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.

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.

Avoid the ‘Alphabet Soup’ Product Naming Approach

Naming products and services is an incredibly important element to your branding strategy and marketing plan. Ideal product names are clearly descriptive, motivating to customers and memorable.

Or, you could take LG’s example and go with the alphabet soup approach:

Avoid the Alphabet Soup Product Naming Approach

The LG G Pad F 8.0 (don’t forget it’s trademarked!) is a real product. Try to imagine a customer talking about their new LG G Pad F 8.0 to a friend. Do you think they could even remember the full model name? Perhaps this clunky name is partially to blame for LG having to offer this tablet for $0.99– not exactly a high-margin sale.

LG’s product name is a prime example of naming a product from a production team’s perspective instead a customer’s. To the LG engineers, I’m sure this is a perfectly logical model name. But it doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of a simple, clear product name like iPad.

When naming your next product or service, try to be more like Apple and less like LG.

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 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!

What Church Potlucks Taught Me about Marketing

What Church Potlucks Taught Me about MarketingThere’s a curious phenomenon at church potlucks, which anyone who has cooked for one has witnessed. Simply cooking a dish you know to be delicious is not enough to entice people to eat it. As my mom taught me, you have to nicely display and properly portion the food. Slice meat into individual servings, and cut cakes into appropriately-sized pieces.

My younger, incredulous self had two questions for my mom:

  • I did the cooking. Can’t the people eating it show the initiative to portion it for their own consumption?
  • How do people survive in life if they don’t even have the ability to try dishing up a new food?

My disbelief notwithstanding, my mom was right. If I didn’t plan for how people would dish up my food, it would go uneaten. But if I served the same casserole cut into small squares, it would disappear.

The church potluck is a mini marketplace and can teach us several things about small business marketing.

  1. As there are so many options in the buffet line, people just choose the easiest, most familiar ones. Similarly, your business has plenty of competition, and customers will gravitate to the choice that is easiest to understand.
  2. No one likes to be embarrassed or feel like he’s not in control of a situation. Cutting up food carries some social risk– what if you drop it? what if you suddenly see something you don’t like? (like the one time I found limp, cooked pickles in a casserole)  You need to make things as easy for your customer as possible. Make her feel smart and in-control.
  3. Word of mouth is powerful. If one early-adopter raves about your pie (or product), others will just have to try it. Before you know it, your dish will be the talk of the church! Or, your product will be on everyone’s wish list.
  4. On the flip side, the unknown is scary. Very few people are willing to be the first to try something new. You have to make it attractive for them to be first.

All of the above factors come into play even at a church potluck where the food is free, and the risks are low. Since your customers pay for your offerings, their reactions in the actual marketplace will be more pronounced. But take my mom’s advice, and you’ll be successful.

 

Marketing 101: What is a Brand?

The basic marketing question, “What is a brand?” is rarely even adequately covered in marketing classes. But understanding your business’s brand is the most crucial concept for any marketing effort to be successful.

So, what is it, then?

Your brand is the essence, the soul, of your business. Your brand is what your business values. It’s what makes your business valuable and useful to customers, suppliers, employees– and yourself. Your brand is why your business exists.

See, it’s pretty important, eh?

The excellent movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, shows a beautiful example of branding. From the film’s introduction:

Sushi Branding“JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimages, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.”

Jiro Ono has spent his entire working life (since he was nine years old!) honing his brand. He goes so far as to ensure his suppliers put their heart and soul into their businesses, as well. His son, Yoshikazu, says, “Our tuna vendor only sells tuna. Our octopus vendor only sells octopus.” And their rice vendor refuses to sell Jiro’s special rice blend to anyone but Jiro, claiming no one else could possibly prepare it properly.

The soul, or brand, of every business in this film is ever-present. They put their heart and honor into being the very best and consciously defining what they do and who they are.

Perfection is not just a platitude for these businesses. If the tuna dealer can’t find any fish he considers perfect, there’s no tuna for sale that day. Jiro’s apprentices spend 45 minutes massaging the octopus to ensure it is tender enough to serve.

Watch the trailer: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Watch the trailer: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

When a business knows its brand, marketing decisions become much easier. Sukiyabashi Jiro would never consider switching suppliers to lower costs or starting mass sushi production, because it wouldn’t fit their purpose. They know who they are, so they also know who they aren’t.

To truly direct a business and its employees, a brand must be specific enough to escape being generic. It has to answer the question, “Why does this business exist?” Answers like, “To be the most trusted provider of…” aren’t meaningful or unique enough to give your brand life– on the whole, aren’t your competitors pretty trustworthy, too?

For defining a compelling and meaningful brand, small businesses have the advantage over big ones. The soul is a unified thing, and it’s hard for large businesses to unify behind one purpose and set of values. Small businesses have the vision of one person (or a small group of people) to give them a truly purposeful brand. Don’t you think it’s worth answering the question, “What is my business’s brand?”

Don’t Make These Marketing Design Mistakes!

Route 52 near Cincinnati is an interesting drive– it follows the Ohio River, takes you through some cute small towns and, surprisingly, presents drivers with a stark marketing lesson. That lesson is to think like a customer.

On my drive, I first  encountered a restaurant whose logo includes a whimsical mouse wearing a chef hat and handling your food:

If there is a mouse on the sign, isn’t it reasonable for customers to assume the restaurant has a lax rodent policy? Either way, a restaurant never benefits from an association with mice.

Next, I drove past a gynecology clinic featuring a mermaid on their sign:

I’m certainly not an expert in this field, but I’m not sure mermaids would even require a gynecologist.

When designing a logo and other marketing materials, businesses must think like their customers. It doesn’t matter how cute, clever or “different” the logo might be if customers are off-put by the concept.

Here are some marketing design tips to help you think like a customer:

  • Understand your customer’s expectations. Would a customer think you are a better doctor with a mermaid on your sign?
  • Consider common associations in our culture. Will customers have a pleasant impression of your restaurant when they associate it with a mouse?
  • Be practical, then be creative. First answer the question, “What are we trying to say to customers?” Then, you will be able to create fun, interesting messages that resonate with customers.
  • Ask others for their opinions. An outside opinion can be valuable to gain insights you might have overlooked.

Many Kinds of Marketing

Marketers are a creative bunch, and we like to create new things. But sometimes the pursuit of the “new” can go overboard. I started thinking about all the different kinds of “marketing” I’ve experienced, and the list began to get a bit ridiculous. Below are the kinds of marketing I thought of in the last few minutes. Have you heard of them all? Are there any others I forgot?

  • Affiliate Marketing
  • B2B Marketing
  • B2C Marketing
  • Buzz Marketing
  • Cross-Marketing
  • Door-to-Door Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Grassroots Marketing
  • Guerilla Marketing
  • Internal Marketing
  • Long-Tail Marketing
  • Loyalty Marketing
  • Niche Marketing
  • Permission Marketing
  • Viral Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Telemarketing
  • Traditional Marketing
  • Viral Marketing
  • Web Marketing
  • Word-of-mouth Marketing

The problem is that marketing doesn’t really work when it’s so highly segmented. Customers don’t care about the differences between a business’s loyalty marketing efforts and social media marketing strategy. And a customer doesn’t know when they’re being targeted by the web marketing team or the traditional marketing team.

To the customer, it’s all just marketing… even the activities that the marketing team aren’t responsible for, like billing.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you call your marketing, as long as it all works together to help you customer have a great experience.

Marketing Jargon Defined

For many small businesses, one of the most confusing things about marketing is the jargon.When talking with marketing professionals and vendors, sometimes these words get tossed out without any definition. Here’s a quick list of some of the most common  marketing jargon:

  • Marketing Mix – The marketing activities that make up your marketing plan. For instance, e-mail marketing, pay-per-click advertising and promotional events.
  • Target – The customers you are trying to reach with your marketing efforts (You’ve probably noticed that many marketing terms have militaristic origins. I think this is a terrible way to think about marketing, as I wrote in this article – “Marketing isn’t war on your customers“).
  • Copy – The written content on a business’s website, blog, brochures, advertisements, etc.
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization. The ongoing process of making a website attractive to search engines like Google.
  • SEM – Search Engine Marketing. This encompasses the marketing mix a business uses to market to users of search engines, both SEO and advertising.
  • CPM – Cost Per Mille. In the advertising world, this is the cost per one thousand showings of your ad. Sometimes, it’s also referred to as Cost Per Impression.
  • Impression – An impression is when your ad is visible to view. For instance, each time a banner ad loads on a web page it counts as an impression. But just because the ad is visible doesn’t guarantee a person is actually looking at it!
  • PPC – Pay Per Click. This is the type of internet advertising made popular by Google and is used by all the search engines, along with Facebook. It means you pay for the advertising when someone clicks on your ad.
  • CPC – Cost Per Click. How much each click costs in a PPC advertising campaign.
  • Viral Marketing – Marketing efforts that are started by a business but grow and become controlled by groups of customers. For instance, you’ve probably heard of a video that has “gone viral.”

Have any other marketing jargon you’d like defined? Just post a comment, and I’ll be glad to help!