Enter yourself in a time capsule and take yourself back to that time you sat in front of your 1st grade elementary school teacher, completely and utterly entrenched by your favorite children’s novel. “Story-time” is what made life worth living – it’s what you looked forward to day after day, and was just about the only excuse to get out of the dreaded nap time.
Fast forward 20, 30, or even 50+ years, and we find that we are still trapped by our own inner child. We experience the same feeling when we get lost in a good book, an Internet article, or a hit television show that we tune in to watch alongside our morning bagel and Starbucks coffee.
What does this mean for marketers? Does it mean we should plaster excerpts of The Three Little Pigs on our landing page to get our website to “stick”? Does it mean we should we gather all of our loyal customers into a huddle and read aloud our blogs and press releases about our products so that maybe, just maybe, they will start hearing you? Not exactly…
Our job as marketers is not to convince our audience that our product is bigger, faster, and stronger than our leading competitors. We are slightly misguided into thinking that outperforming others on one leading performance metric will guarantee success in the marketing race. Not so fast.
Think about what entices you to buy a house. Is it because it has 4 bedrooms, an updated kitchen, and that 2-car garage you’ve always dreamed of? Or is it because when you walked in, you could immediately picture yourself cooking on those granite counter tops for your family, or pulling into that 2-car garage after a sunny Sunday afternoon drive?
As a visual and emotionally-driven race, humans are sold on the story behind a product or service rather than a bullet-point list of its specs and/or features. We want to know how and why it will make our personal or business life that much easier on a day-to-day basis.
There is always a back story, some more interesting than others. Read how it all began in this (not-so-brief ) article: Email Marketing – Looking Back Over the Past 15 Years – (Part 1)
As a primary example of how we apply “storytelling” to our business, take one of our services that we sell daily to small businesses and large corporations alike – the email list cleaning and validation service. The reason we own a large market share in this particular industry is not because we tell our customers that we have a large amount of whitelisted servers running simultaneously that enable us to validate every single email address on a list without ever sending an email to the actual recipient. While this useful tidbit of information might hold the attention of avid email marketers who know the business frontward and backwards, this technical jargon means nothing to the general public. Rather, the typical buyer of this service is simply frustrated with getting blocked or shut down by their ESP because of a high bounce rate from their send and want an easy and cost-effective solution to their problems. As opposed to spurting out details of the intricate email validation process, we sell them on our 95% guarantee that all hard bounces will be removed from their list to give them the peace of mind and a sense of confidence that their future mailing will proceed in a seamless, trouble-free fashion. That’s the whole purpose of even offering this service in the first place, so why beat around the bush with nonsense that gets lost in translation?
It may sound obvious to sell a “feeling,” an “experience,” or a “story” rather than a product or service, but it’s rarely implemented in sales and marketing departments across the globe. As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to and in some cases, immune to salespeople who like to chew our ears off with reasons to buy their product. Why not tweak your marketing strategy just a tad and give your customers what they need to make an informed buying decision?
Post your story online through a series of business blogs, customer testimonials, or even an interactive video on your home page.
The more you know your audience and their buying patters, the more likely you are going to convert them into a sale and eventually into a referral. The added bonus that comes with telling a story about your brand is that stories spread and have the potential to go viral. Next time you get sucked into a heart-wrenching, tear-dropping, action-packed novel, movie, or documentary, remember the power of storytelling and how it could fuel your business in a positive direction.
According to Merriam-Webster, motive is a noun defined as “something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.” Everything—and I mean everything—we do in life is dictated by motive, from dragging our butts out of bed in the morning to putting that pint of Ben & Jerry’s back in the freezer without polishing it off. And while the need or desire behind any action may differ between individuals, one thing remains the same: without it, we’d do nothing.
What’s the difference between an ultra-marathoner and a man who spends his weekends on the couch? The answer is motive. The first wants to test his limits, pushing his endurance to the breaking point and then beyond. The latter does not. How about a CEO and a long-term mid-level manager? Again, motive is the answer. You don’t become a Chief Executive Officer without the desire to do what it takes to make it to the top. Long-term mid-level managers, on the other hand, are often satisfied with the status quo.
Motive dictates your business marketing approach—or lack thereof—as well. If you want to reach as many prospects as possible and increase sales, you may choose to use a variety of tools to do so, from email marketing to Google Adwords to social media. If your desire is to coast along, doing little until sales dry up, then find yourself without any money in your pocket and wonder why, I would venture to say you had no motivation to ensure you had enough money in your pocket and dictated your own future. In the first case, your motive dictates actions that will lead you to success—and in the second, to your eventual downfall.
Let’s assume you fall into the first group. The fact that you’re reading our blog, leads me to believe you have at least some interest in exploring new ways to reach prospects and customers. Email is certainly an effective one. According to one recent survey, 66 percent of respondents reported that their email campaigns deliver an “excellent” or “good” return on investment. Eight percent of their businesses earn more than half their sales through email marketing channels.
More sales is an excellent motive for adding email to your marketing mix. Use that desire as fuel for the following actions:
1. Start collecting email addresses. Add an email newsletter sign-up to your website. Ask customers to opt in to communications when they make a purchase. Put those addresses in a database, whether that means customer relationship management software or a good old-fashioned spreadsheet. It sounds like work, but it’s worth the effort. Check out Calculating the Value of Your Customer Database if you don’t believe me. Without this information, your email marketing efforts are dead in the water.
2. Get to know your customers. If you don’t know the people who buy from you now, how can you expect to identify those who will purchase your product or service in the future? Now that you have their email addresses, consider surveying your current clients to gather pertinent information. Include questions that will assist you in identifying specific criteria to enable you to target them with custom tailored content. Make sure you store all of this information with your customers data record.
3. Enlist a managed email marketing service. Planning, creating, broadcasting and tracking email campaigns is time consuming work that requires expertise for maximum success. Find a reputable managed email marketing company who can help you with everything from strategy to email validation to conversion studies. Once you provide them with your database, they can help you determine the types of email content that will best resonate with the customers who make up your list.
4. Broaden your scope. Now that you’ve perfected your approach on your current clients, you can expand your efforts to include prospects. A professional third party email marketing company can use your current customer demographics to help you select the proper email list rental of prospects who will also likely be interested in your products or services. Reach out to them regularly and watch your business grow.
What will your motive dictate today? Will you do something beneficial for your business or nothing at all? Success, failure, excellence, mediocrity—the choice is ultimately up to you.
Back in the 1800s, Charles Darwin, an English naturalist, extensive traveler and avid beard enthusiast, coined the term “natural selection.” Science has since accepted it as one of the mechanisms of evolution whereby nature kills off the dumbest of critters while the smartest (Galapagos finches who invest in all-natural beak enhancements, perhaps) survive.
But unlike animals, who just do what animals do and let the evolutionary chips fall where they may, people do a lot of stupid stuff. Thanks to the glory of the Internet, there are even websites where you can read and watch it all. Take for example the Darwin Awards. Spend a few minutes there and you may think twice before riding without a helmet, spray-painting your face gold, or spot welding a gas tanker. However, these imprudent tales will not deter you from royally screwing up your marketing.
Consider the following mistakes we’ve deemed the stupidest—and learn how to avoid them.
1. Believing “More” is Always “Better”
If you have more money than Carlos Slim, who is the richest man in the world, then by all means spend your marketing dollars on high-priced television, radio and print media ads. Why not, you have plenty of cash to burn. You’ll feel cool. Your Call of Duty buddies will think you’re cool. But the rest of us will think your not that cool because your wasting your money. In the majority of cases, success is not about spending more—it’s about spending smarter.
Whether you’re running a mom and pop shop or a Fortune 500 company, you can best access today’s diverse audiences through highly targeted digital marketing campaigns. From web-based ads to email marketing campaigns, these tools are effective, affordable and Darwin approved.
2. Pulling the Lever
Marketing is not like playing a slot machine in Vegas. There’s a lot more to it than dropping in quarters and pulling a lever. If you think you can invest a few bucks, send one email or place one ad, and then sit back with your proverbial bucket ready for a deluge of winnings, you’re not the sharpest tool in Darwin’s shed.
Successful marketing requires planning and development, careful implementation, consistency, repetition and constant change. A well crafted strategy is essential. And that strategy can’t be managed like a bad case of diarrhea. If it sounds like too much to handle, use the brains your mama gave you and outsource your campaign to a managed email marketing service company.
3. Failing to Measure
Every man has measured how tall he is at one time or another—even though most women will tell you that size is not important. It has nothing to do with your height and little to do with attraction. If genetics provided you with an average or even less than average height, natural selection will not lead to the eventual extinction of your family line.
However, failing to measure the results of your marketing efforts could damage your business. Make sure you have a plan in place to track the number of responses and actual sales any advertisement generates. Compare approaches and you can avoid wasting marketing dollars on duds.
4. Cutting the Budget
The experts keep telling us that the economy is improving. Unemployment is holding steady. Home prices are increasing, and men are buying new underwear. However, we understand that many small businesses are still feeling the pinch of the recessions slow recovery. Unfortunately, when executives tighten their belts, they often slash marketing budgets.
In reality, marketing is the last place any business should cut back—unless they want to go the way of the dodo. When cash flow is slow, you need to reach out to new prospects and retain current customers more than ever. Remember, digital marketing, such as an email campaign with guaranteed opens, allows you to spend even the tiniest budget more intelligently.
5. Falling for the Con
The floundering economy has given birth to more than the Octomom, Kate Gosselin and Michelle Duggar combined—though rather than babies, it has squeezed thousands of kicking and screaming consultants out of its clown car. You can now find these “professionals” everywhere, proclaiming their sales and marketing prowess with all the finesse of a “Buy Here-Pay Here” used car salesman.
Sure, you might find that some may actually know what they are doing, but fall for the con of one who doesn’t and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. Always lay out clear expectations regarding costs, timelines and results. Check references and ask about the quality and reliability of delivered work. When in doubt, choose a full service marketing company with a proven track record.
Darwin published his theory of evolution in the 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. Recognized as a preeminent scientist and one of history’s most influential men, England gave him a nobleman’s funeral in 1882 and buried him near Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey. Today, his name lives on in conjunction with acts of the utmost stupidity in the Darwin Awards. Don’t let your marketing become an award nominee or winner.