What are the most important factors to consider when you’re communicating ideas to people? How do you get your message across successfully?
From my days as a journalist writing for newspapers and magazines through to my current work presenting digital marketing messages or lecturing to students, a few common themes have emerged in terms of what works consistently.
Actually, I exaggerate – there is really just one fundamental rule in successful communication: make your concept relevant to your target audience.
This is expressed as a couple of acronyms:
• WIFFM – what’s in it for me?
• WSIC – why should I care?
If you can understand what matters to your audience and work out how to relate your message to their concerns, you’ll get your point across.
This principle isn’t limited to written, visual or verbal communication messages: it extends to the communication of ideas, and can include the dissemination of those ideas through a variety of media.
Take music, for example. My favourite band of all time is the Doors, led by the late great Jim Morrison. The Doors tapped into the Zeitgeist of the 1960s with music that protested against traditional mores.
Their sometimes dark messages about love, fitting in and pushing back against parental barriers struck a chord with young Baby Boomers who were just starting to flex their muscles and question the structures of the world that they were inheriting.
Despite working with new technology every day (or maybe because of it!), I like to collect old wares, and my idea of a good weekend includes some time spent trawling through antique and vintage shops.
A recent acquisition was a set of books on ‘modern business’ produced by the Alexander Hamilton Institute back in the 1950s. I was, of course, drawn to the volume on marketing. On leafing through it, I was surprised by how relevant much of the information still was, after nearly 60 years and several seismic shifts in marketing and selling.
Here are a few snippets from the book (with my annotations):
“Marketing concerns itself with all those business activities which begin in the producer’s shipping room and continue until the goods finally come to rest in the hands of the ultimate user.” (This is a timeless reminder as many people equate marketing with just the advertising and promotional aspects of the process. This broad spectrum definition is today even broader as digital and social media marketing extend the process past the delivery of goods and into an ongoing lifetime relationship with customers.)
“The satisfying of human wants depends to no small degree upon the personal and subjective wants and desires of individual consumers.” (This is increasingly relevant as we have moved from the age of mass marketing, which was gearing up when that book was written, to today’s trend toward mass customisation.)
“The basic law of marketing is the ‘law of convention and revolt’. A new mode of life may be created or established, but it will last only until a new style is introduced, often by quick substitution.” (When that was written they were talking about seasonal changes in fashion; now a style can go in and out with days. It’s not strictly a business marketing example, but how long did the planking craze take over public consciousness – was it a couple of weeks, or even less?)
Our politicians have shown they could learn a thing or two from small business when it comes to marketing their wares.
You can be the best at something, but if people don’t know about it, that fact won’t get you anywhere.
The federal election brought home for me the importance of positioning and promotion when you’re marketing your business. The shambolic campaign and aftermath showed that you can be running the only western economy to emerge unscathed from the global financial crisis, which should be enough to get you elected a saint, but if you can’t sell your accomplishments – and you let your competitors dictate the agenda – you will be severely spanked.
Policy waffling, backstabbing and leaks didn’t help, but history tells us that Australians give a neophyte government a second chance, even if it’s made mistakes. For the government to have so many runs on the board, the election should have been a walkover. To my mind, Labor’s biggest problems were a lack of firm positioning and an inability to sell itself to its customer base – uh, I mean the electorate.
These principles also apply to running a small business. It’s not enough to be the best-in-class for service, delivery, reliability, range or innovation; if your customers and potential customers don’t know it, you won’t survive.
The first step in this process is positioning. You need to work out what you’re best at; what your salient attribute or point of difference is, and why it’s meaningful to your customers. It’s only worth focusing on a defining attribute if:
It’s important and valued by your target market;
It’s distinctive and can’t be easily copied;
It’s superior – you do a better job of it than your competition;
It’s communicable – you can make it obvious to consumers.
That last point leads into the importance of promotion.
You need to be able to use both modern and traditional communication tools to let your customer base know exactly what your points of difference are, and this starts with making it easy for your customers to find you on the internet.
Technology can help you accomplish a wide range of business tasks without needing to engage other people to get them done. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the way you should use it.
In a past life, I worked for the 2000 Sydney Olympics writing speeches for the CEO of the Paralympic Games. Most of the speeches I wrote back then revolved around the same theme: interdependence.
The CEO would often explain to audiences that when you’re a child, you’re dependent upon your parents for all your needs. As you grow up, you learn to take control of your own life and become independent.
Most people believe independence is the end game. However, as the CEO would point out, independence is only a step along the journey of interdependence. Working with other people and developing relationships of mutual co-operation is a higher form of psychological and social development, she would say.
This philosophy was an eye-opener to me at the time. It’s what the idea of community is all about – people working together to enrich their lives and accomplish more than they each could on their own.
Despite this epiphany, when I started my small business several years later, I forgot what she’d taught me. While I engaged contractors to perform some of the work, I focused on doing as much as possible myself – client liaison, project management, invoicing, marketing and sales, even bookkeeping.
Zazoo was asked to put together a workshop article for NETT magazine on how to promote your business online using video. The article has been published in this month’s issue (see a PDF version here).
Here are a couple of excerpts:
“Online video is no longer a nice-to-have addition to your marketing mix: it’s becoming an essential tool for small businesses trying to stand out in a crowded market. Yet, often the biggest challenge for SMEs interested in creating online video is taking that first step. Your dream may be to create something that goes viral, but where do you start? How do you make it interesting enough to get people to watch – and then spread the message? The good news is, creating online video is getting cheaper and easier to do.
“….The biggest challenge for businesses, especially SMEs, is taking the first step. Video can confound people who are only familiar with traditional marketing. Developing an interesting concept is the next challenge. Viewers have been conditioned by years of television watching to expect video to be entertaining as well as informational, so that talking head presentation from your MD is an online video no-no.
“….Each video and each campaign is different, so work out ways you candetermine the success of your video in meeting your goals.How can you tell whether increased sales are due to your video? You do things like link from the video to a particular landing page on your site instead of the home page. Measure hits to this page and add a call-to-action…. As you produce more videos, you can see what type of content gives you the most business impact.”
Keep on the lookout for future articles in NETT and other publications.
OK, we’ve been skirting around this issue since Zazoo was first started, but now it’s time to tackle it head-on: to all of you who have forgotten to type the “.au” when looking for us, yes, we know that we share the same business name as a Belgian condom company (Should we have checked this out before buying the domain name and business name in Australia? Yes. Would that have changed our decision on the business name? Probably not).
Why mention this now? Well, a brand agency in the US has used a Zazoo campaign (the condom, not the digital content agency) as an example of using fear in advertising. You can view the ad below.
The brand agency, Woodbine, says the Zazoo ad “remind(s) us that functional purchases really can be driven by emotion. Revamping a brand so it connects on both an emotional and analytical level with consumers is an important step in revitalizing a faded brand image.”
By the way, I wonder if our Belgian name-sharers would mind if we co-opted their tagline for our business as well? Zazoo - fun, sexy, safe. What do you think?
Kermit the Frog was wrong: It is easy being green! Zazoo’s most recent projects for Toyota Australia, created with HotHouse, have revolved around this month’s launch of the new model Prius hybrid car in Australia.
The “Prius People” vodcast project employs a social media-oriented relationship-building approach, presenting a slice of life with interesting Australians. We got the chance to work with some inspiring and remarkable people including environmentalists Tim Flannery and Tanya Ha, Eye Foundation CEO Belinda Sullivan, Today Show nutritionist Joanna McMillan Price, and technology experts Peter Blasina and Nick Broughall. Three of the videos launched this week and you can see them here.
Also with HotHouse, Zazoo implemented a blogger engagement program for Toyota as part of the Prius launch, organising information sessions for several of Australia’s top bloggers.