Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Best Marketing Solves a Problem

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, right? Unfortunately, not always. After learning about some of the poor working conditions and high levels of violence associated with most diamonds on the market, many girls (and guys) have decided that a conventional diamond is not the ideal expression of their love. While some have turned to vintage pieces or alternate stones, one Los Angeles entrepreneur has provided a third option: high-quality jewels grown in a lab instead of under the ground.



Vanessa Stofenmacher did not know much about the jewelry business when she started VOW, her line of engagement, wedding, and promise rings. To cope with the limitations of current diamond-tracking laws, she opted to have the stones for her jewelry line made by Diamond Foundry, a laboratory that makes diamonds in California.



In her market research, she found that women in their twenties were likely to be concerned about the source of their diamonds. They typically did not mind wearing lab-grown stones as long as they looked as good as natural ones. This research made her line a success; the company, beginning with $8,000 in seed money, was valued at $3 million in 2016.



Don't Be Afraid to Live Your Values



Many of us feel that, in business, our personal convictions should stop outside the doors. However, if we do not create products and marketing campaigns that align with our own values, the chances are good that they will not hit the mark with anyone else.



By choosing a product that she felt strongly about, Stofenmacher found the characteristic that makes her product line different from every other one out there.



Millennials, in particular, are happy to do business with companies that take an ethical stand. By doing something about your beliefs, you can increase connection and engagement.



Think Like Your Customer



The other thing that Stofenmacher did right was seizing an idea that had been troubling many people in the market for diamond rings.



Is there an issue in your industry that you are in a position to address? It does not have to be an ethical concern. It can be a common pain point, such as:



  • the amount of waste currently associated with a product.

  • the inconvenience of current ordering practices.

  • a lack of educational materials about your product and others like it.

  • an area where prices are out of line with consumer expectations.

By looking at what your customer cares about most, you can increase the chances of creating a product and a marketing campaign that will resonate with them.



Listen to Your Customers



How can you find out what people want? Just listen. Stofenmacher learned about the desire for ethical lab-grown stones by perusing Instagram. You can set up social listening on platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see what people are talking about in your industry. Many brands also use customer surveys in front of gated content to learn more.



Over time, you will find that your customers respond best when you directly address an unmet need. The marketing campaigns based on this concept will get higher levels of engagement, a better conversion rate, and will help you build long-lasting relationships that are good for you and your customers.


The Best Marketing Solves a Problem

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, right? Unfortunately, not always. After learning about some of the poor working conditions and high levels of violence associated with most diamonds on the market, many girls (and guys) have decided that a conventional diamond is not the ideal expression of their love. While some have turned to vintage pieces or alternate stones, one Los Angeles entrepreneur has provided a third option: high-quality jewels grown in a lab instead of under the ground.



Vanessa Stofenmacher did not know much about the jewelry business when she started VOW, her line of engagement, wedding, and promise rings. To cope with the limitations of current diamond-tracking laws, she opted to have the stones for her jewelry line made by Diamond Foundry, a laboratory that makes diamonds in California.



In her market research, she found that women in their twenties were likely to be concerned about the source of their diamonds. They typically did not mind wearing lab-grown stones as long as they looked as good as natural ones. This research made her line a success; the company, beginning with $8,000 in seed money, was valued at $3 million in 2016.



Don't Be Afraid to Live Your Values



Many of us feel that, in business, our personal convictions should stop outside the doors. However, if we do not create products and marketing campaigns that align with our own values, the chances are good that they will not hit the mark with anyone else.



By choosing a product that she felt strongly about, Stofenmacher found the characteristic that makes her product line different from every other one out there.



Millennials, in particular, are happy to do business with companies that take an ethical stand. By doing something about your beliefs, you can increase connection and engagement.



Think Like Your Customer



The other thing that Stofenmacher did right was seizing an idea that had been troubling many people in the market for diamond rings.



Is there an issue in your industry that you are in a position to address? It does not have to be an ethical concern. It can be a common pain point, such as:



  • the amount of waste currently associated with a product.

  • the inconvenience of current ordering practices.

  • a lack of educational materials about your product and others like it.

  • an area where prices are out of line with consumer expectations.

By looking at what your customer cares about most, you can increase the chances of creating a product and a marketing campaign that will resonate with them.



Listen to Your Customers



How can you find out what people want? Just listen. Stofenmacher learned about the desire for ethical lab-grown stones by perusing Instagram. You can set up social listening on platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see what people are talking about in your industry. Many brands also use customer surveys in front of gated content to learn more.



Over time, you will find that your customers respond best when you directly address an unmet need. The marketing campaigns based on this concept will get higher levels of engagement, a better conversion rate, and will help you build long-lasting relationships that are good for you and your customers.


Friday, March 24, 2017

To Grow or Not to Grow; That is the Question

Booster Juice started off in 1999 as a one-store operation with a lot of questions about whether it would burn out as a fad. Their product was a juice smoothie (a fruit, vegetable, or plant-based drink shake). However, by 2016, Booster Juice had over 330 stores across Canada, and they are now looking at entering the U.S. market for even more expansion. How did this company go from one small outfit to a mega corporation franchise, and what did Booster Juice's management do right to maintain growth successfully?



Dale Wishewan, Booster Juice's owner, was a mechanical engineer by training, being naturally geared to decisions based on analysis. However, he also realized that just running a business by not taking any risks or having the cash on hand to pay for those risks, was never going to produce fast, exponential growth.



A Path for Growth



So, Wishewan settled early on franchising. The franchise decentralization of daily work and keeping an eye on the big picture kept Wishewan and Booster Juice on track. However, the fact that the daily store management was placed with franchisees who had "skin in the game" also meant that Wishewan didn't have to worry about the loss of loyalty or control.



The above said, Wishewan still avoided high risk markets, especially overseas like China or South America. While these emerging market venues seemed to offer faster growth, the risk level was higher with control issues. Distance and language also presented major management hurdles as well. So, Wishewan wisely turned down those markets to continue growing in Canada alone. It was a smart decision proven by Booster Juice's metrics and profit figures.



It's All About the Plan



Scaling up is as much about planning and strategy as it is understanding one's current capability and cash flow. There is no one aspect of business an owner or manager focuses on; it's a multi-faceted challenge to meet the increased sales demand promptly and plan logistics correctly while not ending up going bankrupt in the process. As was seen in the above franchise example, not every opportunity was pursued. The business owners had to do some hard research and probability testing to determine which markets were their best choices for solid growth versus high risk and potential failure. By doing so, they avoided common mistakes in fast growth, such as over-commitment and unreasonable sales targets in the process.



Have an Objective Perspective



Exponential expansion can seem alluring, even addictive. After all, with accrual accounting, things can look pretty rosy for a business once projected sales are included in the numbers, and they're boosting the revenue side of the accounting reports. However, cash is the killer that brings back reality like a bucket of cold water in the face. When payroll, supplies, liabilities, loans and leveraging can't be paid timely because the projected sales haven't materialized yet, a company can fold very quickly, even within a thirty to forty-five day time cycle, just from lack of cash. Ideally, a business should have sufficient resources to take on extra growth, but that's not how real business works. Risk and taking logistical bets are common which makes planning wisely crucial to not betting the farm on "maybe" revenue.



Wishewan and Booster Juice provide a clear example of why, even with positive growth, a business owner or leader has to judge ventures carefully before jumping in. Sometimes some revenue opportunities do need to be passed up to stay successful overall.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Using the Senses to Your Advantage With Print

It's well established that print and digital marketing are two entirely different beasts that each require their own unique approaches to reaching their intended audience.



Print Goes Closer



Whereas nobody would argue that digital excels at convenience (since you can essentially reach a person at all times during the day or night), nothing can top print in terms of intimacy. People already believe that receiving actual mail is much more personal than an email containing the same message. On top of that, print provides the ability to physically share a piece of marketing collateral with friends and family members.



According to a recent study commissioned by Martin Lindstrom, however, the benefits of print don't end there. All of the senses that play a key role when someone has an emotional experience, from touch to sight, to even smell, can all be incorporated into your print campaigns thanks to advancements in technology.



The Science of Senses



In Mr. Lindstrom's study, it was revealed that if you're able to engage three or more senses with a piece of print collateral, you have the potential to increase not only brand engagement but also brand awareness by an incredible seventy percent. Many senses, with smell being mentioned in particular, are directly tied to the way the human brain forms memories and how it processes emotions.



Harvard Business School took this research one step further by doing an experiment with, of all things, pencils. Participants in the study were handed two sets of pencils, ones that had been treated to smell particularly nice with tea-tree oil, and ones that were completely untreated. Two weeks later, they were asked to remember specifics about each set of pencils. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the people who had unscented pencils remembered about seventy-three percent less information than those who had the scented pencils.



Using This to Your Advantage



In many ways, this means that while it is always important to focus on how your print collateral looks, you should never fail to take advantage of opportunities to engage a person's other senses as well. This could include using a thick or textured paper stock to make a direct mail piece feel differently from every other piece of mail a person received that day. As the studies above suggested, it could also include using scented paper or other elements to engage a person's sense of smell. Not only could this help a person remember your brand, but it could also be a great way to play with your very brand identity.



While print marketing has its advantages over digital, marketers need to work hard to offer a truly unique experience to audiences that they will NOT be able to recreate in the digital world in which we now live. Engaging all of a person's senses is the perfect way to accomplish precisely that.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Why Print Marketers Excel At Resonating With an Audience

Any solid relationship, regardless of the type you're talking about, has the core foundation of intimacy in common. This is true whether you're talking about your relationship with your significant other, your relationship with your best friend, or even the relationship between yourself and your favorite brand. If any relationship is going to be successful, it must have that basis of close familiarity or friendship, a warm confidence upon which everything else is built.



So, how do you help cultivate intimacy with someone, particularly regarding a brand and its target audience? Easy. You resonate with them. You focus your efforts not on saying how great your products or services are, but by using images and text to carefully evoke memories, feelings, and emotions within your audience at any and all opportunity. Emotions are something that print marketers have come to excel at over the years for a number of important reasons.



Print is Emotional



One of the reasons why print marketers are so great at resonating with an audience has to do with the natural benefits of print. It's inherently an intimate medium, especially when compared with something like email. Customers have gotten savvy; they know that even a personalized email is something you probably generated in seconds. A personalized piece of print collateral, on the other hand, took a lot more effort.



You had to think long and hard about every aspect of your print mailer because you only got one shot at it. If your customer ignores Monday's email, you can instantly try again on Tuesday (or even Monday afternoon). The same is not true of print. You had to go over every detail and every last design choice in your mind to make sure you would invoke every potential reaction. You had to put your heart and soul into it, making sure it was *just right.* You had to send it in the mail and wait patiently to see what reaction you would get.



Customers can feel this. They appreciate it. In a world where they're constantly being bombarded by marketing messages every time they turn on their smartphones, it's something they want more of. These are likely the major reasons why 43% of customers find print ads less annoying than online ads, but why they also consider print collateral to be inherently more trustworthy, too.



The Limitless Potential of Print



Another one of the major reasons why print marketers are so great at resonating with an audience is because they know how to play to the strengths of the very medium itself. One of the most exciting things about print is that it is interactive. How you engage with a customer can vary depending on the specific type of customer you're talking about.



An Email is an Email is an Email



Try as hard as you'd like to differentiate yourself, but you're still looking at 500 or so words with a graphic or two that are likely being viewed on a small touchscreen device. Print, however, can be literally anything from a gorgeous-looking flyer on a heavy paper stock to a branded coffee mug, key chain, magnet and more. It's something tangible. Something that your customer can hold in their hands. Something they can share with their friends



To put it another way, print is something real, which is a major benefit that you just can't put a price on in today's digital world.



In recent years, forming this type of unshakable bond has become the major goal of marketers everywhere, even going beyond just buying and selling. If you can convince someone to make a purchase, you've made a sale. Congratulations! If you can plant the seeds of intimacy within someone and really resonate with them, you've just created the type of loyal brand advocate that will last a lifetime. We believe that it's a technique that print marketers have honed over the years and they've gotten exceptionally good at, to say the least.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Conduit Theory in Practice - Speaker Willie Brown

Willie Brown, the former speaker of the California Assembly, never intended to have a political career when he was born. Brown was raised in a backwater town named Mineola, Texas, in 1934, a time when Texas and the South were not particularly conducive to the career dreams of African Americans. To find a better path, his family packed Brown on a train from Texas all the way to California. There, with the help of a professor, Brown found his calling at a state University and earned a law degree from the prestigious U.C. Hastings. However, he was yet to prove his greatest accomplishment.



In 1964, after a second try, Brown gained a seat in the California Assembly. There, he learned simply being unique didn't get him much. He had to learn how to be a useful broker. In that respect, Brown quietly learned from his legislative tutors like Jesse Unruh and Philip Burton how to become a pivot point, a conduit between the many who want something and those with power. Positioning through legislative committees, Brown went from being a name in the Assembly to eventually to becoming its Speaker, one of the top five positions in state government. Brown held that chair for fifteen years, only to then retire and become the mayor of San Francisco in his later years.



Becoming A Conduit Point



For a business, Willie Brown's story is an illustrative one; you don't have to be biggest, most powerful player on the market to become instrumental. Brown, as an African American politician in the 1960s, was clearly not in the position to leapfrog right away to leadership or the Governor's office. However, he did find a position that everyone needed and had to go through to get something. By identifying how and becoming a conduit point, Brown secured his future, which is what successful businesses do in their market.



A conduit point isn't just limited to being between end retail customers and suppliers. Conduit businesses can easily do the same in the business-to-business market as well, often producing far greater revenues than they would on the retail side of things. However, positioning can be a challenge. One needs to see the entire market, not just a segment of it. Getting to the forest level instead of the weeds allows a business player to identify all the connection points and where being a conduit has the greatest potential for producing revenue. It also shows what is needed to be successful in that particular position. Sometimes some potential conduits are too challenging, and others may offer too little in reward for the effort. Picking the right market position takes some experience, which means a business needs to research well and study peers, suppliers, buyers, competitors, and middlemen. No one in a given market should be left out.



Willie Brown was an intensive study of his legislative peers, which is why he was able to position himself so well. He also took lessons from those more powerful than him rather than fighting them, using that knowledge to become one of the powerful ones himself. A growing business can learn a thing or two from his life example.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Print Marketing: Never Underestimate the Value of Letting Someone Unplug

Technology is all around us. As recently as ten or fifteen years ago, computers weren't quite the ever-present part of our lives that they are today. They were usually reserved for when you got home from a hard day at work or school and not something you used all day every day. Flash forward to today, where 77% of adults in the United States own a smartphone according to Pew Research - a device that's literally more powerful than the combined computing that NASA used to send men to the moon in the 1960s.



All of this may underline how important our digital lives are becoming with each passing day, but it also helps to illustrate perhaps the most critical benefit that only print marketing collateral can bring to the table: that it isn't digital at all.



The Digital Divide



Technology addiction, and specifically smartphone addiction, is a very real concern across the United States. According to one study, 89% of Americans check their smartphones "at least one or two times a day." That may not seem too bad, but when you consider that 36% admit to "constantly checking and using" their phones, things get a little more concerning.



Of those surveyed, 21% of people said that they checked their smartphone at least once every hour. When you add in people between the ages of 18 and 24, that number rises to 36%. According to another study by IDC Research, 80% of smartphone users, in particular, check their mobile devices within fifteen minutes of waking up in the morning. Taking a shower? Brushing your teeth? Getting breakfast ready? All of these things take a back seat to finding out what your friends are up to on Facebook or checking your work email account for new messages.



While this may sound alarming, it again perfectly illustrates one of the reasons why print marketing is, and will always be, so valuable. Whether you realize it or not, you're giving someone a chance to unplug. You're giving them permission to take a breather from the internet and to check in with something tangible, something that they can hold in their hands, and something that they can pass along to their friends. You're letting them tap into an experience - a physical one, at that - that people don't get nearly enough of these days.



What This Means For Direct Mail



This digital divide is likely a large part of the reason why in the last ten years, direct mail response rates have shot up 14%. What else happened during the last ten years, you ask? That's right - the Apple iPhone was released in 2007 and the smartphone explosion occurred, changing large portions of our lives for all time.



According to yet another survey, an incredible 92% of younger shoppers say they actually prefer direct mail when it comes time to make purchasing decisions - the same demographic who check their phones constantly. These ideas may seem like they're in conflict with one another, but they really aren't.



With print marketing, you're giving people an opportunity to do something they want more of but just can't seem to find time for: stop thinking about their digital lives for a minute or two so that they can focus on the real world around them. If anything, this is something that is only going to get MORE precious as time goes on, which is why print marketing is and will always be one of the most effective ways to reach out to someone to make a strong, emotional connection that benefits you both.