What Children’s Dolls Can Teach Us About Marketing

Imagine overhearing a conversation between a little girl named Sarah and someone else you cannot quite identify. Sarah is addressing this other person, telling them to get dressed for the day and eat their breakfast quickly — they don’t want to be late for school.

It sounds as though this other person doesn’t really want to get out of bed. Sarah turns to a more coaxing tone of voice, and you hear her tell this other person that she understands not wanting to confront a mean classmate, but that going and doing it anyway will make her feel better and put an end to the bad treatment.

Finally, you catch a name. Sarah is speaking with someone named Samantha. Wait a minute. Isn’t Samantha Sarah’s doll?

Children and dolls

Have you ever met a little girl who loved her dolls? Most of us have. These small children can come up with elaborate stories about these inanimate figurines. They’ll tell you the doll’s name, her background, what she likes to do, and who her friends are. Most importantly, they’ll tell you how the doll is likely to react in different situations, and they know how to ‘motivate’ their make-believe friend.

As adults, many of us watch children playing with their dolls with a detached amusement, occasionally jumping into the game. The next time you watch a child with their dolls, however, you should stop to think about how much this active imagination is actually teaching you. If you listen closely, you can learn a bit about how to use buyer personas to grow your business.

The common persona mistake

Buyer personas are frequently cited by companies as the best way to market. It makes sense. You need to understand your customers if you want to successfully encourage them to buy. Countless companies will comb through their customer data and develop categories of buyers. They note the approximate age ranges, the budgets, the company size, and what they bought. Then, they distribute folders describing each ‘persona’ to others in the company, expecting to see an enormous jump in sales.

Unfortunately, they’re missing one key detail — bringing their personas to life.

Buyer personas vs. dolls

To maximize the potential for buyer personas, you need to treat them like small children treat their dolls. They have to completely come to life. Start by giving your personas a name and a photo. Understand their back story as though they were a close friend. Most importantly, figure out their motivations and how to encourage them to buy. It’s only when you understand these key points that you can direct your marketing efforts to better address these ideal customers.

How to understand the motivations of customers

To understand why your customers behave the way they do, you need to step back from gathering data and start asking ‘why’ and ‘what.’

  • Why did you pick our company over another?
  • What drove you to buy today?
  • What was your most pressing concern when you were debating between different companies?

Ask your customers about their back stories, so you can understand the stories of future customers.

We’ve all met, or even been, little children who loved their dolls so much they brought them to life. Rather than dismissing the phenomenon as child’s play, think about what these games can teach us about marketing. These children are showing us the path to successfully using buyer personas. We just need to recognize it. If you’re looking to improve your marketing campaigns, speak with us today. We’d be happy to help you get started on the path to success.

Advertisements

Online Reviews: How to Learn from the Good and the Bad

Constructive criticism is one of the most powerful tools available to businesses of all types today. After all, who better to tell you how you’re really doing than the people you’re supposed to be pleasing in the first place? Thanks to the Internet and the scores of online review sites that have cropped up over the years, you don’t have to look very far anymore for someone’s honest opinion of a product or service, especially now that everyone has an equal voice in the proceedings.

However, the key word in the phase “constructive criticism” is “constructive.” Online review sites tend to be a collection of overwhelmingly negative reactions, regardless of whether or not they have any basis in fact. As a result, many people tend to immediately discredit them or wash their hands of online reviews altogether. In reality, there’s a huge amount you can learn from both the good and the bad online reviews — provided you know how to wade through the noise and find it.

Overwhelmingly Positive Reviews: Not as Overwhelmingly Helpful As You Might Think

Overwhelmingly positive reviews can be a great boost to your confidence as a business professional. They can be a great indicator that you’re on the right track and that you’re meeting the expectations you set for yourself when you started a business in the first place.

Unfortunately, these overwhelmingly positive reviews that give your business 11 out of 10 stars aren’t telling you anything you can actually use to make your organization better. Make no mistake: you are never as perfect as you think you are. Every business, regardless of industry, always has room for improvement. While a dramatically positive review may be a nice pat on the back, it isn’t something you should necessarily spend too much time thinking about.

Negative Reviews: Finding the Needle in the Haystack

When people are angry, their emotions tend to take over. This is evidenced in just about every one-star review you’ve ever read for a product or service online. They’re usually lengthy diatribes about how “everything was awful” and tend to even mention things that a business can’t necessarily control, like the way the post office handled a delivery.

It can be easy to quickly dismiss these types of reviews, but you really shouldn’t for a simple reason. At the core of the one-star review is still a dissatisfied customer you can learn from to make your business better in the future. Try to go through a negative review and delete all sentences that are pure emotion. A sentence that says “this is the worst company ever” has nothing valuable to tell you. Once emotion is gone, you’ll be left with a much clearer indication of what really happened.

The Math Equation of Constructive Online Criticism

If you want to quickly get to the heart of all reviews and paint the clearest possible image of how you’re doing, you need to approach online criticism like something of a math equation.

Consider three reviews: one overwhelmingly positive, one neutral, and one negative. Compare all three, and look for the common elements. Does the overwhelmingly positive review have something in common with the neutral review, like a positive employee encounter? If it does, you can rest assured the referenced employee is truly doing a great job.

Likewise, does the negative review share something in common with the neutral review? Would the neutral review have been more positive were it not for X, which is also present in that one-star comment by a disgruntled customer? If so, then you’re looking at a genuine point of contention that should be fixed as soon as possible.

Online reviews are inherently valuable thanks to the equal voice they give everyone, from the people who love your business to the people who don’t and everyone in between. People have an instinct to wash their hands of online reviews due to their anonymous nature and the grand emotions that are on display, but this is a mistake. So long as you know exactly what you’re looking for and how to find the grain of truth hidden in that emotion, you come away with valuable, actionable information you can use to make your company better moving forward.

Confusing Directions and Confusing Advertisements

Driving somewhere new always comes with a certain level of stress. Even with GPS, there are worries about getting lost, ending up in the wrong location, or otherwise having a bad experience. When someone gives you directions, whether you enter them into your GPS or they get scribbled down on a notepad, you expect them to be clear and direct and help you get where you need to go.

Imagine there’s a new restaurant you’ve been meaning to try, so you call and get directions over the phone. You jot them down, as the GPS has not been working well. You know the general part of town where the restaurant can be found, but you haven’t actually been there, so you feel a little nervous looking the directions over.

You get in your car and start driving. Surprisingly, the directions seem to be taking you in the opposite direction of where you need to go. You decide to continue follow them a bit. The directions have you circle back around and eventually start heading in the right direction, but you have now wasted 20 minutes. After a few more odd turns, however, you find yourself in a part of town you don’t recognize, and you become increasingly frustrated. Eventually, starving and annoyed, you give up and head home, stopping at your favorite place to eat right by your house.

By giving unclear directions, that restaurant just lost your business.

What we as marketers can learn from this experience

Your customers want — and need — clear instructions from you about what to do. When you create marketing campaigns and landing pages, you want to make sure they’re simple and easy to use. If you have pages that are busy or confusing, or if your pages have multiple calls to action, you’re going to lose customers.

This desire for simplicity is known as the Law of Pragnanz. People appreciate layouts and designs that require the fewest cognitive processes. We all naturally interpret things according to the simplest explanation.

Using this desire for clear directions in marketing

Creating advertisements that lack a clear path of what the visitor is expected to do can be as frustrating as the directions you received to get to the restaurant. You didn’t know where to turn and — in the end — just gave up. Chances are, if you were still looking for a product or service, you would’ve just gone to a competitor (like the favorite restaurant in our story).

All of your marketing materials should be designed to provide clear guidelines and instructions for your customers. Don’t be coy about what you’re actually hoping customers will do. Be upfront about the purpose of your advertisements and what customers will get from you. This will help improve your conversion rates and the success of your marketing campaigns.

Too many companies find themselves trying to make advertisements with multiple calls to action or with formats that are so confusing no one knows where they should click first. Keep it simple and work to create landing pages and advertisements that are clear and straightforward to follow. You’ll keep your customers happy and improve your conversion rates.

Using Instagram to Market Your Business

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms right now. As such, it’s the perfect showcase for your business. With so many people using Instagram, you need to stand out to make an impact with your audience and gain new, devoted followers. This means thinking outside the box. Here are four extraordinary ways to use Instagram to boost your company’s success.

1. Show New and Innovative Uses for Your Products
Most of your customers and followers already know what your products can do, or at least what they were initially made to do. However, you can increase user engagement tremendously by showcasing lesser-known things your products can do. Come up with some novel and innovative uses for your products, then post photos of your products being used in those new and interesting ways. Take it a step further by inviting your followers to come up with their own new and interesting uses for your products. Have them send you photos for possible inclusion on your Instagram page. Make it a contest, and award a prize for the most unique and/or useful suggestion submitted via photo. You’ll get a lot more participants and new followers, which is exactly what you’re after.

2. Show Your Production Process
Give your followers a behind-the-scenes tour of your production space, office, store, and other places where the magic of creating your product happens. Show them what a day in the life of one of your employees looks like. Don’t limit your images to just production. Show employee-only areas like cubicles, on-site gyms and daycare facilities, lunch areas, meeting spaces, common areas, and more. Include images of employees interacting with each other in both a businesslike and playful manner. Showcase each individual employee with a mini-bio (your employees will love this recognition). Give your followers an idea of what goes on at your company, and strengthen their loyalty to you by making your relationship with them more intimate and personal.

3. Include Celebrities
Our culture loves celebrities. If you can get an image of a celebrity sighting in your area, put it on your Instagram page. Whether it has anything to do with your product or not, it’s sure to get a lot of views. People who come by to view the celebrity image will probably take the time to look at the rest of your Instagram page, leading to more followers and fans for your product.

4. Use the Power of Animals
Just like celebrities can’t help but bring views to your Instagram page, animals have a similar power. Share images of cute animals you find that you like. Post photos of your employees’ pets (bonus points if the pets are at your office). If you can get an image of someone’s pet using your product in some way (even playing with it), your followers will love it, and it will attract new views. As with celebrity images, these new views may very well turn into new followers.

These are just a few ways you can creatively use Instagram to your advantage. Make sure your business has an Instagram presence, then make the most of it. Use these suggestions, and watch your views and follower numbers soar.

New Lessons from Seventh Grade Physics

The seventh grade physics class sat in their classroom eagerly listening to their teacher explain their next project. The class would be divided into 5 groups of 5 students. Each group would have three class sessions to design and test a small rolling car. They would all be given a variety of materials to use to design this car. After spending three days on design, there would be a competition to see whose car would roll the farthest. The winner would be automatically granted an A on a quiz that would be administered on the Friday after the competition.

A chance to get an automatic A on a quiz? That was quite the incentive. The class eagerly organized themselves into their groups and began discussing possible car designs. They called upon all the teacher had already taught them about physics and began running formulas to find the perfect intersection of weight and size.

Meanwhile, the teacher looked around the classroom contently. Getting the class fully engaged and interested was always a challenge. This competition had brought everyone to life, however, and the entire class seemed to be actively using the material taught to help their teams. This was definitely an outstanding way to engage the class.

What can we learn from this class?

Like the students in this class, most of us enjoy a little friendly competition. When we desire the reward, we become much more interested in the subject matter at hand. The same principles apply to marketing and branding. Customers love competition, and it can be an excellent way to keep people engaged with your brand.

Competitions can be used in a variety of circumstances.

  • Before a product launch, to bring customers through the pre-launch activities
  • To build excitement for something new the company will be trying
  • To build engagement with existing products and services

Say you’re about to open a new store location. You could send out a series of direct mail flyers telling people about the store. You could then invite people to save each of the flyers for an opportunity to earn a free prize at the new store when they bring in all the flyers on opening day. This will encourage people to keep an eye out for your flyers and come to your opening day.

Competitions are also effective online. Consider holding competitions on your social media pages. Encourage people to submit stories of their experiences with your products and services for a chance to be entered in a drawing to win a prize or discount.

People enjoy competition as a way to win prizes, and companies love them as a means of engaging with potential customers. Just like the teacher of 7th grade physics class used a competition to get students interested in the subject, you can use competition to boost sales. Consider the different types of competitions and prizes that would fit with your brand, and see which ones would work best for your goals. If you’re interested in getting a new marketing campaign off the ground, give us a call at 847-768-2679. We’d be happy to help you get started.

Why Customer Service is One of Your Most Important Marketing Channels

When you think about all the different marketing channels you have at your disposal, they’re really all working toward the same goals, though in different ways. Each one helps to spread the word about your brand — or at least about a specific product or service you provide. Each channel also helps create new ways to interact with your customers in an intimate and meaningful way. Most importantly, they all give you the opportunity to establish yourself as a trusted source of information in your industry and build a reputation as a place people can turn to in their time of need.

Though that description certainly applies to marketing channels like social media, direct mail print, TV and radio commercials, and more, it also describes one very important element of your business that people tend not to think of as marketing: customer service.

The Role of Customer Service in Marketing

When you set out to create a new marketing campaign, one of the first steps always involves sitting down and taking a long, hard look at what your customers need. This is most obvious in television campaigns, where you have just 30 seconds to outline a problem and show how your product or service solves that problem once and for all.

When you really think about the function of customer service in your business, it’s doing the exact same thing. You’re helping people have meaningful, satisfying experiences with your brand, while showing them that the products you’re selling are backed by trustworthy individuals with a strong sense of integrity.

In many ways, your behavior is the marketing tool in this scenario. If you can turn a bad experience with your product into a good one through sheer customer service force of will, you’re building the same type of relationship with your customer that a successful ad or direct mail campaign might. The benefit you get is the ability to control the conversation as it’s being played out.

In that respect, your customer service department is almost like a fully interactive television ad. If customers have a positive experience, they’ll tell people about it. If they have a negative experience, rest assured, they’ll tell people about that, too.

Customer Service Considerations

The point of this relationship isn’t that you should start treating your customer service department as just another in a long line of marketing opportunities that can be exploited. In fact, the opposite is true. Doing so will almost certainly come off to the customer as artificial and can do far more harm to your reputation than good. Overloading your potential and existing customers with overt marketing messages can also make your brand come off as “pushy” when people are just looking for answers to important questions.

Honesty and integrity are the name of the game, especially in terms of customer service. By using your customer service capabilities to truly put your best foot forward and create meaningful interactions with customers, you’re accomplishing many of the same goals you aim for with your other marketing channels. When people have a positive experience with representatives of your customer service team, they’re far more likely to tell their friends and family members. You’re also creating loyal followers that will generate repeat sales, which is another task that the best marketing campaigns are capable of accomplishing.

Transparency and Authenticity: Two Keys to Marketing Success

Trust is essential to success in today’s business world. It’s not enough to offer a terrific product or service. You need to back that offering with the type of high-quality brand experience people won’t find anywhere else. Doing so doesn’t just create customers — it creates advocates. It creates a legion of followers who are willing to champion your brand to their friends and family members, extending your reach farther than you ever could on your own. In order to achieve this, however, you need to focus on two key qualities: transparency and authenticity, especially in your marketing message.

What is Transparency in Marketing?

At its core, transparency means being truthful about your business at all times. Far too many business leaders believe that acknowledging problems or mistakes is akin to showing signs of weakness. As they see it, letting people know your business may be going through a rough patch is proof that blood is in the water and the sharks will soon begin to circle.

In reality, transparency is one of the best ways to establish yourself as a trusted brand. If you make a mistake, don’t attempt to sweep it under the rug. Instead, lean into it, take the heat, and use the experience to better your organization. From that regard, transparency isn’t a weakness at all. It’s a way to show your organization is run by human beings who sometimes make mistakes but who always care about their customers above all else.

Consider the recent surge in data breaches that have affected some of the biggest companies on the planet. There are commonly two types of reactions to these events. Some companies try to pretend like a data breach didn’t happen for as long as possible. This never ends well and only damages their reputation. Others step up, take full responsibility, and go to great lengths to do right by their customers. These are the companies that survive the PR disaster that a data breach represents.

Authenticity is Key

Gabe Newell is the co-founder and managing director of the Valve Corporation, a highly successful video game development and distribution platform. When asked about the early days of Valve and the major success it had with digital distribution when so many other platforms were faltering, Newell said the key was simple. “One of the things we learned pretty early on is don’t ever, ever try to lie to the Internet,” he said. “They will catch you. They will de-construct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity.”

Newell understood what so many others failed to: authenticity is no longer a recommendation for business professionals. It’s a requirement.

Building a following for your business is always a challenge, especially as new competitors crop up with each passing day. Transparency and authenticity are two of the most important resources you have that will move you toward that goal.