Friday, February 27, 2009

What Classic Rock Can Teach Us about Marketing in a Down Economy

At our house, everything can be related to a classic rock song. For example, my son was getting ready to pick up his date for the homecoming dance and came out in his suit, tie, polished shoes, and somewhat combed hair. My wife and I immediately broke out the line from ZZ Top, “Every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man.” He rolled his eyes, but appreciated the compliment.
As bad as our present economic situation is, classic rock can give us direction for not just surviving, but thriving. Below is part one of my Top Ten list of what we marketers can learn and apply from the songs of our youth. Part two will follow next week.

  1. Love the One You’re With (Crosby, Stills, and Nash) – Focus on your current customers. We all know the statistic: it’s three to seven times more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. Now is the time to make sure we’re meeting their needs, keeping them satisfied, and making it easy for them to stay with us. I recently called American Express about a billing question. After resolving the question, the representative said that since I’ve been a cardholder since 1980, he’d like to upgrade me to another card for less than what I was paying currently but one with more benefits. He didn’t have to do it, but it was a nice gesture. What made it even more appealing, is that two days earlier Discover notified me that my interest rate was increasing by a third. And, oh by the way, the increase was retroactive to the previous month. Guess which card is now my card of choice?

  2. Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand (Diana Ross) – In the down times, what do most organizations cut first (after training)? Marketing and communications. Yet, we need to reach out to current customers now more than ever. Not trying to sell them something necessarily, but to engage them. What would happen if you asked them what your company could do to help them? Short of giving your product or service away, probably nothing. But what if your customer had a problem and you knew another organization that could solve it? How do you think your customer would view you if they felt you were looking out for their success?

  3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Aretha Franklin) – As you’re reaching out to them, make sure you’re abiding by the permissions they’ve given you. For example, are you honoring their opt-out preferences to your e-newsletter? What about respecting their sensibilities? The makers of Motrin found out the hard way that appearing condescending has some significant results. Customers are on edge. We need to respect them and the pain they’re going through.

  4. Heard it Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye) – Lots of companies (and people, for that matter) are tempted to hunker down in bad times. They just want to get through. Successful companies take this opportunity to build networks, establish new relationships, and expand their circles of influence. They use social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter to make new contacts and reconnect with old ones. They understand how word spreads, and that take advantage of it.

  5. Me and Bobby McGee (Janis Joplin) – As they are building networks, companies are discovering something amazing: there are partnership opportunities all over the place. I’ve found this in my practice. Firms I approached a year ago about a partnership are now contacting me. Why? Good companies want to differentiate themselves and find that edge. Take this chance to broaden your offerings by hooking up with another aggressive firm that complements what you do.

In part two next week, we’ll hear great advice from other songs from my college days. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

General George Patton on Image

This is the second in a series on General George S. Patton, famous American military figure during World War II. Last month we looked at what old Blood and Guts had to say about speed versus haste. This month, Patton talks about image.

“I am tremendously proud of your deportment, the way you behave towards private property. But the way you carry yourselves is shockingly bad. You, the soldiers of the greatest army of the greatest nation in the world, wander around like furtive pickpockets with your shoulders sloping, your stomachs sticking out, and your hands hanging down. The act of standing properly gives you that feeling of superiority which you have so nobly won. Show the world how great you are. Look like soldiers!”

What image do we portray? As marketers, we should know better than anyone about impact of a compelling “brand.” Do our companies “wander around like furtive pickpockets” in the market place? Our image includes everything from the way our employees answer the phone to our e-mail tone to our website to, yes, the way we dress.

In this challenging economy, most people will forgive you for becoming lax with your image. But they will remember you for standing tall and showing the market how great you are. Look like soldiers!