Six Questions Every Marketer Must Answer for Customers

It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day busy-work of marketing and forget the big picture goals and objectives required to be successful.

The following list of questions is a great guide to print out and hang on the wall of every marketing team member (and, really, most everyone in your organization to help them “live” the brand). How closely do your marketing investments trigger prospective customers to consider these critical marketing questions and how well do they provide compelling, convincing, easily understood answers?

Let's take a look: 

Do I need what you offer? (Pain)

Seems simple, but many customers do not “feel” the pain, and therefore see no need for your product/service. This could be because they are not aware of their pain, or maybe they’re in denial.

The “hottest” leads always begin with a “yes” to this question, of course. But there are creative ways to amplify the prospects’ awareness and understanding of pains they didn’t realize they had.

Do I want what you offer? (Aspiration)

Some customers are aware of pain, but lack the motivation to change. How is your marketing weeding out unmotivated customers and reaching those ready to improve based on your value proposition? Or, how is your marketing sparking desire and ambition that will ultimately lead to a purchase?

Why should I choose you? (Differentiation)

If you’ve identified a customer with a clear pain or goal to improve, you’re just isn’t over. Now it’s time to quickly, powerfully establish why you are the best choice. If you’re a low-consideration consumer product, this might be answered through the convenience/cost equation. If you’re a high-end or B2B product or service, you have a bit more work to do.

Very few companies do a compelling job on this step. A great way to evaluate how you’re doing on this: Look at your competitors’ web sites side by side with yours. Are you saying the same things? Making the same promises? Showing the same happy visuals?

Why shouldn’t I worry? (Confidence)

The customer is making split second decisions in her mind: What’s the risk of me investing my limited time, money and emotional energy into this decision? Will I look stupid? Will I waste time? Will it cost me more later? Who else has made this decision, and are they happy? 

What is the cost/benefit equation? (Return on Investment)

What must the customer invest of themselves in order to realize the benefits? Has marketing made these tradeoffs easy to understand? Have you reduced the perceived pain and enhanced the perceived and trusted benefits of the transaction?

How do I get started? (Call to Action)

How is marketing making it easy to learn, experiment, consume and share? Can you get more qualified potential buyers to try your product or service with minimal risk of time, emotion or money?

Here is a brief PDF tool explaining these questions that might be worth sharing with your marketing team, company executives and partners. Here is how we answered these questions for ourselves: Should you hire us


Rings of Influence: Sharing Those #BuzzNuggets

Who's going to spread those #buzznuggets?A couple of years ago we were having fun with our friends over at WELD talking about "slinging buzz nuggets," an affectionate term for those sticky, shareable content elements that make the social media world go around. 

We even submitted it to Urban Dictionary. They accepted it, so that really helped our street cred. 

It got us thinking about a more business-oriented way to talk about this process of sharing buzz nuggets, er, shareable content. It occurred to us that social media content needs "legs" to help it extend its run and generate the return on investment required for all the effort that goes into content develoment.

Can you proactively identify influencers to reach out to so that the content gets a kickstart? Of course you can. So we developed the concept of "Rings of Influence." 

Here's a brief presentation and a neat one-pager summary flow process of how it works. Please download and share if you find it useful. 


Watch Out: Four Marketing April Fool’s Jokes  

My kids love April Fool’s Day. I heard them planning their evil schemes over the past few days. It got me thinking about the April Fool’s Day jokes that trick marketers and senior executives far too often.

Joke #1:  Marketing is Tactical, Not Strategic

Peter Drucker, the “Father of Business Management,” famously said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Unfortunately, when you assess the executive teams of many small, mid-market or even business units of larger corporations, senior marketing talent is often thin and understanding of the strategic role of marketing is vague at best.   

Many CEO’s and business unit General Managers don’t realize that the very question of which products/services to offer is a strategic marketing issue. There is a lack of seamless market and customer feedback into the organization, and resources are not allocated in a manner that will grow business.

Because of this lack of understanding of the critical strategic role of marketing, many organizations lack truly unique and compelling value propositions. Without a strategic marketing foundation, the organization and its products/services flounder. Marketing continues to crank out materials and campaigns with few questions asked about the underlying purpose and nature (not to mention measurement) of the investment.

Joke #2: It’s Just About Social Media Now

At times it can seem that the only marketing chatter these days is about social media and one of its fundamental sub-disciplines, content marketing. This is a worthy strategic issue because an attraction/conversation strategy is in fact potentially more powerful than an interruption/advertising strategy.

At Mythology we advocate starting with the development of your “sticky story” that has a better chance of getting passed along by influencers. However, the truth is that very few organizations are in a position where their product is inherently unique or compelling enough vs. competitors to rely solely on word-of-mouth and inbound traffic generated by great content.

Great content and conversational marketing is a critical skill and a top strategic priority, for sure. But many firms will go broke waiting for the holy grail of sticky conversations to take root and build into a big enough prospect/customer flow. The truth is, most companies still need to interrupt sometimes with effective advertising. Sometimes a billboard is more effective in driving business than a Facebook site.

The key is to understand how to leverage the concepts of what is “sticky” and ideal for social media and integrating that into your overall marketing mix based on the needs of the business.

Joke #3:  We Can Handle Marketing In-House

It is certainly critical for the strategic leadership of marketing to reside in the top echelons of management. To abdicate the critical disciplines of value proposition, strategic competitive advantages and marketing return on investment oversight would be a severe mistake by senior management.

However, very few organizations have the expertise or headcount to successfully plan and execute all the many moving parts in today’s complex integrated marketing world. We’ve observed that even in large Fortune 500 companies, there is a lack of specific skilled discipline in such such areas as search engine marketing, campaign planning, research and project management.

One of the most critical skills for today’s senior marketing leader is the ability to lead a virtual team that includes both in-house and external team members that bring unique, complementary skills together to shape and execute a powerful marketing strategy.

Joke #4:  We Know Our Customers

The more mature a company gets, the more likely it is to fall into a trap of resting on the assumption that the founders or senior managers “get it.” After all, they did something right to build the business thus far, right?

Unfortunately, the market never stops changing. Customer needs shift. Competitors spin up where they weren’t before. Customers get overwhelmed with too many choices, yet are  facing competitive threats of their own.

Before long, an organization is running blind, not truly understanding critical insights such as the current satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy levels of customers; not identifying new opportunities to provide value; and missing shifts in the business or personal lives of customers.

Unless your business is systematically engaging customers for feedback every six months through a variety of “dialog” channels – surveys, focus groups, social media, advisory panels - it’s likely this joke is effecting you.

Don't Get Fooled

As you can see, these jokes that get played on your marketing function aren’t that funny. The good news is, you can avoid them getting played on you with internal awareness and commitment from the top levels of leadership in your organization.

We’re here to help. We have a series of marketing strategy workshops that are ideal for addressing these issues proactively and laughing all the way to the bank. Contact us today to get started! 


Marketing Perils and Pillars: #5 Mythology

Got any good stories to tell?

Humans are wired for stories. Until very recently, humankind passed down its history and wisdom to each other through stories. People from ancient cultures could recite long, detailed recitations that reminded them of their values and heroes of old.

Modern tools such as the printing press and, well, Google, have weakened our mind’s ability to regal each other with compelling stories. However, deep down, our brains light up with a good story.

Facts and figures represent Marketing Peril #5. Marketers, especially those in business to business or “high consideration” industries such as appliances or autos, can fall in love with TMI – too much information.

When the emotional part of our brain is impaired, we can't make choices.We too often assume that buyers are logical; in fact, many studies show that we make emotional decisions and then back them up with information. In fact, when the part of brain that handles emotion is damaged, humans cease their ability to make a decision, even simple ones.

The most compelling brands have embraced “brand mythology” as an approach to ensuring “sticky stories” with high emotional impact are developed to build the brand. Mythology is typically defined as a story that is passed along to communicate values and important cultural meaning. How we spend our money tells a lot about our cultural values, so it makes sense to connect brands with mythology.

In one of our favorite books How Brands Become Icons: The Principle of Cultural Branding, author Douglas Holt demonstrates how iconic brands’ power rests in large part on the brand myth that consumers can identify with. In order to satisfy the need to be a part of that myth, consumers will drink, eat and wear the brand.

What makes a great brand story?

The same thing that makes any other story great: heroes, villains, supporting characters, plot, tension, and resolution.

Here are several self-assessment questions that may help you evaluate your brand mythology:

Have you developed a brand positioning platform document that clearly outlines your company’s positioning and differentiated value proposition?

  • Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0 points

 Does your brand represent a simple, compelling storyline?

  • Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0

 Has your brand messaging been tested for adherence to best practice communication effectiveness and “stickiness” guidelines?

  •  Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0 points

Does your brand messaging align with a clear emotional archetype that resonates with your target audience?

  •  Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0 points

Does your brand storyline adhere to key elements of myth-development that leads to belief and enthusiastic sharing among target audience members?

  •  Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0 points

Have you tested your brand messaging to ensure it is having the desired effect before launching within a broad campaign?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

How aligned are you?

25-30 points: You must have an in-house brand poet

15-24 points: You’re spinning a few brand yarns; keep sharing!

0 – 15 points: Your story skills could use some sharpening

Mythology has a compelling Assessimize Marketing Workshop designed to help you build your brand story. Contact us for more information. 


Customer Value Propositions: The Intersection of Ideas, Markets and ROI 

John Roth, Head of Customer Value Proposition, Xbox LiveOn the face of it, John Roth has a very cool job in a very cool industry. He’s the Head of Customer Value Proposition for Microsoft’s Xbox Live, the online service for Xbox 360 that transforms your TV into a connected entertainment experience.

Before you get too jealous, however, you should know his job is also tough. Within the Xbox team, the value proposition development role is a business strategy and planning function that sits between marketing and product development.

As in most companies, the care and feeding of a unique, powerful value proposition is a challenge. John describes his job as “cool ideas meet ROI and market acceptance.” His past experiences as a group product manager for Sharepoint, Project and Visio helped him sharpen is ability to develop clear, compelling value propositions.

Value propositions are not always thought out and clarified in a way that are simple yet meaningful enough to guide marketing managers eager to engage and software engineers excited to code their latest breakthrough ideas.

How do you predict and guide the trade-offs between short-term customer growth, profitability, and lifetime value? How do you factor in unpredictable disruptions in a fast-moving industry such as gaming and home entertainment platforms? How narrow or broad do you cast your net for specific customer segments?

The Xbox team must live in that tension between short-term market share, fiscal year requirements and their LRP (long range plan). Along the way John must factor in competitors with a diverse set of market approaches and entry points in a highly competitive industry. John’s value proposition work must guide the marketing team on what content is most relevant to produce and the software developers on what product priorities take precedence.

The work of Kellogg School of Business professor Mohan Sawhney has been influential in John’s work, as it has been on many other Microsoft product groups and business divisions.

Learn more about the Value Proposition "teeter totter" Dr. Sawhney’s value proposition model can be viewed as a teeter totter that balances the customer view of cost (i.e., revenue their willing to give the company), effort (how much of a hassle is it to buy/use) and risk (what will the customer lose if he bets wrong?) on one side, and the value, differentiation and support promises made by the company on the other side.

If a value proposition is fuzzy or seems like an unequal tradeoff, it’s a loser. A powerful value proposition will appeal to an optimal (profitable + strategic) number of customer segments that the company desires to serve.

Don’t feel too bad for John Roth and his tough job at Xbox Live. His stress level isn’t something a little Gears of War action can’t relieve. 

Do you need to strengthen your company's value proposition? An Assessimize Marketing Workshop will do the trick. 

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