Thoughts of Your Competitors’ Customer’s

I observed a particularly interesting phenomenon today and I’m interested in conducting a thought experiment on its applicability to marketing against competition or understanding how a consumer might behave. Bare with me here. Bear with me.

I’m currently enrolled in a class in which, much like every other class on the planet, the instructor gives lessons to the students. However, this class is unique in the sense that most of the students have quickly developed some level of appreciation for the instructor. Some of that appreciation is potentially instilled in us from youth, “respect your teacher!” as we were told. This isn’t particularly the case, because a fair number of us are learning from the course material (ironically) the ramifications of “respect your teacher!” mentality and shifting to a better student-teacher framework. The instructor as an expert in the field, but his expertise doesn’t necessarily correlate with praise nor cause it. More likely an explanation is that the instructor is genuinely interested in each of our own aspirations. Moreover, most of us are paying a fair price to be there and might feel foolish too have spent a large sum of money on something we don’t glorify (the classes are great by the way). Additionally, after a few months, you begin to build some level of liking and trust with the instructor.

There, I just listed five reasons why students might want to stick up for this instructor. So, when a rogue onlooker argues a point made by the instructor, how many students are influenced by some of the above five factors to either argue back at that onlooker or hope for a witty rebuttal from the instructor?

I would say… most of them.

Now let’s apply it to marketing.

If your competition has instilled its branding into their customers, consider this. Replace the instructor with your competitor, the students with your competitors customers. Where do you fit in? That’s right, the rogue onlooker. With all of those barriers potentially built up, you’d better have a hell of a product to win everyone over or try to find the “student’s ditching class” or ones disappointed with their current solutions, because quite frankly, it’s not easy to steal already very satisfied customers. Think Bill Nye or Elon Musk. They’d have to crash or be thoroughly overtaken to be dismantled. Ever wonder how it is MJ was less ridiculed for his behaviors? Or perhaps why Obama’s ratings took so long to decline? They all have fans, and these fans are powerful when the idol (or competitive product) does something really spectacular or useful.

 ♠ Thoughts of Your Competitors’ Customer’s ♣

The U.S. Military Paints Powerful Pictures

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the art of persuasion transcends business. Sometimes we persuade for the greater good, sometimes we persuade for selfish intent, and sometimes we persuade for followers such as church attendee’s, club members, or even military personnel. With the number of advertising messages flying through our eyes and ears, it becomes evident that the world of marketing clutter necessitates remark-ability in our messages. Let’s take a look at how the United States Military Branches stay on top of the game.

One of the first things to note is how people attitudes often immediately shift when a U.S. Military advertisement comes up on any display. Many of us swell up with respect for our loved ones who have served or friends that we currently have serving. Many of us are already in sync with the message before us. Other’s are distinctively opposed. However, these advertisements are not for us, they’re for our youth.

The U.S Marine Corp. is notorious for running spectacular TV advertisements to convince today’s youth to sign up and support our country. The music is powerful and melodic. The volume is often notably louder than most other ads and the music more emotionally driving that most, not to mention, production quality is top notch. The images clearly illustrate a meaningful life filled with adventure, and it’s persuasion is undoubted. These types of messages provide a sense of belonging and adventure to prospective military applicants. It’s important to note here that the desire and need to belong is a well documented aid to any marketing material. Additionally, to a lesser extent, so is the desire for adventure. These are key marketing drivers, learn how to use them.

The U.S. Navy recently ran a new advertisement which caught my attention.  The ad depicts a small family standing in a local city, and a broad collection of U.S. military personnel begin to form a circle of protection around the family. The ad closes with a statement, “To get to you, they have to get through us.” One of the most instinctive motivations of human beings is the desire to protect loved ones from danger. While this message may resonate more strongly with parental figures, in marketing, it’s seen as a naturally occurring aspect of human nature that applies to everyone to some extent. Again, a key marketing driver, learn to use it.

♠ Marketing Messages Used for Military ♣

Mark Twain’s Product Differentiation

Yes, I am talking about the great American figure who authored “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” amongst a pile of other books. This is a self examination on why I chose to buy. This man’s works have me locked in as a “customer” for years to come. I wanted to touch on why specifically I have continually read his books as opposed to miscellaneous alternatives. If you can’t see the marketer’s value in closely examining such a thing, then doom on you (and hopefully you’re not marketing books).

With the internet, you and I have instant access to virtually every book on the planet. Ten’s of thousands of titles would likely be a vast understatement. So why is it that I have recently went with Mark Twain several times sequentially?

Let me just list out some thoughts:

  • I’ve recently felt compelled to read more
  • I enjoy short stories and novels
  • I like historical literature to an extent
  • I have had a recent interest in American history
  • I need to feel like I click with the author

PROBLEM RECOGNITION: It’s safe to say this list contains some of the underlying factors of my information search. Note for marketers, my search opened and closed using only Google and Amazon. Not once did I ask for a peer’s input, or feel persuaded by any external source at that moment in time beyond the search engine results of Google and Amazon. I would find titles that stood out to me, open them in a preview window and see if it matched what I had been searching for. Surely enough, after a few searches, I stumbled unto Mark Twain’s “Roughing It”. It meet all of my criteria and was actually offered free. In fact, I noted that many of his works are now either free to the public on the web or, at the most, very cheap. But, budget was not necessarily an issue here.

PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION: As I began reading, I quickly discovered the defining features setting apart this author. I loved Twain’s imagination, dry sense of humor and particular choice of words. This is something I have yet to find in other authors’. I have since downloaded or purchased three other books by Mark Twain. Every time I go for a book, I go back to his shelf, because he now has an in.

What have you recently bought? Why did you buy it? How tough was the decision over its alternatives?

 ♠ A Self Examination on Why I Chose to Buy 

Viral Souls of Minecraft & GoPro

I would like to offer an observation of mine on a similarity I noted between Minecraft & GoPro. Each opinionated speculation initially stood alone. However, in my mind, their similar “marketing models” bolstered one another in having more than one example to cite. How did GoPro grow so large? I’ve never owned a professional camera, but I do own a GoPro. Did Minecraft really just get bought out by Microsoft for 2 billion? I played Minecraft in beta years ago after receiving a key from a nerdier friend. I was hooked.

Why is this?

I suggest, quite plainly, two points…

  1. The product is superior to the competition – at least in some notable way
  2. The use of the product is – in itself – a promotional tool

There is undoubtedly a vast number of higher quality cameras on the market than a GoPro, and yet, GoPro thrives. It’s simply because GoPro developed a unique camera (or rather frame and mounting devices) that enabled it to be used in ways most cameras couldn’t. You can be reckless with it, carry it easily, mount it easily, and still capture 1080p or 60 fps. This enabled them to takeover a niche action sports filming. Indeed, there was no competitive undercut of price on an extremely similar product, nor was there an attempt at a superior quality, nor some combination of the two. Simply put, they found a niche market that could be served, and served it. From there, the pictures and videos produced by the product itself became the materials to market GoPro with, yet the Youtube community and youth culture likely carry much of their promotions without the need to advertise. Incredible…it markets itself to its customers.

This isn’t too much unlike Minecraft. There are many cheaper games and higher quality games that Minecraft, and yet it was bought out by Microsoft…why? What makes this one a little different from GoPro is the lack of authenticity. There were already “sandbox” games flooding the market when Minecraft was being born. In fact, Notch (founder of Minecraft) even mentions the game he emulated. So what’s superior about his product? It’s incredibly interactive, it’s artsy, it sparks our innate creativity that was once captured by LEGOS, it can be played with others across the globe, its user and kid friendly, thus it held the capacity for widespread adoption. That’s the product side. So how did it promote itself? A game this addicting gets people talking to one another, no doubt, but furthermore, the things people created, they most certainly wanted to show off. Boom. Images and videos of the game posted anywhere and everywhere. The game is built so perfectly for sharing in a video format, it’s no surprise that Youtube was a big platform for sharing…and it couldn’t have been more perfect…that the most ideal customers for the game were already sitting in the promotional web channel we call Youtube. Once again… a product that markets itself to its customers.

So can these ideas be replicated? Most certainly, with the right understanding of the underlying wants/needs of a market or potential market, we can put these principles to work. You need two types of people, or one person that encompasses both of the following traits. A passionate entrepreneur that knows the nitty gritty field, and a passionate marketer that understands humans.

Oh, and a winning idea.

♣ The Souls of Minecraft & GoPro ♠

Thoughts on the Future of Search

I’ve been reading some of Seth Godin’s works lately, deciphering the bits of information and trying to store them, but considering his number of books, this is not practical. Some pieces stand out to me more than others. I recall an excerpt from “Tribes” that stated something to the tune of “things are not as permanent as they seem” in which he cited an unfailing mass belief that Google isn’t about to leave anytime soon.

When Godin mentioned Google it was buried in a laundry list of potential changes, more to capture an idea than anything, so I can’t say with certainty that he really believes Google may be on it’s way out, but it did get me to think of Google’s flaws…

Google serves primarily as an information search. I’ve always preferred Google to other search engines, maybe it was the simplicity of the tool or the better than average results of it’s superior algorithm. But, that’s just it. It relies on an algorithm. It is forced to make changes to keep people from gaming their system. The very nature of it’s functionality dooms it’s efficiency, as a marketer, I have friends that are employed full time trying to either decipher the algorithm or try to offer their SEO services to businesses, a waste of economic productivity to be sure.

HA!

You know what is awful about this? “Google serves primarily as an information search.” This isn’t a broadcast. This is your own active effort to find information, you shouldn’t be passively accepting information, but if you think you’re searching or “googling”, you might be fooled into thinking you found some great information. But the truth is, if our actual independent internet information search is reliant on something monopolistic, bribe-taking, and easily gamed… can we really consider it an information search?

I’m wondering if current Google is really the best way to find information, or, perhaps their is a better way reliant on newer technologies or perhaps more creative models for search.

So who can compete? A tribe. Some group will need to stand up and make something better, a better information search product/service.

So why is this a topic in a marketing blog? I’ll give you two reasons.

1. This is a model for entrepreneurial businesses.

You take the issue many people are having, “search” in this case, and find a way to fix it. That’s the best way to market a product, by it innately being superior. You don’t really have to “compete” against the monopolistic Goliath ( Google in this case) when your better and you can’t be easily copied.

2. Google is where many people are finding our products.

Are you disappointed with where Google ranks you? Are you going to hire a bunch of SEO geeks? Are you going to focus on other channels? Do other channels work for you? Are you hoping for the death of Google?

Thoughts on Google and the Future of Search 

Homo Connectus – We Can Reach Anyone!

What can you do when your ideal client is near impossible to reach? If you’re dealing with high ticket items, you know the cost of one missed opportunity can be devastating.

Let’s first identify what is “impossible to reach”. If you can’t physically get to them, get them on the phone. If you can’t get them on the phone, get them in an email. If they won’t respond to your email, try better email content. If that still won’t work, reach them through LinkedIn or Twitter even. If none of that works, try this!

In some cases you can’t exactly get your ideal leads, but you can get to someone. You can’t get to the head honcho, but maybe you can get to the head honcho’s friends, employees, gatekeepers, or peers. It’s up to you to find the proximal point of entry applicable to your scenario.

  • Become a buddy with the gatekeeper. This is not to be taken lightly. Most salespeople won’t even put in the effort to get the name of the gatekeeper. Get the name, learn about them, care about them and get other points of “talk” too. The second time you call you name can address by name as well as have something else to say. If you really wanted to be prepared, you’d Google them for a bit more information about them and find some common ground. Be a human, don’t treat people like robots, it’s rude.
  • Reach out to the friends of the lead via social media. This doesn’t need to be cynical. If you legitimately feel as though you have something your lead will be interested in, take a shot at this.
  • Interest the peers of the lead with your content. Time and time again we have heard that people care more about there peers opinions than anyone else’s. By this rationale, it makes sense to get those peers talking about you to induce your lead to respond to you.

There’s always going to be some way in, and by taking this type of approach you might catch that qualified lead that keeps on slipping. We live in a world where information on anyone is accessible. There is no doubt you could track down someone by knowing a bit about them and doing some active detective work if the price is right.

♣ We Can Reach Anyone! ♠

Patents, Entrance, and TNT

A small company is working on creating a novel platform for a very niche field of research. These researchers traditionally merge or makeshift a combination of overly-robust platforms and self-developed ad hoc platforms to suit the study at hand the best. Due to the inconsistencies of the tools use, and thus data collected, data sharing is virtually irrelevant and severe inefficiencies and inaccuracies emerge at every point. This has been causing research to suffer and progress to stunt. This new platform seeks to be an open-source standard, and they wish to remain untainted by investor money. More imminently threatening to them is the potential of making a slow-growth entrance into the marketplace, catching the attention of a large corporation and leaving them in the dust.

What can you do in this situation?

  1. Utility patents first, before anything else. Understand how competitors may be able to work around these patents. If you can directly protect the very advantage you have with a patent, you’re done. If that’s not possible, build vaguely around it with other patents, and look at number two.
  2. Carefully control the way in which you enter the market. Larger competitors won’t typically catch on or care until they see your profit or their declining sales. While you want your end-user’s to be infatuated with your platform, you want your competitors to see it as unprofitable. If that’s unavoidable, the other option may be to grow to quickly to be imitated, which is outlined in number three.
  3. To grow quickly, you need to take your TNT resources, and light the fuse. TNT resources for a technical crowd such as this will consist of connective persuaders and chain reactionists. Connective persuaders know people in the industry and have the ability to influence. They will have an extensive background in the industry. Chain reactionists are a type of marketer. They will have an extensive background of triggering wide-spread adoption of a products, services, and ideas.

Patents, Market Entrance, and TNT ♠