Rebranding American Manufacturing

March 29th, 2011

There is a fascinating article in the NYTimes yesterday about rebranding American manufacturing.

You might ask, Whadda ya mean?  Did we ever brand manufacturing, let alone rebrand it?  We know how you brand a company’s steel product, for example.  And we even know how to brand the steel manufacturing industry.  But how do you brand—or rebrand—the even bigger concept:  Manufacturing?

Well, by thinking about it differently.

Apparently folks on both coasts have.  In San Francisco and New York, organizations have formed to address the needs of the local manufacturing community.  In San Fran, it’s called SFMade, a 501c3 that shares resources and information.  It also raises brand awareness for products produced locally—geographic identity branding.  This is a term used by Mark Dwight, founder of SFMade, to capitalize on the pride of one’s home as a value added.  Sort of like Made in the U.S.A., only on a local level.

Certainly I’ve seen a wonderful movement toward buying more locally grown food.  My daughter belongs to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in New York.  She pays a fee to get local produce every week—food she doesn’t have to buy at the grocery that may have shipped its bok choy in from China.  She says she feels guilty eating a banana—think of all the environmental costs incurred in getting it here.

Local manufacturing branding attempts to evoke the opposite feeling of guilt—pride.  And pride in our home-grown produce and manufactured products is a good thing, yes?

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PR for PR People

March 23rd, 2011

Last week I wrote about the battle between Sales and Marketing.  If Sales looks down its nose at Marketing, Marketing looks down its nose at PR.  In fact, pretty much everyone looks down its nose at PR.  At least that’s been my experience.

That’s because the words Public Relations have become synonymous with disingenuous whitewashing for the sake of appearances.  Total lack of substance.  Some kind of devious trick to get people to think you’re something you’re not.

Whoa.  PR people need some PR.

In a ragan.com article, author Frank Strong quoted Philip Kotler, the revered marketing guru, as writing:

“We have observed that many companies undertake socially responsible actions as public relations gestures. Marketing 3.0 is not about companies doing public relations. It is about companies weaving values into their corporate cultures.”

Some employees are ignorant of their corporate values or see them designed only for public relations.”

“In Marketing 3.0, addressing social challenges should not be viewed only as a tool of public relations…on the contrary companies should act as good corporate citizens and address social problems deeply within their business models.”

See what I mean about the definition of PR and getting people to think you’re something you’re not?

Marketer Philip Kotler seems to have serious disdain for PR.  He’s not the only one.  The letters “PR” stand for “flim-flam” pretty much universally.

The question is, what are PR people going to do about it?

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Sales and Marketing: Lead Hand-off in the Funnel

March 15th, 2011

Last week I wrote about the ever-present Sales/Marketing problem.  The two departments can’t get along.  ‘Twas ever thus.

Apparently it’s still true that Sales and Marketing can’t align enough to have a common definition of the ideal customer, customer requirements and who makes up the buying team.  And that’s just for starters.

The really hard part is managing leads.  Let’s picture the good old funnel.  A whole bunch of leads come in through the top of the funnel, mostly courtesy of the marketing department, although some may originate in sales.

Marketing doesn’t want to let this funnel part of the process go because they want to see what happens to the leads they brought in.  Sales doesn’t want to let this part of the process go, because this is their job. This is what they do.  They need control of the funnel.

Or do they?

It’s been my experience, when Marketing dumps a boatload of leads on Sales, that Sales complains about all the bad leads.  So Marketing must, absolutely, qualify the leads before they go to Sales.  This saves Sales time and probably saves the company money.  It also gives Marketing a better way to trace the source of those leads that are good.

But it cannot stop there.  Marketing must hand-off the qualified leads to sales with the understanding that Marketing needs to know exactly what happens to those leads.  No fair if Sales has the power to say the leads suck without documenting the follow-up in detail.  No fair if Marketing says the leads are qualified when the leads don’t meet the criteria both parties have agreed upon.

So, somewhere in the middle of the funnel, Marketing must hand-off only the qualified leads, yet continue to stay in the loop.  Then Marketing needs to nurture the remaining leads, a process in and of itself.  And that’s another blog.

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Sales and Marketing: Together for the Common Good?

March 9th, 2011

BtoB marketing magazine, a publication I quote often because I think it reflects our industry well, recently had an editorial, “Bringing Marketing, Sales Together,” by John Obrecht.

What surprises me is that Obrecht reports there is still no alignment.  Marketing and Sales have been misaligned, if not alienated, for decades.  Maybe forever in the history of business.

Let’s see if I can get the gist.  Sales is out there on the front lines.  Sales really knows the customers first hand.  Sales has to meet quotas, make budget, deal with real problems.  And Sales is contemptuous of Marketing’s soft, clueless, ivory tower life.

Marketing, on the other hand, has done careful research, analyzed the numbers, understands customer needs by segment, knows the competition, sees the gestalt picture.  And Marketing is pretty irked that Sales blows them off.  Doesn’t even use Marketing’s carefully crafted brochures.

Do I have it about right? Sales and Marketing don’t like each other.

What I don’t understand is why Sales and Marketing can’t come together for the common good of the enterprise.  And why it still hasn’t happened after decades of talking about aligning the two departments.

Obrecht reports that both parties need to agree on the ideal customer profile.  Then comes understanding customer needs and identifying the buying team.  All things both departments should agree upon.

But these are only the first steps.  The hard part comes when Marketing is trying to track ROI.  Sales has been softening up Cathy the Customer for ten years.  Then Cathy responds to a direct mail campaign and Marketing claims her as theirs.  You can see the problem.  Who lured in new customer Cathy?  Marketing or Sales?

Shouldn’t matter. Remember the common good of the enterprise?  It should trump everything, especially petty bickering.

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Internet Data as Personal Property

March 1st, 2011

So where do we marketers stand on Internet Privacy?

On the one hand, I suppose marketers should applaud all the digital fingerprint technology that allows perfect strangers to know every move we make on our computers, phones and TVs.  Because when we know that, we can target prospects with precise messages that are more likely to make a sale.

But the new technology is a little like having a hidden video camera following us around all the time—with the operative word being “hidden,” meaning unknown and undisclosed.  It’s even more like having a thief come into our home and steal our private documents, read our diaries, rifle through our underwear drawers.  When I log onto a web site and an ad pops up that is obviously specifically aimed at me, well, then, it’s creepy.

So when is it an invasion of privacy, and when is it very smart marketing?  And what’s being done about this issue?  According to the Wall Street Journal, it was a topic of discussion at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  And thoughts are shifting from squelching everyone’s access to data to treating your own data like the personal property it is.

What you do with your data should be up to you.  You can insist that you are not tracked on the Internet, much like you can block phone calls from telemarketers, as long as there’s a working system in place.  Or, you can use your data and sell it to marketers yourself.  And all sorts of variations in between.

But the fact is, the data is out there.  How we protect ourselves as individuals is as much a question as the ethics of using that data to produce a better marketing result.  Anyone have an answer?

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Buying Circles

February 21st, 2011

Here’s a little tidbit of info that gave me pause:

As many as 21 parties are involved in a $25,000-plus purchase decision at companies with more than 1,000 employees, according to a 2007 survey by MarketingSherpa. (This is according to Ruth P. Stevens in an opinion piece in BtoB Marketing magazine.)

It’s hard enough to convince one person to buy your product or service, but 21?  All at the same time?

They’re called buying circles.  But is that even smart to get so many people involved in one decision?  Doesn’t it undermine productivity?  Don’t you wonder if a decision made by that many people can possibly be the right one with so much input, pondering, pushing and pulling?  Does the Alpha dog personality in the group always win?  Does the shy-but-smart-guy lose out to the loudmouth?  Does the outcome become the product of politics rather that practicality?

It seems overly cautious to me to assign that many people to one buying decision, with possible bad results.  But if that’s the reality, then we marketers have to understand each one of the 21 people and what their priorities are.  We already know the purchasing guy is all about cost.  And the engineer needs to know that your widget will really perform as specified.  What about the other 19 people?  How do we craft messages that target them?

We can only do that if we know who they are and what they need.  And that’s not going to be easy to find out.  It will be different for every company.

Maybe that’s why they call them buying circles.  In order to market to them effectively, they have us running in circles.

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Love Your Customers

February 15th, 2011

It’s the day after Valentine’s Day, and right now, less than a week after my husband’s triple bypass surgery, I am grateful for his heart in good working condition.  The best Valentine a gal could get.  It makes you think about how you value the people in your life.

I’m not suggesting you should feel the same way about your customers as your spouse. But there is something to be said for really liking your customers enough that you want to make their lives better. For trying to anticipate their needs when it comes to your corner of the world.

When I had a division of GE Capital as a client, I was very impressed by some of the programs they put in place that made the customer’s life easier.  For example, the company surveyed its customers and found that people wished their invoices were formatted differently.  It was simple change to make, and one that garnered them significant good will.  The key was, GE Capital cared enough about their customers to invest in a survey that was more than the usual cursory blather.

Or maybe they were more motivated by making changes that would help them retain their customers.  After all, it’s cheaper to keep customers than to get new ones.  But the bottom line is, you really have to know your customers and what their true needs are.  And you have to try and fulfill their needs through your products, services and the way you conduct business.

That kind of attentiveness to customers is a certain kind of love, if only a love for the bottom line.

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Gleeful About Advertising

February 8th, 2011

Okay, so I’m supposed to be blogging about B2B marketing, and the Chevy Glee commercials aired on the Super Bowl game Sunday are about as far from B2B as you can get.

But I can’t help it.  I might just buy a Chevy.  That’s how much I love the commercials.

Let me count the ways.

First, I’m old enough to remember Dinah Shore, all white teeth and smiling eyes, who first sang the song,  “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”  We loved Dinah—she threw us kisses.  We loved whatever brand she loved.  Something for the old folks and Glee is for new folks—every demographic covered.

Second, Chevy’s ad agency was brilliant to reprise the song Glee sang last night.  The music is as upbeat as it gets.  The lyrics conjure up hopeful times.  Everybody’s wearing white.  Optimism abounds.  Our country is great.  It’s patriotic to buy a Chevy!

And really, who doesn’t love a great big glitzy song and dance number?  Stunningly choreographed, beautifully performed.  Isn’t it nice to be entertained while you’re being sold a car?

On top of that, there’s a story line, with humor and suspense.  The good guys will win, of course, and we love to watch them do it.

This commercial is so good it makes you think.  Maybe we could use a little more glamour and shine in B2B, as long as we could demonstrate results.  Of course, that would probably mean a little more budget, too.  Something that would not make our clients gleeful.

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Overwhelmingly Different B2B Marketing

January 31st, 2011

Last week I blogged that B2B marketing is not dead, although significantly altered.

I’m much more comfortable with the idea that B2B marketing is truly changed, even though the changes have happened over time.  The Internet piece of the budget pie chart has increased significantly during the last few years.  Everyone seems to be more sophisticated about procuring and using customer data online.  And social media is burgeoning as a vehicle for touching customers and prospects.

So yes.  The B2B world is radically different than it was ten years ago.  Even five years ago.  Even three, before the real take-off of social media.

Here is something I might not have said three years ago:

The Internet is overwhelmingly the main platform for communicating to B2B customers and prospects.

There are so many channels, media, digital advantages that the opportunities are rich.  And it may seem prosaic to make such a pronouncement, but honestly, these things kinda creep up on you until there is absolutely no question.

The days of direct mail, trade shows, face-to-face sales pitches, trade pub advertisements—these are still with us.  But they are no longer the only options available to a B2B marketer.  Our choices are incredibly expanded by the Internet.

And that makes B2B marketing much livelier.  Certainly not dead.

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New Rules of Branding Online

January 17th, 2011

Inc. Magazine has a great article about online branding.  Not all of it’s new, though.  But some interesting points:

1)                    Brand your company or build your personal brand? This is a really good question.  I bet you need to do both, although the article warns of CEOs and their egos taking over.  I’ve never had that problem with my clients.  I think CEOs need to be involved in social media, but the company must be dominant.  The corporate brand should take precedence—that is the major brand you’re trying to build.

2)                    Make “About Us” Interesting. I know this, but don’t think about it often.  “About Us” is the first place visitors to your site go to learn about you.   So it better be good.  In addition to the mandatory basics, many people advocate including personal information in the bios, like hobbies or favorite things.  Some even link to personal sites and blogs.  I don’t know about this.  It seems unprofessional to me.  But it does help make management more multi-dimensional and therefore more accessible.  And that’s probably a good thing.

3)                    Showcase Your Best Work. This seems like an obvious no-brainer, but if you work in the B2B world, you might come up against some resistance to the idea.  Many clients I’ve had don’t want to reveal information about the problems I’ve solved for them on a web site that is open to the world, and competitors especially.  But there’s nothing stronger than testimonials and examples of solutions that worked in the real world.

There’s more in the article, but that’s another blog.  What are your rules for branding online?

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