While discussing pricing strategies and product line offerings with a client, I was reminded of a great TEDTalk by Barry Schwartz entitled The Paradox of Choice.
In the talk, he encourages us to break through the assumption that more choice equals more freedom and realize that we are often crippled by choice. In regards to marketing, people often refrain from purchasing something altogether if there are too many choices. Below is the TEDTalk. I consider it to be one of the most informative AND one of the most entertaining.
If you don’t have twenty minutes to spare, here’s a quick breakdown of Barry’s talk.
We all know what is good about choice. Here’s what’s bad:
Paradoxically, choices cause paralysis rather than liberation.
Example: Investment records from Vanguard have shown that for every ten voluntary retirement funds that were offered by an employer, ten percent fewer employees participated. With 50 funds to choose from, the fact that it was so hard to decide resulted in procrastination and a tomorrow that never came. Significant matching money (as much as $500/year was passed up).
Further, even if we overcome the paralysis of a decision that has many alternatives, regret is induced. This regret subtracts from the satisfaction of the choice that was made – even if the decision made was good and rewarding. We end up imagining the outcomes of the choices not chosen and become less content with the route that was chosen.
Example: A couple sitting on the beach in the Hamptons sits there dreaming about all the good parking spots they’re missing on West Eighty-Fifth Street in NYC. Everyone’s on holidays because it’s August and they could have prime spots in front of their building at home.
In summary, increased choices result in:
So, how should you apply this to your marketing strategy?
1. Don’t overwhelm your customers with too many product line and price options.
2. Don’t promise the world with your marketing and risk under-delivering. Create a situation where your customer is more than pleasantly surprised.
In Practically RadicalBill Taylor introduces the concept of “Vuja de thinking”. A way to look at a problem from a completely different perspective, or lens, like if this was the first time you had ever looked at this problem. (replace ‘problem’ with ‘strategy’) The book gives a lot of great examples of organizations that just think differently. Here’s a good little PDF on Vuja De Thinking.
Today on walks with Jeph we talk about Westjet and the social object they’ve developed; being the “fun” airline. They tell jokes on flights, are extremely friendly, and just seem to care more than the other airlines.
Do you remember the first time you flew Westjet? I sure do. It completely blew my mind that this airline actually wanted to make my flight more enjoyable. I went home immediately and told my parents about it and have been a loyal Westjet supporter ever since. You see, just the fact that I had to tell someone about my first experience with Westjet makes what they offer a social object. They’ve baked the marketing right into the product and I don’t think anyone can argue the success they’ve had.
So here’s your excuse to have a crazy, wild, loud, awesome idea for your company. The next marketing meeting you host tell everyone to think about the Westjet story and how it all started. Someone had the idea of telling jokes on flights. Even more importantly, someone high up in that company liked the idea and gave them permission to try it.
If you think it’s social media is the future of marketing you are way off kilter. Social media is merely a means to and ends, a tool, a medium for communication. Social media is not a strategy.
What happens when communication goes from being expensive (press releases, billboards, 30 second spot) to relatively free (website, blog, Twitter account)? We get a fire-hose of information, which makes it much more difficult to standout amongst the crowd. (more noise than signal)
Enter Social Objects, they are the videos we share with friends, the pictures that get retweeted, the reason we tell stories about companies, the reason we remain extremely loyal to some brands. It’s all because of social objects. If something is worth sharing then it is a social object. Billboards can be social objects, commercials can be social objects, products can definitely be social objects. Anything that’s worth telling somebody about, is by definition, a social object.
As a marketer it is now your job to create social objects.
Here’s a video on Social Objects:
Social objects aren’t created over night. What usually seems like a major breakthrough, is the result of a long process of improving upon the first iteration. The iPod for example may appear to have been a remarkable social object that happened overnight for Apple, when actually it was the product of many different versions improving upon the prior version.
Because creating a social object is difficult, many companies purposely try not to, if it was easy everyone would do it.
Many people and businesses start on Twitter and don’t have much of an idea as to how to get followers or start interacting in a way that will add value to their lives or add customers to their business. The first step is thinking of it as “growing community” rather than “attaining followers”. I mean, you could simply follow a thousand people then unfollow the ones who don’t follow you back OR even pay someone on fiver.com to get you 3000 followers by midnight (but, actually, please don’t. stay tuned for a rant on the subject). What’s the use in having a false following of unengaged, unconcerned people who will never engage with you in an enriching way and never set foot in your establishment? Here are some actual, helpful tips – that when executed in a genuine fashion – can get your community growing:
1. Pick A User-Friendly User Name
If you’re going to be identified and recognized by your name, make sure your twitter handle is your name. If you need to add in underscores or numbers due to your name being taken, do so at the end of the handle to ensure it’s still easily searchable and can auto-populate when people are mentioning and searching you.
2. Search For People To Follow
Searching for current and potential contacts and customers can be as easy as searching your business’s name or searching a hashtag with the airport code for your city (ie: #yqr = Regina).
3. Know the Lingo
Know it but don’t become a slave to it. Maintain your own personality!
4. Know Who You’re Interacting With
Taking the time to read the bio and recent tweets of a person you’re replying to or striking up a conversation with can make the difference between a message that is remembered and a message that is forgotten or received negatively.
5. Add Your Twitter Handle To All Signatures
Show your existing contacts that you’re on Twitter by including it at the end of email messages and putting it in your LinkedIn profile
6. Reach Out
We’ve heard of many reputable marketing and business people actually making a list of people they want to get to know on Twitter and taking an intentional approach to interacting with over time in order to build mutually beneficial relationships. Try it. Times are changing and people are more receptive to this kind of interaction.
7. Promote Others
Want to get your own tweets retweeted and encourage people to interact with you? There’s no better way to do so than to first help others out by answering their questions and spreading their value-laden work. While doing so, make sure you don’t water down your content by relaying sub par, non-remarkable content.
8. Share Your Best Info
Value, value, value! Before hitting the tweet button, ask yourself if what you’re tweeting will be of any benefit to the people who will read it. If it’s not funny, informative, or remarkable, think twice. If it’s only going to be of interest to a few people, consider tweeting it at them directly or choosing a different medium.
9. Practice Etiquette
Avoid correcting people’s grammar and trolling others. Err on the side of positivity. Negativity can get you unfollowed faster than Usain Bolt can complete his final 50 metres.
I think people should always use their real name as their name (handle) on Twitter. You’re scared of privacy are you? It’s 2012, if someone wanted to stalk you they would, they’re not going to Twitter to search your name sweetheart. So how do you choose the right Twitter name? Simple, if you don’t pick your name/brand/company pick something you can brand yourself as online, a nickname perhaps, whatever you pick make sure it’s memorable to people or else you’re going to run into trouble.
There’s one very important aspect of choosing a name that most people and companies overlook. When choosing your name (handle) you need to consider what the majority of people will type when they think of you. Because most people follow hundreds or even thousands of people, and when someone wants to say something about you they’re going to type “@” and the auto-complete on most Twitter services will display all the followers you have that begin with what ever you type.
If you pick a name that isn’t common, or isn’t the most memorable part of it you’re making it hard for people to Tweet you.
If your business or organization name begins with “Regina” then feel free to use it. But if it doesn’t, again, you’re making it hard for people to find you.
Bad Twitter name examples:
Remember, when you don’t use your real name, you’re branding yourself as whatever the name you choose. When you put YQR or anything else in front of your name/brand you’re making it very difficult for people to Tweet you.
Product, Price, Place, Promotion. They’re dead. Though I can’t take credit for their annihilation, John Jansch talked about it in The Referral Engine. The 4 Ps is what you were taught in Marketing class in University five years ago, from the text book that was five years old, based on cases that were 10 years old. Hell of an education it was!
The four Ps are dead, enter the four Cs:
Content, Context, Connection, Community
But first, the funeral.
It’s no longer wise to focus a large portion of your time on your “Product”, as the Innovators Dilemma points out, companies rarely develop a product on the first iteration, usually not even on the second adaptation but more likely on the third try. Instead of focusing on the perfect product, develop your product quicker and seek out feedback on it faster than your competition. If you know exactly what your target audience (community) wants (context), it will be much easier to provide them value (content).
A wise man once said “If you think having the lower price in your industry is a good strategy, remember that someone is always willing to go broke faster than you.” That wise man was John Morgan, the author of Brand Against the Machine. What he means is that if your one major advantage over your competition is price, you’re in trouble. Pricing will continue to be a contested topic in business circles because of the ease of communication (one Tweet can notify thousands of other about an abnormally high or low price). I can find out what anyone pays for just about every product imaginable with a few Google searches.
You must price your product or service in a reasonable range and be sure as hell you’re ready to justify it. Negotiating contracts where the price far exceeds the value is a sure fire way to go out of business fast. Deciding on your pricing shouldn’t be difficult as long as you’ve set up a strategy to garner the feedback from your customers and clients (community), and are willing to act upon their recommendations (connection).
Location in the past may have been one of the most important factors in the success of your business. Have a lot of foot traffic near by? Your coffee shop will do well. Do a lot of cars drive by your dealership? Again, you used to benefit immensely. But today, while doing most of your in depth product research at home on your iPad, location doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Businesses that solely relied on their location for their success will face a major uphill battle against the kid in his basement selling the same product for the half price.
Promotion is still relevant today but in a different context. Thirty years ago you could blanket the population with your message and people would buy. Today, it’s very difficult to saturate your message on the masses. With an estimated 2,000-5,000 “brand” impressions every day it’s no wonder we have to ignore so much of the advertising.
The way promotion can work is to determine an audience that wants to hear your sales pitch for your new product and “wow” those people. Blatant Promotion only works if it’s anticipated, pleasant, and something of value.
Simply advertising is more of an awareness tactic and very difficult to do effectively. I’d suggest getting familiar with Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick”, so you can begin making advertising that is, Simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotion, stories.
So why are the four “C’s” the new marketing norm? Let’s discuss.
What are you creating specifically for your target clientele? Is it original, real, and compelling? Yes, I’m talking about that generic monthly newsletter you’ve been sending out, that’s potentially great content that can help sell your product or service. All your outward facing communications are some form of content you’re in control of. You can develop your own voice, your own style, your own company personality and optimize the way you communicate over time.
What’s your key talkable difference, your competitive advantage, your key differentiating factor? If you’re just doing what everyone else is doing remember what Scott Ginsberg said; “there are no cover bands in the rock n roll hall-of-fame.”
Example: Nike produces some of the most amazing, original sports content in the world, see the star studded cast of their latest video series, The Kobe System.
In what context do your target customers interact with your brand? Are they searching for you? Do they see your commercials on TV? Do they look at youebsite? Is your website a positive representation of your brand? Is it easy to navigate? Are your services easy to purchase? Remember Mark Cuban’s Quote “Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.”
The context how how you represent your brand on and offline tells us a lot about how you treat us, your customers.
Example: Redbull knows precisely how to communicate with their target audience, so much so that they even have a button on their home page titled “Holy Shit”.
If you shut down business tomorrow, would your customers miss you? If not, you have a serious problem. If you’re not making an emotion connection with your audience/customers it’ll be extremely simple for your competitors to undercut your price and steal away your customers. Do you think Blockbuster was making an emotion connection with their clientele? Do magazine publishers actually care about you, the reader, or are they just trying to maximize their advertising revenue?
Yes some industries are immune to needing to connect with their customers to survive, but if you can create a connection that’s more than transactional you have a major competitive advantage.
Example: Mitch Joel of Twist Image (an Agency in Montreal) writes regularly on his blog, produces a Podcast every week and will answer you on Twitter when asked a question. He’s humanized his agency and gained a lot of trust in by running his business this way.
Creating a connection doesn’t have to be creating a blog, podcast and monitoring Twitter 24/7. If you ask Capital Ford in Regina, sometimes all it takes is one Tweet: I think the Regina Police would agree that making a connection will exponentially grow long-term value.
Who’s got your back? Who would stick up for you when people post defamatory comments on your Facebook page?
If you’re not developing a community, a tribe, a following, a group of raving fans then you may have to go back to the drawing board. If your product or service is really as good as you say it is, it shouldn’t be hard to tell a few people and have your message spread organically. That, however, is much easier said than done.
Growing a mutually beneficial community around your brand isn’t an easy task but as with anything in life, doing the difficult work will pay off in a big way over time. What does your “community” want? A place where their voice is heard? A forum to connect with like-minded individuals? Maybe they just want the most up-to-date information on your area of expertise. Whatever it is, the only way to find out is to begin to ask and try to help potential customers without trying to make a sale. I’ll say it again if you missed it. Help potential customers without trying to make a sale, engage them, seek feedback every step of the way and provide more value than you’re extracting from your tribe.
Example: I have a paid subscription to SEOMoz software, I pay for tools to measure client websites more effectively. They send out a monthly list to subscribers, of the ten top articles they’ve found over the past month and every single article is extremely valuable. They also put out a video every Friday called White Board Friday, which usually consists of some advice or case study on how to improve your online presence.
Finally, a lot of the copy and writing on their site is done in a lighthearted, even funny way. I really enjoy a website that makes a relatively boring experience just a little bit better with humor.
They’ve established a community that goes way beyond a simple transaction.
So you see, we’re living in a completely different marketing era. What you did even five years ago may not be relevant today. You must constantly be measuring to understand where to make your largest return on investment and conversely, where you should be readjusting your strategy to systematically rid your marketing mix of useless tactics.
Have an example of one of the four C’s? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.