during “Getting Down to Business” on Alaska’s Fox News Talk 1020.

Green Marketing Gimmicks

Marketing gimmicks give marketing a bad name. The worst form of marketing gimmick is falsely promoting a cause to profit from it. These days, this tactic usually takes the form of “green marketing.” Take, for instance, this “Save the Earth Gum:”

Green marketing gimmick - Save the Earth Gum

“Buy this gum and save trees.” Yeah, right. Chewing gum and trees have so little to do with one another that this marketing gimmick is obviously ridiculous. (Also, the brand neglects to mention that trees are required to make their cardboard display box, along with the resources required to produce the plastic tubes and labels.)

Even supposed environmental organizations aren’t free from this marketing hypocrisy. At a local event, the Hamilton County Recycling representatives were trying to promote recycling at restaurants and bars… by handing out copious amounts of full-color, double-sided, aqueous-coated business cards. Not only did they avoid printing on recycled paper, but these waterproof cards would take years to decompose in a landfill.

In an attempt to maintain an appealing landscape, the maintenance crew for the EPA office down the street sprayed noxious chemicals through my open car windows. Along with the lungful of chemicals, they were spreading the message that green grass is more important than their mission.

If your business has a core philosophy and set of values, your marketing plan should highlight them and educate your customers. But companies using a thin veneer of popular “values” to hock products won’t succeed at it for very long. Fads are fickle, and customers are growing more skeptical every day.

Stop Griping. Start Being Awesome.

Just as the phone camera became good enough to replace small point-and-shoot models, and that industry appeared close to being obsolete, Nikon fought back with two new models that showed consumers needs they didn’t know they had.

The Nikon 1 is a simple-to-use, compact camera with expandable options like lenses or a flash. Nikon’s goal is to help people take pictures and videos that look good without the added weight and bulk of an SLR camera.

Nikon Coolpix CameraThe Coolpix AW100 is geared for action photography where one wouldn’t want to risk damaging his phone or SLR, promoted as being “waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof.” As my wedding photographer friend explained, “Nikon has shown me a need for a third kind of camera!” And, indeed, who wouldn’t want a camera to bring when they go kayaking/biking/snowboarding?

Compare Nikon’s attitude with the music industry ten years ago (or even today…)– embroiled in legal battles and legislative efforts trying to preserve an old-fashioned business model that anyone outside the business could see was going to die anyway.

Instead of trying to stop phone companies from including cameras, Nikon simply became even more awesome.

So when you’re faced with competition that seemed to come out of nowhere, take Nikon’s path. Stop griping, and start being awesome. It’s the only way to survive.