Mindscape Communications New Answers for New Times™


"Let's do an ad!" Really? Really???

From time to time over the years, I've heard prospective clients say they want to "do an ad." Today, it's just as likely to be "Let's do a website," or "Let's get on Facebook." OK. Admirable. They want to at least do some kind of marketing communications with their target audience. Or, at least, that's my view as a marketing and advertising consultant. But I know from a great deal of experience that often that's not the same understanding that they may have. Usually, they really mean "Let's do an ad, a website, etc." No more, no less.

This is when I generally make an attempt to gently suggest that they'd be better off saving their money, as a one-time only ad, especially -- without any strategy, plan or understanding of their target market -- is often not worth doing. Some might argue that something is better than nothing. And that's valid, of course. But to think that a single ad -- unless it's running during the Super Bowl, perhaps -- is going to make much of an impact, is wishful thinking. Same goes for a website or social media. They require attention. Regularly.

Good marketing and advertising begins with questions rather than answers: What are your goals and objectives? What does your target market know about your company or business? What do you want them to know? Who
is your target market? Describe them. Why do they want or need your product or service? Why should they purchase from you rather than a competitor? And so on. Questions...questions.

Prospective clients often turn to an outside consultant or agency when they recognize that they don't have the answers or capabilities to communicate effectively about their products or services. An outside view can often be helpful in this regard. But it has to be understood that advertising is both art
and science. Some of the science comes about through marketing research and planning. The art comes about in taking that information as background and constructing a communications campaign that is geared to achieve the goals set forth. That means transforming the data and input into a communications concept (words, pictures, perhaps music and customer interaction, as well) that can be tested. Tested against what? Another version of the message. Find out which works best and then create another test. Always test, measure, and refine.

That's hard to do with a "Let's do an ad, website, etc." view of marketing and advertising. It's also hard to have any long-term business success with such a view.

Are you ready to take a broad view of your marketing and advertising efforts? Then give us a call. We can assist you. Really.

-- GSM

Strategic Planning: Why Bother?

Life goes in cycles, it seems. The weather certainly does…although this winter definitely isn't cycling through fast enough for most people in the country.

Business goes in cycles, too. Certain trends emerge, take hold for a while, only to be replaced by the next big thing.

Something that is always in style, however, is the subject of this post: strategic planning.

I've recently been engaged in an ongoing strategic planning process with a non-profit organization. As part of the process, we designed, implemented, analyzed and interpreted the results of two surveys to various organizational constituencies. The feedback will be used by a newly-formed strategic planning committee to help develop a future-oriented strategic plan, from which a tactical plan or plans will follow. It's important for me, as the consultant, to help guide the process, be an advisor and a sounding board. I may also facilitate a day-long retreat/workshop for committee members to help focus their efforts and make sure everyone is on the same page. But it's also important for the organization that it develop its own internal capacity for strategic planning and its ongoing management. That's part of
my strategy for the organizational development of this particular non-profit. If I do my job well enough, they won't need me anymore.

Based upon my experience in this area, there's not really a right way or wrong way to go about strategic planning; it's whatever will work best for the particular business or organization. Granted, everyone has some operating biases about how to do this or that. I share mine with my clients upfront, and let them know they don't have to agree; it's just how I approach things. There are many books and templates available for how to proceed with strategic planning. Take what works for you and toss out the rest. And stay on top of it. Strategic planning isn't a one-time-and-done event. It's ongoing. Regular evaluations need to be made -- hopefully as part of the tasks of an ongoing strategic planning committee -- and revisions considered, if necessary, in order to achieve the organizational mission and achieve the stated goals. Tactical plans flow from the strategy.

Why bother with strategic planning? If you really have to ask the question...

Are you ready to review your strategic planning needs? Give us a call. We can assist you in a number of ways.

-- GSM

"So Which Social Media Should We Use?"

That's a question I've heard asked directly in client conferences, as well as informal gatherings with friends. My answer: it depends.

Admittedly, this is not the answer most hope to hear, especially from an experienced marketer such as yours truly. But it's the correct answer.

Because when it comes to which social media networks are the best and "right ones," it truly depends upon your business goals, your audience, your personnel and budget resources. Figure out what
those are and you will be headed in the right direction. Then, determine who uses each of the social media networks. For example, a very high percentage of the users of Pinterest (at the present time…which is always the proviso) are female. If you're marketing your products or services primarily or entirely toward women, developing a strategy for using Pinterest as part of your marketing mix would be a good idea. A review of each of the top social media networks relative to your target audience will help determine your options.

Yes, it takes time to research, analyze and create a strategy that will have the best chances of success. There are a lot of moving parts in a marketing mix and even more so in a social media plan. Getting them all working together is key.

If you'd like to know more about how social media can benefit your business, or if you need help with any of your marketing communications activities, we can help. Call us or shoot us an email. Let's start the conversation.

-- GSM


Marketing Fundamentals

One of the key marketing and business concepts we've learned over the years is this:
the fundamental principles underlying good marketing and advertising
are the same regardless of business or industry; the only thing that changes
is the information related to the product or service being marketed.

Do you agree with that? You should. Because it's true. It's so true we dare to state it right on our home page.

How do we know this to be true? Because for more than 35 years, we've seen it played out in action time after time after time. Across a wide range of businesses and industries and everything from Mom 'n' Pop businesses to Fortune 500 global corporations.

In many instances, a prospective client might ask whether or not we've had experience with "X" … "X" being their particular field of enterprise. Maybe we have, maybe we haven't. But either way, it shouldn't really matter…
if the prospective client is interested in obtaining the best marketing services it can, that is. After all, which is easier: training someone in the intricacies of marketing strategy, research, planning and creative development … OR … providing the pieces of information relevant to one's business and industry that an experienced marketing consultant/agency can then use to shape a successful marketing campaign?

I know my answer.

-- GSM


Social Media Confusion and Delusion

Social Media is -- and has been -- the sine non qua for businesses the last several years. Nothing shocking about that statement. Yet, while many, if not most, businesses understand that this means having a presence on one or more of the main social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Google+ to name but a few), many don't understand the rules of engagement. There is a great deal of confusion…and delusion.

The first point to be made is somewhat akin to the Zen saying, "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha." Obviously, this is not to be taken literally. The point is that if you think you've found the Buddha, you haven't. It's merely your own delusion and attachments at work. Similarly, if someone tells you -- especially some "expert" -- that they thoroughly understand social media and can tell you how best to achieve this or that, guaranteed…
they don't. Social media is constantly changing. No one has the answer.

Here is where we have the delusion that leads to the confusion.

So what advice might seem to make sense, especially given the myriad of social networks a business has to choose from? First, know your own business and its goals. What are they? Know your customers. Who are they? What social media are they likely to use as part of their personal and business lives? (Remember: business customers aren't typically business 24-7; they are individuals who also have personal interests that they pursue. Think software and accounting firms advertising on televised golf tournaments, for example.) What's your budget? Can you afford to generate traffic through ads on social networks? Or do you prefer to build customer traffic and engagement organically? If the latter, that especially means generating engaging content. Who will create and curate that for your business? What kind of integrated marketing strategy and approach do you have to tie all your marketing communications efforts together with your social media activities?

In short,
you still have to do your marketing homework. Where you communicate with your customers, and how you do so, may have changed places, so to speak, but the questions you ask to develop your strategy and plan, and the process you follow, still are essentially the same.

The approach of some businesses today to social media is the same as it was when "old media" (print, broadcast, etc.) ruled. What was that approach? "
Let's do an ad," they'd say. When asked why, many wouldn't be able to give a reasoned answer. Often, it was because their competitors were doing so and kicking their tails as a result. That's a good motivator. But it's not a good reason and it's even less a strategy for success. Today, some company executives say "Let's do social media." C'mon. There's more to it than that. Companies can -- and do -- waste a great deal of time and resources not thinking through why they need to be on social media, what they are going to say, and who's going to stay on top of it.

Engaging with the customer is the key. And that requires a good deal of clarity at every step of the communications process. Confusion and delusion aren't going to cut it. Think, people….

-- GSM


It's a Heat Wave!

There's a heat wave affecting a large portion of the U.S. right now. We'll let the news media cover that. Instead, we're going to address another kind of heat wave.

It's a given that the subject of "What's Hot?" comes up in advertising and marketing. A lot. This is an industry that is very much focused on the flavor of the day. One of the agencies I worked for long ago and not-so-far away had its slogan, "Hot Ideas Served Daily," made into a neon sign which was displayed in the reception area of the office. It was a classic example of selling the sizzle and not the steak. Our sales pitch to a prospective client began the moment they walked in the door. I learned a great deal at that agency.

That's what we do in the marketing communications business: sell the sizzle.

Someone will buy a steak, but not because it's a steak. That''s not what they want. Not really. Think about it: do they really want a raw piece of meat? Rather, they're buying a taste, a smell, a feeling, a memory, an experience. That's what people buy. And that's what good marketing and advertising helps the customer to recall or imagine and act upon. If you are a B2B company, that prospect you are trying to sell to still works out of the same psychological set, despite being wrapped in the guise of budgets, units, SKUs, etc. You are still helping them meet a want or need. If they feel better about your sizzle, you'll likely get the sale.

As marketers, we seek to learn as much as we can about your end user, your target audience, your customer. Then we attempt to communicate with them about your product or service using those communications cues that they will mostly likely relate to and respond to. In other words, selling the sizzle not the steak.

I hate to tell you this but it doesn't matter how much a wife, mother, brother-in-law, husband, son, daughter, father or even the CEO him/herself likes a particular ad concept; it only matters if your customer likes it and responds to it. That's what matters.

That's when we've got a "hot idea" on our hands! That's the kind of heat wave we really want.

-- GSM