Because You Don't Always Know What Your Prospects Want...
Updated: Jan 24
Somewhere, right now, there is a creative marketing team at a conference table trying to develop ideas for a new promotional campaign. The juniors are desperately trying to understand some industry terms they’ve just encountered for the first time, which no one has bothered to define. The sales manager has come into the meeting late and still has his attention on some unanswered emails on his phone. The energy is dispersive at best and the only thing that seems to have been accomplished as a group is a decision on where to order lunch. Then one brave soul asks a game-changing question that could effectively lead to a home run for the entire group, or a swing and a miss that blows the whole thing without anyone realizing it. He asks “have we surveyed our customers or prospects?” The answer to question is going to be a make or break point to the group’s success. If it’s a “no” there’s trouble ahead despite best efforts and intention. If it’s a “yes” there’s a good chance of success if the info behind it is examined and applied.
Let’s take a look at the basics. As per the highly successful Hubbard® Management System, promotion is defined as “the art of offering what will be responded to.” Response is the key. In order to get a high response rate you need to find out what people really want and consider valuable. This is determined by surveying customers and prospects. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that you know what is wanted and will be responded to. You survey different publics (groups with common characteristics) to find out what they like and dislike, what attributes they look for in a vendor, what factors most influence their purchase decisions, etc.
The results of your surveys are used to create the promotional pieces you will use. Again, according to the Hubbard system, there are two key components found in successful promotional pieces, the “button,” and the “message.” A button is what is used to get the public’s agreement to hear the message. The message is the communication, the thought or the significance you want to get across.
For example, say your survey reveals that 70 percent of those asked are looking for a copier that does not jam. That’s the button or the point of agreement with that public. So, you use that button with that public, you have agreement and they will listen to what you have to say about copiers. The button could be “Tired of Copier Jams?” and the message could include things like the technology behind the system, independent tests showing low incidents of jamming and/or customer testimonials.
The idea is to strike just the right note of agreement using the button and deliver your message to a now more receptive audience. That’s the secret of a promotion that gets response. Let your competitor run with something that uses the word “misfeed” instead and let them wonder why they have not struck that chord with prospects. It may be common vernacular in your operation, but not necessarily so among end users.
Now, let’s put this into practice. The first step is to conduct surveys with the various publics or prospects you have targeted. This is best done by drafting a survey and having the sales reps call or visit customers and prospects to get the survey questions answered. You will want to conduct at least 50 surveys for each public you intend to target. The results of the surveys are then tabulated to determine the highest percentage of responses.
The survey data is used to develop the promotional material that’s conceived and designed including your print or digital advertising, email or direct mail pieces, collateral, presentations, landing pages, and so on. Since you have done your homework via surveys the creative imagery, concepts and language should come forward a bit easier in the minds of your marketing team. The “No More Jams” may be the button that will push the entire theme into gear for the sales team as it will resonate better among the eyes and ears of your prospects more than, say something based on the type of printing technology or the speed of its paper output. Those latter points are still valid and worth covering, but if they are not at the top of the survey points, we don’t lead with them. Besides, it’s more fun to think about clever ways to show a piece with jam on it!
Marketing campaigns are doomed when they are built upon the belief that “we already know what our customers want.” A recent video I caught on LinkedIn depicts this better than I could have hoped. In it, you see a playground with a wonderful set of new tubular slides placed atop a small incline. The scene is perfect with a blue sunny sky overhead and a bunch of active youngsters going all out running up the incline and sliding down – well not the slides, but the playground floor like penguins on an iceberg. I’d hate to be the parks director in that municipality who approved the funding for the new slides. He’s learned a valuable lesson on what sugar-infused kids want in a set of playground slides.
As far as the campaign goes, you could design your own pieces based on the survey data so long as you have the capability to handle that and get it done without causing a distraction to your team. The optimum way to do this is through a resource that has the industry knowledge and the creative team on board that will handle all facets of the program for you without charging you thousands and thousands of dollars in development fees and risk investing all of that in a campaign that may be a hit-or-miss with your target markets.
When a program like this is done correctly and in full swing it will position you far better than any of your competitors who may not be applying this natural law in marketing. So, when the question is asked “have we surveyed our prospects?” don’t succumb to the temptation or pressure to assume you already know what they need or want. Remember the marketing purpose. It’s there to create want and reach for a product or service that may be exchanged for valuable money. It works when it’s clever, yes but it succeeds when that cleverness is attuned to what your audience is willing to hear. It’s not what you think of your product or service but rather what the prospects think. That’s the data that will make your campaign more rewarding and your entire team on track.
Tim Votapka is the director of marketing services at Prosperity Plus. He may be reached at 631.382.7762 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org