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Marketing Lessons from the Business of Football

By Paul Johnson

1.326 words. Abstract: The football game on the field has little to do with why butts are on the bleachers. Football teaches important marketing lessons that we can apply to gain more customers and fill a stadium of our own.

People don’t go to football games to watch football. Oh, a few people do, but not enough to come close to filling the stadium. To find out who the pure fans are, you’d have to do away with the video screens, the mascots, the cheerleaders, the halftime shows, any foods more exotic than hot dogs, soft drinks and peanuts, and then see who’s left in the stands. Would you still buy a ticket?

Football is more than a game; it’s also a business. The business of football has grown because the promise included with each ticket has grown to appeal to more than just the pure fans. Does your business cater solely to your pure fans? If so, you’re sitting on a tremendous growth opportunity.

No One Wants Your Product
We forget that people don’t really want our product; they want what they can do with our product. Take coffee as an example. If we focus on the coffee itself, it’s easy to get caught up in the price per pound or per cup, and the qualities that make coffee taste good or bad. Yet when we think about what we can do with the coffee, those factors become almost insignificant.

The place where coffee is served (the coffee shop) becomes the backdrop for a social event with friends or business acquaintances; the price of the coffee becomes insignificant. Perhaps coffee is the warm, comforting friend that accompanies us on our journey into the new book we just picked up at a Barnes and Noble book store. Whenever we buy coffee or football tickets or your product or service, we are buying much more than what the label on the package indicates.

Get a Feel for the Game
Football organizations discovered long ago they can enjoy significant boosts in business by looking at all the ways to serve their customers during a football game. By expanding the core product — the game on the field — to appeal to a larger audience, their market grows beyond the pure fans to include their spouses, other family members and their friends. In the process, football organizations enjoy multiple up-sell opportunities while engendering customer loyalty that keeps fans coming back. You don’t have to love football to love going to a football game.

While your product or service may not be as flashy and exciting as football, you can apply football’s marketing lessons to improve your market share, revenues and profits. If you don’t, you risk seeing your sales fall flat and watching business go to your competition. If companies can apply these marketing principles to a product as simple as coffee, you can win using these strategies, too.

Unfortunately, we may be too close to our product to successfully apply these principles. We likely know the features and benefits of our product inside and out, and understand all the things our customers can do with our product. What’s more important is that we step back and work to understand how people feel while using our product. Find out the feelings your customers associate with using your product or service, and then think of ways to give them more of those feelings. Here are three ways you can do that.

1. Ain’t I Social!
Many people use a product or service as an excuse to get together with other people. Football tickets, coffee shops, birthday cakes, bowling leagues – people may buy these products solely to enjoy the feelings they get when they’re experiencing them with other people.

Think of ways to get people who share a common interest in your product or service to socialize around it. Consider:

  • Conferences
  • Online chat rooms
  • Reunions
  • Rallies
  • User groups
  • Advanced training sessions
  • Charitable work

Any event, really, can be the perfect excuse for your customers to gather and experience the great positive feelings that will generate customer loyalty and keep them coming back for more.

2. Make it Memorable
When customers have a good experience with your product, they’ll want to repeat it so they can recreate those good feelings. Ideally our customers will talk about their experience with their friends and associates long after the experience is over. You can extend the power of this word of mouth effect. Help your customers remember their positive feelings long after the experience that created them is over.

Memories are heightened when emotions are involved. The stronger the emotions, the stronger the feelings, the longer and more powerfully we remember them. At football games we watch instant replays of key moments; the turning points and dazzling plays worth remembering. We buy programs that allow us to engage at a deeper level with the personal aspects of the players. Sometimes we’re provided with heart-stopping opportunities to win prizes. Souvenirs allow us to take the football game home with us; we can relive the feelings we had at the game simply by looking at or holding our souvenir.

Get your customers emotionally involved so they’ll long remember the positive experiences they have with your product or service.

  • Provide mementos.
  • Give them a chance to win something.
  • Deliver a nice surprise they don’t expect.
  • Give them moments with industry celebrities.
  • Take pictures, especially of them, to give them vivid reminders of the great experience they had.

Do these things, and they’ll do business with you over and over again.

3. Include the Fringe
Around your core customers — the pure fans — is a fringe of secondary customers you can easily access. These secondary customers may be spouses or friends of your core customers who are easily reached through viral marketing. Give thought as to how to provide for their social needs and create positive, memorable feelings that will encourage them to try you once and then come back again and again.

The football business has this figured out. The football lovers in a household have an easier time getting to games when their non-football-loving spouse is eager to go with them. That’s why a football ticket provides so much more than the game these days. While marketing the game to pure fans is a simple endeavor, football becomes a much better business when the offer is expanded to include the social and emotional aspects that appeal to the secondary market. For example, the Super Bowl has become more of a party than a game. People plan for and look forward to the huge social event that engulfs this championship game. Millions watch the Super Bowl on TV, yet few watch it alone.

Get in touch with your market and work to understand who your secondary customers are. Coffee shops gladly sell tea and soft drinks so their "regulars" can easily bring along their non-coffee drinking friends. Expand your marketing to include these secondary customers and you can boost your sales revenues by 50% and more.

The Game of Change
Football as a game hasn’t changed much over the decades. The proposal to permit challenge flags supported by video review was carefully debated by National Football League (NFL) officials before its adoption, all because the League knows this; never alienate your pure fans. They are the bedrock of your business. Keep delivering the solid, consistent product that keeps them coming back for more.

Don’t focus on improving your product. Instead, focus on improving the product experience. Once you understand the positive feelings your customers experience by using your product or service, look for ways to extend that experience. Sure, cream and sugar go with coffee. But so does a soft chair and soothing music. So does a well-written book of fiction. So does a table surrounded by family or friends.

Football is a game and it is a business. Look at your business like a game. How does it feel to do business with you today? Make your business social. Make it memorable. Make your business the game your customers are eager to play.

© 2007 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson works with organizations to convert trouble into double and triple digit performance breakthroughs. Discover concepts for marketing breakthroughs at http://ShortcutsToResults.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).

Comments (0) Nov 01 2007

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Tease Your Customers and Make Them Bite

By Paul Johnson

1,147 words. Abstract:  You can hold each prospective customer’s attention longer when you use a technique so powerful it holds the rapt attention of millions every day.  This technique has even made individuals millions of dollars.  Learn what marketers can do to prevent prospective buyers from turning you off before you can get them turned on.

We don’t mean to be boring.  We don’t want to be irrelevant.  We despise being hung up on. 

But could it be our own fault when buyers lose interest in our message so quickly? As marketers, we need prospective customers to pay attention to us long enough to "get it" and bite on our offer.  If you need customers to pay attention longer, you can use the same technique that experts use to keep literally millions of people from "hanging up". 

The Present is Tense
Customers live in a time-starved world with never enough daylight to get everything done.  Every day, the relentless push for production is interrupted thousands of times with distractions via the eyes, the ears, and sometimes even the nose.  As a consequence, attention spans are short.  Customers ask a question, demand an answer, check the box, and move on. 

Once we’ve borne the expense of getting a prospect’s attention, we’ll never be able to establish value and make the sale if we can’t keep their attention for more than the few seconds we’ll have before the next distraction.

The Future is Suspense
My niece, Natalie, has learned how to keep the attention of millions of people at once.  She produces a news show for a television station in a major city in Ohio.  As soon as the show starts, Natalie knows she must immediately present the viewer with a reason to not change the channel.  Her solution: the tease. 

You’ve been hooked by teases before.

  • "Coming up, find out why one local homeowner is taking the governor to court."
  • "What will the coming storm do to tomorrow morning’s commute? Find out when Ken give us his weather report later."
  • "Local sports star may face jail time.  Will it impact the team’s playoff chances? Nancy will have the full story for you right here. "

Tease_customers_1 Teases give your "audience" a reason to stick around.  I’ll explain more about what they do and how to use them in a moment, but first consider how important they are to you when selling.  Once we have attention, we must establish value in the customer’s mind.  For most of us, the message must be considerably more than "Hair brush, $5."  We need to give them enough time to mentally move from paying attention to developing their interest and desire to understanding why your offering is worthy of their investment.

Using the equivalent of a tease will give you the time you need to establish that value proposition, and you can do it all in just three steps.

Replace Whole with Hole
Step 1:  Use the tease to expose a hole in their knowledge.  Your tease should be designed to make them curiously aware that there is something they want to know but don’t.  Your tease must create a feeling of deficiency or lack.  Look at the example teases above and you’ll see that each is missing the kernel of information we long for.  The resulting curiosity keeps people from diverting their attention from us.

Tease_customers_2 Dan Brown is a master of applying teases and creating curiosity in his own genre.  I first found Dan brilliantly applying these techniques in his book Angels and Demons.  Next I read his The Da Vinci CodeThe Da Vinci Code starts with this tease:  "Robert Langdon awoke slowly.  A telephone was ringing in the darkness – a tinny, unfamiliar ring." 

Immediately, I’m wondering…

  • Who is Robert Langdon, and why should we care? 
  • Why was it dark?
  • Why was the ring unfamiliar… would he remember where he was? 
  • Would the caller be helpful, or hostile? 

And that’s just from my simple mind. You may have your own questions.

The Payoff Will Wait
Step 2:  Tell them what you decide they NEED to know.  As a marketer, this would be anything that is relevant and necessary to establish value but isn’t necessarily as exciting as the payoff to the tease.

Your mother understood this principle.  It’s why she told you dessert was coming at the end of the meal so you’d put up with the peas in the middle.  Your expectations of a delightful payoff made the whole meal more enjoyable. 

Customers are funny about this.  They tell us they’d rather we get to the point, but they really don’t mean it.  In fact, if you can make the potentially long and circuitous route to the payoff fun, they’ll pay you lots of money to do it. 

In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown continually leaves multiple questions open in your mind at once, and you just have to wait to find the answers. 

Tease_customers_3 This technique gave Dan time to establish value within the book.  It gave him time to develop his characters, scenes, and plot lines — all the things he needed you to know.  You’re happy to let him do it, because his teases have hooked you.  You keep reading page after page, chapter after chapter.

A lot of TV dramas are serialized these days.  Shows like Fox’s "24" use the same technique to require you to come back every week.  During each one-hour segment, some issues are resolved while others crop up.  The show always ends on a cliffhanger, with the unthinkable ready to happen.  The result? We all happily tune in next week.   

Satisfy the Want
Tease_customers_4_1 Step 3:  Finally, we must give the buyer what they want.  Your tease promises to tell them something they didn’t know before, so you must eventually give it to them to maintain integrity and trust.  Dan Brown does this by resolving every open question you have in your mind by the last page, all the while keeping your attention for hundreds of pages.  The result is a satisfying experience that makes you glad you invested your time and money in the book.   

More importantly, it also inspires you to tell your friends and to buy more of Dan Brown’s books yourself.  Dan Brown is a multi-millionaire because he first uses teases to create curiosity, and then eventually gives people what they want.  The "experts" have criticized his writing, but anyone who can sell close to a billion dollars worth of books is a brilliant marketer in my book. 

Go For Long Engagements
As marketers, we’re all encouraged to "cut to the chase" and "get to the point." There’s nothing wrong with being concise, and I’m not advocating wasting anybody’s time.  However, it pays to find a way to make people take the time to truly understand how your offering will be a personal benefit to them in a measurable and significant way.  If television producers like Natalie can capture the attention of millions of people in just one or two sentences, it pays for us to practice this technique.  When we learn to keep our prospects engaged long after we’ve captured their attention, we’re sure to make more sales. 

Bonus! Can you find the teases in this article?  They’re there!  Drop me a note through the Comments link below.

© 2007 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results educates, consults, and speaks on ways to achieve business breakthroughs using the Trouble Breaker™ Methodology.  Check out more shortcuts at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Call Paul direct in Atlanta, Georgia, USA at (770) 271-7719.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).

Comments (2) Mar 01 2007

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Don’t Cheat When You Greet on Voicemail

By Paul Johnson

599 words. Abstract: Your voicemail greeting most likely fails to convey the most important thing of all. Learn some simple tips that will allow you to stop sabotaging yourself during those few precious seconds it takes to deliver your voicemail greeting.

If you wanted to cheat in school (not that you would!), you’d cheat from the smartest kid in class. After all, you wanted answers better than your own.

Judging from how similar many voicemail greetings are ("I’m either away from my desk or on the other line!"), it seems that many of us cheated and copied someone else’s greeting when we set up our voicemail box. Unfortunately, we didn’t copy a very smart greeting, as most don’t deserve even a C.

First Comes Once
Your weak voicemail message blows a prime opportunity. As you know, we never have a second chance to make a first impression. Think about that word "impression." Even though your greeting might be perfectly correct and technically functional, did you use the opportunity to impress the caller?

The impression you leave can be positive, neutral, or negative. It can support your image and gain you respect, or it can sabotage you. Much of that has to do with how people FEEL when they get to the "beep."

Now Feel This
Once you choose the words for your greeting that will let people know what you’d like them to do, go back and choose words to evoke feelings. The words you choose (and the way you say them) can convey cheerfulness, eagerness, and fun. Or you can sound all business if you prefer. You can help people feel glad they called, or confident that you’ll respond. Maybe they’ll feel relaxed after having left a message, knowing that you’ll take care of them. Maybe you’re the type who change their message every day and give the impression that you’re on top of things and take care to communicate easily with others. Those can be all positive things.

Or you can copy others, and risk being boring, trite, evasive, or verbose. Come on, you can do better! Your reputation depends on it.

Get it Write
Write out the greeting you plan to use for your voicemail, and then record it word for word.
In addition to providing simple instructions on how to leave you a message, get creative and inject your personality in a way that will leave callers with a positive feeling when they hear that beep. Here are some ideas:

  • "Welcome!"
  • "Thanks so much for calling."
  • "Don’t worry – I’ll call you back within 4 hours."
  • "Sorry I missed you."
  • "I appreciate your thinking of me."
  • "Your message is important."
  • "Wow!"
  • "I’m excited you’re calling!"
  • "Take as long as you like."
  • "I’m interested in what you have to say."

Grade A Performance
With your written greeting in hand, you’re ready to record it for all to hear. Don’t just read it, perform it! Use varying emphasis, pauses, and changes in pitch so that it sounds conversational. Just because your message will be delivered by a machine doesn’t mean it should sound like it.

I don’t believe there’s a perfect voicemail greeting, although there may be a perfect one for you. If you cheated and copied someone else’s greeting for your own, it’s probably not the best one for you. Make the most of those precious few seconds when that caller first hears your recorded voice, and don’t cheat your callers out of feeling great about calling you.

I’ll be curious to learn what you come up with. Please put your voicemail greeting in the Comments area below for others to learn from. If you’d like to hear my voicemail greeting, dial 770-271-7719. You better do it after hours, or you might end up talking to me!

© 2006 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results educates, consults, and speaks on ways to achieve business breakthroughs using the Trouble Breaker™ Methodology. Check out more shortcuts at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Call Paul direct in Atlanta, Georgia, USA at (770) 271-7719.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).

Comments (3) Nov 01 2006

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Aligning Marketing and Sales; An Interview with Mark Semmelmayer

By Paul Johnson

2,438 Words.  Abstract: Mark Semmelmayer, marketing expert at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, shares his insights on the evolution of marketing, sales and customer relationships in this interview with Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results. 

I recently had an opportunity to get you "the long view" on the evolution of sales and marketing, along with some ideas for your future success.

One of my local Atlanta buddies is Mark Semmelmayer, a B-2-B veteran with over 30 years of career in his rear view mirror.  He agreed to be interviewed to share not only what he’s observed, but also what he predicts for the field of sales and marketing.  He’s had a hand in many of the market breakthroughs that have emerged from his present employer, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, and has plenty of wisdom to share with you.  You can read more about Mark Semmelmayer at the end of this feature.

OK, since this is an interview, get ready to get bounced between "Mark" (that’s him) and "Paul" (that’s me).  Me first…

Paul:
How do people choose products today differently than they did in the past?

Mark:
I think, especially in business to business, cost consciousness has come more to the forefront than it was in the past.  It’s not the exclusive determining factor, but it probably is number one on anybody’s priority list. 

Paul:
It seems that whenever the marketing messages get lost and buyers become confused, the lowest common denominator becomes the price tag, and that’s how people make their decisions. 

Mark:
That’s pretty much it, in a lot of senses.  While basing buying decisions on price alone isn’t necessarily the right answer, in today’s environment, it’s the safe answer. 

However, from the standpoints of both buyers and of savvy marketers, I think there’s the beginning of a shift away from the traditional 4 P’s [Price, Product, Promotion, Place] to what — and I’ve used this in presentations before — can be thought of as the 4 C’s.  More than anything else, it’s kind of a consolidation of some ideas I picked up over my years of association with the Business Marketing Association (BMA).  I need to attribute it to a number of people, most importantly, Bob Lauterborn at UNC Chapel Hill and Don Schultz, who chairs the Medill School at Northwestern, put together.  Price has become Cost, Product has become Customer, Promotion is now Communication and Place has become Convenience.

For instance, for a buyer or marketer today, instead of Price, it’s Cost.  You can buy a product for a buck less a case, but if it costs you two bucks more a case to put it in place to replace what you were using before, that’s an issue.  So Price is no longer necessarily all that material, as long as the customer can see the difference. 

Paul:
So Cost includes carrying costs, switching costs, training costs, and all the other things beyond product Price?

Mark:
Exactly.  Similarly, Product is no longer as important as the Customer.  Multiple manufacturers make the same kind of Product, perhaps differentiated only marginally at times.  It’s the manufacturer or seller who really relates best to the Customer and their needs who, I think, succeeds.  It isn’t difficult to imagine that a customer buys from the seller who relates to customers the best.

Promotion has become Communication.  It’s an open, two-way street between buyer and seller.  You can’t just throw messages out there and expect people to respond.  You’ve got to Communicate with them… and listen to their feedback.  That means you need, realistically, a pretty damn good USP [Unique Selling Proposition] that is meaningful to the buyer in terms of their needs in order to Communicate.  Otherwise, the easiest buying decision becomes reversion to the lowest common denominator… Price.

Finally, Place has been replaced by Convenience.  There is no longer a need to have your store or your distribution point just “around the corner.”  You or I or today’s business buyer can get pretty much anything we want by picking up the phone, calling an 800 number, placing an order and having FedEx deliver it tomorrow.  That’s a lesson that shouldn’t be lost.  Make it more Convenient to acquire your product and you remove yet one more obstacle to purchase.

Paul:
When you relate the product to a specific customer, does that imply additional customization of the product, or does that mean different messaging for different customers for the same product?

Mark:
I think more than anything it means deep customer understanding.  At Kimberly-Clark, it’s referred to as "customer insight."  It’s a knowledge of customer needs and wants that leads to the ability to produce and market a product that truly meets them.  It’s all about who understands the customer best.   

Paul:
Do you have a magic formula for how to do that?

Mark:
Not really.  It’s a combination of a lot of things, including market research, user testing and very, very, good feedback from and communication with sellers on the street who deal with the customer every day, who you can count on to talk back, in realistic terms, about customer needs, every day!  I think all that information needs to feed into both marketing thinking and product development thinking.

Paul:
What dynamics are causing you to rethink how sales departments should be organized?

Mark:
From what I can see in most business to business arenas, market segmentation of selling efforts is becoming more important.  For instance, at Kimberly-Clark, much of what we sell on a B-2-B basis goes, in one way or another, through distribution.  As distribution channels differentiate and become more specialized, we’re looking to more closely align our sales force with those channels and their specific needs.  I think most B-2-B marketing and sales organizations are seeing a similar need to focus on specific customers by market segment, whether in distribution channels or specific types of end users. 

Paul:
So you think sales teams need to become experts in specific channels or specific business verticals?

Mark:
Yes.  Or more expert in. 

Paul:
How do you see this alignment paying off?

Mark:
Again, better understanding of the customer.  The closer we are to figuring out who customers are, what they are and how they do business, the better we can align our products, our selling strategies, our pricing, etcetera, to what the needs are within that marketplace. 

Paul:
How is globalization affecting you?

Mark:
Kimberly-Clark is a large, multinational corporation and, like any other global marketer, globalization is a challenge.  From the broader standpoint of business to business marketing and sales today, I think globalization is tending to make companies try to deliver one brand message, one brand promise, and universal products meant to globally address customers’ needs.  It also means higher emphasis on developing marketing and sales materials and programs that function internationally, including translation specific to, production specific to, and programs specific to given countries.  That’s pretty much my view about globalization. 

Paul:
Hmmm, that seems like a bit of a contradiction, or paradox of sorts.  Here’s what I mean; from a global perspective, when you say one message and one promise, it sounds like you need to be known for one thing to be able to stand out and make a global impact.  And the paradox or contradiction comes from the need to be able to NOT focus on the product but understand our customer at a deep level.  Since all customers are different, or a least they think they’re different, it seems like a bit of a challenge to be able to differentiate at the customer level and yet have a common promise or message at the top level. 

Mark:
Focus on the customer is not just a marketing or sales issue.  I think product development is the point at which understanding the customer really makes the biggest difference.  You’ve got to offer the right products to meet real needs.  If you look at the K-C B-2-B product lines, whether it’s Kimberly-Clark Professional’s wipers and washroom products, or Healthcare products meant to protect health-care workers or help prevent Healthcare Acquired Infections, the issues are, relatively-speaking, universal: health and hygiene.  Many, if not most, B-2-B products are developed to address customer needs in terms of technology, efficiency, productivity and so forth; needs that are also pretty universal.  In any business, the first challenge is to develop the right product, which, regardless of country, should be functional for the customer.  I think successful differentiation by customer or market segment comes from exactly how you go at it, country by country, culture by culture.  How you go at it from a marketing and sales perspective, that is. 

Paul:
In your Healthcare division, is there a way to sum up what you’re brand message or your brand promise is?

Mark:
Yes.  We have adopted a very specific brand message.  “Kimberly-Clark: Trusted Clinical Solutions.” That’s a very universal message. 

Paul:
As a business to business marketer, what’s the biggest business challenge that you face today from your office looking out at the world?

Mark:
There’s a lot of ways to answer that question.  If I look at it on the basis of a B-2-B marketer’s skill set, I would have to say it’s a combination of compacting time frames balanced against available marketing resources to focus on high-yield possibilities. 

Paul:
Ooh, that sounds juicy.  When you say "compacting time frames," does that mean a shorter product life cycle, shorter time to market, or…?

Mark:
Again, I’m talking about it from a marketing communications standpoint, my area of expertise.  Overall, it means shorter time frames to get the marketing job done.  From the inception to completion of "We need a program that will support X product," with collateral, direct marketing… whatever.  It used to be we’d think about that a couple times year.  Now, as the need to react quickly to changing conditions grows, we’re dealing with it four or more times a year.  You simply have less time to assimilate all the information you have and get it right. 

Beyond shorter time frames, you’re also dealing with more, and more narrowly defined, audiences, whether global or market-segmented.  You need to, strategically, prioritize your resources and expenditures to support high impact possibilities.  Trying to understand what defines those big hits, evaluating them in terms of potential ROI and developing tactics to do it right becomes challenging. 

You’ve got to decide which products or market segments get support, as opposed to which communications vehicles are used.  Vehicles are, in part, going to be determined by the marketplace’s communications habits.  It’s more about Product A vs. Product B; which one do we put the money behind to reap the highest reward, because you only have limited resources. 

Paul:
How is the role of marketing evolving?

Mark:
I think marketing is evolving into more of a partnership with sales.  It’s something I’ve said before, and I think it’s pretty much true; sales and marketing are not two different departments, they’re what a company does.  In a lot of senses, the traditional marketing mantle of brand stewardship is blending in with the traditional sales mantle of customer understanding and fulfilling customer needs. 

In a nutshell, marketing needs to go beyond its traditional brand stewardship role, into a more customer-centric and sales-cooperative approach that propels sales in the marketplace.  At the most basic level, the only purpose of marketing is to increase sales.  That means staying closer to the sales process and supporting it to better meet customer needs.  Another part of the new marketing role, independent of a day-to-day connection with sales, is listening objectively to customers and understanding their changing needs in order to meet them even better.  Hopefully, that becomes a completed loop, feeding customer understanding into continued product development, which feeds back into improved products and brand stewardship at a higher, more customer-focused level, resulting in better focused support for those products on the street.  It’s more of an interrelationship with sales and product development than it has been in the past. 

Paul:
Do you think brand stewardship is getting harder?

Mark:
I think it’s getting harder.  Again, back to your point, there are so many messages out there.  So many different companies often manufacture products that meet similar needs.  While the marketing role is changing, marketing’s Job One remains brand equity… brand stewardship.  Making your brand truly meaningful to the customer.  We need to remember a product is something that meets a customer need.  A brand is that one product they think meets it the best.  It’s not what your product IS, it’s what it represents in your customer’s mind.  Good marketing needs to create that mindset and sustain it in the face of competition, market dynamics and economic factors. 

I’ll go back to that "trusted clinical solutions" positioning for our Healthcare products.  In research we found that people think, "Hey, K-C products are the best out here, I can trust them.”  That’s what they believe and that’s what we need to continue to deliver, both in messages and in products.

Paul:
Wow, I’ve gotta say this is working for me, Mark!  Thanks so much for your candid responses that will help our readers so much.  Here are some key ideas that really resonated with me:

  • "Product is no longer as important as the Customer."
  • "Sales and Marketing are not two different departments; they’re what a company does."
  • "A brand is that thing that they think meets their needs the best.  It’s not what your product IS, it’s what it represents in your customer’s mind."

Perhaps our readers would like to click on the Comments link below and share their "A-ha’s" from reading your interview.

Thanks again, Mark.  For the rest of you who are eager to know more about Mark Semmelmayer, read on!

About Mark Semmelmayer:
Mark Semmelmayer, CBC, earned his BA in Communications from the State University of New York at Geneseo in 1974. He has spent more than 30 years in communications, including positions in broadcasting, ad agencies and corporate communications. Semmelmayer joined Kimberly-Clark in 1981 and currently serves as Marketing Communications Manager in their Marketing Services group in Roswell, GA.

He has been responsible for marketing and communications activities over a broad range of Kimberly-Clark’s business-to-business products, ranging from health care to printing technology, nonwoven fabric technology and technology transfer licensing. His current responsibilities encompass marketing communications activities for infection control and surgical devices, as well as clinical education, in Kimberly-Clark’s healthcare markets.

Semmelmayer is an award-winning copywriter, including a 1981 CLIO finalist nomination. He frequently contributes to industry publications and speaks on business-to-business marketing topics ranging from ethics to integrated marketing communications planning. He is a member of the Business Marketing Association (BMA) since 1982, earning its Certified Business Communicator (CBC) designation in 1991. Semmelmayer has served on the Association’s International Board of Directors from 1993 to June 2001, including a term as Chairman of the Association in 1996-97.

You can email Mark Semmelmayer at pen_and_ink@mindspring.com.

© 2006 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results educates, consults, and speaks on ways to achieve business breakthroughs using the Trouble Breaker™ Methodology.  Check out more shortcuts at http://ShortcutsToResults.com.  Call Paul direct in Atlanta, Georgia, USA at (770) 271-7719.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).

Comments (0) Sep 01 2006

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The Trouble with Trademark Squatting

By Paul Johnson

689 words. Abstract: Your competition could be using the Internet and your own good name to steal customers from you.  Learn how to detect and avoid this attack on your business before costly lawsuits occur.

"We’re being sued!"

That’s never a good way to begin a dialogue.  My client was upset because he had just received a letter from the law firm of a competitor.  My client had infringed on this competitor’s trademark, and didn’t even know it. 

The story sounded so innocent.  The webmaster of my client’s website had put the competitor’s name and trademarked product names in the meta tags on the home page — without direction or permission from my client.  When Web surfers used search engines to look for the competitor or their products, there would be a good chance my client’s site would come up, too.  Now this trademark squatting by the webmaster had my client in hot water. 

Look Before You Reap
I’m not a lawyer, but I know to stay away from other people’s trademarks.  In the United States, trademarks are formally registered with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Once registered, the owner of the trademark is entitled to use the ® in association with the registered mark.  It’s pretty easy to check if an item has been trademarked; visit www.uspto.gov and use the trademark search function.

Although company names and names of individuals might not be formally trademarked, I like to stay away from them as well.  You may remember a few years back when people bought domain names of companies and celebrities on speculation, hoping to sell them for big bucks.  Instead, courts determined they had no legal rights to the domain names, and they lost them. 

Take a Peek
Are your competitors squatting on your trademarks? Here’s a simple search that I sometimes do for the benefit of my clients.  Using Internet Explorer as your Web browser, go to the home page of one of your competitor’s websites.  On the menu bar, click [View], then [Source].  A Notepad window will open showing the computer code that generated the Web page you’re looking at.  Any meta tags will be contained in this window, usually right near the top.  You can browse through it to look for your company name, product names, or names of prominent officers.

To make your search easier, you may want to use the CTRL-F function.  In fact, this search capability works in most Microsoft products.  Simply hold down the "Ctrl" key, then press the letter "F."  A dialogue box named Find will open; insert the term you’re looking for, such as your company name, and press [Find Next]. It will allow you to find all instances of that term for the page you have open. 

Of course, your competitor may have embedded your trademarked names on any of their Web pages, not just the home page.  If you really want to be thorough, you’ll have to repeat the search function on all the pages. 

Hide and Seek
While checking for trademark squatting on behalf of one of my clients, I found a competitor who was using my client’s name in their meta tags.  An e-mail from my client to the squatter’s CEO was enough to bring the problem to light and get it corrected.  Again, the squatter’s webmaster did it without their knowledge.  The squatter was happy to do the right thing and remove my client’s name from his meta tags.  No lawyers were involved. 

Stop the Leak
As I dialogued with my client facing the lawsuit, I learned that there was really no lawsuit at all — yet.  The letter from the competitor’s law firm was more of a "warning shot across the bow" to get my client to pay attention.  And pay attention he did.  The meta tags were quickly changed, and he avoided paying lawyers, court costs, or damages for his innocent trademark squatting episode. 

You may not be so lucky.  Trademark infringement is serious, and can become a costly affair.  Check with your legal counsel to understand what you can and cannot do in this area, and then take steps to make sure your competitors are playing fair, too.  Your good company name and registered trademarks are valuable company assets that help you compete in your marketplace.  Don’t let trademark squatting undermine your marketing efforts. 

© 2006 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results educates, consults, and speaks on ways to achieve business breakthroughs using the Trouble Breaker™ Methodology.  Check out more shortcuts at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Call Paul direct in Atlanta, Georgia, USA at (770) 271-7719.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).

Comments (1) Jun 01 2006