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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Wishes: Thinking about 2010

Marketing Advice for Small Business Guerrillas

OK, so 2008 and 2009 were not good years for small businesses. Demand was soft, those customers, who could pay, did so slowly, banks and other sources were very stingy with credit. If you made it this far, what should Marketing Guerrillas be doing looking at twentyten? Here are five specific recommendations based on the book, MORE Guerrilla Marketing Research. The key idea in the book is that when Guerrillas have a marketing problem, they should ask their customers and prospects for advice. Doing this will produce a better decision than going it alone--every time.

Marketing Is Like a Shark

You know the story. A shark has to keep swimming or, not being buoyant, it will sink to the ocean floor and die. Well marketing is like a shark. It cannot be turned on and off. Companies that stop marketing wither and perish; not immediately, but slowly over time. Business declines, cash flow diminishes, so inventories and services are reduced; old customers become dissatisfied, new customers do not show up. It’s a horrible way to die. Yes, you can swim more slowly, so to speak, but you cannot stop.

Internet Marketing Will NOT Solve All Your Marketing Problems

The advent of the Internet as a pathway to information, as an advertising medium, as a place for transacting sales, and as a powerful means of collecting marketing research data has certainly changed marketing. The nature of the change, however, is often misunderstood by Guerrillas. Internet marketing has not replaced classical marketing; rather it is in addition to it. One quick example is that On-line focus groups are a very poor substitute for the information derived from live focus groups.

Small businesses, unless they are specifically web-based (and then not even here in all cases) still need to do advertising, still need to employ public relations, still need to use sales promotion ideas and premiums, still need to mail direct response packages (cards, letters, catalogs, etc.), still need to attend trade shows, etc.

The Internet has not made marketing simpler; it has made it more complex. Woe to the Guerrilla who thinks that a website and an Ad Words program will solve all their marketing problems.

Age and Experience Beat Youth and Inexperience . . . Every Time

My co-authors and I counsel small businessmen and women to avoid the youth trap. The older, grizzled lion got to control the pride by defeating a parade of young pretenders. The experienced marketing and research counselor has lived through recessions before, has a steady hand, has been there and done that and has the scars to prove it. And s/he is a good guide right now.

Want proof? Ask Brett Favre. Want more proof? Look at the Table below that shows the age of various advertising practitioners when they did their best work.

Ages at Which Famous Advertising Practitioners Did Their Best Work
Bill Bernbach49
Leo Burnett68
Bernice Fitz-Gibbon66
David Ogilvy49
Shirley Polykoff52
Rosser Reeves50
Use a Big Lever

Archimedes famously said: “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” For Guerrilla marketers the lever to use is a powerful customer insight based on reliable market research. Nothing else can provide as much lift for a business. It can power product development, drive marketing communications, lead to new customers or block competitors. What’s more, a good research study has a shelf-life of several years. By the way, this big lever does not have to cost a lot of money to obtain or take a long time to employ.

Find Out If Your Customers Are Satisfied

The essence of marketing is to first discover and then satisfy the wants and needs of your customers at a profit to the firm. More than one book has been written about how businesses more typically use marketing tools to sell customers what they offer. This is not marketing. Marketing begins with research to uncover unmet needs.What I really want Guerrillas to focus on right now is the second part of the rubric, “satisfy the wants and needs of customers.” Are your customers satisfied? How do you know? They keep buying from you? People may be buying from you because they have not identified a more convenient or less expensive option. As soon as they do, whoosh, they’re gone. The only way to measure customer satisfaction is to directly assess it via research. Every business should have a customer satisfaction assessment program.It is the best way to stay close to your customers and doing so is the best advice we can give in a recession. Current customers pay all the bills; they are more important than new customers. This is akin to dancing with the girl who invited you to the party.
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