Posts Tagged ‘marketing’
Whenever we’d meet with prospects, we used to show samples of projects we’d worked on, describing the challenges and showing the solutions. Sometimes a curious thing happened. If what we showed was even slightly different from a prospect’s needs or who their audience was, they’d have a hard time connecting the dots between what we did for someone else and what we could do for them.
This both frustrated and intrigued me. After all, I reasoned, these are smart, articulate, successful people. How could they come up short in this one area? What’s happened to people’s imagination?
I bring this up because a client recently experienced a similar thing. I can’t discuss specifics here, but suffice it to say that his company produces systems which monitor patients in a hospital room environment, and they are developing a new product utilizing the same technology, but for the OR.
In order to gauge interest and better understand the specific needs of those using the product, they decided to exhibit this product at a recent trade show aimed at their target audience. In order to demonstrate the new system, they brought along the hospital bed they use to show how their current system works. But because the environment the audience at this trade show is familiar with is the OR, the hospital bed created confusion — was the product applicable to them or for those involved in post-surgery patient care? Even a large sign in the booth showing an OR and accompanied by a headline explaining the product’s purpose failed to clarify things.
Did these people lack the intelligence or imagination to make the leap? Hardly. I think the issue has more to do with how we search for information. In a world of information and sensory overload, we have learned to look for shorthand visual cues that signal whether or not something is of importance to us. The hospital bed represented a different, and irrelevant world to this audience.
The lesson here is that the more you look to simulate reality, the more accurate you need to be. Even small differences that can be significant. (After all, humans and chimps share 96% of the same DNA.) In a seeming paradox, going in the opposite direction (e.g. abstract, imaginative, or non-descript) can work better, especially if it’s hard to accurately imitate reality. If the prop or environment doesn’t offer any visually informational cues, people instinctively skip over it and look to whatever will provide the information they need. In the case of my client, had they used a non-descript black box in place of a hospital bed, people would not have even noticed it. Instead, they would have gone straight to the large sign for the information they were looking for, and any confusion would have been avoided.
As for me, I realized that the problem wasn’t with our prospects’ lack of imagination. We weren’t sending the right signals. Instead of hospital beds in an OR environment, ours centered around expectations. We were showing results while our prospects were looking for someone who could figure out how to solve their problem. And since the results we were showing didn’t match their needs, they had a hard time finding any relevance in them. So we stopped showing our portfolio and began demonstrating our thinking, since this is really what our clients need from us and where our expertise lies.
We are in the middle of developing an ad campaign for a medical products company. Previously, they were running ads they developed themselves.They shared the results of a survey one publisher initiated on the effectiveness of ads that appeared in their magazine. The ads were judged in three categories:
Valid criteria to be sure. But what is needed to make an ad eye-catching, informative and believable? Which is most important, and which is the hardest to achieve?
Let’s start with the first question: How do you create an ad that is eye-catching, informative, or believable?
There are a number of ways to make an ad eye-catching. Use big, bold colors or type. Or lots of white space. Use a shocking or incongruous image for that particular market or trade publication. Say something controversial or even scandalous. And so on.
To be informative, or at least to give the appearance of being informative, requires more hard facts and less marketing “fluff”. It’s even better if you can sprinkle in some charts or tables or present tangible data about your product’s capabilities or superiority.
Being believable implies a level of trust on the reader’s part. But how do you gain someone’s trust within a second or two?
Answering the first question helps us answer the second: Which is most important and hardest to achieve? Obviously it’s important to attract someone’s attention. But if the ad isn’t relevant or believable, the reader is quickly gone. Information can be a powerful weapon. However, presenting a lot of information isn’t always a good idea. First of all, it can make the ad uninviting to read. But more importantly, it may not be possible to encapsulate all your products’ capabilities or benefits in the relatively small amount of space an ad affords. It might be more beneficial to leave the reader hungry and instead, lead them to your website or into a conversation where you have more opportunity to explain your product.
If a product or service is of no use to someone, being believable won’t make any difference. But if after reading what you have to offer, someone is interested, being believable helps to break down barriers, which makes it easier to sell. But what do you do to gain that trust in a matter of a few seconds? Perhaps it’s what you don’t do:
• Don’t use deception or trickery. If you start a relationship with a lie or deception, there is no trust and it’s hard if not impossible to gain it later.
• Don’t presume to know what’s best. “This is the last product you’ll ever need.” “The one solution to meet all your needs.” How can you possibly have the answers to someone’s needs if you haven’t even been introduced yet?
Don’t over promise. Don’t offer a solution that you can’t deliver on. If something even hints at sounding too good to be true, it will immediately set off warning bells. It’s much better to present what your product can deliver under normal use, not perfect conditions.
In truth, real trust is earned over time. But starting off on the right foot makes each it easier to gain it down the road.
In my other life, I’m a volunteer firefighter and an EMT. In Emergency Medical Services, the Golden Hour is the term we use to describe the time we have to get to the scene, stabilize the patient and deliver them to life-saving interventions. The clock starts ticking at the moment of trauma.
In branding and marketing, we have a clock too. It starts the minute an individual takes any action (such clicking a link or dialing a number) and continues until they receive the reward for their action. Let’s call it the Golden Minute. The actual time varies but the point is, once you’ve motivated a prospect to take action, you need to know that their clock is ticking and you have very little time to deliver. Here’s a personal example.
The first thing I do each morning is clean out my emails. I read the ones that are relevant to me, and delete the rest, most without ever opening. This morning, one email managed to get past the Carroll filter. Upon opening the email, I saw links to white papers and articles that were of interest to me. I decided to download one called “10 Ways Social Media Monitoring Enhances Your Brand”. I clicked the link, and the invisible clock started.
tick…………. tick…………. tick…………..
Immediately, a form popped up with all of my personal information pre-populated. My name, email address, address, phone number. Some of the information was old and the fields were editable, so I went ahead and made the changes. I then clicked the CHANGE button.
The form refreshed and now wanted me to provide my email address again. But this time the CHANGE button appeared as a CANCEL button. ???
tick… .tick…. tick….tick….tick…..
Having no other choice, I clicked the CANCEL button, which brought me back to the beginning.
Giving it one more chance, I found some small print at the bottom of the page where it said “Until you click the confirm email address link in the email we sent you, you will not receive any more bulletins from xxxxxx.” So, I went back to the original email and looked for where it said that.
I could not find what they were referring to anywhere.
I closed the email and hit delete. My clock had run out. I had invested as much time as I could and I needed to get on with my day.
Everyone has this internal clock and it moves faster for some than for others. Marketers need to be aware of this when planning promotional programs. Getting the customer’s interest is important. Getting them to respond, and give up their contact information is very important. But unless you deliver what they came for, quickly and simply, you will have wasted the opportunity you worked so hard to create.
Not long ago, a colleague asked me “Who stole my profession?” He was bemoaning what had happened to the career we had chosen, one to which we have both devoted our entire lives. Graphic Design has changed as much, or more than just about any other role in business. In fact, it’s hard to know how to advise young graduates who come to us with their freshly downloaded degree in Graphic Design since the job is about so much more than it used to be. Almost ten years ago, I wrote about the changes I saw happening in an article titled: “The Strategic Designer Becomes a Key Part in Management Decision Making” – Boston Business Journal, May 24, 2002. The pace of change has only accelerated since then.
To understand the role of the designer today, it’s important to understand where we’ve come from.
Our profession has had an identity crisis for years. In the 60′s, it was called Commercial Art and its practitioners were Commercial Artists. It was an accurate description of the role, but to some, it seemed an oxymoron. “True artists” believed that art and commerce could not coexist and, in fact, Commercial Artists were nothing more than uninspired artists who had sold their creative souls to the corporate devil. By the time the 70s rolled around, Commercial Art had been replaced by a less offensive term, Graphic Design.
Nobody really knew what the term meant. “Graphic Design? You mean you design graphics? What kind of graphics?” But at least it was no longer called commercial art. As the 80′s progressed, companies developed an understanding of what graphic design was — the artful combination of words and images to communicate messages, primarily intended for reproduction by offset printing. Designers worked with many skilled tradesmen to accomplish their work, including typesetters, photographers, illustrators, photo retouchers, proofreaders, paste-up artists, printers and finishers.
With the advent of the personal computer, the world changed. With each successive software upgrade, tasks which once had required talented and practiced artisans were being performed on the computer by the designer. Entire trades disappeared, one after another — typesetters. photo retouchers. paste-up artists, pre-press persons (strippers). While the graphic designer took on more and more responsibilities, the term was at the same time being devalued. In an article written by Sandra Cirincione in “For Women First” magazine called “Best Jobs for the Nineties-No College Degree Required”, she recommended a career in Graphic Design because “it’s highly creative”. For training, readers could “Investigate night courses offered at local universities and technical schools.” She even added, “Training is available at many computer stores.” OUCH!!! As perceptions of Graphic Designers lowered, highly capable firms looked to separate themselves from the term. Needing to better communicate the breadth and value of the services they offered, they chose instead to call themselves a Marketing Communications Firm or a Communications Design Firm.
The changes brought about by the computer were nothing compared to the impact caused by the emergence of the World Wide Web (or the “information superhighway”, as Al Gore liked to call it). Designers had taken on more and more roles over the years and when it was determined that every company MUST have a Website, business again turned to designers. The perception of designers within the executive office was beginning to change. No longer were they seen merely as window dressing. Business leaders were starting to see that designers had skills they could use to benefit the bottom line. To call yourself a graphic designer would invite the question… “Oh, you design Websites?”
The decade gave birth to a second sea-change for business, almost as powerful as the advent of the Web — Branding. Branding was nothing new, but the practice had been more common in consumer marketing and larger B2B companies. The Web had leveled the playing field and now even small and mid-size companies were beginning to understand the importance of clear and consistent communication. Libraries filled with books about branding. Evangelists spoke to everyone who would listen about the value of a brand. Everyone and his brother was suddenly offering Branding as a service, and each developed their own convenient definition of the term. To corporate identity firms, branding was all about the logo. Printers would claim that branding meant consistent, high quality literature. To a writer, branding was an elevator pitch and a tagline. And Web firms seemed to believe that branding began at the home page and ended at the contact page. So much was changing — the demands of the new technology the expectations of the business world. As the ultimate generalist, designers were again the ones best postioned to take on the expanded role. No longer just Graphic Design, now it’s Strategic Design.
Advances in technology continued to change the communications industry, and continued to steamroll over the talented people who had served it. Photographers and illustrators sold their collections to stock photo agencies and nearly insured the demise of their trade. Printing presses came to a halt as companies had less and less need for large inventories of literature. The dot com meltdown and the resulting recession forced companies to find new and less expensive ways to communicate with their customers. Email marketing emerged an inexpensive alternative to expensive and time consuming direct mail. Search Engine Optimization became the rage and corporations brought more and more of their marcom needs in-house. Working with no marketing budgets, marketing specialists were asked to produce corporate literature and print them on their ink jet printers as concerns about quality and effectiveness became a thing of the past. The 2009 economic meltdown corresponded with a rapidly evolving Social Media to add to the culture of FREE. And again, smart designers evolved to become trusted advisors on how best to navigate this new world.
Graphic Designers who have weathered the rollercoaster of change in the past 30 years are the ones who understood their fundamental value to business — their ability to apply creative problem solving skills to a wide range of business problems. In fact, the creative process used to develop strategic solutions for business today is the same process that has been used by designers for years to solve a wide range of communications challenges. Now the process has a name — Design Thinking. (defined in Wikipedia as a process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result.) The term, coined by David Kelley of IDEO, is now part of business lexicon. The impact that Design Thinking can have on business is exactly what I wrote about in that 2002 Boston Business Journal article.
To my colleague who wondered what happened to Graphic Design, it’s not gone. It just goes by a new name — Design Thinking.
In a recent edition of my local newspaper (yes, I’m one of the few still getting my hands smudged with ink), there were three articles on the Opinion page. Each was on a different subject, but they all shared a common thread. One compared the assumptions for the surprising results in recent election in Massachusetts, with the data that disputed those assumptions. Another article talked about the disparity of salary levels between private and public sector. Surprise again: the public salaries were rising faster and were significantly higher than those in the private sector. The third article talked about the negative poll numbers of our governor and the perception that he has done little, compared with a record that shows some impressive accomplishments.
The point of all this is two-fold. First, perception can be more powerful than the truth. Chew on that for a while and let me know how that tastes. And second, but more significant — when starting a product launch or a marketing campaign, perception can cause decisions to be made that are contrary to fact and can take you in the wrong direction.
It may be hard to justify the cost and time for research, but in the end, it can prove its weight in gold. Otherwise, perception might be like the lead lemming, directing you and all your efforts right over the cliff. And by the way, the perception that lemmings commit mass suicide — that’s completely false!