April 25, 2017

The Curious Marketer With Vin Session 1 – Understanding Marketing and Marketing Strategy

Vinnie : Hello. Welcome to the Curious Marketer with Vin. I’m Vin Messina, I’m the CEO and Founder of company called Otimo Sales and Marketing and this hangout series is a series of hangouts that’s           devoted  to talking with experts, helping you to understand how you can use marketing to grow your  business.  Today’s session is the first session of a multi-part series that we’re going to do on the       fundamentals of online marketing.  I thought it would be useful to start with a basic understanding of what marketing is and isn’t because in my travels I see a lot of varying defintions or expectations of                what marketing is and then I want to talk about strategy because I think too many people don’t have one or they don’t have a well defined one. So there’s a lot to cover, everything we need to cover in                terms of marketing and strategy, we could have a whole series on strategy and just talk about what        that is;  so for today’s session what I want you to be listening for is to develop a better appreciation for what marketing is and how it fits in your overall business plan and why it’s essential to develop a                strategy but before you determine the marketing tactics you’re going to be using and primarily before         you set up your online marketing plan, this entire series is going to be the fundamentals of online marketing,  you’ve got to have a strategy before you go diving in to building a website.  So the impenitence of this series based on a series of observations I had working with professionals in small businesses or watching professionals of small businesses on Google+ as well as in my real life business and that is that you’re spending time and money on marketing tactics that are poorly created or not suited for your business and the primary cause is because there’s just way to much misinformation out there about what works, almost none of it talks about develping the right strategy first.  So that’s kind of what we’re going to cover. We’re going to try cover as much information as possible today;  broken down into a couple of sections, one of which is marketing, one of them is marketing strategy and then we’re going to talk about the basics of getting started with sort of a foundational perspective on those two concepts.  So with that and for the series I’m going to be interviewing someone who I think demonstrates more comprehensive understanding of online marketing and marketing in general then pretty much anybody I’ve known.  Ammon Johns doesn’t need much of an introduction from me but suffice it to say there are few people that are as well versed and experienced in the world of online marketing and if you know who MOZ is or the company MOZ you’ll know who Rand Fishkin is.  Rand Fishkin would describe Ammon’s skill, if he were asked about Ammon Johns he would say if Yoda was a SEO, Ammon would be his teacher.  So I’m excited to interview Ammon as much to help folks viewing learn as much as myself.  So with that, Ammon say hello.

Ammon : (laughing) Yoda’s teacher, I like that. 

both laughing

Vin : So tell us a little about yourself Ammon, your experience, what brings you into the world of online marketing?

Ammon : It’s one of those circuitous journies. I was doing other things, I’ve always loved strategy I’ve always had a couple of things that are in common in all my jobs, I didn’t realize till quite late in the game.  I always tend to be doing the thing of acting between people and systems to help them understand each other.  Always been involved with that in one form or another.  Whether it’s complex rules of an organization, trying to make that work for you, a transport system, how to make that work for you.  How to make the system do what you want it to do.  Eventually it kind of got into the web stuff and how to make the website work for you.  How to make that more human.  I started off in design, pity the poor clients because that’s really not my greatest skill and it got to be one of those things. Look we’ve heard millions of people are online, where are they? and nobody knew back then, you know this is 95, 96 and we were all kind of figuring it out and that’s exactly what I did, I said look I don’t know but what I’ll try is researching stuff, I’ll try a few things, the things that look promising I will implement and I will charge you for that implementation a little bit towards the research time and one year later nobody was coming to me for design it was all companies coming and saying look, you don’t know me but George said you’ve been doing wonderful things for their company and we want you to do the same for us. Do we have to have a new website?  No, no we can do it and that’s were it all started.

Vin : Ya for Rand Fishkin to sort of suggest what I paraphrased I think speaks to your level of expertise but I can also attest just from having experienced you in many discussions, this series evolved from some of the discussions we’ve had, with a variety of groups of SEO and what effects it and signals and all these kinds of things.  So that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m excited about this. So to sort of kick things off, marketing, right let’s just sort of lay down a foundation of what you think marketing is.  How you would define marketing.  I have some thoughts of my own that we could interweave into the discussion but really I want people to understand what marketing is because I think there’s a lot of misconceptions, primarily that people think it’s related to promotions.  If someone asked you what marketing is, how would you define it?

Ammon : Well let me quickly go on to those misconceptions first, I think one of the biggest is a lot of people go you know what we don’t like the word marketing, it’s become a bad word for a lot of people.  We’ve got this thing, Seth Groden (?) wrote all marketers are liars.  We’ve got this thing, marketers, we’re people who fake stuff, sell snake oil.  You know what I’m going to say something quite contentious here, that marketing is a very very honest discipline.  It’s a lot like comedy, if it isn’t based on truth and observation it doesn’t work at all.  You know marketing that isn’t based on truth falls flat;  we go, I don’t associate with that, I don’t get that.  What we really don’t like about marketers is that unfortunately they hold up a big mirror to ourselves and they show us where we’re liars where we say one thing but for a ten pound discount we do a completely different thing.  Where we say, oh yeah I’m interested in looking after the environment and we want fair wages for all but then again I want that phone that’s really cheap because it’s got kids working in a factory in the far east.  This is the kind of thing, unfortunately, marketers do, they show us our own lies and that’s something sometimes people really dislike. On the whole thing of fake versus natural, we’re showing things in their best light but I’d say that marketing more than anything else is about embracing that all things change.  We understand that the business doesn’t to be what it is, it can change, it can adapt, it can grow to suit it’s environment.  We talk about fake vs. natural well which of us was born with a full education? Are we saying that everyone with an education is fake because they’ve made themselves smarter?  Course not.  What we’ve got to understand is yeah it’s all about adapting, getting to be part of your market, making yourself really fit with them.  So on the big picture of what is marketing;  Marketing is in a nutshell the scientific approach to business.  Where all businesss was trying to work out what you could do and then you frantically went out trying to find somewhere to sell it, someone who would value what you did and marketing takes the numbers and statistics approach in the first place and says well look let’s see what people are actually wanting and then see if we can provide it and you adapt the business and the product and the whole way you service that market to what it’s already asking for so you don’t have to do as much sales.

Vin : Yeah I think it’s critical. I think first of all marketing and sales as a profession doesn’t get the credit that it’s due.  Primarily because of stereotypical representations. let’s say in the movies or in other media formats but I think that the  scientific approach to it is serious conceptually but the simplest way, you touched on a little bit there, is you offer something of value and somebody wants it or they don’t.  So you either have a market or you don’t.  If you don’t, you’ve got to create one. It’s not just this you know I have a personality and I’m going to take someone out for dinner and have a scotch and soda.  It’s really understanding the fundamentals of how people do what they do and what they believe and then sort of matching that with your business objectives, Right, that’s really what good marketers do. Right.

Ammon : Yeah, absolutely.  I think there are different levels of marketing. There are some companies that are completely marketing driven and these are the ones where all the company decisions are driven bywhat will work, what’s the market asking for? what kind of company do we need to be? and then there’s ones that are limited in scope, we’ve got a marketing department, which they take seriously, but it doesn’t really change the business as a whole it just changes the way that things are presented and then you’ve got the ones that do sales and marketing, where it’s really only the promotional activities that they’re doing.  So there are levels of marketing.

Vin : Oh sure there’s all different purposes and outcomes that are required in various stages of businesses and what not; it’s very complicated from that point of view. You said something that’s interesting to me that I think a lot of people forget and that is what does the market expect our company to be, regardless of the type of company, what does the market expect from us and that the factors that go into that are the people buying and the competition and where’s your spot and how are you separating yourself and making people aware?  My simple definition and I have a note here to sort of say this because after a number of years as an accountant and a number of years as a sales professional and sort of teaching myself to think like a marketer that I summarized it all as marketing is basically doing everything you need to do as a business to get found, to get chosen and then to get referred.  It’s a simple definition, I think much simpler than say the American Marketing Association defines it as but really when it boils down to it people have to know who you are, they have to know why you’re relevant, they have to trust you enough to choose you over someone else or just choose you compared to doing nothing and then once they choose you, you have to serve their needs so they talk about you.  Really everything goes into doing those three things. You’re looking for those three outcomes. What do we say, I find that people say I don’t need marketing. I find this a lot by the way in the professional services space because it’s very common for professional service provider to say I get all my business from referrals.  What of course they don’t understand is that referrals are part of a marketing strategy.  When someone says I don’t need marketing I immediately think of the Field of Dreams movie where they say if you build it, they will come.  You know there’s a lot of broken hearts, broken dreams particulary in the software technology space, where these inventors create this really cool stuff and they have no marketing and sales strategy and nobody knows it exists and if they do know it exists it doesn’t match their goals and objectives and needs so they don’t buy it. So these inventors and super smart people run away.  So what do you say to people that say I don’t need marketing?

Ammon : That they don’t understand what marketing is. It’s that simple.  Marketing is the strategic approach to business.  Without it you’re just making it up as you go along.  You may not call it marketing but if you’re putting strategic thought into your business at any level you are already doing some level of marketing.  You may not be doing as much as you could be, particularly if you’re rejecting the concept of marketing because you think marketing is just promotion. In marketing we’ve got what we call the four P’s of marketing and promotion is just one of them. The first one is product. The second one is price and the third one is place. Promotion is the one you use to fill in what has been left by the others. If your product is great and you’re in the right place and your price is unbeatable, how much promtion do you need? Almost none.  But that is a marketing mix, these are marketing decisions promotions is only one of the levers that you play with.

Vin : Yeah really the beginning of it all the product of service or the offering, what do i do? what are my offerings? and we’ll get into that as we sort of talk about strategy but there’s an overlap here obviously but that’s the beginning part of it, how we’re going to serve our customers, right.  That actually to me falls under the umbrella of marketing because you’re serving a market but we don’t have to dive down into the level of granularity because that’s a matter of semantics but yes the idea that, I think that when people say I don’t need marketing I think it’s because they misunderstand it they lump all of marketing up into either creative or advertising and promotion and really those are just subsets of what an overall marketing plan would be and in some cases advertising and promotion doesn’t fit.  Not every business has to advertise, right. There’s other ways to get the word out but generally speaking from an overall purpose perspective, I look at marketing as the methodology by which a business understands what they do and why someone else values it.  Then going about making sure they’re aware of that in a way that resonates with them so that when it comes time to make a decision to purchase something of that nature, they choose you.  That’s really how it works and absent any of that, you’re throwing spaghetti against the wall.  My industry is services so, I read a book on managing a law firm and this lawyer says, it’s real simple, when you start your law practice figure out what someone needs and then learn that skill as a lawyer and go provide that service.  It seems like a simple concept but so few people miss that piece of the business, it’s not what I want to provide it’s what someone needs.  Let’s start there then we build up our client base, we consider some of the other things down the road but that’s all marketing that’s all part of an overall marketing plan; certainly part of a strategy.  So in terms of strategy, we can start to overlap here, I even had to learn myself as I started a business in 2009, given my business background and what I had learned about business from multiple angles.  I wasn’t really sure of the connection between business and business strategy. So when we talk about strategy, marketing – strategy otherwise; What is strategy to you? When you thing of strategy, what is strategy?

Ammon : Okay, I think what a lot of people think as strategies are actually tactics. The strategy is the what and the why whereas tactics are more like the how.  What you want to achieve and why you want to do it, those are strategic decisions particulary with multi-strategy and then your tactics are the how even the broad how and the specific techniques are the really specific hows.  So it can start off as very broadly as what do I not want to do because one of the things that really defines a strategy better than anything else is what you decide not to do.  Now there are companies that try to be everything to everyone, almost always fail because they’ve ignored that really important part of the strategy.  What you don’t do is how you get the ability to focus more on what you do do because you’ve saved the time by not doing those other things.  You’ve saved the energy, you’ve saved the attention.  A really great example of that would be, Southwest Airlines in the US who do the short hauls to non-major airports because they don’t do the major airports they don’t have the big queues of planes they don’t have to fit in to the really really busy schedules so that they can have more flights; it’s much more reliable, it’s more like a bus service.  They’ve got the automated check-in which means they don’t have the long queue time, they’ve got superb staff at the actual airports, that’s one of the key places they really spend.  They don’t do the meals, they don’t do a lot of the things that other airlines do.  There’s no fees paid to booking agents and all of this is designed to make that product work.  What that means is they don’t do major cities.  They don’t do long haul flights because their company isn’t designed to do those things. They don’t have the supply chain for the sort of things they would need to do that work.  So when a rival company, one of the big airlines decided to try and squeeze them by doing the same sort of trick, they couldn’t because they didn’t have the things they didn’t do.  They did pay fees to booking agents.  So they couldn’t beat them on the prices without taking a loss. They didn’t have the same turnaround, they were doing major cities, you can’t do those kind of turnarounds.  What they managed to do is get all of the inconvienent factors of the business and none of the convienent ones because they didn’t choose to not do the important things that make it work.  Focus is everything.

Vin : I want to pause and focus on that because I really think, it seems common sense and I’m sure people watching are like, yeah so what everybody knows that.  I can tell you in my own experience as well as working with the professionals that I work with they don’t fundamentally understand the concept of the strategy being what works specifically not going to do and specifically what we are going to do and why it’s necessary.  The reality is until you figure that out you really don’t have a sense of who you are as a business, who cares about you as a business and how you’re going to serve their needs.  So you can’t pick tactics.  We can’t get into the fundamentals of online marketing until we know that Otimo Sales and Marketing does marketing strategy for dentists.  I don’t do marketing strategy for e-commerce shops.  Dentist and lawyers and accountants, that’s it, that’s my niche, that’s my strategy, that’s how I approach the market.  I’ve got a couple of other things that I do but the reality is there’s other things that come down the pike that I push aside, I say no because this is what I’m going to do and for the first few years of my business I didn’t.  I said yes to everything because you think I’ve got to make money, blah, blah blah.  The fast track to business success is actually isolation, some people call it a niche.  I understand that there’s people that think about being a generalist and what not but specifically identifying what you do, why you’re good at it, how you do it differently than someone else and what you don’t do.  Now the Southwest example is a great example because in my notes I talked about the airlines because when you look at an airline you think they put people on a plane and they fly them from point A to point B; so how can strategy be a differentiator?  Southwest has found a way to be different.  They focused and capitalised on that difference to the exclusion of everything else and they’re one of the most successful airlines ever.  JetBlue, I’m not even sure what their difference is but they’ve dominated the US hubs.  They’ve booted United Airlines out of the hub at Logan airport because of they way they do customer service.  So it can be something as simple as let’s look at a dentist for example, we can look at I’m going to do dentistry a certain way.  Everybody does general dentistry but I’m going to do it this way.  That’s going to be my strategy, my strategic offering to the market that allows people that want it this way to choose me instead of somebody else.  So until you make that decision you can’t make any other decision. It’s just not possible.  I’m starting with strategy because until you think this way, until you’ve thought this through, you can’t make any other choices because the choices you make are going to be spaghetti against the wall.  They’re not going to have any continuity to helping you reach your business goals.

Ammon : Yeah, absolutely and the things you exclude must hurt you; it’s got to be an exlcusion, it’s got to be somthing where you could make money doing that but you decided that’s not where you’re going.  The most obvious one, the one that everyone can really grasp this from, are you going to be high-end or are you going to be budget, you cannot be both.  Because one will destroy the other.  You can’t even do the thing of you know, we’ve got the high-end product and we’ve got a budget product because it really does create conflict within the brand.  You’re now not seen as a specialist at either end.  You’re not seen as Rolls Royce if you’re also Honda, you can’t be both.  The brand is who understands me and if you’ve got one brand that’s trying to be everybody’s friend you don’t understand anybody.

Vin : There’s a great book, How to Sell Against Amazon written by a guy that I know who works for HubSpot; a real smart guy and the need to be in an online environment sellling as a e-commerce shop and you want to compete against Amazon, the only hope you have is to focus on a niche, to become superbly expert at a particular division of a market and the primary reason is because Amazon actually can’t compete at that level.  As the many resources as they have they’re generalists across an island or sea of multiple islands, where if you’re focused on one island you’re the go to.  That works across the board.  I saw a consulting firm go from $0 to $20 million dollars in three years because they focused on a very particular software product in a very particular industry and ultimately they would even get subbed in by the bigger consulting firms.  So if Deloite and Touche or Price Water House Cooper has had a big implementation project, this smaller firm would get subbed in because they had industry expertise.  So it works, it can also backfire because similarly you can run out of runway or run into market saturation, so you ‘ve got to pick your niche carefully for long term sustainable gain.  The point is, particularly if you’re small that niche focus or really isolating what you do to the exclusion of other things, helps you compete not only in your sector of small business but against bigger, more resource available competitors, it’s just the way it works.

Ammon : There’s a finer example of marketing I think everyone should remember and it’s at a business school, Professor says, ” Okay everybody what’s the biggest advantage I can have for my business, what’s the most important marketing component for success I can have for a restaurant business in this town?” and the students are working out all their plans and some of them come up with ideas for a great campaign and others have got it needs to be this location and it all comes down to this, a queue of hungry people at the door, that’s it.  It’s all about demand.  When you’re doing a business, if you can’t see on the internet people screaming out for a good one of these and struggling to find one, get out of that there’s no demand.  If you’re not seeing that, then there’s no demand.  What you want is the thing that everyones asking for and not getting it.  Where you start with a business, if you want to be really successful, look for people’s frustrations, look for people’s demands that aren’t being met.

Vin :Yeah, that’s a critical point and the reason that it’s critical is because you can sell a vision, you can create something that people aren’t demanding yet and marry it to their current goals and objectives and provide a solution that they may not have considered before but that’s uphill, that’s an uphill climb.  That’s really heavy lifting it can be done but that’s not your first choice. To your point, the first choice is to see what’s out there that either isn’t being met or isn’t being met in the way you think you can meet it and then go about meeting it.  Seriously, the lawyer example I gave, where the lawyer says it’s not really about the law you want to practice, it’s about the law that people need.  Learn what people need. If it’s wills and trusts or whatever learn the skill because people need it, you’ll start to build a reputation and over time you’ve established that reputation and you can then expand into other areas of the law that maybe suit your needs better. The reality is, it’s really not about you, it’s about them.  What can you do to help them.  That leads me to this concept of business goals because again people don’t really talk about goals.  Goals are I want to get followers, no that’s not a goal, that’s the outcome of a marketing tactic.  A business goal is I want to double my revenue in 2015.  I want to add ten sales people in 2015.  Business goal is I want to decrease my total cost of operation by 5%.  These are business goals.  If we establish these goals at a high level first, then we get into strategy.  When we’ve established our goals and objectives, then we get into strategy, now we start talking about tactics. What’s the difference between strategy and tactics? I really want to highlight this because I really think there’s just so much misinformation out there;  we really want to focus on the differentiation between a strategy and a tactic.

Ammon : I think one of the biggest, I mean you gave a great example there, I think one of the ones I see most often is people who say I’m using a blogging strategy.  Blogging is never a strategy.  Blogging is never a strategy.  Blogging is a tactic. The strategy is that you need to educate or that you need to put out a certain kind of content, it’s a content marketing strategy now I need to create the content and one of the tactics to creating that content will be to blog.  There is never a situation in the world where blogging is a strategy unless you are a blogger providing blogging services for everyone else, providing the platform for you to blog on, then alright that’s a strategy.

Vin : Then it’s your business model (laughing)

Ammon : Ideally, you mentioned setting goals and what I can’t stress enough the importance of setting smart objectives. S M A R T :  Specific, Measurable, Achievable – achievable means it can be done, you’re not asking for the impossible, you’re not asking to double your market when you’ve already saturated the market, Realistic – this means that you’ve put the right resources aside for it. It may be possible to double your market but if you want to do it without doing anything marketing wise or spending anymore money, it’s probably not going to happen. Finally the T is Timed – you’ve got to have a timeline. You’ve got to have a deadline to this so that you can measure your process i.e. in half the time are you half way there?  Are things going alright because you can’t adjust your aim if you’re not able to look at the process.  Also I can’t fail if there’s no timeline, I’m just not quite there yet.  So SMART objectives absolutely critical tha’ts something I borrowed from performance management, absolutely where you should go, it’s the first step.

Vin : You know Ammon, it’s common sense.  When I used to sell ERP, a software for PeopleSoft, I used to go and I would get the 10k report from the internet and I would look at the top, there were three to five objectives every CEO had and when I would do my first presentation in front of let’s say a room of accounting clerks or the CFO and his crew or her crew, I would say here are the top three objectives of your company and invariably they would look at me and say, “Why does that matter?” and as a outside sales person I would say because if you can’t fit this ten million dollar project into those objectives you’re not going to have a really good chance of getting a yes on that project.  So I would align with the objective, the objective of the business are at the top of a pyramid and everything backs into it and when you have continuity, it’s when your entire business, small or large, is aligned to achieving those objectives, right. The objectives define the strategy and the strategy trickes down, so that everything that we do, every action that we take tacticaly fits into the achievement of some objective that we’ve written down.  I want to acquire five clients next month, how am I going to do that , what’s my strategy? My strategy is I’m going to reach out and I’m going to network with industry insiders in the dental industry and how am I going to do that?  What am I going to do?  That’s my strategy, the tactic is I’m going to do seminars.  This is how I think through my own business.  It’s a progression and it’s actually a logical progression when you think about it.  Business goals, strategy, marketing objectives, marketing tactics and if you don’t do it that way, you know this isn’t subjective (laughing).

Ammon : If you think of a factory, there’s a lot of machines in there, a lot of them do different things but the whole point is that the machine has a lot of different moving parts and they all need to work as one machine.  Strategy is creating that one machine that does something.  Now sometimes you’ve got strategies within strategies.

Vin : Sub-strategies.

Ammon : Yeah, exactly, there can be alot of steps but strategy is making sure that all of the components fit and work holistically, so that each is more than the sum of it’s parts. Each one is reinforcing the other. In that SouthWestern example we gave several different things, the fact that they don’t do meals, the fact that they won’t do major cities, the fact that they’ve got great staff doing the turnarounds that made that whole process possible so that when United tried to do the same thing they couldn’t.  They couldn’t because their machine wasn’t built for it and it was always going to be inefficient and if it’s inefficient it’s more costly, full stop. 

Vin : Yeah and there’s certainly an operational component to this too, which is another funny thing that I see there’s this disconnect between marketing and back office operations but the reality is your back office operations isn’t your strategy but it certainly helps to implement that strategy.  Which is another thing and another area that small businesses I think ignore in mass, really it’s a critical misunderstanding I think.  We see a lot of information and advice about blogging, about social media, let’s look at social media, when someone says you should be on Google+, well if someone has a strategy, the right strategy and I’ll use myself as an example.  I want to sell marketing services to dentists, I simply ask are dentists on Google+, are they engaging on any level that would allow me to engage with them?  Are they consuming content on Google+?  Because if they’re not, that’s not a tactic that fits into my strategy.  That’s not a tactic that’s going to help me reach my business objective, right.  So I can discard that. 

Ammon : Yeah, yeah and as we said at the start one of the biggest things where we see people going wrong is that they pick up tactics, people are sharing tactics all the time and that tactic is useless to a different strategy because most tactics have to fit together as a whole, it’s a jigsaw puzzle.  Somebody else’s shape that isn’t going to fit, is no use to you, it can actually hurt your overall strategy.  So I think that’s something people really need to understand.  Strategy is kind of like, my goal is I’m going to go to the kitchen, now if I’m trying to do this without a strategy, I try to do this with tactics, I okay right, okay I’m going to try it, I’m going to take a step and either that gets me closer to the kitchen and I carry on and work out the next step or it doesn’t and I go back and take a step in a different direction.  Well, I don’t know about your house plan but I cannot take a straight route to the kitchen, there’s a point where I have to go a different way, I’m going away from the kitchen, only for a couple of paces but without the strategy my tactics would be going am I closer to the kitchen, no alright go back a step, pick a different direction and no matter what the direction I take, I’m not going to get close to the kitchen cause you know I’ve got to go around.  Strategy is the thing that enables you to get around obstacles, tactics never will.

Vin : As you were talking, I was also thinking about doing too much in terms of tactics. So we’ve got our business goals, we’ve got our strategy and now everyone wants to dive in and do everything; “I want to blog, I’ve got to have SEO, I’ve got to have Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and Google+.  I’ve got to have videos. I’ve got to go out and do seminars, I’ve got to network” and you’re overwhelmed.  Let’s talk a little bit about when your looking at tactics, how you want to pick the tactics that marry to the strategy. But pick the ones that fit your personality, fit your business model, fit your resource allocations, fit your budget because you don’t have to do everything. This is actually to me a critical point, you do not have to do everything to have a comprehensive, well designed, executable marketing plan.  Within marketing tactics you can actually stick to a niche set of tactics that will allow you to focus not only your mental energy but your time and money in order to execute on your strategy to achieve your business objectives.  So what do you think?

Ammon : Absolutely.  It comes back again to what we were saying at the start, what you don’t do is the most important thing in your strategy.  So rule out some things straight away. Don’t try to do everything. Pick what you think is your strength and play to it.  That’s what strategy is about.  When you start you should be doing the strength, weakness, opportunity, threat analysisl; s.w.o.t. analysis on your business. Now your strategy should play to your strengths and cover your weaknesses.  It should maximize your opportunities and minimize your threats.  That plan that does all of those things, that is a strategy. If it’s not doing those things, it’s not a decent strategy, you need a better one.  You know, play up what you’re good at.  You may say, “YouTube’s great, I’m going to do a HOA series”, except maybe the person doing this isn’t great on camera.  That’s going to be a problem.  Okay so I’ll hire someone, yeah you could do that but now you’ve put up the cost; would there be a more effective way of using other social media channels? Would a blog have actually worked better? and these things all have to be taken into account.

Vin : Well, do the people that buy what you sell watch video on YouTube?  You know, do they care about the video, do the people that refer those people do they care about videos on YouTube?  You’ve go to ask these questions.  I have a simple formula, let me run this by you and see what you think.   It’s the four W’s, five W’s, six W’s : Who, What, Where, When, Why and hoW.  I have a matrix, an Excel spreadsheet that I have get chosen, get found, and get referred and I have those questions, a bunch of varieties of those questions lined up because it’s like you’re doing an investigation, you’re doing an analysis before you do something.  Someone says to you, “Hey, you read an article that says, you should get on Google+ you go to your Excel spreadsheet and you start asking questions, Who – Who’s there?  Why are they there? Why do they want me there?  Why do I want to be there?  What am I going to do when I get there?  What goals am I going to achieve?  When are they there?  When you start answering these questions you start to see, do these tactics align with the people I’m trying to attract based on the strategy that I’ve set, to achieve my goals and objectives.  It sounds redundant but I want to sort of get this, this session for me as well as the series is to get people thinking this way; sort of like walking and chewing gum at the same time.  So I wan to keep saying that, am I going to do this to achieve, does it fit my strategy to achieve my business objectives.  That’s something we should just keep repeating so that people, it becomes an automatic thing.  As you choose your tactics, ask a lot of questions across the different outcomes you expect from marketing as it’s aligned to your business objectives.  Thoughts.

Ammon : Yeah and the most important of those questions is always, why?  But people often ask it in the wrong context.  They say, “Why am I doing this”, forget that.  Forget about you for the moment. Why does your customer want you to do this?  Why do they need your business? and it must be need and you’ve got to be putting that into real world context. Look they’ve got eight other companies that they could go to. Why do they NEED you when they’ve got eight other companies because that is the fundamental question, which if you can’t answer your marketing is flawed.  Marketing is being able to answer that question and why do I do the things I do?  Why do I do them these ways? those follow from there but the whys are always the most important, they will help guide that whole strategy and then make sure that everything you do within there really, really fits.

Vin : It’s such a great point that in my spreadsheet Why is actually ahead of Who. So I go, Why, Who, What, Where, When, hoW and the why is, you certainly have to answer why but more importantly and to your point, in fact I would argue, yes your important, your goals, objectives, that’s very important but the most important thing is your audience and all of their goals and objectives, we’ll talk as we get into this series about buyer personas and the people that we’re going to attract and we can start to shift now.  As we talk about marketing, we talk about marketing strategy, developing a strategy vs. tactics now we’re going to start getting into this series of the fundamentals of online marketing.  Se we’re already there, we’ve transitioned you and I in this discussion but really what we’re after here is Who am I? My business, the collective of my business and who are the people that we want to engage with.  Whether it be through buying in terms of a cash transaction or partners or channels or whatever. Identifying…

Ammon : How do they want to engage with us

Vin : Exactly

Ammon : Because that’s a huge part people get wrong, let’s face it that why we get fed up with a lot of advertising, bombarding us when we don’t want it in the hopes that we’ll remember it when we do.  Which we might and we use cute ads and all kinds of things like that to try to at least apologise for it so at least they remember us kindly but it’s still this hope that they will have us in mind at the right time, which may work, may not.  Let me give you a really good example of how things done, one of these things.  I was hired by a company that sold mobile phones, cell phones.  Now they were the second biggest online supplier.  They had wanted to be on the top page but for years, you know lots of SEO companies were selling mobile phones, they hadn’t been on the first page at all, they are the second biggest company but they were not on the first page.  They had used some of the biggest agencies, I went to them, we had a long talk and said, “Look one of the things you’ve got to do here is you’re going to need to change strategy.  You’ve got a business which is based on the deals you can get from the phone manufacturers and from  the networks and you can’t control that.  You will never get the same deals that the biggest company is going to get because they’re able to do bulk;  it’s like going against Amazon.  Amazon can sell something at a profit, cheaper than the manufacturer will even sell it to you for.  You’re not going to beat them on price, you’ve got to go on quality, you’ve got to go on customer service, you’ve got to go on the things they can’t do the expertise, the personal touch.  Amazon is never going to be personal.  And that was exactly what this company needed to do. You need to go personal, you’re not always going to have the best price, how do you deal with that?  This is something, please everybody take note of this, if somebody is beating you on price, let them.  If you are competing on price you’ve already lost.  Once you are on price, you’ve run out on all other ideas and now it’s a race to the bottom and I guarantee

Vin : Totally

Ammon : there is a guy in the Phillipines, right now who can survive on less money than you.  You will starve before he’s even worried.  So never get into a price battle, it isn’t going to help you.  What you need to understand is to add value, so that the same price is now worth more and sometimes this is intangilbles we sell in marketing a lot of things but what I wanted to get across to this company is you won’t always have the best deals on phones but what you can do is be the person they want to deal with.  Phones are a complex business.  There’s always new phones coming out, there’s a huge range, and the range just gets bigger all the time.  You’re shopping for a new phone, do you go to the one that’s most popular at the time, you can sort of find that out, do you go with the old classic?  There are so many choices and then there’s the networks.  What they want is really honest advice and that was were the blog came in.  Other companies told them, oh you need a blog it will help with SEO, screw that, one anyone that’s told you that blogging will help with SEO, no it won’t.  Having great content will help with SEO if the blog is the way you create that, great but it’s not the blogging itself.  The reason that we did blogging was because this company needed to be talking to it’s customers at thier level.  Not on a sales level but on a personal level. They had three marketing guys who ran it, now one of them was a big fan of the latest phones, he was always up on what the latest was and he was talking about the new phones and he was passionate he was excited about it and that resonated with all the customers out there that feel the same way.  They know what the latest phone is, they’re desiring it, they’re apsiring to have it before it’s even out; that’s what this guy was talking about, it connected with them.

Vin : I want to see that comment from Mark Vain. How do we get that back?  That was a good comment.

Ammon : “It seems your approach to social media focuses only on direct connections with potentail customers on a specific platform, ignores search discoveries as a reason to select and include such a  platform. If you spend all of your time thinking, are my customers on this you fail to plan for the future you don’t account for search or organic…Great question that was from Mark Vain.  I did a post a little while ago that pointed out that 90% or more actually it’s 99% of all social media content is completely invisible to the search engine and I demonstrated it, you’ll find that post, it’s not too many posts ago and it shows you what Google has indexed for all of Twitter is equivalent to the last four days content.  Everything that’s ever been posted to Twitter, the amount of it that Google’s got in it’s search index is equivalent to just four days and it’s been running for years, 365 days a year.  You’ve got less than 1% of all social media content stays in the index.  Social media is a stream, once it passes, it’s passed, unless people outisde of that stream have linked to it and created an anchor point.

Vin : We’re going to talk about SEO down the road as well as advanced SEO.  What he just pointed out there  is something also you have to factor in and that’s why it becomes complex and that is your business, your goals and objectives, you’ve mentioned you have a timeline, and so if you’re doing things for the future that has to be sort of identified as this is a secondary component of our overall strategy, business plan, marketing plan tactical execution plan whatever we’re going to call it because we have a here and now.  We have objectives now. We’ve got short term, we’ve got long term.  So if I’m on social media and my audience isn’t there yet but I’m preempting it by doing activity today, that factors into my overall strategy by suggesting this if for down the road this is my secondary market. My primary market is today, today is where do I need to reach them based on my current objectives.  If I’ve got unlimited runway and I’ve got captial to burn, well then it doesn’t really matter but that’s not the case with most businesses particularly smaller businesses.  So I’m not saying discount the fact, and it’s a hard and fast rule that wherever you’re audience is that’s where you go.  What I’m suggesting is that if your objectives are short term acquistion, short term engagement, short term interaction, you obviously have to go where they are.  Down the road you might be somewhere that they’re going to come to or that you might even drive them to but that has to be indentified as such.  And it certainly can’t be measured in the form of any kind of real conversion.  That’s more of a down the road relationship management type tactic.

Ammon : Yeah and where you’re going with these strategies, that was one example of a strategy, if you wanted to do the kind of networking and of course with that context, that’s right. There are businesses for whom it’s not important whether their customers are on social media however if you spend the same time writing to your blog or writing to a social media post I guarantee you every single day of the week and three times on Sunday the blog is worth ten times as much.  It’s that simple. I know there’s this impression, oh look Google, it’s the most important domain out there but there’s so many billions of posts made per day that yours is worth less than you know, the lowest blog out there is still more important in the scale of things because of how much it’s divided between.  It’s like looking at a huge cake and saying oh that cake  great, you can have all of this cake or your fair share of that cake and your fair share of that cake is divided between a 1,000 people.  Your fair share is going to be that big, it doesn’t matter how big and juicy  that cake looks, you’re going to get a crumb or you could have had a whole cake.  Your blog is your whole cake.  You control the value of that based on the number of citations.  These are things to think about.  If you’re using social media for search, if you don’t understand search we’ll come back to that later, but really understand ifyou’re not commiting to the people on social media, you’re missing it, you’re wasting your time.

Vin : This is a great segway, we’re at 50 minutes, we’ve got 10 minutes, it’s a great segway into talking about what we planned to achieve with this entire series on behalf of the audience and that is to me a core foundation of your marketing plan in general both on and off line, as your website and content on your website or whatever depending on who your audience is or what not. So we’ll start there but reality is, I don’t view it as neccessarily SEO, I don’t view it as social media, I view it as in some wasy a credential, particularly if your a professional service provider, which you and I are.  We write blogs to articulate our thought process, we write blogs to articulate our expertise, we write blogs to give our target audience our customer base ideas about how to execute on the growth of their business.  So if you’re only focused on search, if you’re only focused on social media then you’re missing to me one of the bigger pieces of a content strategy.  That is a nice solid website, certainly that can get found but that is filled with the type of information and content and navigation that your target audience demands.

Ammon : A lot of these thing are the same kind of processes, look not everyone who’s got a service needs a shop.  You don’t all have a shop.  I’m sure there are plenty of people in our audience who work from home, they don’t have a high street shop, that doesn’t mean high street shops are bad, there are a lot of strategies where you would want one but there are other times when you don’t, you don’t need one and it’s exactly the same with the webiste or social media these are tactics within your strategy and either they fit with your strategy or they don’t.  There are businesses that don’t need a website.  There are businesses who need not to be wasting a lot of time on social media because it’s not going to drive that much for them. Some companies it will but again it’s got to play to a strength, your ability to connect with people and if you can’t connect meaningfully with people and more importantly they don’t want to connect to talk about this.  Let me give a quick example, imagine you’re a proctologist, how many people are going to want to connect with you on social media to talk about their parts? I guarantee you it’s zero now except a few jokers, it’s not going to happen, so yeah you could be out there posting pictures of sunsets and clouds and whatever else to try and get people’s engagement but you know what it’s always going to be that disconnect.

Vin : Reviews and testimonials on Yelp probably are not likely too, (laughs)

both laughing

Ammon : Exactly. You’ve to find a way to make those anonymous reviews count or say to customers look can we put this for a testimonial in the office, in the surgery because anyone that’s in there already has the same problem, they’re not going to pester you about it because you can say, oh yeah where did you see my testimonial?  You know so it takes away that fear.  Again we’re thinking ahead, we’re thinking of how people actually react.

Vin : and what you’re touching on here is something that will infiltrate this entire series and that is what type of business are you?, how do people buy what you sell?  This is very, very simple stuff but it can get complicated if you’re not paying attention.  What do you do and how do people buy what you sell?  That addresses quite a bit and when you answer those questions you start to build your strategy, your start to build your marketing plan.  But I want to get to this point because I love this question, our buddy Emron asks and for whatever reason the question doesn’t come up but he says, ” What skills are needed to be a good marketer?  I actually really like this because I don’t think there’s one definition.  It’s tech-savvy, creative, web design, psychology, science, math maybe even more. We speak about how to do it but what about who can do it?  In the evolving world of digital is it possible to find key skills?”  I think it’s a great question because I don’t think that there’s one particularly defined answer.  I actually think the answer in a lot of people’s minds largely is dictated but what they think marketing is.  So you think creative right away, marketing is a brochure right but that’s just a small subset, you know. So what do you think?

Ammon : For me it’s really, really simple it comes right back to what I said at the start the marketer is one of the most honest people, he has to be.  You’ve got to be a really good observer, even about the things in yourself that you don’t want to acknowledge.  You know we talk about marketer’s being dishonest and marketer’s telling lies but as we said there almost always on truth and accepting the truth is sometimes very, very difficult.  We have this idea of what we look like in the mirror. We very rarely really  look at what we look like in the mirror and a marketer is someone who can do that.  Who can look in that mirror and see himself and look at us all and see, you know what, there’s a lot of things that we do that aren’t brilliant but that’s okay.  They have this duality.  This ability to kind of double-think.  Where okay people say this but I’m not going to hold that, you’ve got to be able not to hold grudges to people for being different to what they say, you just accept it.  The same leeway you give yourself, you give to others.  Classic example, you know we all talk about quality and we want service businesses and then we end up going to places that don’t have that quality and starving the real service businesses out.  Supermarkets are one of those prime examples in our country, in the UK, the high street is so much poorer than it used to be, the range, it’s a bunch of restaurants and coffe shops, maybe there’s a book shop but most book shops have shut, maybe there’s a pharmacist but most of the pharmacist have shut and it’s gone to the supermarkets out of town and the reason for that is people have been going with their wallets. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe where you spend your money is what you actually believe.  Marketers know this.

Vin : Yeah actions are pretty critical.  What people do is a fairly important concept to get your hands on, so did we answer the question, he smiled, yes.  So looks like we answered the question.  So we got a few minutes left, I think this was a good way to kick off what I think will be a great series in terms of the fundamentals.  The next session, we are going to dive into people, persona type stuff, really understanding our audience.  Not just understanding our audience though, understanding why it matters, how does it infiltrate?  You go and you set up a website and you don’t understand who your buyer is, your website is a fancy design  and so what we’ll do is we’ll come back, we’ll constantly come back and revisit the notion of business goals, strategy, marketing plan, tactical plan but primarily as it relates to the people in large part that we’re trying to attract.  Because something else you said I wanted to highlight as well and that is that as you’re thinking about who you want your customer to be, you also have to think about who you don’t want your customer to be.  You know because SouthWest is a great example, the’ve isolated who they want to serve and if you want, Basecamp actually from formerly 37 signal, you know they have a powerfully stated strategy that says, “If you want more developed into our product it’s time for you to go buy something else because we know there’s a 100 people who don’t want that in line to sign up”.  I think that’s an unbelievably focused business strategy that is facillitated by their business model but I think it’s a wonderful strategy because they say, yeah we’re tempted to want to please everybody but we can’t and if you’ve outgrown us, you’ve gotta go. 

Ammon : Absolutely.  One of my favorite go to examples in marketing has always been Henry Ford.  Now some personal things later in his life that I figure people aren’t as happy to quote as they once were but he was a great marketer, study those early quotes by Ford because this guy knew marketing when most people didn’t. You’ve got the production line model, you’ve got that classic thing, ” you can have the model T in any color you like as long as it’s black”.  Now he’s not selling colorful cars, he’s selling cheap cars.  He wants a single production line to work that means they all have to be painted the same color for that single production line to work.  If you don’t want that, tha’ts fine.  It comes in black, you don’t have to please everyone.  Look you want a different color buy the black one and respray it yourself or go to somebody else.  Either of those is possible and what makes this product, this product, what makes it at this price, is the single production line and what makes the single production line possible is it only comes in this one color.  It wasn’t until you’ve got dual production lines then you can have more than one color.

Vin : Perfect.  So we’re just under an hour here, I think this is a great siging off point for this particular session.  In the next session again, we’re going to focus a lot on the target audience, understanding their needs and what not and how it relates back to everything we’ve discussed today and in fact we’re going to talk about everything we’ve discussed today throughout everyone of our sessions because it’s all related. Everything you do should be based on a well defined set of business objectives and a well defined strategy that suits your overall state of being whether it be an individual or as a business.  So with that thank you for stopping by.  We’ll try to respond to other questions in the comment section, I hope people are patient, I’m not a HOA specialist, I do the best that I can but we’ll certainly try to address things as we go.  I’m going to take this content here and I’m going to create some blog material out of it too and I’m going to add links to what I think are resources will help you better understand at least the mindset of what marketing is as well as marketing strategy.  So stay tuned for that kind of thing, I’ll post a link to the blog as it comes out and we’ll let you know when the next session is going to be, hope to see you then, thanks.


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