Category Archives: Marketing ROI

Is Your Brand Indispensable?

Two years ago, who would have thought Coke and Energizer could ever be cast aside by retailers?

Well – it’s happening.

Costco recently announced it was no longer selling Coca-Cola products as a result of a price battle.  CVS is dropping most Energizer products and will only carry Duracell and its private label.     Following this trend, Wal-Mart continues to move towards its product mix goal of one top brand, one value brand and its private label.

Costco is betting people will continue to come to Costco and buy alternatives to Coke.  CVS has used its customer shopping data to predict a minimal sales drop if they no longer sell Energizer.

What should all businesses take away from this?

Few brands are indispensable to the customer. In fact, you know your customers could find a pretty good alternative if you were no longer in business.

So what can you do to become as close to indispensable as possible?

Know your customers

  • Why do they choose to buy your product/service?
  • What do you offer them that they can’t get anywhere else?
  • Why do they buy from your competitors if you aren’t available?
  • What do your competitors offer that you don’t?
  • How are they using your product or service?
  • How do they use your competitor’s product or service?

(These questions can be easily answered through one-on-one interviews and quantified through online research.)

Know your competition

  • What are they offering that you don’t?
  • What makes them unique in the market?
  • Do they partner with other companies?

Upon learning about your customers, develop service offerings that they can only get from your company.  Some ideas could be:

  • Guarantees
  • Special hours
  • Rewards programs
  • Loyal customer specials
  • Packaged service offering
  • Something extra every time they do business with you (for example, a local Chinese restaurant gives you an extra appetizer as their way of saying thank you)

Why no mention of lowering prices on these lists? Making your brand indispensable is not about price; it is about creating value that your audience can not receive anywhere else.

How are you creating value to make your brand indispensable?

Post your comments so others can learn from what you are doing.



Filed under Brand Position, Competition, Marketing ROI

Measuring The Impact of Social Media

image.axdThe attraction of social media is based on its ability to reach an audience with few out of pocket costs.  However, social media does require a financial investment through an employee’s hours and opportunity costs.

As a result, companies need to know how their social media efforts are making an impact on their business.

Part of that impact should be measured by social media activity that was generated by consumers, not your marketing department.  By measuring consumer comments regarding your company, you get a good sense about their interest in your brand – good or bad.

Two new tools can help measure this activity:

BackType lets you monitor what people are saying about your company or your competitors.  Its trend section is under development but will allow you to trend activity.

Addictomatic creates a dashboard of things like flickr, digg, twitter, youtube, blogs and other tools to give you a current picture of what is being said about your brand.

The benefit of social media is bringing you closer to your consumer by understanding what they are saying about you.

BackType and Addictomatic are two tools that help make that goal easier.

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Filed under Marketing ROI, Social Marketing

The Importance of Timing

Calendar_2007_SmNovember 1, 2009

I went out to get my Sunday paper (yes, I still read the paper) to find it polybagged in an advertisement for Snickers. The bag included a coupon for a bag of Snickers’ Minis.

Does anyone else find it odd that I received a coupon for snack-sized Snickers the morning after my children are waking-up from their Halloween-induced coma?

Return on investment is crucial for your marketing efforts, but some things are out of your control – like natural disasters or a surprise launch of a competitive product at the same time as yours.  However, there are some things you can control –  like timing.

A few years back I participated in Bzz Agent’s word-of-mouth marketing program where they were getting people to try Hershey’s new Take 5 chocolate candy bar.  The problem was they sent me the product in July in Georgia.  The melted glop that remained was not very appetizing.

When I brought this to Bzz Agent’s attention, they stated they had received similar complaints and would rectify the situation.  They did resend the bars – in August.

I can’t imagine Hershey’s received the return they had hoped for based on poor timing on behalf of them and BzzAgent.

Just last month, Toronto’s subway newspaper, the Metro, began running ads promoting their mobile website, suggesting that the website was so riveting it might cause car accidents. Their timing, however, was lousy, since the Toronto government had just passed legislation making it illegal to drive and use a cell phone at the same time.

There are many things not in your control when marketing, but to ensure the best possible return on investment make sure you control what you can.

Do you have any marketing disaster stories caused by poor timing?  Let us know.

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Filed under Marketing ROI

Reduce Customer Credit Card Usage. Increase Loyalty.

Reduce Credit Card UsageCredit card usage is a key component in creating customer loyalty, from earning frequent flyer miles to rewards points.  In today’s economy can you increase loyalty by encouraging your customers to use their cards less?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of keeping pricing consistent and instead adding value.  This is important because cutting your pricing may impact your ability to recoup a higher margin for an extended period of time.

But in today’s economy, the pressure facing companies to provide discounts on their products and services is strong.

So what can you do to encourage consumers to purchase your product, remain loyal to your brand and keep your price consistent?

Change your model – by giving your customers the incentive to pay another way.

The average company pays between 1.5% and 5% in credit card service charges. If you have $5,000,000 in revenue and are paying 3.5% in service charges, up to $175,000 of your bottom line could be going to the credit card companies.

While you may consider this a cost of doing business, what if you encouraged your customers to pay by cash, check or bill pay by putting 2.5% of their bill (based on the 3.5% noted above) into a loyalty account for them to use towards future purchases?  You would still come out ahead by $50,000.

Such a program provides many consumer benefits:

  • Reduces their cost on future services
  • Does not increase credit card debt (according to the average consumer household is carrying a $10,640 balance on their credit cards)
  • Saves money by not having to pay interest on credit card purchases
  • Provides value for products and services they already use

Your company benefits as well:

  • Reduces transaction costs (thus benefitting the bottom line)
  • Increases customer loyalty
  • Provides unique point of difference

A recession is great time to change how you do business without changing your business.

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Filed under Customer Marketing, Marketing ROI, recession marketing

Market Share is Not Recession Proof

I was reading the Three Minute Manager in the March 30 issue of Fortune magazine. The first question asked to the CEOs of Staples, TD Ameritrade and Head of Global Customer Strategy for Bain & Co was “Is it really a good time to go after market share” and their answers were a resounding “yes”.

Most of your competitors are in the same place you are – focusing on revenue and expenses.

You may have gone through your first, second and maybe even third round of cost cutting.

The last thing on your mind is market share. You figure your competitors are most likely cutting their marketing budgets so things should remain status quo except for the one or two weaker competitors who go out of business.

Since when is status quo okay for business?

A recession – especially a deep recession – is the best time to increase market share since it is significantly cheaper to stand out compared to your competitors who may no longer be marketing.

Think about share of voice – similar to market share but determined by your share of media impressions.

For example, everyone in your industry spent a total of $10,000,000 in advertising last year. Your ad budget was $1,000,000 giving you a 10% share of voice.

This year your industry’s ad spend is only $5,000,000. If your budget remains at $1,000,000 you grow your share of voice to 20% thus taking a more dominant role in your industry without increasing your cost. That increased share of voice leads to greater awareness and ultimately more prospects. (Sorry, but it is still up to you to close the sale).

If you reduce your budget by 25% to $750,ooo you are able to achieve a 15% share of voice – thus spending less, yet achieving a greater impact than the $1,000,000 investment made the year prior.

By continuing to market your company, you can actually gain market share more cost-effectively and be in a stronger position when the economy rebounds.

But you have to continue to market because if you stop marketing – even to your customers – someone will take your share of the market.

It is your job to market frugally, but not so much so that it is ineffective.

Here are some things you should consider to hone your marketing effort:

  • Look at what tactics are having the greatest return on investment. (A previous post on tracking speaks to what you can do to know what marketing tools are working best.)
    • For example, if you are in a service industry like plumbing, HVAC, etc, the thought of cutting Yellow Page advertising is terrifying, so move slowly by cutting your ad from a spread to a single page and track the changes.
  • Continue to aggressively pursue inexpensive ways to market to your customers.
    • Email newsletters
    • Service reminders
    • Phone calls
  • Implement a customer referral program
  • Look for affiliation marketing opportunities.
    • For example, if you belong to your local chamber of commerce, provide all other chamber members a discount on your products/services.
  • Volunteer/Donate services – the free publicity will help you reach a broader audience

These are just five ways you can market smarter so that you can gain market share while it is cheaper to do so.

We hope you’ll use the comment section to tell us how you are gaining market share during the recession.


Filed under Competition, Customer Marketing, Marketing ROI, recession marketing

Creative Ideas For Smaller Budgets

While marketing topics are seemingly endless, I wanted to hear what topics were top of mind for small business owners so I posted a link on Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out (HARO).  I have received numerous responses and a common theme – especially in today’s economic climate – is how do I market my business without a marketing budget?

Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube etc can certainly help.  Email marketing is also a great tool. Word-of-Mouth is incredibly powerful.  And we’ll discuss those in more detail in future posts.

In the mean time to market yourself in a way that doesn’t require much money you have to be creative and take advantage of your resources.

When I worked with a poker chip company the best point of difference was the chips themselves.  They were actual clay chips not the composite ones.  You could tell the difference the minute felt the chip in your hands.  The client didn’t have a huge marketing budget, but they did have an endless supply of chips.  

The solution:  We printed a unique URL (so we could track the success of this program) on stickers which we then adhered to the back of the poker chips.  We then would leave single chips in bars, casinos,poker tournaments, retail stores where other chips were sold – pretty much anywhere our target audience frequented.  

The result:  We generated almost $900,000 in revenue from a program that cost less than $100.

Another idea is finding someone like Jason Sadler who offers “the top part” of his wardrobe to promote your business.  Sadler of I Wear Your Shirt sells himself to advertisers and his rate increases a dollar a day.  If you want him to wear your shirt on January 1, it will cost you $1.  January 2, it will cost $2, etc.  He then posts photos on Flickr, provides status updates on Facebook and Twitter and even posts videos and podcasts on YouTube.  All you do is choose your day and send him a shirt.

Contests are another great ways to generate awareness.

A few years ago, an Atlanta furniture store hosted the ugliest couch contest where the winner received a new couch.  The new couch cost them nothing, but the PR it garnered was incredible.

Threadless builds awareness by having monthly t-shirt design contests and then turning the winning design into t-shirts they sell on the site.

Another idea is advertise where there aren’t currently ads.  

Remember when you got your first Starbucks with that cardboard “collar” around it and how it quickly became an ad venue?    Who would have thought that individuals would wrap their cars to become rolling billboards?    And ads in a bar’s restroom?   When people first looked to these as ad tactics, they were very inexpensive and people noticed.

We will certainly visit this topic throughout the year, but the key to working with small or non-existent budgets is being creative.  Anyone can market with large budgets, but being able to make small budgets work demonstrates the ability to market smarter.

If you have other ideas please post them here so that everyone can learn from your experience.

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Filed under Marketing ROI

A Horse Threw Talking Flowers For Doritos?


By Robert Deutsch, USA Today

Photo By Robert Deutsch, USA Today

The headline of this post doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but neither did a lot of the ads in Sunday’s Super Bowl.  


I am a huge fan of great creative, but to me the best creative work is meaningful as well.  At $3 million for 30 seconds being clever is important, but more important than that is to be remembered.  

Three days from now will you remember any of these television spots?

But the reality of the Super Bowl spots are actually not the running of the spots themselves but the marketing value surrounding the game.

Super Bowl spots are more than about the :30 during the game.  In the case of Doritos the hype started in July when they launched a consumer contest to develop the Doritos ad.  

For other companies the media coverage online, on television and in publications like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today around the spots started in mid-December and continues well after the game itself.

Why is this relevant to small and medium sized businesses?  Because just like the larger companies, you need to make sure your marketing dollars work as hard for you as possible.

When you launch a new marketing effort (more than just a brochure) think about the following to maximize your marketing investment:

1)  Share it with your customers first so they feel like they are on the “inside”

2) Send out a press release to the media regarding the new campaign.  This should include industry pubs, local news, etc.

3) Post all new work on your web site.  

4) Post new work online at sites like YouTube (if television)

5) Have all your employees update their status on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc to let their networks know of the new work

6) Send an email to your prospects sharing the new work and the message behind it

For your marketing to work your message needs to be relevant, unique and motivating.  

Once that is done,to make the most of your marketing dollars look for ways to merchandise it as well.  Doing so will help you market smarter.

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Filed under Marketing ROI