Diplomacy and Marketing – A Common Approach?

13 Mar

Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Minister, believes that Israel can make peace with the Arab peoples, not just the rulers. His approach reminded me of  something I read in a blog not long ago about the strategy that accounts for Apple’s success.

Interviewed recently by the Jerusalem Post for their article “Advice from a Leading Critic“, Bildt opined that Israel should be making peace with the Arab peoples,  rather than their rulers:

…Bildt’s conclusion…was that rather than talking about “more boots” on the ground [as Netanyahu is inclined – C.L.],  it should be focusing on how to make peace not with Arab rulers, but with the Arab people.

The possibility that exists now for Israel is to sort of make peace not only with rulers of Egypt, but with the people of Egypt… That will make that front even more secure.

Acknowledging that making peace with the people is more difficult than signing agreements with leaders, Bildt said that “in the new situation, if the peace is not more solidly anchored, then the boots on the ground are not going to help anyhow.”

Sort of” making peace aside, his contention is that the object of our peace initiatives should be the people themselves, i.e. “the end users”, rather than the rulers. Considering that the current upheaval in the Middle East has been caused by populist uprising, one might say that  making overtures to  “the people” makes sense. After all, if  (most) rulers rule by popular consent, then an enduring peace would be  kept by “the people” whose interests it best serves.

This sounded to me very much like Matt Asay’s article  “Apple Doesn’t Target Markets. It Targets People” at Gigaom.com, a website dedicated to technology. Asay explained that Apple’s success was related to their marketing to the end users, who would be using their products, rather than to the CEOs. He points out that:

… Apple doesn’t seem to target markets in the way other companies do.

It targets people. It focuses on users. And Apple lets them decide how and where they’ll use its products.

This sounds simple, but in my experience very few companies think this way… Few seem to realize that there are people employed within these target markets, and these people will be the ones who actually embrace or reject one’s product.

He points to JBoss and SpringSource as two other companies that have marketed their products similarly, noting that:

All JBoss’ early marketing was focused on developers, not CIOs, and its product development was focused on making developers happy.

and:

SpringSource, …fought off the accusation that it wasn’t “enterprise ready” by being “developer ready” from the start, and focusing relentlessly on pleasing its target market: the developer.

When I read this article, I thought it was a great idea for other types of businesses, large and small, as well.  If you want to sell to schools, market to the teachers. If they are sold on your products they can sell the administration for you. Can you offer a superior product or service to residents in a nursing home? If you sell to the residents’ families the message that what you offer is better for their parents than what they are currently receiving, then the residents’ children will be your best sales reps to the home’s administration.

If you think about this concept in relationship to your business, I’m sure that you can think of some way to apply this principle, or a variation thereof, to help your business grow. Often the real decision makers are not the people you would initially consider approaching.

Which decision makers can help you energize your business?

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A business lesson from an Israeli tour guide

23 Feb

I read “Ready and raring” this weekend. It’s an article about Ruth Frank, a remarkable woman who is now a licensed tour guide here in Israel and I just can’t get her story out of my head. The article, by Abigail Klein Leichman, which was featured in the February 18th English edition of the Jerusalem Post‘s magazine, recounts Ruth’s 46-year aliyah journey, a remarkable story of courage and perseverance. Her desire to make aliyah started after a post-high school trip in 1954 but did not come to fruition until 2001, when she finally made aliyah at the age of 65. What captivated me most is that at age 70, when many people start slowing down, believing that they are “too old for…” she began her fifth career in Israel as a licensed tour guide (she even has a website – www.ruthfrank.com), and says that she is not done learning.

Ruth’s dynamic, can-do attitude has seen her through some interesting times including: as a student in the Hebrew University during Israel’s formative years (I guess they still are – 62 is pretty young as countries go), the illness and death of her first husband, sudden death of her second one, and four different careers in the States. Since she arrived in Israel in 2001, as an olah (Israeli immigrant), Ruth, as Leichman emphasizes,  “has jumped into life with zest.” Ruth describes herself as “a person who likes a challenge.” She identifies her greatest role models as Reform Rabbi Joshua Haberman, founder of the Foundation for Jewish Studies, and Orthodox feminist Blu Greenberg.  She says:

They taught me the value of persistence and that if you want to get something done you just have to keep trying from a different angle or approach.

Her advice:

I believe one has to be able to move on and accept changes. Often, if one is not held back by fear of the unknown, things can work out well and for the best.

So, what does Ruth Frank’s life story have to do with business? Well, just about everything. Starting a business, being in business, and especially growing a business is about persistence, often about overcoming fear, accepting change, and most certainly about believing that you can do it.

Business growth requires that owners and entrepreneurs have a can-do attitude, constantly reassessing their business model and striving to reach new heights. Ruth Frank, who at 75 is still working and studying, is certainly a great role model for what we can each achieve. We can energize our business – we just have to persist.

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4 easy ways to define your market and do more business

8 Feb

In my first post, I discussed the necessity of understanding who your real target market is in terms of industry. Now I’d like to help you define your niche market within the industry. Although you may think that everyone can use your service, business is about solving problems and no one can solve everyone’s problems. If you’ve been in business for a while you may already have established customers, thinking you know who your market is, and either that you’re targeting them properly or that there is nothing more you can do for them. This type of thinking can only lead to business stagnation or worse.

Why not breathe new life into your business? By following the four steps I outline below you can:

1)  develop a clearer picture of who your customers really are, not who you think they are,
2)  determine what problems you are actually solving for them,
3)  learn how to give your customers better service,
4)  and discover that you can (and how to) expand your market.

Use any one or all of these methods, but by doing them all, you will get a much clearer picture of your existing business and the potential for increased business. If you are just starting out, the first step might detail the market characteristics of  those with whom expect to conduct business, and you will be able to see if your expectation smatch with what you discover by using the other methods. As your business builds, you can fill in the spreadsheet with actual data.

1)    A spreadsheet of your existing customers, or a sampling of them, will give you great insight into your business.  A good accounting package, properly utilized, might even do a lot of this for you. Make sure you have columns for as many variables as possible, including personal details you may know even if you think they are unrelated to your business relationship or are not included in your database. By doing this you will have a real picture of who is doing business with you, as well as which groups are under-represented.

As you tabulate your results, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What problems, traits, interests do my customers have in common?
  • What problems, traits, interests are unique to my customers?
  • Are particular groups of customers buying the same items, and not buying others?
  • What products or services do I offer that my customers aren’t buying? Why?
  • What related products/services would help fulfill my customers’ needs and wants?
  • Which groups of people/businesses am I not reaching? Why not?

Another interesting question to ask yourself: Do I have a group of customers with a particular interest in a sport or hobby for which I can hold an event or offer a premium made specifically with them in mind?

This exercise will  encourage you to improve your product mix based on their buying patterns.

2)  Talking directly to your customers is a great way of finding out about your business and your market, much better than assuming you know the answers. If you are just starting out you can tailor these questions to suit your situation.

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing suggests asking these 5 questions of every customer:

1. What made you decide to hire us/buy from us in the first place?
2. What’s one thing we do better than others you do business with?
3. What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?
4. Do you refer us to others, and if so, why?
5. What would you Google to find a business like ours?

In a comment to Jantsch’s above list of questions, Nathan Zeldes of Information Overload related that his core business was defined by a customer’s answer to the first question.

Dov Gordon, Alchemist Entrepreneur, who suggests asking a similar list of questions, recommends:

“Listen very carefully to what they say.  I’d get permission to record the call. Relistening to their answers will help you pick up on nuances and patterns and then you’ll know exactly how to appeal to other clients just like them.”

3) A written survey allows you to gather additional information about your customers’ demographics including location, occupation, age range, additional needs and wants, and anything else that might be helpful in determining who they are and what problems you can solve for them. Your survey can be as short as you like, with a few questions that your customers can fill out quickly in your store (even anonymously), while perhaps you can present a more detailed one at a trade show where you are trying to gather more data and target additional business.

When I was involved in developing a new business division for a publishing company, we booked a table at our target market’s industry conference, had handouts available, and special premiums  for all who completed our survey. (Attending the conference also gave  potential customers an opportunity to meet us so that when we called on them we were not strangers any more.) Above all, we wanted to make sure that our intended target market actually wanted what we had to offer! The survey provided us with the contact information of interested organizations and the necessary demographics that we would need in order to do business with them successfully.

No matter the number of questions, make sure that your survey is as complete as possible and will give you answers that will be helpful to your business. Ask specific questions which require thought and will give you real information such as:

“what two things do you like…”
or
” why would you… “,

rather than general questions  such as:

“do you like…”
or
“would you…”

that can be answered with a simple yes or no.

4)  A great medium for market research these days, and probably overlooked by many, is the internet. By joining online forums, social media sites, and online groups where your niche market can be found you have access to all sorts of information including your market’s concerns and challenges, what they are thinking, reading and viewing, and what excites them.

Keep your eyes open for unexpected opportunities – someone out there may discuss a need that’s been overlooked and which you can fill!

This is as relevant for business customers as much as it is for individual consumers. And, don’t forget, study your customers’ own Facebook and LinkedIn pages as well as their blogs and websites — these are excellent places to get information. (This method is very “Web 2.0” so if you aren’t up to speed, find a friend or associate who is — this step is too important to be overlooked.)

Not yet fully convinced that you need to clearly define your target market? Read The Engaged Entrepreneur’s: Where Most Entrepreneurs Go Wrong: Choosing Your Target Market.

Don’t wait to Energize Your Business – start today!

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Marketing to your real target market

25 Jan

     Business owners must understand what  business they are really in and, consequently, who their target market is in order to optimally motivate customers to buy their products or services. Although often neglected — as if somehow inherently understood — determining which business you are in  (and your target market) is probably one of the most important things a business owner should decide. Whether your business is already established or  just starting up, knowing which market(s) you should really be targeting can help increase your profits.

     The importance of understanding your real business and being able to think “outside the box” in this respect, was impressed upon me many years ago when I read (and re-read) the book What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School by Mark H. McCormack. McCormack relates the following story regarding what he calls “marketability” (p.113):

     …I was having dinner with Andre Heiniger, the chairman of Rolex, when a friend of his stopped by  the table to say hello. “How’s the watch business?” the friend asked.
     “I have  no idea,” Heiniger replied.
     His friend laughed. Here was the head of the world’s most prestigious watchmaker saying that he didn’t know what was going on in his own industry.
     But Heinigher was deadly serious. “Rolex is not in the watch business,” he continued. “We are in the luxury business.”

     Mark McCormack explained further:

     To me, Heiniger’s comment summed up the essence of “marketability.” It is knowing what business you are really in and understanding the underlying perceptions that connect your product to the people it is being marketed to.

     In other words, when you know your true business, you will better understand how potential customers relate to your product or service so that your advertising campaign will be on target. 

     For instance, if Mr. Heiniger thought that he was in the watch business, then his target market would be everybody who could tell time; he might simply carry more expensive and less expensive watches. On the other hand, being in the luxury business means catering to a select, wealthy, clientele that is looking for quality, durability and exclusivity, perhaps even heirloom pieces. Someone in the luxury business will need a markedly different advertising campaign from someone in the watch business if he wants to attract serious buyers. In addition, to expand in the luxury business could mean anything from introducing high-end designer clothing to expensive cruises, while expanding the watch business might mean selling clocks, stop watches, or replicas of Big Ben. If our watchmaker decided that he was in or wanted to be in the jewelry business, then he would have to appeal to his customers in new and different ways. At the same time he would also have expanded his business opportunities.

     While the business you are in might seem obvious at first, it is often not so cut and dried. Consider the following examples – you think you’re in the computer business, or that you’re a bookseller, a doctor, or maybe even a carpenter – but you might really be in the technology business, the information marketing business, health education, or home comfort. Each of these different business descriptions can take you in different directions; by redefining your business you will be able to explore business opportunities you may never have previously considered or even just learn how to refine your advertising and product mix to properly appeal to existing and potential customers.

     Another benefit to clarifying which business you are really in:  the world is changing so rapidly that, with increasing speed, what was lucrative yesterday is often obsolete today. The more clearly (and less narrowly) you define the type of business you are in and, hence, your target market, the more possibilities you will have to weather changes in the business and economic climate.  If people start using their cell phones to tell time and, therefore, stop buying watches, our watchmaker-cum-jeweler will still be in business.

    So, what business are you really in?

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Welcome

10 Jan

This is my new blog. Thanks for visiting. I will be writing about generating new and repeat business for your small business as well as ideas to help you work better and be more productive. I can also help you implement new ideas and ways of doing business.

What’s on your mind? How can I help you? Please let me know so I can tailor my blogs with you in mind.