Above and below the line, online and off, where do you put your marketing energy? Take a tip from the experts: start first with getting to know your customers
Marketing used to be so easy, especially if you had money. Just find the TV channel, radio station, newspaper or magazine with the most listeners, readers or viewers, hire a top agency to do a killer ad, and money starts tumbling in the door.
Now there are more places to advertise, with fewer people reading, watching and listening to them. Not only that, there are a mystifying number of choices ‘out there’—whether that’s online, or out on the street.
We hear about the exceptions—like Sale St bar in Auckland, which claims to have increased traffic to its website 900 percent by using Twitter—but what about the rules? Are these just flukes, or surprises reserved only for first movers? Or is there a marketing formula that can make sense in our fragmented, frequently changing world?
It may not be a formula, but the idea of integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a really helpful place to start.
IMC is not new—in fact it’s been around since the early 1990s, when Robert Lauterborn, Don Schultz and Stanley Tannenbaum literally wrote the book on it (Buy@Fishpond). Instead of starting with the medium you’re going to advertise in, IMC suggests marketers start by asking what customer behaviour they wish to change.
Why the emphasis on behaviour? Because it’s real, and measurable. Brand preference in a survey is important, but if you had to choose between a behavioural change (like a customer buying your product more often) and an increase in brand preference … I think you’d choose the former.
And that’s the case for many marketers, in large, well-established companies as well as small startups. Budgets are tight, and the pressure for accountability was strong, even before the recession started.
When it comes to measurability, it’s good to remember Einstein’s words of wisdom: “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” Einstein knew a thing or two about measurement.
We can measure things that simply don’t make a difference. And there are some things you can’t measure, yet you know are true because intuition and common sense tell you they’re true. Like relationships.
That’s an important concept to hold in mind as you explore measurable marketing, because threaded through all your marketing efforts is the relationship people have with your brand. And just like person-to-person relationships, they’re more art than science.
Having said that, let’s look at how to make your marketing work together.
1. Who’s going to buy from you? (And why?)
This is a basic step that many entrepreneurs forget to answer, instead getting caught up in wonders of their product. Who are you talking to, and what problem are you solving for them?
Be as specific as possible. Even if your target audience is men and women aged 18 to 50, be specific.
Why? Because it’s a lot easier to think of something that, say, your cousin Tim would like, than something “everyone” would like. Having a specific person in mind shapes your thinking around what you say, and where you say it.
“There are things we can’t measure yet we know are true because intuition and common sense say they’re true. like relationships. Threaded through your marketing efforts is the relationship people have with your brand. just like person-to-person relationships, they’re more art than science”
Having a specific person in mind also helps you get out of product-centred thinking, and into customer-centred thinking. In his book World Wide Rave, David Meerman Scott writes: “By truly understanding the problems your products and services solve, you transform your marketing from mere product-specific, egocentric gobbledygook that only you understand and care about into valuable information people are eager to consume and that they use to make the choice to do business with your organisation.”
It’s not just startups that fall into this trap. In Marketing Myopia, written in 1960, economist Theodore Levitt advises companies to ask themselves what business they are in, or risk irrelevance.
For example, at the time Levitt was writing, the TV industry in the US had already overtaken the film business. Instead of seeing TV as an opportunity to widen its product offering, the movie industry identified itself as purveyors of images on celluloid, instead of entertainment. They suffered from marketing myopia, or product-centred thinking, and missed opportunity for long-term growth. Don’t let it happen to you.
2. What do you want them to do?
This is where measurability kicks in. Once you’ve identified who you want to talk to, what do you want them to do? Usually this comes down to only a few options:
- buy something;
- visit somewhere (online or in the real world);
- call or TXT a number; or
- sign up for something (for example, subscribing to an email list or entering a competition).
Of course, there are plenty of other goals you could go for—like helping people think or feel a certain way. They’re measurable, but it’s a lot easier to measure behaviour than attitudes—and a lot more relevant to the bottom line.
3. Where will they listen to you?
Don’t just think of traditional advertising media when you think about where your customer will hear about you. Start with a day in their life.
Jay Conrad Levinson, the author who coined the phrase ‘guerrilla marketing’, described it this way: when your customer puts his shoes on in the morning, you want him to see your message inside the second shoe.
Okay, so maybe that’s a little creepy. But, done right, this principle leads to your message being where it’s most relevant. For TaxRefunds.co.nz (see case study on this page) that point of relevance was in people’s payslips. If they were going to think about money, it was then.
4. How will you communicate?
Once you know the who, what, why and where of marketing, you can progress to the how—which is where many people start.
Last year, Robert Lauterborn, one of the authors of the original Integrated Marketing Communication, proposed a new model: Integrated Customer Behaviour Management (or ICBM, natch).
According to Lauterborn, an ICBM programme “blows IMC out of the water” (sigh) with:
- product development to meet customer needs more precisely;
- packaging that communicates with equal precision;
- pricing that reflects the value the customer perceives;
- distribution that makes it convenient for the customer to buy;
- and the last point: “… whatever else it takes to change how the customer thinks and behaves, and the dialogue around it, internal and external: the multidimensional, interactive, continuously measured communication package that connects the brand or product and the customer, the process that creates and enhances the experience (which is what the customer is really buying).”
Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
TaxRefunds.co.nz: A dollar per customer
You don’t often hear “million-dollar marketing budget” and “value for money” in the same sentence.
But for Queenstown-based entrepreneur Geoff Matthews, those two things came together in the marketing of his website, TaxRefunds.co.nz.
Inspired by Trade Me’s simple approach, Matthews and his company created a website where people could easily find out if they were owed a refund, and if they were, apply to receive it, paying a 12.5 percent commission fee to TaxRefunds.co.nz along the way.
Although it’s easy to use, TaxRefunds.co.nz was a major job to put together. And that’s exactly why Matthews saw the scale of the opportunity.
Once he started looking into the idea for the site, he realised there was no way to profitably build it, except with an automated website. The costs of making applications manually would outweigh the commissions, and users would get a slow, unsatisfying experience.
Creating a positive, simple and fast user experience was crucial if the site was going to be trusted, used and recommended. The team connected five separate IT systems to create the simple interface of the website, and also integrated their automated system with IRD’s manual payments system.
Matthews integrated his marketing from the outset, combining a nationwide PR campaign with advertising. “I asked my PR company, Sputnik, to deliberately do the story to death,” says Matthews, “to clean the plate, so to speak—leave nothing for anyone else.”
For seven months the story remained in the media, with one story being used in two Sunday newspapers, a week apart, with the same photo. In the intensely competitive media world, that’s some sort of coup. TaxRefunds.co.nz also advertised heavily on Trade Me, securing a rare exclusive deal that prevented any other tax rebate provider from advertising.
All of this coverage led to site traffic, but not the word-of-mouth traffic Matthews was hoping for. When Trade Me adverts were displayed, traffic shot up, but afterwards it dropped back down.
Matthews and his team reviewed why they weren’t achieving viral success, and discovered that trust was a core issue. “It’s one thing to get 50 million people to watch a video of you dancing around the world, and another to get conservative New Zealanders to give you their IRD number, bank account details and commit to paying you some money,” says Matthews.
The marketplace was also becoming noisy, with the arrival of competition online and in shopping malls, all using manual processes and often charging higher fees. TaxRefunds.co.nz needed to stand out from the pack.
The next step was key. Despite being a commercial business, TaxRefunds is doing a public good, by helping people reclaim what is rightfully theirs. So Matthews took that public good angle and convinced well-known, trusted public figures to endorse the site. For free.
That’s not all. If you saw the TV ads and you’re at all politically savvy, you’ll recall the novelty of seeing the head of the Employers and Manufacturer’s Association and the head of the Unite Union on the same screen, agreeing with each other. That’s credibility writ large.
But what about writ small? Arguably, that’s where credibility matters most. That’s why TaxRefunds.co.nz also printed 250,000 mini-brochures and distributed them through unions and employer payslips. When people received their pay, they were open to a message about money—especially when it was about receiving money, not losing it.
With such a widespread marketing programme, all focused on pointing people to one action—visiting the website, signing up, and paying a commission on refunds—how did Matthews measure the effectiveness of different media?
TaxRefunds.co.nz web analytics platform produced detailed stats that showed when people were visiting, which made it easy to measure the effectiveness of TV advertising. “When we advertise during Dancing with the Stars, people visit after the show,” says Matthews, “but when we advertise during Lost, they visit during the show. We can tell you within three hours what the return on investment for that ad was.”
At the end of March, TaxRefunds.co.nz received its millionth application. Which means not only a million transactions that TaxRefunds.co.nz gets a piece of, but also the makings of a customer database to rival that of Air New Zealand, Fly Buys and Trade Me.
As for the future, Matthews is planning a new campaign from mid-July onwards. “It’ll be 50 percent the same, and 50 percent ... well, that’s top secret,” he says.
Our guess is, come July, it won’t be a secret any longer.