Comparing Competition

Don't Destroy, Differentiate from the Competition

Comparing Competition

Comparing Competition in Politics to Business 

There was a morning news show where a round-table of political analysts heads were discussing the extreme toxicity and competition in America’s current political climate. One of the hosts recalled a conversation he had with a political strategist comparing and contrasting the politics to business. In this conversation, the political strategist recalled the time he asked a marketing expert, “Why hasn’t Burger King ever directly attacked McDonald’s to gain an advantage?” The marketing expert replied, “The #1 rule in business competition is to never destroy the field.” What exactly does that mean?

David and Goliath 

McDonald’s is presently the #1 fast food burger chain in the world with Burger King at an out of sight distant second. Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that if Burger King took on McDonald’s as David took on Goliath, Burger King would at least make a dent into McDonald’s market share. As the marketing expert noted, though this tactic sounds good in theory, there’s the real risk that Burger King would damage both companies by negatively branding the fast food burger industry. This is exactly what has unfolded in political competition over the last 30 years as the Democratic and Republican parties have destroyed the field of government in their polarizing attacks of one another. I’ll leave it to the political historians to discuss and debate which party started it. But with Congress’ approval rating at an all-time low, and social unrest spreading across the nation, the question of the outcome of such tactics may have already been answered.

Create Value, Innovate, Differentiate, Revitalize

In business, the goal is to outperform your competition and not attack them. The companies who consistently develop products that create value for consumers that can be sold for profit wins. You want to constantly innovate your product so it’s better, cheaper, faster or cooler to make your competitors weaknesses your strengths. Then you want to develop a creative marketing campaign to highlight the new product and get the attention of your competitors’ customers to make them your customers. One of Burger King’s first major attempts to differentiate itself years ago was to allow customers to make their burgers to order in their “Have It Your Way” campaign. Burger King immediately saw a spike in sales that forced the entire fast food industry to follow suit. The next time Burger King challenged McDonald’s supremacy it triggered the “Dollar Menu War” where both companies started putting premium items on their 99 cent menu. This discount battle lasted for less than a year as it depressed the profits of both companies, but Burger King attracted enough old and new customers to their stores to try new items during this time that it revitalized their brand. In both cases, no matter which company won or lost, the customers won – except around the belt line.

Prove Yourself 

The two major political parties are the exact opposite of Burger King and McDonald’s. They’ve calculated that the best way for their candidates to win is to simply tear down the other. Where a company like Burger King wants to prove that it can be better than its big brother McDonald’s, most political candidates only want to prove their opponent is worse. Burger King would never accuse McDonald’s of hiring illegal immigrants to gain an advantage. McDonald’s would never accuse Burger King of using cheap contaminated food to gain an advantage. You’ll never hear this line in a political debate: My opponent has a good plan, but here is why I have the best plan for the people. The political climate is so bad that any politician who dared be that candid would lose his or her own supporters. Why? Because years and years of the two parties destroying each other has destroyed civil politics which has disrupted the process of good governing.

Attack and Risk a War 

Surprisingly, two well-known companies actually did directly attack one another back in 2008. SABMiller launched a “Vote Miller” advertising campaign as a play on the Presidential election year which pitted a person named Miller against a horse representing their competitor – Budweiser. Budweiser initially ignored Miller’s campaign until it started gaining a lot of traction. Budweiser is world-renown for their creative advertising so it had to sting a bit that their #1 competitor was making gains on their turf. Eventually Budweiser started responding directly to Miller which only emboldened Miller to take things farther. This included buying a giant billboard displaying Miller Lite products next to Budweiser’s headquarters in St. Louis and filming an attack commercial at Budweiser’s gates. Budweiser took off the gloves by specifically stating, “How can Miller run for President when they’re not American owned?” This was a factual statement as Miller had merged with South African Breweries (SAB) a few years prior. All the same it seemed like a low blow to many. Eventually both companies started suing one another after they even started launching attacks on the convenience store level.  At this point both companies started to back off once they realized how far and fast things escalated. Their behavior was starting to upset many of their respective customers which was creating an opportunity for independent microbreweries to take advantage. If these companies had of continued at it, they would’ve risked destroying the field of mass-produced light beer which account for a majority of their respective sales.

State Features and Benefits 

And this brings us back to the current state of politics. Why would citizens have a favorable opinion of any politician when many of them state that government is inherently bad – even as they fight to keep their job in government? “Vote for us because we’re not our opponent!” is not a slogan that will make anyone take a favorable view of politics. Where are their statements of features to the voters? Where are their statements of benefits to the voters? Where are their statements of value to the voters? Why would any citizen believe politics can be better when both major political parties are racing to the bottom to win elections at the expense of those they are supposed to serve? Most of the American people are disgusted with our current government because politicians have tirelessly worked to destroy their field as a scorched earth strategy to beat their opponents.

Prioritize Value 

Burger King may never catch up to McDonald’s and become #1 in the fast food industry. But by not attacking McDonald’s as a last second Hail Mary, Burger King can at least find comfort in that they’re not sinking an industry that has faired pretty well during the best and worst of times. Businesses who prioritize creating value for their customers stay in business much longer than those who prioritize knocking off their competitors. Firing cannons to sink your opponent is a terrible tactic when you’re both on the same ship. Burger King and McDonald’s understand this to be true. Pepsi and Coca-Cola understand this to be true. BP and Exxon understand this to be true. FedEx and UPS understand this to be true. SABMiller and Budweiser learned this truth the hard way. The world will just have to wait and wonder if Democrats and Republicans will ever understand this truth.


Engagement and Feedback

More Effective Acronyms For Measuring Marketing

Engagement and Feedback

Most people preach ROI, but there are several factors why you shouldn’t put too much stock in your Return On Investment. I’m not saying disregard it entirely; I’m just saying don’t let it be your main focus when you measure your marketing efforts. Using financial advisor marketing services to help you produce brand-boosting financial seminars might not initially net the ROI you were looking for but it improves your brand visibility, other metrics matter. There are much more effective acronyms (method) for determining how your marketing mix is working, and it’s called ROO, or Return On Objective. ROO isn’t a term you hear very often, and even in my industry – where it’s of the utmost importance – hardly anyone talks about it.

I like a good ROI as much as the next guy, but it’s just not adequate for truly measuring marketing success, and that’s because not everything has an immediate dollar value attached to it. For example, a Facebook post, tweets, and product package design really don’t show you a return in actual dollars.

So, stop measuring your marketing only in terms of ROI. To see a truer value of your marketing efforts, start using ROO. First, start asking yourself what you really want to accomplish with your campaigns. Maybe your goal is a better or new image, larger customer base, fresh design, more social media followers, or a combination. Then collect several pieces of data to determine the effectiveness of your efforts. The measurement data is another acronym I like to call the SCAPES – Sales, Conversions, Awareness, Perception, Engagement, and Satisfaction/Retention – and are explained a little further below.

Sales. Take a look at your sales numbers before, during, and after your campaign. An uptick suggests a positive response to your efforts.

Conversions. Measure how many people are inquiring, visiting, and buying as a direct result of your campaign. Gathering this information is of vital importance because it allows you to interact with (see Engagement) and receive input from clients and prospects directly. Getting it straight from the horse’s mouth is always best.

Awareness. Examine how many people are aware of your product or project before you began a marketing campaign, during your campaign, and after the campaign. An increase in consumer and/or market awareness for you and your business can and should be considered a success.

Perception. There are several factors to the way you and your business are perceived. They include customer experiences, design of your packages, website, materials, appearance of your location and employees, attitudes and moods of employees and patrons, This one can sometimes be a little tricky to measure, as people may not be up front with you to your face, unless you’re one of two things: extremely fantastic, or very terrible. Make sure your people, location, and marketing materials are looking good and that your customers always have a positive experience when they work with you, and chances are you’ll do well with perception.

Engagement. How much time to people spend visiting your location, website, social media sites? Are they retweeting or sharing your information with their social circles? Are they leaving comments or asking questions face-to-face or through your website? If the answers are, a lot, yes, and yes, then your marketing efforts are on the right track.

Satisfaction/Retention. Are those who bought from you happy with what they got? Are they happy with how they were treated? Would they buy from you again, or are you losing customers? Would they refer someone to you? The answers to these questions are very important to your marketing efforts.

The factors that relate to ROO also relate to your ROI. Think of the SCAPES as a series of funnels that feed into a cash reservoir. Consistent positive results will help raise the money level, while negative results will cause it to drain.

The SCAPES are factors that are almost 100% influenced by your marketing efforts. How much money you got back for making your investment won’t tell you what people think of you, how much your sales increased or decreased, what kind of experience your customers had, or how many of them got involved via your website or through social media. The SCAPES will affect your Return On Investment while providing results that truly show the big picture of your marketing efforts.

Start tallying your SCAPES to get an accurate picture of your Return On Objective. Your business and customers will be better off for it, and so will your bottom line.


Finding Your Target Market

Four Steps to Identify Your Ideal Client

Finding Your Target Market

You may just be happy to have a prospect come through your door; but if that prospect isn’t your ideal client, that walk-in is probably just wasting your time. An ideal client will give you more business, larger profits, and fewer headaches; they are interested in your business, products, or services, and value what you bring to the table.

These four steps will help you begin to identify and target your ideal clients.

1. Analyze your current customer database.

In the article, “Higher Revenues: It’s the Principle of the Matter” (SOHO, April, 2009), I wrote about increasing your company’s revenue 16-fold through the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, stating that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Look at your customer database to see if this is true for your business. Your customer database should include the following information: name, address, phone number, e-mail, what was purchased, purchase date, and your client demographics. Your client demographics should track additional unique information: annual sales, client personality traits or attitudes, and anything else that helps you identify your ideal 20%. So you’ve figured that out. Now what?

2. Why does that 20% stand out?

This question is integral in determining methods to attract more and better business. The ideal 20% provide higher profits and repeat business, so examine your newly filtered database to find commonalities within this group. Do they live in a particular neighborhood? Maybe they work in an urban area or in a certain career field. Are there connections through schools, churches, athletics, or networking groups? Do they attend trade shows, seminars, or read certain publications? Continue to study your best clients and learn what makes them unique and want to purchase from you. Utilizing a customer data platform to gather this information can be a highly effective endeavor for businesses to pursue. This information greatly increases the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

3. What makes your business special?

Now that you’ve identified commonalities within your ideal client 20%, it’s time to look inward to find out what makes you stand out to that group. Your business can’t be everything to everyone, so discover what your ideal clients like best about your business?

Which product or service do they buy repeatedly? Maybe it isn’t your products at all, but your “go the extra mile” or “whatever it takes” attitude. Perhaps it’s the niche your product or service fills. Ask your ideal clients what they like about your business; they’ll give you honest feedback. Then look at your business brand and marketing message to make sure it is consistent with what you want to say and with what your clients say about you. Use this information to reach out to develop new prospects.

4. Target those prospects.

Develop a database of prospects that share identified commonalities with an “ideal client” and work to get in front of these types of prospects to increase your success. Attend events, seminars, and trade shows that your ideal clients attend, because chances are your ideal prospects are there, too. Become a featured speaker at one of these events. Your expertise will help gain their trust and provide the opportunity to earn their business. When given a choice, most informed buyers would choose value over price and prefer to purchase from someone who has a specific expertise in their business or need.

Market to this group of prospects and ask your ideal clients for referrals. Since they share common habits or traits with your ideal prospects, your top 20% are likely to know a few prospects they can funnel your way. If you follow these four steps for identifying and targeting your ideal clients and prospects, you will greatly enhance your chances for success.


Connect with Consumers

Live Marketing – Connect with Consumers

Connect with Consumers

How do you bring a brand to life?

How can consumers feel connected to your brand and remain loyal? Today’s consumers need, want, and desire more: a brand that’s more than attractive colors and images. Such superficial marketing tactics bring fleeting emotions, but a trusting relationship holds long-term value. Consumers feel connected when they use their senses to relate with the brand—to see, taste, touch, hear, smell, or feel emotion. Think of how to build a relationship between consumer and brand. In marketing, two prominent methods exist to create experience for the consumer and thereby evoke the senses to secure a long-term relationship: the digital and the live marketing worlds.

Connect with positive emotion

Live marketing gets the consumer to say, “I had fun at the Brand X event” or “Brand X gave me tickets to the Madonna concert, and I had an amazing experience.” The idea is to connect your brand with a positive emotion that transcends into memory retention and brand loyalty. Some ways to utilize live marketing are through sampling (taste), interactive displays (hear/smell), exclusive events (experience), meeting a celebrity (feel emotion), and sports competition (see). Disney World could be considered the grandfather of live marketing. Once you enter the gates, you enter another world and instantly feel like a kid again. The brand comes to life and resonates as a positive memory during the point of purchase.

Understand the consumer

The key is to understand the consumer more than just from the aspects of age, income, and marital status. You need to know what drives the consumer to get up in the morning and continue through the day. What are their personality traits? What makes them tick? What makes them happy? Brands used to define the consumer. Now the consumer defines the brand.

Ask yourself how you connect?

Start the experiential marketing approach by thinking in the realm of your own relationships. How do you connect? What can you do you make a relationship last? The main ingredient in a lasting relationship is trust. Trust is more than just image; people gain trust through freedom of negative experience. A brand should do the same through image, positive experience, and positive interaction. Solidify the message and gain insights by using social media techniques that directly pull consumer information and allow them to take an active role in brand development.

Location is important

The next step in experiential marketing is to identify where the consumer lives. For instance, if you want to reach a consumer who likes live music in an outdoor environment, who is highly sociable, who likes to experience festival flavors of food, and your brand possesses the essences of freedom, social connection, and an identifiable relation to music, then use an event like Summerfest. Either utilize the surrounding event environment with product sampling to enhance your brand, or create an extension of the environment by enhancing your brand with a display area. The display area could contain splashes of your brand colors, controlled signage of your marketing message, brand ambassadors who embody the life of your brand, and activities to engage the consumer. If the budget allows, you can extend experiential elements throughout the whole festival, like allowing consumers to text a message to a concert screen with their thoughts on how a particular brand makes them feel. For example, Corona might want to identify with a feeling of escape and relaxation, so the brand asks consumers to text, “What’s your escape?”

Keep in mind that experiential marketing brings a brand to life, but you must uphold your brand message, connect and establish trust. Listen, observe, and engage your consumers. They really have all the answers.