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Competition Consumer Advocacy CPSIA Creativity customer retention Homemade products Hospitality Improvement Leadership Management Marketing marketing to the affluent Marketing to women podcast Positioning quality Restaurants Retail service Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

Warm chocolate chip cookies and the big difference between you and them

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/WarmChocolateChipCookies.mp3]

Almost every day, I stumble upon someone looking for a way to differentiate their business from their competitors’.

Far too often, they try to compete almost solely on price.

Since I’ve beat the dont-compete-solely-on-price drum in the past (eg: all those WalMart posts), so today we’re going to take a different tack.

Is it the steak or the sizzle? Or maybe something else?

Ever been to Sizzler, Western Sizzlin’ or Ryan’s Steak House?

Likewise, have you been to Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Charley’s, Shula’s or Chicago Chop House?

Which would you prefer if you had a coupon for a free meal, or if someone else was buying?

My money is on Charley’s (followed very closely by Ruth’s) – though I have to admit I haven’t made it to Shula’s as yet.

Why? Because everything about the place is simply amazing. The steak, the experience, the service, and so on.

One of the best moments I’ve had with my dad was after a photography trade show (yeah, back in the software company days), where we found ourselves sitting at the bar in Charley’s near the Tampa airport.

If you eat at the bar (almost no one seems to), you get to watch the chefs fire the steak – away from the quiet luxury of the dining room – and you still get incredible service, quite possibly more attentive than the service in the dining room if that’s possible.

What about retail?

Over the last several months, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the CPSIA situation.

Despite widespread knowledge of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act by some store owners, I see very few of them using it as a competitive advantage.

Maybe they’ve been too busy spending time trying to get their Congressional reps/Senators to change the bill. OK, maybe that’s a reason, but it isn’t an excuse. You know the difference, right?

Here’s an example: If you have a newborn and you walk into an upscale handmade baby clothing store and see a sign that says “All of our fashions for babies are tested and certified safe according to the CPSIA”, isn’t it obvious that it plants a seed in the mind of the persnickety shopper?

IE: “Shouldn’t everyone’s stuff be tested and certified safe?” Hmmm. Remember, in a store like that – the persnickety shopper is absolutely the one you *want* in your store.

If you wanted to get really aggressive about it, add “…Do the other stores you frequent care as much about your baby’s safety as we do? Ask them about the CPSIA and their testing and safety certification of the fashions they offer for your child.”

Fresh from the oven

If you have a choice, do you want warm, soft chocolate chip cookies made from scratch that are fresh out of Grandma’s oven, or do you want generic store-brand “chocolate” chip cookies that you know might have been baked a month ago?

I’d bet that you’d prefer the warm cookies from Grandma’s oven.

What about your business, product and service can create a chasm that wide, making it *that* easy to make a decision between your product/service and theirs?

Make a point of focusing on it. Educate your clientele to call attention to it so that they expect exactly what you do/sell if they find themselves elsewhere. You want to be the standard that everyone else has to meet.

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affluence Apple Marketing marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Retail Small Business Technology

Does that romantic iPod Touch make you swoon?

candles
Creative Commons License photo credit: Claudia Snell

In a recent email, Apple Corp positions the iPod Touch as just the right personal, possibly romantic touch on Valentine’s Day. 

While they apparently never heard of “never buy a lady something that plugs in” as a holiday gift, they’re trying to span the chasm between romance and something that plugs into a computer. 

On the other hand, an iPod Touch that just happens to have your special someone’s favorite romantic music, videos and a movie or 2 on it…very easily fills the bill.

What are you doing to inject a little romance into your product line?

Is a clean car romantic?

Maybe not, but taking care of your spouse’s car by buying them something as seemingly boring as a car wash gift card is one way to take better care of them (work with me here, will ya?<g>).

If you run a retail store, restaurant, cafe or what not – how can what you do be positioned as a way to care for a spouse or special someone? 

You have 9 days.

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affluence Competition Creativity Marketing marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Positioning Retail Sales Small Business

Did management learn anything after 246 years?

Poor management can crush something as big and strong as Wal-Mart.

Today’s guest post comes from NY Times contributor Judith Flanders, who writes about the failure of the current owners of Waterford Wedgwood to continue the legacy of Wedgwood’s founder, Josiah Wedgwood.

While brief, it contains several nuggets I’d categorize as “instructional”.

Packaging and perception are important in any economy, in any time.

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Advertising Direct Mail Direct Marketing Management Marketing Marketing to women Motivation Personal development podcast Small Business Social Media

Do you make these 5 direct mail mistakes?

It’s easy to burn through a lot of money mailing the wrong way. Here are five common mistakes that businesses make when sending sales materials through the mail. Don’t make them:)

You don’t use real stamps

Your direct mail pieces – of any kind – should be using regular first class stamps most of the time.

While I will admit that I use CASS bulk mail postage for some newsletter mailings (at client request to save postage), this happens ONLY after having sent at least one mailing using a real first class stamp.

Why? 3 reasons: Deliverability, address service and speed

If this excerpt from “Privatizing will improve mail service posthaste” doesn’t help, I’ll clear it up in a minute.

As journalist Jonathan Franzen recounted in a detailed portrait of Chicago’s postal crisis in the New Yorker last year, a letter carrier helping a coworker start his truck in a post office parking lot stumbled onto 100 sacks of undelivered mail in the rear cargo area. Chicago police in 1994 found 200 pounds of relatively recent mail burning beneath a viaduct and 20,000 pieces of vintage mail (some pieces dating to 1979) in garbage cans behind the house of a retired mail carrier. Last May, Chicago firefighters found 5,670 pieces of flat mail and 364 pounds of bulk mail in the attic of postal carrier Robert K. Beverly. And in October, Washington firefighters discovered four truckloads of mail in the apartment of postal carrier Robert W. Boggs

Other than because of postal workers like this guy and because of post offices like the Chicago one described above, a first class stamp in conjunction with a valid return address (sort of) guarantees you a returned mail piece with a corrected current address, or an indication that you should remove that name from your mailing list.

Speed. Bulk mail is not guaranteed to reach your destination anytime soon, if ever. In fact, isn’t guaranteed at all.

One last aspect of this: Choose your stamps wisely. Mailing to women? Use stamps most women would like.

Mailing to NASCAR viewers? Use stamps that fit their profile. Patriotic? Cars? Think about it.

Not making sure that mail only goes to the right people

Sending the same letter to the entire population of the United States: Bad idea.

Sending the same letter to your entire client list: Bad idea.

Are all doctors the same? You know… chiropractors (yes, that was intentional), heart surgeons, thoracic surgeons, dermatologists, general practitioners, podiatrists, sexologists, psychiatrists, ophthalmologists, and so on. They all need malpractice insurance, medical office software, furniture, etc.

Are all mechanics the same? Is a diesel mechanic the same as a HVAC mechanic? Ditto for single engine airplane mechanics, heavy equipment hydraulics mechanics, boat mechanics, jet engine mechanics, or …

Are all painters the same? Home painters vs automobile painters, detailed “pimp my ride” paint artists, industrial painters, high rise building/tower painters, and so on.

If you were trying to sell each member of these groups accounting services, a website, tools, furniture or rubber bands, would you have the same conversation with them?

Not likely.

Is it more work to create different sales materials for different groups of people? Sure.

Is it more profitable? Almost always.

“Almost?” – What kind of comment is that? The kind that leads to our next mistake…

Leaving out a way to measure response

If you can’t measure it, you’d better not mail it. Otherwise, how will you recognize what works and what doesn’t?

Failing to send another mailing to the same person for the same thing

Yes, I mean follow up.

But how many times should I mail stuff to my mailing list? When do I know to stop?

WHEN A NEWLY ADDED STEP LOSES MONEY.

Getting a 1% response to a mailing is your goal

You’ve undoubtedly heard that 1% is an average response for direct mail.

Or maybe you heard 2% is what it takes to make a profit (h*mm, like $0.01?).

Or you’ve heard some other number.

Forget them all. Percentages mean nothing. Return on investment is what you care about.

If you spend $100,000 a month to mail 100,000 pieces of mail (yes, per month) and you get 1 sale, that’s a response rate of 0.00000000001% for each mailing.

If you’re selling $2500 custom trailer hitches for big expensive RVs, you have a big problem. You’re spending $100,000 a month. Even if you sell every lead, you’re spending $100,000 to get $2500. Unless there’s a pretty successful upsell process, or very large lifetime customer value, this just isn’t wise.

On the other hand, using the same numbers, if you sell boats – especially boats like these – then selling 1 of the 56′ boats per month is a ROI of somewhere in the neighborhood 13 times your investment. In other words, if you average 1 boat sale a month from your mailing, you’re spending $100k to get $1.3MM. Seems like a good idea.

In both examples, 1 response was the result of your mailing that month. The response RATE in both was the same. A terrible 0.00000000001% per month. Yet the ROI for the boat example was 13 times the investment.

A loss of $100,000 or a gain of $1.2MM cost $100,000, despite one response.

This happened despite both mailings having the same response rate. Don’t fall for the 1% trap. Or even the 2% trap.

Those are the common direct mail mistakes that come to mind for me… What other direct mail mistakes always jump out at you?

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/FiveDirectMailMistakes.mp3]
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Corporate America Marketing Marketing to women Public Relations Retail Small Business Social Media Twitter Web 2.0 Word of mouth marketing

Don’t tick off the moms

Motrin learned this the hard way recently, with this ad on their site (note: it might disappear from YouTube):

Want to see what happens when you say the wrong thing to moms?

  • 5,700 hits (as of noon Monday Nov 17) on #motrinmoms, which is a tag for people blogging and tweeting on the subject – that is, Motrin’s misguided website ad about moms who carry babies in a sling.
  • 61,300 hits on motrin+baby+carrying+ad+mom
  • At least 16 people went to the trouble to make a YouTube response video.

You might be thinking that it’s hard to imagine that people give a rip about something like this, but when you insult the same people that your marketing is supposed to attract, it’s not hard to wonder who in your business is on the same wavelength as your clientele.

Peter Shankman has a pretty good angle on this Motrin thing as well – particularly as he wonders who is writing the ad, 23 year old guys or 20-30-something moms, but more importantly that there either isn’t anyone listening, or the right kind of person isn’t listening.

Though it took a while, McNeil has posted this apology on the Motrin.com website:

With regard to the recent Motrin advertisement, we have heard you. On behalf of McNeil Consumer Healthcare and all of us who work on the Motrin Brand, please accept our sincere apology. We have heard your concerns about the ad that was featured on our website. We are parents ourselves and we take feedback from moms very seriously. We are in the process of removing this ad from all media. It will, unfortunately, take a bit of time to remove it from our magazine advertising, as it is on newsstands and in distribution. Thank you for your feedback. It’s very important to us.

Sincerely,
Kathy Widmer
Vice President of Marketing
McNeil Consumer Healthcare

I suspect the folks over at McNeil have been taking some of their own medicine over the last few days.

Once again, I’ll say it: Enter the conversation already going on in your customers’ minds. If you can’t relate to the situation of the person you are trying to sell to – find a way to get yourself to relate to it. McNeil could have saved themselves a lot of pain by showing this to 5 moms who work at McNeil.

You can – and should – do the same. If you can’t understand your customers, their problems, their wants and their needs, you’d better find someone who can.

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Advertising Creativity Marketing Marketing to women Media podcast Positioning Small Business Video

When I grow up I want to be an old woman

That phrase isn’t only the name of a Michelle Shocked song, it’s the theme of a very good commercial.

Something got me on a meme of talking about marketing to women this week – including on today’s Hotseat Radio show, so I figure I may as well finish Friday that way.

Kaiser Permanente took Michelle’s song and created a wonderful piece of imagery around it – perhaps better than Michelle’s original video for the song.

The 1 minute video reminds me of my grandmothers, two amazing women that I miss very much. My paternal grandmother had breast cancer twice. Beat it both times. Strong woman. Never owned a car that had power brakes. Think about that for a minute:)

KP’s video takes a painful – or at least uncomfortable – experience (mammograms are not typically pain-free, even though they aren’t invasive) and turns it into something totally different.

Not just health care.

Long-time readers are no doubt wondering where the measurement is. How do we know this is effective? Note the URL. Yeah, it’s too small, but it’s there.

If they are tracking the markets where this appears, are they also sending an email or postcard to their patients to reference the commercial, perhaps point them at YouTube and get them in for a mammogram?

Hard to say, but that’s what should be happening.

The main reason I wanted you to see this was so you could absorb and ponder how they took a cold, sometimes painful (or at least uncomfortable), sterile procedure and turned a discussion about it into a warm, kinda-wow experience.

And how you can do the same if you have something of that nature that you sell – particularly if it is as important as a mammogram.

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[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/WhenIGrowUpIWantToBeAnOldWoman.mp3]
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Competition Management market research Marketing Marketing to women Retail Sales Small Business Strategy Word of mouth marketing

Camouflage lipstick? Not even.

Almost every business is looking for new customers these days. It’s particularly the case in markets that serve people’s hobby, pastime or even luxury items.

Hunting and camping gear is one that comes to mind, but there are plenty of others. If you sell the various types of gear used when hunting and camping, your business probably targets men.

Every year, new hunters and campers are “created” when kids reach the age where they can hunt (usually 11-12 after taking a hunter safety course), or where their parents feel comfortable taking them camping – or allowing them to go with someone else.

That might add a fair number of new clients to your pool of prospective customers, but it doesnt add a group who are ready to spend a pile of money at your place of business. Sure, their parents might buy them some items or might “hand me down” a few items, but the serious financial impact from these new hunters and campers won’t be felt until they are employed and have some fun money.

Maybe when they reach high school age, maybe 10-15 years later, depending on the person.

There is a place where a male-oriented business can easily find a group of prospective customers who can have an immediate financial impact. The problem is that your man-oriented business may not be doing enough to attract them or may be using the wrong lingo to attract them.

It’s not really a place. They’re all around you.

With all the election season commentary about VP candidate Sarah Palin fishing, hunting, “field dressing a moose” and such, it should have become obvious in recent months.

I’m talking about adult women.

Bottom line: There are plenty of ladies out there who like to fish, hunt and camp – and that’s just a start. Don’t forget archery, target shooting and fly fishing (and there are more). Even so, that doesn’t mean that they wear camo jeans to the office, when going out with friends or when working in the yard.

Here’s one example of a business that figured out that women want gear just for them.

They’ve found or created outdoor and hunting clothing tailored for the shape of a woman. Pay careful attention to the models, the words used and the way that the site is designed. It clearly isn’t aimed at attracting male buyers. The fit is clearly for a women, not a man.

If you’re a guy, ask any woman about the differences between their clothes and yours – besides the obvious torso shape differences – and they’ll be able to reel off a list of differences that are major to them. They’ll also likely tell you that the lack of choice in some types of clothing annoys them, and that your outdoor clothes are uncomfortable, unflattering and possibly a little bit painful in some cases.

Likewise, if you look closely at the gear available for motorcyclists – particularly Harley-Davidson branded gear – you’ll find that they too have figured out that gear for women must be designed, tailored and described in ways that are going to attract a woman’s attention – and her money.

If your business is largely oriented toward men, you probably already do some business with women, but it might be simply because there isn’t a place in your market that is targeting them.

If your business – or a part of it – is carefully designed, with products, marketing, merchandising and staffing focused solely on attracting female customers, you might just be able to open up a whole new market within your existing business.