How to regain respect and raise awareness
Recently the Federal Trade Commission instituted a new rule that bears the Orwellian acronym: CALM. CALM stands for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act. Don't you just love it?
The essence of the law is that the practice of blaring commercials louder than the TV shows that precede or follow them must cease by December 2012.
This isn't the only anti-advertising measure our government has instituted. Just consider the Can-Spam act of 2003 that sought to limit email messaging to those who wished solicitations as well as the much lauded "do not call" registry that made dialing for dollars a telemarketer's dead-end.
People also have found ways around advertising's bombardment, embracing tools like TiVo or the DVR to race through the commercials on recorded television shows, and by subscribing to commercial-free satellite radio, and putting themselves on readers to get their news columns and blogs delivered each day the way they want, sans advertisements.
What's a marketer to do? If you say tell the truth and tell it softly, that's just the beginning. It's time to become a valuable resource of information and experiences so that people seek you out deliberately. It's time for a new breed of marketer.
Making yourself desirable is key - and this is what we're calling the New Marketing. Other names for it include: Permission Marketing (thanks to Seth Godin who realized this trend was in the making over 10 years ago); Inbound Marketing; Content Marketing.
Whatever it's called, the concept is that instead of interrupting people with your self-serving promotional message, you invite prospects to become engaged with your brand and its virtues over time. With digital tools like interactive websites, search optimization and prospect segmentation, it's becoming easier to accomplish this sort of customized caring. But here's the irony - you have to let buyers know you first exist - and then you can court them with your fascinating content.
In that way, traditional marketing remains vitally necessary. Yup. The decibel's days are dwindling, but you will forever need to initially gain attention. So be careful - do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sure, you want to entice people to engage with your brand, to get tacit "permission" to send them more fascinating stories and uncommon solutions that they eagerly subscribe to, but people have to find out about you in the first place.
There's a paradox here: you increasingly need your prospects' permission to engage, but they need to know you exist initially. The best way to navigate this paradox is to think of marketing along a continuum - from Awareness, to Interest, to Desire, to Action. That way you can resolve the tension between the seeming evil of broadcasting a message at the start and the profound desirability of courting a prospect over time.
These things happen at different stages.
The average human is inundated with over 2,000 outbound marketing interruptions per day. And here I'm suggesting we make it at least 2,001? Yes, you have to start somewhere.
It can get sophisticated later - where you know the profiles of your prospects, serve them up customized messages that sync nicely with their particular buying bent at the time - but at the very start, you need to advertise, send direct or email, go to a tradeshow, or issue a press release.
Those tactics are the most expensive ones to institute, alas - and they have the lowest traceable return on investments. But they are necessary to get a lot of fish into a wide net at the beginning of a sales campaign or product launch.
Once the fish are in the net, you can sort them out, metaphorically, into guppies and sunnies and sea bass and throw some back out to sea and keep some in the boat (aka: database) tailor-making content that from then on they'll gobble up. But first you'll need to Advertise.
It's really back to the AIDA model - Awareness, Interest, Desire and then Action. This is a marketing acronym that has guided marketers for the last 100 years or so.
Awareness is achieved when you advertise - pitch to a large and targeted crowd.
The emphasis here is on large - as large and often as you can afford. It's been said that people will have to hear your message times before they even realize you're saying something.
In the awareness stage, targeted people (not just any consumer) quickly come to know you exist and have something extraordinary to sell. It's about speed and efficiency now. They'll recall they heard your name!
Then at the interest stage, you use different tactics, ones that are less costly and increasingly more targeted - and respectable. These can include a search-optimized website, with different keyword phrases driving people to exactly which topics interest them the most and with content that's useful and compelling. They can also include: a blog, a white paper, a how to video, an informative newsletter - whether via email or direct.
At the desire stage, your tactics are ones that will take the prospect over the edge. Think: testimonials, trouble-shooting guides, a webinar, a checklist that is crucial to a buying decision and unavailable elsewhere, people talking about you favorably on Facebook.
Social Media is huge at this point - the time when the prospect knows about you, has gotten some information that is persuasive and then hears it from his/her peers.
Finally, there's action. What have you done that has been so illustrative and inclusive that it makes the prospect feel special, singled out and willing to risk a purchase? Perhaps it's a software key that works for 30 days, a free sample with a special message from the CEO that the prospect has come to know personally on LinkedIn in the desire stage, or even an everyday coupon. Something has to trigger that phone call.
"Marketing" makes the phone ring. "Sales" answers it. If marketing does things right, in AIDA order, no one need cold-call again. Prospects are enticed to enquire instead. A synchronized experience across traditional and New Marketing made it happen. The customers didn't endure promotional pounding; they were courted instead. And, finally, marketing gets the respect it deserves.
Macomber is the owner of Fort Collins-based Blue Skies Marketing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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