Tag Archives: strategy

If first impressions count, then what are you telling your customers?

Have there ever been more options for pricing than there are today: one day deal sites, online pricing, freemium, optimised pricing, auction sites are just a few of the possibilities for setting a price, and an impression. So if first impressions count, then what are you telling your customers?

But of the four P’s of marketing, price usually receives far less thought than the other three. Not only does the price of your product or service say so much about what you are offering but it’s so important to your business’s survival.

If you have a new brand getting the price right is often very difficult. And while there is some room and time to fine tune things the longer the price remains unchanged the harder it will be to adjust customer’s perceptions.

Your business may suit being involved in an auction site where people bid for seasonal products e.g. Buystand. Alternatively you may have a more perishable product in which case there’s a real benefit in selling each days ‘stock’ for the best overall profit you can. That’s where price optimisation can help. One company who work in this area are Pricetech.  Their tagline appeals to me and gives you an indication of what to expect: revenue management and profit optimisation.

One thing’s for sure is that there will always be people willing to pay for the best, or even just willing to pay the most. This applies to houses, equally as it does for hotels, services, food, electronics … you name it. So depending on your product I’d always suggest seeing if you can get the highest price in the market. If your market share ambitions, brand, and the other elements of your marketing mix allow could you have a sustainable business by pricing as the most expensive? If not what’s involved to get there and how feasible is it?

But actually, you don’t have to have the highest price to get people wanting your brand. The point is that matching your price with the rest of your marketing mix will ensure satisfied customers even if customers pay very little for what they buy from you.

What about giving your product away? In the software game it’s called ‘Freemium’. One of the best articles about Freemium why and how comes from Techcrunch. On a similar vein I share thoughts in an earlier blog about Goupon type offers.

Go 2 Market principle: create the right impression with your customers by ensuring your price matches the rest of your marketing mix. You’ll create a positive impression with your customers and your bottom line.

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Deeper and broader than a loyalty programme

The past two blogs have focused on rewards and loyalty. Loyalty being a very important outcome, and rewards one tool to help achieve that outcome. They’re both commonly associated with a ‘loyalty programme’. However, the term is more often a noun than it is a verb. Any business needs to be in the ‘doing’ mode when it comes to loyalty because customers are continually demonstrating their loyalty, or not.

So where’s the place for a ‘loyalty programme’. My last post talked about the use of rewards and loyalty, and the benefits of having a programme that was right for the business and the customer.

With the cloud and mobile technology there are some excellent options available for businesses of all sizes. NextBee and Fielo are two such programmes, and RewardJunkie one of the early adopters of iOS6’s Passbook, another. These loyalty programmes offer so much more flexibility and advantages for the business and customer than the more traditional programmes.

What’s needed though is a more holistic approach to rewards and loyalty. What’s needed is a ‘Customer programme’ – a programme driven by a strategy that focuses on the customer. A loyalty programme that uses rewards to enhance loyalty could be part of the Customer programme, but on its own it’s not broad or deep enough.

Here are some of the elements to consider including in your Customer programme:

  • A CRM system to register customers
  • Customer segmentation driven by the CRM, analytics and insight
  • Customer research to inform and monitor the programme
  • Customer experience programme with measures and monitoring
  • Communications strategy including media monitoring
  • Loyalty programme.

The elements listed above are interlinked and rely on the overall customer strategy being determined first. However, just like anything you don’t need to develop all these elements before you start your programme. You can add incrementally after establishing the strategy.

Go 2 Market principle: getting customer loyalty takes a lot of ‘doing’. Having a Loyalty programme can help with the doing if you pick the right one. But a multi faceted Customer programme is required to ensure lasting customer value.

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Making a good idea great

After some first hand experience, including a 54 hour startup weekend, I’m now clearer than ever about what it takes to make a good idea great. I suspect you all know the answer. It’s in marketing textbooks, talked about all the time, and should be part of what we do, but so often don’t. I’m talking about the need to validate your idea with your target market.

As marketers we should be delivering a product or service that responds to what the customer wants. Too often the idea comes from ‘the top’, is what ‘group think’ suggests, or is the ‘flavour of the day’.

Where’s the customer in any of this? More often than not the customer is represented by …. (fill in your own words based on your experience). Too often it’s too easy to rush the product/service, offer, or just as often only hear what we want to hear. How many times have you seen research interpreted to suit the outcome desired by the client/product champion?

The mobile space is a case in point. There seems to be lots of companies feeling the need to develop a mobile app. Smartphones are a growing market for sure. But you would have to be sure that your target customer is part of the 18% of mobile users whose phone is a smartphone. Even if so, is the app you’d like to produce something they want, and are willing to pay for, or even if free, use?

Research indicates that most popular mobile destinations are news and information, weather reports, social networking, search and maps. Does your idea fit into one of these categories? If not then consumer testing is even more critical.

Confirming the risk of developing an app is this article that might help with your broader online strategy: Some very quotable comments from the article and discussion include: “Building your own app is not the only way to reach your consumers”, “No one wants to download an ad”, “Build ‘em and they will come”.

So back to testing against your target market. There’s some off the shelf research that’s a good starting point e.g. the latest TNS Digital Life Study, but your customers are your customers. So validate your idea with them. If you have a broad range of customers then target your research into the segment/s that matter most.

Go 2 Market principle: what will make a good idea great is customer demand. So who better to ask about meeting that demand than the customer!

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Who copied my idea?

I’ve already blogged about being a flexible thinker and starting to take a different perspective. Here’s another article that writes in general about the same topic (don’t be put off by ‘startup’ being in the title): Why You Should Embrace Opposing Views at Your Startup

The point is, whether it’s your sector or a different one, don’t dismiss ideas that deliver to customer need. In fact go looking for what your competitors and others are doing, and consider why and how they’re doing it. You may copy the idea (staying clear of intellectual property issues) or adapt. When it’s incorporated as part of your total offering no one is likely to know or care.

As an example, a useful business trend right now is to suggest other products or services that align with a purchase. They might either be complementary, or popular with other people that have bought the same product. This isn’t anything new, rather returning to good old personalised customer focus. Technology is the enabler for this now. For example, Air New Zealand sent me an email with some accommodation, rental car/campervan suggestions based on a booking I’ve made with them. They also included some non-sales information about our destination too. To me their approach is unobtrusive, easy and practical.

Fashion items including clothes, books and music all provide an opportunity for adding more benefit (and sales). But there’s many more businesses that could do the same surely, e.g energy companies selling energy efficient products; florists providing a service to manage all your special occasions; motor vehicle dealers arranging insurance; sports stores that suggest complementary items, to name a few. Think of it as: ‘what problem can I help solve for my customer?’

I’d suggest you want to understand what emotion is being stirred up in users when a different approach is being used and replicate the good stuff. Also ensure it’s aligned with your brand and customer needs.

Of course you have to try and find this stuff. Talking to your customers is always the best bet. Try to do it yourself, but otherwise engage with partners that are interested in your success. Customers will know what your competition are doing.

Go 2 Market principle:  don’t be precious. Adapt others ideas to help create your success.

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Why not, everyone’s doing it

Seems to me that everyone is doing it, brand extensions, that is. Caterpillar footwear, Jeep clothing, Amazon tablets, State Insurance roadside assistance, Vogel’s cereal, Air New Zealand taxis.

So can your brand also be extended to products or services that aren’t its reason for being?

In my last blog I talked about focus on your target market. So this topic seems a natural followon, or extension if you like.

There are lots of good examples where consumers will buy an additional product from a brand they trust. Your brand’s credibility and also the perceived link between product extensions are all important. Summed up by this article on what are the limits of your brand’s relationship with its target consumer, and what will your consumer allow you to do.

The power of the brand can be impressive. Even for older brands e.g Pan Am, an airline brand of yesteryear, is today selling travel merchandise.

However, don’t underestimate the challenge with jumping into a brand extension. Firstly, has the rationale for the brand extension been thought through, and does it support the strategic direction. Second, you need a viable product or service that adds value to consumers you’re focused on. Then you need to ensure it doesn’t detract from your current brand equity either by its introduction or by you losing focus on your main activity.

There are a number of brands that haven’t been extended e.g Toyota. They arguably had consumer permission to sell up market cars but didn’t have the credibility so it developed the Lexus brand. What about Coca Cola? It sells a vast variety of drinks, but very few have the Coke brand name. So brand extensions are not always the answer, and indeed need to be very carefully considered and managed.

Final thoughts from the CE of Starbucks, Howard Schultz: “consumer-based business is changing so significantly that you just can’t embrace the status quo”. They are really trying to push the envelope according to Starbucks Coffee Marketing.

Go 2 Market principle: understand well your brand equity, customer perceptions of a brand extension, and how to deliver an extension that strengthens your brand.

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