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April 12, 2012

The 12 Guiding Principles of Marketing (part 2)

This is the second part of a two-part article…

Principle #7 – Listen and learn… and be prepared to get out of your own way.

Just because you want to sell it, doesn’t mean that anyone wants to buy it.  Or better yet… you can only be successful when you sell what the market wants and needs.

Here’s an example… if you are a boutique qualitative shop specializing in ethnographies… and several of your clients start asking for bulletin board focus groups, should you start doing them?  Maybe… maybe not.  But you do, at least, need to think about it.  In business, you need to pay attention to the market and be prepared to respond to it – maybe in ways you weren’t expecting.

Principle #8 – Not all marketing is marketing.

Marketing isn’t just about ads, websites, social media and the sales team.  Remember, anything and everything that touches a client or prospective client and that can influence their perception of your firm should be thought of as ‘marketing.’

Think about when you’ve waited in long lines at the DMV and how that influences your perception of that organization and the people who work there.  How about getting stuck on the phone with an uncaring, even belligerent customer service rep… how does that color your opinion of that company?  And neither of those issues generally falls under the umbrella of ‘marketing.’

As you’re working on your marketing plan, make sure to give some thought to those things not normally associated with marketing.  For example, how your phone is answered (friendly receptionist or automated voice attendant)… your billing process (easy and accurate or riddled with errors)… project personnel (friendly and empowered or a “that’s not our policy” attitude)… project proposals (easy to understand or complicated and full of jargon)… your offices and furniture (nice or embarrassing).


Principle #9 – You still gotta execute!

The fact is, planning isn’t all that complex.  It takes time and it takes brain power… but when it’s done, it’s done (at least until next year).  The real challenge in marketing & sales is in the execution of the plan… in making it come to life.

Sticking to the timeline, making sure all the details are covered, doing things on a regular basis (even though they might seem boring or redundant), taking the time to measure and report… now that’s hard.  Plan execution requires discipline, persistence and determination.

In marketing & sales, you plan your work… then you work your plan.

Principle #10 – Give it away!

In the market research industry, it’s harder than ever to connect with a prospective client.  Why?  Prospective clients have access to two things that didn’t really exist 15 years ago:

  • A TON of available data online
  • An even larger number of potential vendors (thanks to a global, connected economy)

Given that, how do you get prospects to take notice… to connect with you in that sea of data and competition?  Answer:  GIVE them something of value.  For free.  It is easiest to start with information… an eBook on a relevant topic, a recording of a presentation, an invitation to a private webinar, etc… anything that helps them to do their jobs better.

This gesture of giving away valuable information benefits you at several levels:

  • It helps to showcase your areas of expertise
  • It helps to differentiate you from all of those competitors, most of whom are not giving away good information
  • Gathering the prospects’ contact information (when they download the info from your website) helps you to build a database and initiate a follow-up program as a means to establish a relationship
  • Those that download this kind of information are self-selecting, meaning that most of the time, only qualified, targeted prospects will request it.

Their acceptance of your offer is the connection you need to start the buying/selling process.

Principle #11 – 2-way dialogue… what a concept!

The world – and especially the world of marketing – has changed in the new millennium.  Thanks to technology, particularly social media, we are now a truly connected a society.  Like it or not… for better or worse… that’s the way it is.

For marketers, this interconnectivity means that the rules of changed.  It’s not longer just “push” marketing (“I’ll advertise like crazy until someone buys from us!”)  Now, it’s about 2-way communication… it’s about getting permission to communicate… it’s about transparency and honesty.

Bottom line… it’s about engaging your prospective clients, helping them to get to know your company and what it stands for, then helping them to buy what they need… not trying to sell them something that you need to sell.  It just doesn’t work like that anymore.

Principle #12 – Live the Brand

Every company has a brand… good or bad, compelling or weak – but we all have one.  What’s yours?

Smart marketers have long been conscious of their company’s brand and trying to create initiatives in alignment with that brand.  Often though, it’s only marketing that’s living the brand, not the rest of the company.  And – here’s the problem – if everyone at your firm is not living the brand (and meaning it), then the brand breaks down and you lose credibility.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • If your brand revolves around “innovation” and you still send faxes to clients, that’s a problem.
  • If you want to be known for “customer service” and you still have an automated phone system that takes five steps to get through, you’re at cross-purposes with your brand.
  • If you want to build a reputation for being specialists in the healthcare industry, but your new Project Manager doesn’t know the difference between an HMO and an HSA, your brand takes a hit.

Whatever your brand, to gain a competitive advantage, make sure everyone in your organization knows, buys into it, is trained for it and lives it.

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