The Two Pillars of Marketing

Marketing is a much-maligned industry, often accused of various nefarious deeds that help part people form their money. But that’s not what marketing is.

Marketing is about informing – or even educating – your market about your product or service. Let me expand on that a bit.

Let’s say that you have the best widgets. They are better quality, have more features, and come in more sizes and colors than your competitors. People who use yours have a product that is easier to use, cheaper to run, and that has some additional automated features that really make it stand out from the crowd. Wouldn’t you be doing people a favour if you let them know about the real benefits of your widgets compared to others? Of course you would, and that’s called marketing.

We can assume that you have a product or service with a competitive advantage. Now you need to tell people about that. There are two areas that you need to jointly focus on, and missing out either one will mean that your marketing is less effective than it should or could be. The thing is that most marketers focus only on the second factor. You are about to learn about both.

Both are equally important. One without the other means that you are substantially paying somebody to print their magazine, host their website or whatever applies to the media you chose. In other words you are only supporting your advertising medium, you are not supporting or promoting your own business.

The first pillar of marketing is an understanding of the human mind. You have to get into step with the mind of your target, otherwise they may not even be aware of your attempt to educate them! Let’s look at that in a little more detail.

Your body is bombarded with literally millions of pieces of information every second. The cells of your skin each report back with they feel, your eyes and ears constantly provide updates as do your other senses, and you also need to control the beating of your heart and your breathing. Imagine if you had to consciously control all that.  Luckily your body has a mechanism that filters out stuff that you don’t consider important.

You have probably bought something, a special purchase like a new car, new suit, new pair of shoes etc where you thought the item was unusual, that it stood out from the crowd and you’d never seen one before only to find that on the way home you saw a half dozen of them. That’s your filter at work.

Your filter only allows things that it knows you want to know about: updates on usual things like things your partner says or does, statements by or about your favorite store for example, and things that are really out of the usual like a celebrity suddenly appearing in front of you.

Your filter wasn’t tuned in to the item you bought until you bought it, as you went back home your filter allowed them through and you became aware of them. That’s why they ‘suddenly’ appeared. You know they were there all the time, it’s just that now you are aware of them.

That just means that your marketing message has to be positioned to get through your target markets’ filter or they effectively aren’t even aware it exists.

Your message then has to demonstrate relevance almost immediately, otherwise they will be aware of your message but bypass it anyway.

This is why in printed copy your heading and sub-heading are so important, and in audio and video why the first few seconds is so important. You must break through the filter and then demonstrate relevance or your marketing message has missed its target.

That’s all good, and now you need to wrap that into something that generates an emotion – excitement, fear, loathing, happiness, joy – you must build on the initial ‘relevance’ and generate a real connection.

How do you break though the filter? You can describe their problem or the solution to their problem. That will attract their attention in the first instance.

Then you talk about how they benefit by doing business with you. For example if you have a problem with your marketing you might respond to something like:

“The two pillars of marketing – learn about the vital second pillar and become a price maker not a price taker”.

“Wasting money on advertising? Discover the vital second pillar and never waste an advert again”.

“Are you being gouged because you don’t know if your advertising agency is doing the right thing by you? Learn how to review their work and save money while producing more effective advertising”.

These are of course only a very small sample of what you could say. and you can’t see the rest of the copy, which might then describe exactly your problem with a solution that is elegant, effective and costs less than your current solution –  the point is for you to understand the use of both the filter and emotion when creating the introduction to your message.

Failure to have a solid foundation could mean that your message isn’t even consciously seen, and failure to include some emotion might mean that although they like your statement they aren’t inspired enough to follow your call to action.

Get excited for your market, tell them what you can do for them in ways that resonate with them and I promise that your business will go from strength to strength.

Why do businesses fail? And how do you avoid it?

“Everybody” knows that nearly all new businesses will fail. Some suggest that 80% of them will fail in the first year. Others say that a further 80% of them will fail in the second and then third year.

Whilst those statistics may not be correct, other more formal reviews note that 52% of new businesses fail in the first year. That’s still way too many, especially if you consider the fallout: stress and economic hardship for (ex)employees and families, maybe relationship breakdowns and I’m sure you know of more that could be included here.

The real question, the one that should be asked is why do businesses fail? What causes so many businesses, started with such good intent, to slowly (or maybe spectacularly) implode?

There are two things that nearly all business failures have in common. Some have one or the other, others have both.

The first is that the business must deliver something that a market actually wants to buy. It can be a new product, but there must be a demand of some sort, otherwise there is no business.

If offerings are not sold for a fair profit then there are only two possibilities:

  • You sell for a loss or at best break-even in which case you have a charity.
  • You don’t sell any, in which case you have a hobby.

Don’t misunderstand: hobbies and charities are very good to have – unless it is supposed to be a business.

So you have something that a market wants to buy. Now you need to have one more thing: your version needs to be better than every competitor’s. You must be able to point at something that you do that is better than the others – otherwise why would anyone want to buy from you? Have you ever gone shopping (where price was not a factor) and bought “second best”?

Neither has anyone else. So you need to be able to boast about something. That can be quality, speed of delivery, additional features, color range, taste – it just has to be something that you do better than anyone else. It is the reason people buy from you. You may have heard this being referred to as your “Point of Difference” or “Unique Selling Proposition”.

All of that is part one – you have something that is genuinely attractive to a market. Now you need to inform that market. You may well have the best but unless people know about it they cannot buy from you.

Think of ‘marketing’ as a means of educating your target market, of telling them that you can deliver what they want, that yours is better than the others and why, and how they can get in touch with you so they can buy one. You’re not trying to foist something on an unwilling population, you are doing them a good turn by supplying a better solution than the one they have now.

Being able to deliver a message to a market that tells them about a better solution means:

  • Knowing your market. In Houston a few years ago the local paper hired people to sell subscriptions. Most salespeople targeted “people who can read”. One looked at the past results and figured out that people who just moved to the area and newlyweds were a major percentage of new subscriptions, so he focussed on them. That’s how Michael Dell made enough to buy himself a new BMW at the age of 16.
  • Knowing your market’s problem. Those that had lived in Houston for some time probably already had subscriptions, it was the new arrivals and those whose circumstances had changed that now needed to keep up with local news.
  • Connecting to the individual. Knowing this, Dell was able to say “I know you’re new in town, and I know you want to keep informed about your new neighborhood”. He was able to establish a trusted relationship because he understood the market and its needs.
  • He was able to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time and place.

Having the right product or service is the skeleton. Without a strong skeleton the business is basically without form or shape. Educating your market is the rest of the picture: without a good message, well delivered, you may have strong support but it looks a bit ugly!

We’ll look at what makes a good marketing message in the next article, and it may not be what you think.

Why an Elephant in the room?

We’ve all heard the saying “As obvious as an elephant in the room”. Why not a giraffe? Surely being taller that would be more obvious? Or a rhino? More likely to charge around and cause damage that means more people are likely to notice?

The answer is contained in some ancient stories from India and other places where elephants wander.

It seems that one day five blind men happened upon an elephant and they decided that they wanted to know what one was like. (No, the stories don’t say how the men knew the elephant was there)

They decided to tell each other what they experienced. One touched a leg: “The elephant is like a pillar” he said. Another touched the trunk: “The elephant resembles a snake” was his opinion. Another who touched the tail suggests “It is like a rope” and so on.

In modern context it just means that people are aware that something is amiss, but they do not have the full facts about the matter. That’s why they know they need help to solve a problem, and that they cannot solve it alone, which led to your consulting skills being hired to help them in the first place.

Here’s what Wikipedia (TM) has to say:

“In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.

The stories differ primarily in how the elephant’s body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved.

In some versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to “see” the full elephant. When a sighted man walks by and sees the entire elephant all at once, they also learn they are blind. While one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth. If the sighted man was deaf, he would not hear the elephant bellow. Denying something you cannot perceive ends up becoming an argument for your limitations.”

So next time you see a group of people completely missing the point just understand that they do not have your skills or experience and so are only aware of part of their particular elephant.