Marketing is such an overused term – how can you be sure you’re getting it right for your business?
Afew years ago we had the privilege of interviewing the American marketing great Jay Conrad Levinson.
If you don’t know Levinson by name, you’ll know him by campaign – he worked for Hugh Hefner and is the marketing man behind the Marlborough Man. At the University of California, he’s lectured the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and he authored more than 30 books – among them, his bestseller Guerrilla Marketing – and sold more than 14 million copies internationally.
Levinson said the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to marketing is not starting with a plan.
“It’s like starting a road trip without a road map.”
According to Levinson, a good – no, great – marketing plan should only take you seven sentences to complete.
First, ask yourself what you want people to do the very minute they’re exposed to your marketing efforts.
“Do you want them to click to a website? Call a phone number? Clip a coupon? Look for your product next time they’re in store?”
Second, identify your competitive advantage.
“You have many benefits, but so do your competitors. You have some benefits they don’t offer – these are your competitive advantages. Take the most important of your competitive advantages and feature it in your marketing.”
Third, determine your target market. “Then you can be as precise as possible devising the marketing plan.”
Fourth, identify the marketing weapons you’ll use.
“Guerrilla Marketing identifies 200 marketing weapons, more than half of them are free,” said Levinson. “Make a list – a long list – of the marketing weapons you’ll use.”
Fifth, write what you stand for – that is, your positioning.
“They hear the name Volvo, they think safety; Mercedes, they think luxury; Porsche, they think excitement. What do people think when they hear the name of your company? You’re in charge of that.”
Sixth, express your identity, your company’s personality.
“It does not express your image, because an image is a lie – it’s defined in the dictionary as a façade. So you must communicate your personality, your identity, which stems from truth and honesty. You can live up to that much easier than the phoney image.”
Finally, write your marketing budget as a percentage of your projected gross sales.
“In 2009, in Australia, the US, Asia and Europe, the average business invested four per cent of their gross revenue in marketing. So what percentage of revenue are you going to invest in marketing?”
Now you’ve got your plan, it’s time to commit to it.
“The most powerful marketing in the world has been around for decades and decades,” said Levinson. “The worst thing people do is change their marketing and the best thing they do is commit to their marketing.”
Yes, you should review your plan as things change to keep it fresh – say, a new magazine hits the stands or a new channel becomes available – but the idea is to stick as closely as possible to your original plan.
While Levinson was loathe to admit this on record, he did: a mediocre marketing campaign with commitment works much better than a brilliant marketing campaign without commitment.
“And commitment takes a long time. How long does it take you to build a solid marriage? To become a much better tennis player? To lose 30 pounds?” As proof, he looked to his marketing plan for Marlborough cigarettes.
“The number one selling cigarette in the world – for the first year, their sales didn’t budge, not a bit. This was in the early 1960s, but about a year-and-a-half later, sales started picking up. They’ve picked up every month since. Their sales are at an all-time high, but the shocker is nothing has changed in their marketing.
“It took them 18 months because it’s hard for people to switch cigarette brands because they identify with their brand. I tell my clients that if they’re going to have a marketing plan, they should stick with it at least six months before making any determination as to whether or not they should shift their strategy or do something different with it.”
And, if you are going to change your tack, the person to make that call is the person across the financials of your business.
“If your sales are going up and your profits are going up, even though people might be bored with your marketing, you’ve got to stay with it.”