Saturday, October 29, 2011
25 Marketing Tactics
Marketing is the battle cry in virtually every business sector today. Most information professionals have not studied the science of marketing as part of our
academic or on-the-job training. There are many complex definitions of marketing,
but I prefer a plainer, simpler approach.
Mu&et& from my viewpoint, has three elements. It
(1) explains-how a product
can help another person solve a problem,
(2) gives the person the information
necessary to make a purchase decision, and
(3) satisfies a significant need.
Before outlining 25 proven marketing tactics, many of which you can implement immediately, let me explain the philosophical foundation on which the marketing of
information services under these ideas. These are GEMS in that this acronym stands
for Guidelines for Educational Marketing. The key word is Educational because the
purpose of marketing elusive information services is equipping the buyer or customer to know what he or she is getting.
Nine Marketing Gems
1. Tell the Truth. A great temptation exists to shape facts to make selling easier. In the information
business, the absence of standards and an information-industry Consumer’s Report
has encouraged the creation of cut-rate information products. In 1984 and 1986, I
described this approach to electronic information product development as the
Seventh Avenue Srmregy. As we all know, the knock-off product drives the fashion
business. More and more information professionals are taking this path as well.
A number of information producers sell a product with a hefty journal list. When
one compares the list with what is in the database, reality is different from the
GEM 1. requires that an information marketer present facts objectively about:
- Consistency of the data
- Other ways to get the same data- Editorial or professional standards used to develop the data
- Copyright and ownership of the data
- Data accuracy
- Costs of other ways to get equivalent data
- Human- and machine-dependent performance features affecting the data.
The essence of truthfulness is your ability to compare your information products
and servicesfocmu(y with similar or competitive products. Avoid describing a
product with a metaphor. When I hear a marketing presentation which says, “Our
database is just like Database X,” the marketer does not know whether the customer will think more or less of his product. In short, the marketer loses control of
the prospect’s thoughts.
It is equally dangerous to compare a new or unknown service with the service of a
large, established company. The credibility of the marketer is at stake. How can an
information broker, for example, expect a client to believe that the service
provided by a small firm to be equivalent to that offered by a nationally-known organization.
Marketing experts rarely take liberties with the truth. They don’t have to cut
comers. They value their credibility. In short, GEM 1 means, “Keep your
credibility.” Without it, you will fail in the long run.
2. Build Relationships. Build relationships with your prospects and customers. It is a often-overlooked information-marketing fact that the number of people who buy information products
and services is very small in comparison with the number of people who sell information products. Equally important and ignored by most information marketers is
that selling information--regardless of form--has more in common with selling a
service than selling a tangible product.
A successful marketing program always pivots on individuals who make a purchasing decision. The ‘relationship approach means that you work on a one-on-one
basis and view the purpose of the marketing exercise as an opportunity to build
trust. You can’t advertise personal service. Provide personal service, then it’s not
necessary to talk about it.
Examples of effective customer service include Dialog’s small group training sessions, IAC’S and Mead Data’s direct visits to customers, and Predicast’s 800
Bad customer service includes a clumsy telephone interface to a help desk, a company which has different representatives calling on the same prospect without coordinating visits, or a self-serving newsletters filled with puffers.
3. Set and Meet High Deliver a product or service that meets your personal standards of excellence. Be
Standards. proud of the work you’re doing.
There is a corporate side to meeting standards of excellence as well. The company
must value excellence and institutionalize procedures which help the individuals do
their best job.
But in my experience, individuals govern the quality of the information product,
and they energize organizations to make the excellence a routine part of what the
company does. The corporate culture, therefore, is shared by the individual
employees and the organization. Steve Goldspiel personally and institutionally
makes Disclosure the outstanding product it is. Similarly, Andrea Broadbent and
Julia Denny drive the quality of the McGraw-Hill electronic products. Andy Mills
and Steve Keeble at Technical Publishing of InvesText create m environment in
which excellence can flourish.
4. Many highly-acclaimed expert marketers sell because they have an uncanny ability
which have not been met, or they can create needs and then sell
products which satisfy them. Is this relationship marketing or cievemess? How
many times do you go io a company one time for a product and service and never
go back? Do you want your marketing to pull repeat business or do you want to
resort to tricks to build business?
Information marketers, in my opinion, are on mote solid footing if they try to meet
a need which exists but is not fully satisfied. Inventing needs degenerates into hucksterism.
Meeting a need is little more than solving a problem for someone. Without making
need satisfaction overly complex, keep in mind that the problem can be solved with
a product or service which provides esteem, power, or pleasure.
Examples of information products and services which meet needs squarely are
the newsletter MLS: Madeting Libmty Services, and
the Corporate Intelligence Seminar series offered by Dun & Bradstreet,
Predicative, and Data Courier. Let’s look at each briefly:
- Books in Print Plus provides a CD-ROM version of Bowker’s Book in Print
with important and ‘useful differences. One can locate a title and then
using the capabilities of the product order the book electronically.
Libraries and book stores find the product reduces paperwork and staff
- MLS: Madeting Libmty Services is a newsletter edited by Sharon LaRosa
in Boston. It provides case studies of libraries which have successfully
marketed theit services. According to LaRosa, no other publication addressed libraries’ need for practical marketing information. As a result,
the newsletter has become a success.
The Corporate Intelligence Seminars are offered to end users and
librarians by three competitors--Dun & Bradstreet, Predicasts, and Data
Courier. The seminar has two parts: A content-oriented review of the
products offered by the three business database producers in the morning
and a how-to session offered in the afternoon with the emphasis on searching techniques used to retrieve the information. The seminars meet the
need of online searchers for comparative looks at business databases and
practical how-to search information.
None of these products is a me-too, a hand-me-down idea, or a knock-off of
another’s idea. Each company has identified a need and developed a product to
satisfy that need. Integrity characterizes the effective satisfaction of an information
5. Focus on a Target. Find a niche and fill a need in it. A niche in marketing jargon is group of prospects
with some unifying characteristic and a common problem. Examples of excellent
niche marketing are the E. 8. Stevens Co.3 magazine subscription services for
library acquisition departments. As most of you know, EBSCO reduces paperwork
and centralizes the subscription process. To cite another example: Dow Jones
News/Retrieval provides business people with access to stock data, gaining on
CompuServe and staying well in front of Delphi, The Source, GENIE, and other
similar services. Dow Jones is positioned to dominate this niche because they have
skiilfuIIy packaged a number of business services of interest to marketing, administrative, and management people. They have captured significant market share
in this niche.
In my experience, the more precisely you can define the niche and the need for
your product, the greater your chance of success. Laser Disclosure provides Iinanciai services firms with a complete Securities & Exchange Commission library, continuously updated on CD-ROM. The market is well-defined and has continuous
need for timely access to various SEC documents. Contrast this with the CD-ROM
versions of ERIC. None has made significant market headway because the library
market does not need ERIC in its present CD-ROM formats.
I learned the hard way that it is easier to find an empty niche and create a product
which meets a specific need than it is to try and create a product which is ail things
to ail people. If you know your market niche:
- You can target your promotional activities to a specifically defined group
- Marketing dollars can be used to repeat a message to a small group instead of spending larger amounts to reach more people one time.
6. Seek Friends.
- You can focus your message.
Position your product to win friends, not make enemies. In the information business, it is rare that a single source can answer a complex question adequately.
Information professionals recognize the complementary nature of information
products. Established information companies also realize the supporting roles
products play. It is rarely a wise idea to attack a competitor in his market niche
head on. The established competitor can cut prices or offer a package of services
the newcomer cannot match.
A wise course of action is to establish a complementary relationship among information marketers, their products and services. Then, when it is necessary to compete, everyone helps the customer to make an informed judgment about which
product’s features and benefits are right for meeting his needs. Positioning, thcrefore, means:
- Complement existing products and services
- Fill a specific, empty niche with a product or service which meets a real
- Minimize the head-to-head competition and emphasize the mutually supportive nature of products and services.
You sell more when your competitors are avoiding you than when they are actively
selling against you.
7. Remain Steady. Be consistent. I am interested in what marketers call repositioning. This concept
means that the marketing of the product is reshaped in order to attract more sales.
Consider for a moment the directory and database of software marketed as MENU.
Originally the database was to drive software sales. The product was made part of
a large European publisher and then marketed as a database of software with emphasis placed upon the operating versions of each software package. Now MENU is a speciahid directories, more a magazine than a database. With each modification in the way the product is explained to the customers, repositioning is occurred.
In my experience, consistency in product positioning is critical. Repositioning can
be successful only if handled with care. The more frequently a product is repositioned, the message communicated is that the people making the product don’t
have their act together. The different messages sent to the market are confusing.
Contrast MENU’S marketing with the approach taken by Information Sources Inc.
of Berkeley, California. The original product was a business software print directory. The product went online in the mid-80s and has undergone thoughtful evoiution. It now offers customized print listings and will include reviews of business
software products in mid-1989. The marketing of the product and its positioning
have been consistent. Since the product’s inception, its credibility and revenues
have risen steadily.
Chart a course and stick with it. Gradual evolution is preferable to product revolution. Repositioning often foreshadows failure.
Stand behind the product. Most of us have had problems with automobile warranties or know of someone who has. The story is the same. A car develops a problem
and the dealer can’t or won’t Rx the car. Tempers flare and the once-proud owner
says, “I’ll never buy an XYZ again.”
In the information industry, according to Carios Cuadra, publisher of the
CuadraEisevier Dimtoty of Online Databases, the speed of new database development has slowed and the rate of database failure has risen. Fewer and fewer companies are willing to make a long-term commitment to this type of information
The fact of the matter is that it takes time for an information product to take hold
in the marketplace. Only a very few products can be an instant success like InvesText, which contains the full text of reports from investment firms, or Business
Dateline, selected articles from America’s and Canada’s regional business publications. Most information products require a lengthy incubation time. H.W. Wilson,
West Publishing, the New York Times Co., McGraw-Hill, and others have been
working for years to build their information credibility and product portfolios.
These companies offer an implicit money-back guarantee. They want customers to
be pleased with the information they offer and stand behind what they do. They are
in business for the long-haul and do not chase the quick buck. Mead Data, for example, has been committed to full-text business information for more than a
decade, and that commitment says something about the company’s persistence.
If you introduce a product and quit, I have found that it becomes more difficult to
get support for the next product. It is almost better to create a product, work at it,
and fail than to pull the plug. In our world, precipitous actions make people nervous, uncertain, and uncomfortable because you could pull the plug on them.
Be prepared to stand behind your product by providing fast, quality service. At all
costs, make the customer feel good about the product, company, and you.
The formula for success is E-F-A-B. Marketers trained at business schools in the
U.S. and England learn to sell by following the formula F-A-B or Features-AdVantages-Benefits. First the marketer explains the features of the product; that is,
what it does. Next he spells out the technical advantages of the particular product,
typically by showing competing products as lacking these advantagges. Last he tell the customer how the product or service benefits him; for example, saves time or
money, appeals to fear, or improves the life of the prospect.
The problem with this formula is that it works only with products which the customer understands. It assumes a solid foundation of knowledge, experience, and
needs. If I go to buy a big-screen TV, the salesman tells me what the TV’s features
are; for example, remote control, stereo sound, and black-matrix picture tube. He
then gives me the advantages of these features, contrasting them with another
model more or less expensive than the one I’m looking at. Good marketers watch
for non-verbal clues about the price I’m willing to pay or ask, “How much do you
want to spend?” Finally, he gives me the benefits. Last week, the benefits I was offered included no payments until January 1990, free delivery, more enjoyment for
my family, and better audio.
What happens, though, when the product and the service are not well known or understood by the prospect? In my experience, information products and services are
hard to understand and difficult to explain. Even well-informed information professionals are unable to keep at their fingertips the nuances of well-known, established information products. They are not able to have a wide and deep experience
base for new electronic media, new or improved databases, and new print information products.
The more advanced the technology, the more complex the marketing job. Further
complicating marketing is the Marshall McLuhan’s observation that the “medium
is the message.” The print version of Dun’s Million Dollar Direcfoy is a different
product from the online version in File 517.
To market an inform,ltion product requires an additional and crucial step preceding F-A-D. The first step is E, education. The information marketer must explain:
- What the information is (a factual description)
- What the information can do (applications-based examples)
- What the technology is (factual description and comparison and contrast
with the information technology familiar to the prospect)
- How the information and technology interact (allay fears and concerns
about complexity, obsolescence, ease-of-use, and maintenance).
Once this foundation is put in place, then F-A-B approach makes sense.
It is one of my recurring nightmares that I market a new information product and
do not follow E-F-A-B. The result is that I go to conference after conference and
have to explain again and again what the product is and how it works. It is a
modern version of the myth of Sisyphus. You push the rock to the top of the hill by
explaining the product only to have it roll back down when the prospect says, “I
don’t know what you’re selling.” Short cuts lead to confusion.
Remember: the prospect always gets educated. It is better for you to do that job because then you have some influence over the foundation on which a purchase
decision is made. If you let someone else do the teaching, you will have a more difficult time making the sale because you won’t have any first-hand knowledge of
what the prospect knows.
Here’s the list of 25 marketing tactics. Pick and choose the tactics you need to help
you market your products.
To use this list, select the tactics and then implement them using the nine GEMS
outlined above. There is no one way to market. You must innovate and modify.
- Develop a strategic information plan. Know where you are going, what
your budget is, and how you will measure success. A successful marketing
program is not a random walk; it is a purposeful journey.
- Create a newsletter for your customers. There are too many newsletters
today. Keep yours short, easy-to-read, and on schedule. This establishes
routine communication to your prospects and customers.
1. Develop a presentation using slides or flip charts that follow the E-F-A-B format.
This is the basic selling tool.
2. Write articles for professional publications, reprint them, and use them as a
direct mail pieces. This is a third-party endorsement of you.
3. Offer one-on-one training about your product to senior managers or influence
leaders. This provides education and builds relationships.
4 Hold small-group training for departments. This establishes a dialogue with
5 Invite other information professionals to give presentations on complementary
products. This establishes your credibility and demonstrates confidence.
6 Assemble a portfolio of case studies describing the benefits of your product. This
is third-party endorsement and applications selling.
7 Prepare a letter-sized brochure summarizing your product. Keep it simple and
on one page. The more like a technical specification the more credibility the
brochure has. Expensive printing and elaborate design can communicates a lack of
judgment in how to spend money.
8 Publish a compilation of information on a hot topic. This shows how your
product looks and makes it tangible.
9 Publish an annual information report. This documents your track record.
10 Communicate consistently in a variety of media; for example, bulletin boards,
news releases, and memoranda. This provides a routine information flow about
11 Obtain new signage or a new logo. This calls attention to a new or improved
product. It signals a more aggressive marketing posture.
12 Make sales calls on prospects and ask them what they need. This builds your information base, detines niches, and suggests new products
13 Publish a list of new materials available. This is news and communicates positive
14 Offer to assist selected departments with specific projects. This builds a track
record within a niche.
15 Use the inter-office mail to inform individuals of developments important to
them. This maintains communication and reinforces relationships.
16 Hold an annual open house. This creates traffic and provides an opportunity to
17 Establish a telephone hotline. This is the evidence that you are there to help
18 Build bridges to the corporate computer center. This gives credence to the complementary nature of your products.
19 Acquire text-retrieval and database software and offer to assist groups wanting
to build databases. This positions you as an expert.
20 Keep track of library usage, queries, and revenue. This builds evidence which
can be used to demonstrate value.
21 Attend trade shows and circulate trip reports. This shows your ability to bring
valuable information to prospects.
22 Get as much knowledge about systems, technology, and competitive products as
you can. This enables you to be spontaneously helpful.
23 Start an online timesharing service using bulletin board software (BBS) like
Galacticom available on your city’s BBS. You can provide a wide range of information and services to create awareness.
24 Organize an annual information services conference in your city. Involve such
outside speakers as local software developers, computer dealers, and university
professors. Publicize the seminar using other tips in this list.
25 Work with your local Chamber of Commerce to start an information special interest group. Meetings can be held every month or two and feature outside
speakers who address various information topics. Publicize the programs using the
Chamber’s mailing list and newsletter.