I'll Have What Their Having
What Worked Yesterday...
I don't believe it when anyone says, "It's been done before." If it's been done before and it works for your brand, go with it. A smart person takes the best practices of their industry and reskins it for their business. What worked yesterday, might not work today, but it could work tomorrow. Never forget to test.
Have you ever gotten an annoying telemarketer and wondered who would ever buy something from a person you talked to on the phone? Me too. But...If it did not work, companies would not spend money on this relatively expensive tactic. It works.
I've worked with several casino properties here in Las Vegas and around the country. There are only so many ways you can do a slot tournament, poker tournament or other gaming event. It is the same promotion at every casino. They do them because they work.
I have spoken with many businesses. They come to firms or agencies looking for the guarantee. That does not exist and if your firm ever guarantees you anything, call them liars and find a new agency. A guarantee would assume that they have some sort of mind control or psychic ability. All a firm can provide is knowledge of what has worked for a similar customer and the ability to analyze information to make the best decision on the client's behalf. It is a game of knowing what the market is doing, what the competition is doing and breaking throug the clutter.
Test everything and give it a chance to work. If you decide that direct mail is right for your business, test it. Put together a campaign with a small list based on the attributes of your current customer or at least who you think might be your customer. Do an A/B Split. This test will tell you what sort of offer is most likely to get your target group through your doors. Once the offer is perfected, work on the creative. Does a postcard outperform a letter? Does increasing the size of the call to action make a difference in response?
Testing can and should be done for as many tactics as you can test in your marketing mix. Branding is the exception. You can test how well you are branding your company, but it is very expensive and may not be justified in your industry. Not every business is Nabisco with multi-million dollar budgets. It makes sense to spend $70,000 on market research when you are making a decision that could cost you $5 million.
They Did It, So I Gotta Do It
The car dealer industry is notorious for this mentality. They are all on TV, Radio and Newspaper trying to scream louder. Each is so affraid to step away from traditional media that they never try anything new for any decent amount of time. I have had a car dealer tell us so desperately how much they wanted to explore "outside the box" thinking (a term which has come to mean nothing due to overuse.) If everyone is outside the box, you might want to be in it.
Many businesses tend to look at what their competitor is doing and use that as the sole basis for their decisions. Competitive knowledge is good, but sound research and strategy is better. You may find out that your competitor is not being as effective as they could be and you'll just be adding to that waste.
Media Reps Are Good People, But...
A rep for a media outlet is not a bad person and most are very knowledgable. They have only one fault. They are looking out for the interests of their outlet and obtaining as much of your budget as possible. It is not always in the best interest of your business. The rep is doing their job and hopefully going above and beyond to show the value of what their outlet may provide. This is where the consultant or firm comes in. We study them with all of our tools and metrics and make them work to prove value beyond what our resources tell us. It is a win for the client because they are not talked into spending an inappropriate amount of their budget with a single outlet. Rarely is one medium appropriate for a client. It may be a start, but not the most effective mix.
Competition is Good
All in all, competition is good. It is what makes for great branding, keeps companies honest and makes us all a bit smarter. In the end, the customer wins because we tend to create more value when we are engaged in competive marketing. I would love to hear if anyone has a case where following the competition proved to be the right strategy.