Are You Asking The Right Question?

This is a short tale of two focus groups. My goal is to show you how changing one word when asking a question can get you exactly what you’re looking for.

ABC Corporation sells laundry detergent. Sales were flat so they wanted to find out what was going on with their customers. Specifically, how could ABC improve their laundry detergent? So, they conducted a focus group with customers who used their product. The focus group moderator was selected from the company’s marketing department. This person had never conducted a focus group before.

This moderator asked the twelve people sitting around the conference table, 
“What do you need in terms of laundry detergent?” Blank stares filled
 the room. The participants were speechless. One participant asked, “I don’t know what I need”. Another said, “I need my clothes to be clean”. After going in circles, the group was unable to articulate any concrete need. The leader got frustrated and terminated the group after thirty minutes, without any suggestions. What a bust.

Another company, XYZ Corporation also sold laundry detergent and conducted a focus group with customers to find out how the corporation could improve its product. Same goal as ABC Corporation. This time the corporation hired a trained and experienced focus group facilitator. This facilitator asked the right question to group members.

“What problems are you having with your current laundry detergent?”

The answers came rolling off everyone’s tongues.

  • “I hate it when the liquid drips down the side of the bottle.”
  • “I can’t seem to figure out how to use the scoop.”
  • 
“The directions are written too small”. 

  • “The bottle is too heavy.”
  • “The handle is too small.”
  • “I don’t know if I’m getting my money’s worth.”


The marketing department was impressed with the useful information provided by just twelve people. The facilitator presented her report to XYZ’s Product Development team. They conducted more groups and got more useful information about customer problems.

People can easily articulate their problem but struggle to express their needs. The more you know about your customers’ problems, the more successful you’ll be.

Taken from Critical Connections – The Step-By-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

What Do You Need?

XZY Corporation wanted to find out how they could improve their laundry detergent. So, they conducted a focus group with customers who used their product. The focus group moderator was selected from the company’s marketing department. This person had never conducted a focus group before. This 
facilitator asked each of the twelve people sitting around the conference table,
“What do you need in terms of laundry detergent?” Blank stares filled
 the room. The participants were speechless. One participant asked, “I don’t know what I need”. Another said, “I need my clothes to be clean”. After going in circles, the group was unable to articulate any concrete need. The leader got frustrated and terminated the group after twenty minutes, without any suggestions.

Another company, XYZ Corporation also sold laundry detergent and conducted a focus group with customers to find out how the corporation could improve its product. Same goal as ABC. This time the focus group facilitator asked the right question to group members.

“What problems are you having with your current laundry detergent?”

The answers came rolling off everyone’s tongues.

“I hate it when the liquid drips down the side of the bottle.”

“I can’t seem to figure out how to use the scoop.”


“The directions are written too small”. 


“The bottle is too heavy.”

“The handle is too small.”

“I don’t know if I’m getting my money’s worth.”


The facilitator presented her report to XYZ’s Product Development team. The team was quite impressed with the useful information provided by just twelve people.

The more you know about your customers’ problems (needs!), the more effective, and successful your marketing strategies will be.

 

Learn more about how to identify customer needs at www.criticalconnectionsbook.com

What’s The Difference Between Transactional and Relational Marketing?

What’s The Difference Between Transactional and Relational Marketing?

 Let’s say you’re building a marketing plan to sell garden hoses. Your marketing strategies and sales tactics are straightforward transactions. When you sell a product, your customer shops for price and options- length, thickness, type of material, etc.

There is little or no emotional involvement in the sale. The sale is a direct transaction using traditional sales techniques.

However, if you provide personal or professional services such as financial planning, tutoring, or any kind of consulting, your marketing and sales tactics are relational, not transactional. Relational selling requires you to make a connection with potential clients or customers prior to making the sale.

Relational selling is value driven, not price driven. You must assure potential clients or customers they are receiving a high-quality service delivered by a knowledgeable professional. In a relational model, there is some emotional involvement in the sales process. Let’s face it, buying a garden hose is not an emotionally-charged experience,

Think about the following:

  1. Do my marketing and sales efforts require transactional or relational strategies?
  2. If I’m marketing a professional service, what is the one key message I want my potential client to know?
  3. If I’m selling a product, what are the one or two most important features and benefits of my product?

Keep in mind that marketing professional services is all about building and maintaining relationships with your clients.

For more information about relationship and referral-based marketing, click HERE.

 

 

How to Prevent Marketing Paralysis -Chapter 5

We’ve been talking about marketing paralysis.Here’s another symptom.

Boil the ocean: When clients come to me for help, I ask what they have done and what they are planning to do to start promoting their business. I’ll usually hear something like: “I’m working on my website. I just started Tweeting. I’m blogging. I’m planning to speak at an upcoming local seminar.”

When I hear this litany of activities, I wonder if this person is trying to boil the ocean. The term “boil the ocean” is one of many business jargon phrases used to embellish a point. Boil the ocean means to take on too much, over-extend yourself, or become overly ambitious. This is a recipe for failure.

Next time you are at the seashore (if you live inland, a large lake or river will do), try to take that entire body of water and boil it. How are you going to do it? Now that you are disappointed you couldn’t boil the ocean, try this. Take a teaspoon from your kitchen drawer. Go back to the ocean, river, or lake you just visited. Dip the teaspoon in the ocean. Using a cigarette lighter, place it under the teaspoon and see what happens. In a matter of minutes, the water will boil. Congratulations, you have successfully boiled a teaspoon of oceanSo, what’s the point here? Be realistic in how much you can do. How many marketing related projects can anyone take on at a time? The key to successful marketing is to figure out how much time, energy, and money you can expend on your marketing efforts. Next time you feel overwhelmed by the number of things to do, think teaspoon.

So far, we’ve talked about three causes of marketing paralysis:

1. Using the wrong marketing model

2. Getting unhelpful or misguided advice

3. Getting overloaded with information.

We talked about some of the most prevalent signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis:

1. The glazed over look

2. Going down the rabbit hole

3. Second-guessing and overthinking, and,

4. Boiling the ocean.

Now, we will discuss the fifth symptom of marketing paralysis: Putting the cart before the horse. Metaphorically speaking, the cart represents a specific promotional tool (social media platforms, websites, print and broadcast, etc.). The horse represents your target group or customer segment.

Here’s how you can easily get paralyzed.

  1. You decide to start a business – (you’re starting off great)
  2. You write a marketing plan – (ok, so far, so good)
  3. You come up with an idea of how to promote your business (you’ve now put the cart before the horse)
  4. After you’ve come up with some innovative ways to promote your business (the cart), you think of who your customers are (the horse)

If you continue this way, chances are high that you’ll stall out your marketing efforts. It’s not too late to avoid this problem.

Try this:

First: “Who is my most important target group”. If you don’t know who your customers are, how are you going to make an informed choice as to what promotional vehicles to use?

Second: Create your sales message touting the benefits and features of your business.

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 4

Last time we discussed one symptom of marketing paralysis: the glazed over look. Now, we’ll discuss two more symptoms: going down the rabbit hole and second-guessing/overthinking.

According to the English Oxford Dictionary, ‘going down the rabbit hole’ refers to “a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.”

This is an irresistible and uncontrollable urge to dive into the nitty-gritty and, unwittingly get stuck in the weeds of your situation. Rather than taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, you focus on the minute details of your marketing campaign: the colors for your promotional information, key words to be used in your website, which social media platform to use, etc. Details, details, details.

There’s a time and place for the details. Don’t get me wrong, details can be complicated and can cause problems. But, don’t let the minutia drag you down in the early stages of creating a marketing campaign.

Think of a time when going down the rabbit hole hindered or halted your progress on a project. Now, think of a time when going down the rabbit hole helped you.

Now you know the three causes of marketing paralysis (using the wrong model of marketing, getting unhelpful or misguided advice, and information overload). You can identify two of the three signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis (the glaze and going down the rabbit hole).

We now focus on the third symptom: Second-guessing and overthinking.

Second-guessing and overthinking occurs when you question and doubt every decision you make, large or small. You think too much about your next move or think for too long.  You expend emotional energy anticipating or predicting what negative thing might happen. Your thinking gets cloudy and your anxiety hits the roof. You wind up in the world of negativity. The result can be total shut down of your thinking and marketing efforts. Not good.

I’ve heard the following statements more than once from people starting out in business. “I’m always second guessing myself about my ability to start a business. I question whether I’m able to sell and whether I’m good enough to compete in the market.”

How can your prevent overthinking and second-guessing?

  1. Stay clear of others who ‘want to help solve your problem’
  2. Go to the gym and sweat off your negativity (a symptom of over-thinking)
  3. Go for the ‘quick win’. Find a small project that’s easy to do and that gives you some payoff
  4. It takes about 20 minutes to calm down after experiencing an upsetting situation. Take 20 minutes to collect yourself.

It’s time to stop over-thinking and second-guessing.

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 3

Signs & Symptoms of Marketing Paralysis

Now you’re familiar with the three causes of marketing paralysis (using the wrong model of marketing, getting unhelpful or misguided advice, and information overload). We now move from causes of marketing paralysis to a discussion of the signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis.

One debilitating symptom is the glazed over look in your eyes. The glazed over look is caused by information overload. It’s the look you get when trying to take your marketing ideas from concept to implementation. What happens to you? You lose clear vision and assume a dull, bored appearance. This is noticeable to those who look at you. You can’t seem to concentrate on your work and look like you have not slept in days. When your eyes glaze over, they become fixed and shiny, as if you are not seeing anything.

Some people, when working, get so spaced out that their computer screen looks blurry. It’s especially hard to avoid getting that glazed-over look when you’re using your tablet. The symptom tends to get worse if you’re trying to work at Starbucks. It’s been reported that some sufferers drift off to an alien galaxy. This is not good.

Have you experienced a glazed-over look when the dreaded word “marketing” is mentioned or when you’re trying to create your marketing campaign? Can you tell if you’re beginning to feel your eyes glaze over? If so, what do you experience?

Just being aware of what’s happening to you is the first step to recovery.

 

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 1

informationoverload

This is an exciting, action-packed, six-part series called Preventing Marketing Paralysis. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a start-up or are already in business, the practical tools and tactics you’ll learn will be of value to you. We’ll discuss the causes, signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis. And, most important, you’ll be given practical tips and suggestions to prevent you from becoming a victim of marketing paralysis. Be sure to read all six chapters, you’ll be glad you did.

What is Marketing Paralysis?

Marketing paralysis is a syndrome commonly seen in small business owners and providers of personal and professional services, who have little or no knowledge of marketing.

Marketing paralysis is similar to analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is over-analyzing a situation or idea to the point that nothing ever gets done. Those individuals or groups who suffer from analysis paralysis usually say something like, “We need more data. Let’s start from the beginning again. We need the right people to work on this.” Consequently, the project or idea stagnates and in many cases, no decision is made. Marketing paralysis occurs when, in the process of creating a marketing campaign, you stop dead in your tracks, unable to move forward.

Marketing Paralysis Cause I

Using the wrong model of marketing. Most marketing models are based on strategies and tactics aimed at selling products, not services. Selling products entails a completely different strategic approach. For example, if you are building a marketing plan to sell gardening supplies, your marketing and sales tactics are based on straightforward transactions. When you sell a product such as a garden hose, your customer shops for a certain brand, price, or specific features (length and thickness, type of material, etc.). There is more than one option to buy. It’s easy to sell value. There is little or no emotional involvement in the sale. The sale is a simple transaction and uses traditional sales techniques.

On the other hand, if you provide personal or professional services such as financial planning, tutoring, or any type of consulting, your marketing and sales tactics are consultative, not transactional. It’s hard to sell a single option service (accounting). Consultative selling requires you to build a relationship with potential clients or customers. There is high emotional involvement in the relationship. When promoting services, word-of-mouth and referral-based strategies are used.

Have you applied the wrong marketing model’s strategies and tactics in your business? What happened?

In the next chapter, you’ll learn two more causes of marketing paralysis.

Stay tuned.

Are You Putting The Cart Before The Horse?

horse cart copy

Here’s a little story that demonstrates how to avoid putting the cart before the horse, in a marketing sense, that is.

I was hired by a professional membership association to create a marketing plan. I’d be working under the auspices of the association’s newly formed Marketing Committee. The members of the committee had input into all aspects of the project. At the first meeting, I asked the committee members what they thought the scope of the project should be. Immediately, one of the members suggested they write an informational booklet describing all the good things the association does. She said this would be a great way to ‘market the association.’

I tried, to no avail to direct the conversation back to defining the scope of the project. By this time, the committee was fixated on the idea of producing a booklet and what the booklet should contain. Then, the conversation shifted from the idea of writing a booklet to a discussion of what political ramifications might occur, if the booklet was published. One member was concerned that the booklet should not, in any way, offend any member of the association, or any special interest group. After this discussion went nowhere, the committee moved on.

Then, I bluntly asked, “What’s the purpose of this booklet?” The committee members said that the booklet should be used to:

  • Recruit new members
  • Update active members on the association’s accomplishments
  • Educate the public
  • Influence and educate local, state, and national policy makers on issues important to the association’s membership.

In other words, the booklet would serve the needs of everyone. I said to myself, “ this ain’t gonna work.” If the booklet was written, it would have to address the unique needs of:

  • Prospective members
  • Current members
  • The public
  • Lawmakers 
(local, state, national)
  • Members of the Marketing Committee
  • The leadership of the association (after all, the leadership has to approve the budget for the production, distribution, and promotion of the booklet).

We’re getting nowhere, fast. Towards the end of the meeting, I suggested we break down the committee and form a small working group. They liked this idea. So, here’s what we did:

  1. I asked the work group, Who’s your most important target group? If the committee had selected, ‘the public’ as a target group, which they didn’t, they’d be shooting themselves in the foot (the public is 324 million people). The public has to be broken down by age, sex, geographic area, income, educational level, special interests, buying patterns, etc. They selected prospective members as their most important target group.
  1. Why is this group important? The association has many stakeholders, from the rank and file member to corporations that support the association. Why are prospective members more important than other groups? Because, prospective members will join and provide badly needed dues and non-dues revenue to ensure the financial stability of the association.
  1. What message do you want to convey to this group? Once the target group was identified, the message can be posited. In this case, the message is to inform prospective members of the benefits of joining such as having a venue to connect with other members and develop contacts encourage them to support their profession.
  1. And, last but not least, What’s the best way to communicate your message to this group? Once you know who your target is and what the message is, then select the best vehicle to communicate that message. Here’s where it gets tricky.

In order to select the most effective vehicle to communicate the message, we need to understand the purchasing habits of the prospective members. These prospects range in age from 26 – 35. For example, they prefer to receive most communication electronically. They are skeptical of and avoid traditional sales approaches.

Based on this and other demographic and psychographic data, the committee agreed to:

  • Update their current prospect list (including non-members who have previously purchased books and journals)
  • Request lists of graduate students from graduate schools
  • Update the association’s website to include a section devoted to prospective members
  • Capture email addresses of those visiting the website and those who request to receive the association’s newsletter
  • Send email newsletters to prospects
  • Use website and email to promote a special discount on membership

As of this writing, the Marketing Committee submitted a budget to the Finance Committee for approval. Let’s wait and see if the budget gets approved.

Now you can plan your marketing campaigns in this order:

  1. Who’s your most important target group?
  2. Why is this group important?
  3. What message you want to convey to this group?
  4. What’s the best way to communicate your message to this group

If you follow these four steps, you’ll be putting the horse before the cart.

Marketing – It’s Not What You Think

marketing strategy

Ask ten people what their definition of marketing is and you’ll probably get eleven different answers. Ask your brother-in-law, the one with the MBA from Wharton, and you’ll most likely hear him use a lot of professional jargon. You’ll say to yourself,”What’s he talking about?”

I found a website listing 72 different definitions of marketing. When I read some of these definitions, I thought about my clients trying to make sense of these definitions and struggling to create and implement a marketing campaign. If I’m dazed by these definitions, I could imagine what my clients might be feeling.

Before I present my definition of marketing (I hope mine can be added as #73 on the list), here’s what marketing isn’t:

  • Producing flyers, brochures, or any printed promotional material
  • Building a website
  • Tweeting, blogging, or posting on Facebook
  • Using public relations
  • Going to the grocery store

The promotional/communication tactics listed above are implemented after defining marketing goals, objectives, and strategies.

Most definitions and models of marketing focus on creating strategies and tactics to build a marketing plan to sell products. These marketing models are transactional.

To demonstrate key points of the transactional model, we’ll use selling a garden hose.

      • Customers have more than one purchasing option. They can buy a 6-foot hose or 10-foot hose.
      • It’s easy to sell value. The hose has a lifetime guaranty and comes with two types of nozzles, etc. What a deal
      • There’s little emotional involvement when considering buying a garden hose.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t get worked up or emotionally engaged when considering purchasing a garden hose.
      • Whether you’re online or visiting a retail store, traditional sales techniques are used to persuade you to purchase the hose. The salesperson and online product descriptions tout the features and benefits of the hose.

My marketing model is relational not transactional.  It focuses on building and maintaining vital business relationships before the sale.

Let’s use the example of a financial planner to demonstrate key points about the relational model.

The sale is consultative. Potential clients need to be educated on what a financial planner does and what benefit the client will receive from the planner’s services. Consequently, the consultative sales process takes time. Also, potential clients go online and do their homework prior to purchasing the services. They check out the financial planners credentials and any reviews. They also comparative shop, looking at other financial planners. Clearly, hiring a financial planner is not an impulse purchase.

  The financial planner provides one service. Of course, the delivery of the service is tailored to the unique needs of the client.

•  It’s a challenge to sell perceived value. Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the buyer of the financial planner’s service and ability to satisfy client needs. You pay for the financial planner’s knowledge, experience, insights, and skills, not just for the time spent working with you.

  • There is a high level of emotional involvement in a client’s decision to hire a financial planner. Potential clients might get ‘sticker shock’ when it comes time to discuss fees. Once again, the potential client needs time to make the decision to engage the services of the financial planner.
  • For the most part, financial planners depend on referral sources and word-of-mouth from current and former clients for business.

Let’s dive into my model of marketing. Plain and simple: marketing is about creating a care and feeding program to develop and sustain connections and relationships with those in a position to refer business to you and those who will directly purchase your services.

Strategic Relationships

There are two types of strategic relationships:

  1. Prospective and existing customers or clients
  2. Individuals who are in a position to refer customers or clients (referral sources) to you.

What do I mean by managing strategic relationships. First, let’s break down this definition.

Management. I use the term management to describe any activity you do to keep your marketing engine running. Whether you’re self-employed or own a small business, there are certain planning activities you have to do prior to initiating and maintaining relationships. This includes everything from compiling names for a newsletter to putting together timelines for the distribution of promotional information (online or in print).

Your job is to create, implement, and manage a plan that takes care of and feeds your strategic relationships.

Strategic. The word strategic describes something important and vital.  Certain relationships are vital and others are not. For example, you might have identified primary, secondary, and tertiary target groups or market segments. You might consider your primary target group as your vital group-the group who is most likely to refer customers or most likely to be your primary customer. This would be your primary strategic relationship.

Relationships. There are two goals involved in building and maintaining relationships. In my relational model, your first job is to build a relationship using methods such as sharing content via social media or your blog or attending events where you’re most likely to meet customer or referrers. Your second job is to delight customers or clients so much that they will return.

If you want to start a web-based business, don’t fool yourself into thinking that all you have to do is build a website, post content on Facebook (or other social media platforms), collect lots of followers on Twitter, blog your brains out, or send blast emails.  How can you develop meaningful strategic relationships this way?

Marketing is the management of strategic relationships. It’s a care and feeding program you create for those in a position to refer business to you and those customers who want to purchase your product or service.

In the next installment of Marketing – It’s Not What You Think, I’ll give you a real-life example of how I used marketing as the management of strategic relationships to sell a service.