“Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don’t.“ Seth Godin
Strategy is about making choices
Many Brand Leaders think they are good decision-makers. Most Linked In profiles starts by saying “I’m a strategic thinker”. But the flaw is they keep trying to be everything to everyone. The most important element of Marketing Strategy is the exact area where most Marketers struggle: FOCUS! I still see a fear among many marketers to make choices–whether it’s a target market, brand positioning or strategies or the allocation of spend. Good decision-making starts with forcing yourself to use the word “or” instead of keep using the word “and”. If you aren’t making choices, then you aren’t really making decisions. So forget about decision making and start focusing on making choices.
Find those who are the most motivated by what you do
I once talked to a Brand Leader who said that they had done their homework on their target and had come to the decision that it was “18-65, current customers, new customers and employees” My response was “why have you eliminated Tourists and Prisoners?” He laughed but I could see him starting to think “hmm, why not”. In that 18-65 age target, there are 3 generations who do not really understand each other. People write books about these generations. Yet somehow you’re going to tell me you think you can find one common way of communicating with them. Now if I told you the Brand Leader was at a Bank, selling ‘first-time mortgages’, then how crazy is 18-65? Yes, I know there could be some 64-year-old consumer who is really tired of renting for the last 43 years, but I’m sure they would understand that the bank targets a 32-year-old in their ads. Trying to sell to those that ‘might’ is not as powerful as selling to those that ‘will’.
The most obvious target is those consumers already motivated to buy what you have to sell.
Pick a focused Target Market
While it’s tempting to sell to everyone. Focus your resources on those most likely to buy. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you. Whether you are a niche player focused on guerilla tactics, or the number two player attacking the category leader having a focused target market is crucial. I see a difference between a “buying target” which is those consumers who currently buy the product naturally without your effort and a “strategic target” of those consumers who you want to get to act–whether it’s considering, purchasing or continuing to buy. Rest assured that the buying target will not likely leave you because they aren’t in the strategic target–whether that’s in your TV ad or as part of your promotions. Think of it this way, anyone can still buy, but who do we think is most likely going to be influenced and motivated by what we have to sell.
Pick a focused Brand Positioning
Start with the target market you just picked–and assess their need states to see where you can best match up.
Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or they are not around for much longer. There’s too much pressure to be a copy cat brand–your channel might be the first to reject you, but if not, the consumer surely will. The winning zone is to match up what your consumer wants and what you do best. Avoid taking your competitor on in the space that they are better than you or you’ll get your butt handed to you. Where you are both trying to meet the needs of the consumer and are equal in performance, be careful that the leader may win, unless you can find ways to connect emotionally, be more innovative or find ways to provide superior execution. But even then, this space is a risky place to play.
Know your consumer, and live on their insights
Insight is not something that consumers never knew before. That would be knowledge not insight. Insight is not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell. Insights are not statistics about the demographics, shopping patterns or purchase behavior.
Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows. Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”. That’s why we laugh watching Seinfeld when seeing the way that insight is projected with humor, why we get goosebumps during a movie when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry during a romantic comedy when the insight comes alive through real-life drama. Because they’ve captured how we already feel.
The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”. To get deeper, keep asking yourself “so what does that mean for the consumer” until you have an “AHA moment”. What are the beliefs, attitudes or behaviors that help explain how they think, feel or act in life, as it pertains to the relationship to your brand or category? It’s not just data, trends and facts are insights. Facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth of the explanation of the underlying trends or feelings that caused the data. (e.g. In 1964, US teenagers saw the Beetles as an ‘escape’ from reality after the JFK assassination) Insights help tell the story, paint the picture or inspire the creative juices. Insights need to be interesting or intriguing. My challenge is to think beyond specific category insights and think about Life Insights or even Societal Trends that could impact changing behavior.
We managed to talk the banker into a more reasonable target of 28-33, within a year of purchasing their first home. This target is going through so many life-changing moments that at times they feel overwhelmed with all the change. Insights help bring more life to the target.
- “Things in my life seem to be moving so fast–marriage, career, baby and now a house. I’m a feeling a bit overwhelmed but I guess it’s time for me to start growing up fast”
- “I really have no business buying a house. I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m just trying to fake it. Everything is so scary. And now the bank wants to know if I want fixed or variable. I felt so stupid asking what’s the difference”
Why focus on a defined Target?
Every brand is constrained by resources—dollars, people and time. Even the richest Brand Leaders complain about the lack of resources. Focus makes you matter most to those who actually might care. Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the greatest movement towards sales and the highest return on investment for those resources. I was leading a session and I asked who the key targets were. The first answer was pretty good. Then people around the room kept saying “well, what about…” and “we can’t forget…” and “we don’t want to alienate…” And the President says in a serious tone: “we target everyone because it could be anyone really”.
In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all. Focus makes you decide whether to be better, different or cheaper. Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything is the recipe for being nothing. I was lucky that my first marketing job at General Mills was managing child cereals, where each quarter, I had to do a promotion on 5 different bowls of cereal. So, twenty times per year, I had to work with the 2 x 2-inch corner of the cereal box and put a message that would make a 5-year-old scream at their Moms to buy the cereal. That taught me a lot about focusing my messaging.
Trying to do everything spreads your resources and your message too thin so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”. With a long to-do list, you’ll never do great at anything. And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway to even bigger success. I once had a director working for me, who kept spinning around never getting anything done. His team was complaining that every time they started a new project, he’d come up with new ideas. I sat down with him and asked him to bring his project list for the upcoming quarter. He came in with 83 projects!!! I said, “how do we narrow this list down to five”. He looked at me like I was insane.
Trying to be everything means you end up being nothing.
When you focus, four things happen:
- Better ROI: With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll find out if the strategy that you have chosen is able to actually moves consumers, drives sales or enhances other key performance indicators. Did you actually get done what you wanted to get done? If you spread those resources, you may never see any movement and then figure your strategy is wrong.
- Strong Reputation: When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing. With consumers, you get the reputation as the “fast one” or the “great tasting”. And internally, as people in the company start to align with your one thing, eventually you become very good at that one thing. Look at Volvo with “safety”. Every Volvo consumer message for 30 years is about safety. And internally, everyone at Volvo is fixated on safety, coming out with new safety innovations ahead of everyone else. Yes, Volvo’s have leather seats, go pretty fast, have a CD player and even come in multiple colors. But they don’t feel the need to have to say it.
- More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that one thing and you are able to better defend the positioning territory. As categories mature, brands start to stake claims and if you’ve got something that’s unique, relevant and motivating, you’ll be able to own it. To win, you have to be either different, better or cheaper. Or you won’t be around for very long. Defend your point of difference.
- Bigger and Better P&L: As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits. With a better ROI, you get to go back to management and say “it worked” and they’ll say “ok, let’s increase the investment”. And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth. As you efficiently drive the top-line, the P&L opens up a bit and becomes easier for a brand leader to work with.
So if you’re a Brand Leader and you know that by focusing you’ll get a higher ROI which means even more resources and you know you’ll get a reputation and a position you can defend….then, why won’t you focus?
You have to matter the most to those who care the most