Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wanted: A parachute for Marketing Advertising Communication Service Providers

Some time has passed since about 40 Marketing, Advertising and Communication (MAC) Service Providers, representing 20 companies in Curacao got together for a happy hour. It was our first time and how fun it was.

Since I was the one to send the invitations, many people have asked what my expectations were and are. Really, I wanted to meet and chat informally with colleagues I already knew and meet those I did not know. My ultimate goal, however, is to find optimal ways to cooperate so we can offer our services internationally. It is more efficient and effective for us to do so together than alone, as I have been doing in the past 12 years.

I happen to believe that international service is cut out for us. We speak (or at the very least understand) all the languages of the Caribbean region (and the hemisphere): English, Spanish, Dutch, French, Papiamentu (and even Portuguese). Many of us can easily trace our ancestry (and customs) to one ore more of the 40-plus countries our parents or grandparents came and keep coming from. Most of us have studied abroad and adopted parts of the cultures of our host country. So, we also understand the "blends" that the world is increasingly made up off "naturally". Unfortunately, when something is so "natural" to you, you don't realize its value and you don't sell it.

Cooperation also enables us to provide a better product to the client, because every one can then market their true specialty and still get or keep the client (or at least a commission). The perils of selling something one cannot deliver are well-known: you risk losing all of it.

I believe in the efficiency of free markets (so I don't believe in setting prices), and in a Code of Ethics, similar general conditions and business improvement workshops for the sector. These strengthen our businesses and prepare us to meet greater challenges. A bit of publicity is not bad either. That's our business.

In addition, if we do all of the above, chances are local clients will realize our true potential and feel (even) more comfortable recommending us to their principals or brand owners for assignments that encompass the region. Because there is nothing better than word-of-mouth. So, since most readers of this blog are local clients, I may ask: "Will you be some one's parachute into another market?"

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Branding according to MarkStra

The word "branding" is in vogue by marketers and non-marketers alike to denot many things. Often it is to denote a "a not-independent" establishment (i.e. part of a global brand) or some major advertising effort.

But, what is branding really? The following is based among others on Jack Trout, Al Ries and Gerald Zaltman.

A brand is ONE word you own in the mind of the relevant consumer.
The key words are:
· One word (concept, belief, aspect)
· Ownership
· The relevant consumer
If done well that word enables you to differentiate yourself meaningfully from competitors in a way that consumers value and will pay for

That word and its ownership have value to you because they either:

  • Enable you to command a price premium
  • Drive volume
  • Increase the lifetime value of every customer (among others through loyalty)
  • Or a combination of these
  • With an acceptable ROI

The ultimate goal of a branding exercise is to determine:

  • what that word should be
  • how to achieve its ownership (in all aspects and by all means)
  • which consumer segment to weigh heaviest when seeking the above (because one cannot be all things to all people)

By this (true) definition of branding, every business, large or small, in a large market or a small market can embark on a branding excersize to "brand itself". For instance, even the smallest independent shoe store can brand itself as being the one with the most personal service. Let's assume that the customer values that. The store can achieve the ownership of this ONE word or concept for instance by remembering each customer's name, his sizes and preferences like no other shoe store does.

Even when a company is part of a larger group (a multinational, a chain, etc.), a company can still brand itself further for its specific market. For instance, being a Ritz Carlton hotel in Curacao is different from being a Ritz Carlton hotel in Aruba. If for nothing else, in Aruba the guest is more likely to be an American than in Curacao. In the same way, a Ritz Carlton in the city is different from a Ritz Carlton at the beach. Each can and should brand itself further (within company guidelines, of course). Otherwise, there is no difference for the guest if he chooses Ritz Carlton in Curacao or Ritz Carlton in Aruba. And, we know what than can mean for your revenue.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

8 tips to increase marketing effectiveness in small markets

In a previous post I mentioned my small business client Cura-Peska, the fishing equipment specialty store. Most of my work is for larger companies in small markets. And most of it is "advising", not implementing. But, in this case I found myself planning and implementing marketing activities for a small business in a small market. The biggest challenge is scarce resources (time, energy, expertise and money) and the fact that after I am gone, the owner has to be able to do it himself.

Here is what I learnt:
  1. Forget advertisements in mass media. Small businesses do not have the funds to get past the saturation in mass media, or any media for that matter. The question is if big businesses do.
  2. Have a unique product and/or unique promotional event. That's Marketing 101. But, how often do we really consider what this can entail? A unique product and/or a unique promotional event is NEWS. That gains free publicity. Free publicity is more credible than your paid advertisement.
  3. Focus and when you think you are done, focus again. There are events that create/develop brand awareness. But, small businesses do not have the resources to create brand awareness, as some larger brands/companies (still) do. And, how do you measure if you have succeeded? The ULTIMATE goal is always to generate sales or good leads. That should be your focus. If in the process awareness is created, that's nice.
  4. Narrow down your target market and use that knowledge. What is needed to generate sales? People with an objectively verifiable interest. This means that they are already fishing, and not thinking about it (you know how long people can think and do nothing). They also have decision-making authority and money to buy. If people outside of this group catch on, that's nice.
  5. Know the lifestyle (psychographics) of your target market. Where do they go when they are not fishing? What time of day? Who and what do they listen to, read, watch? Which of those influences them most?
  6. Try different activities that fit our target market and goal. Keep rolling out innovative activities. Then you can see which is effective and which is not.
  7. Measure your return-on-investment. This is important for all businesses, but more so for the small business. There is little room to waste resources (time, energy and money). And, for a small business, it is easier to measure your ROI: just ask people which activity led them to you and write it down next the their purchase amount. I am driving my dad, the owner, mad with ROI measurement.
  8. Pay attention to quality. That is, quality of the customer. Please don't get me wrong. 10 people buying 100 dollars each yields the same as 100 people buying 10 dollars each. But, let's be honest, what you really want is more of the type that buys 100 dollars each. What is his profile? What led him to you? What keeps him with you?

5 Tips for back-up plans in a small market

In small markets such as Curacao and the Caribbean, even larger corporations are often small. There is "one of each". That is: one KEY person for each function. When that person is gone, the activities stop or go low profile. What to do?

Last month my most important client was Cura-Peska, a specialty store selling high quality fishing equipment, based in Curacao. It is my dad's post-retirement activity. So, it was a father's day gift and the plug above is well-deserved.
The store has existed since 1992. A few years ago my dad spent time helping my brother build his home and went low profile with the store. This is characteristic for small businesses: when the owner is sick, becomes a parent, divorces, breaks a few fingers, cares for children or parents, etc. the business goes low profile.

In most larger companies in small market, when the key person in a department is sick, becomes a parent, divorces, breaks a few fingers, etc. the department also goes low profile.

The key is to plan for it. I searched the web for tips and found nothing. Here is my own take:
  1. Face the reality. Know that there will be a moment that you (or your key person) cannot be there, planned or unplanned.
  2. Prepare for shut-down. What will you do when that moment arrives? Can you afford to "shut down" activities? Can the activities be reduced? How will customers react to reduced activities? Can or should you tell customers that activities will be reduced? Do you have your priorities for the next day, next week, next quarter listed on paper in a prominent place so that someone can take over, in an emergency, if needed?
  3. Prepare for come-back. What will you do to stage a come-back? What will it take to prepare? How long will it take to yield results?
  4. Reach out and share. Entrepreneurs are often independent spirits and live in relative isolation when it comes to business specifics. Employees of larger corporation live in their isolated "silo's" for whatever reasons. Reach out and share some of the specifics of your job. Interest someone in what you are doing, teach them what you are doing. Remember, if nothing else, you cannot be promoted if there is no one to do the job you want to leave.
  5. If you do not have a back-up in house, look for one outside. It can be someone who has time on his hands, or is flexible with her time. It can be someone who has previous experience in the industry or just with running a business. It can be someone you reach (or already have) an agreement with or just someone you have in mind (and whose whereabouts you follow). Someone to take over completely or just some responsibilities.

Social Media in Tourism

A few weeks ago I attended a meeting of the Curacao Hotel and Tourism Association (CHATA), of which I am a member. There was a lot of discussion about the official Curacao website, www.curacao.com and the plans for improvement. Online marketing & technologies and tourism are not (yet) my areas of expertise, but as I drove away, I realized how little talk there was about social media.

What is social media? Follow this link to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media. (I said I was not an expert)

"Social media describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives, and media itself.[1]
Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. The social media sites typically use tools like message boards, forums, podcasts, bookmarks, communities, wikis, weblogs etc."

We know that customers' attention and belief in "sponsored" advertisements online and offline is decreasing. Word-of-mouth, and social media is the ONLINE equivalent of word-of-mouth, is increasing more influential. I tried to remember when, if ever, word-of-mouth was not the primary reason that I chose a vacation destination.

So, maybe we should start talking about social media, for tourism as well as for other industries?

If you are still in the dark, here is a list of social media listed by Wikipedia.
A few prominent examples of social media applications are
Social networking:
MySpace and Facebook
Presence apps:
Twitter and Jaiku
Video sharing:
YouTube (video sharing)
Virtual Reality:
Second Life
News aggregation:
Digg and Reddit
Photo sharing:
Flickr and Zooomr
Episodic online video: Stickham, YourTrumanShow
Media sharing: Izimi and Pownce
Social bookmarking:
Online gaming: World of Warcraft