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Martin Wales

[January 7, 2002]

Customer Catcher

By Martin Wales

Make Your Marketing A Media Star

A lot of technology marketing focuses on features and benefits of products or services. Many businesses clamor to be heard amongst other companies seeking similar attention. Collectively, the "noise" of product marketing leads to the dulling of all participants' efforts and to less than significant sales results.

To overcome this noise, new products or versions are often introduced as justification to shout above all others. So, if there is no new version, what is there to talk about? Frankly, I pity marketing people working at a company with one product, little innovation, or infrequent upgrade activity -- I do so because I have been there.

What can you do to avoid both the "noise" and "nothing new" problems when marketing your technology? The immediate suggestion to my clients is to take the focus off the product or service.

Make Your Marketing Newsworthy For Added Effect
In a previous column, I wrote "Brand your company, not your products." This primary strategy entails emphasizing the strengths of your company and its ability to deliver quality, no matter what specific products or services you invent or supply.

A second strategy can be very effective for getting more attention for your products without primarily focusing on them. It is to get media attention for the actual marketing strategy, tactics, or processes that you create and implement around your offerings. A person who executes this strategy well is Virgin's Richard Branson. He introduced his Virgin Cola by driving a red tank through a large wall made of cases of Pepsi and Coca-Cola in the middle of Times Square in New York City. He was on the front of every major newspaper in the United States.

Imagine magazines, Web sites, or radio and TV all talking about your company because of what you are doing to market your products and services (which they also mention!). There are many benefits when your marketing tactics get media attention.

More people hear about you.
Many business people are interested in improving their own success and status. They thirst for information and examples of those appearing to outperform or create waves -- even if it is outside their own industry. Later, people say, "I've heard of you," not necessarily remembering the context but giving them a level of confidence in you and your company to take a closer look.

You're not dependent on new product releases.
This strategy allows you to smooth over those "dry" periods when there is no new product coming out or little in the way of product improvement from one version to the next. When your marketing gets the media attention, you can maintain marketing momentum and keep your name out there. It helps reduce the risk of being too far ahead of (or believing) the R&D department's release dates.

It's more cost effective than traditional advertising.
Public relations campaigns are relatively less expensive when compared to purchasing display advertising. To write and distribute a press release about your creative marketing campaign efforts costs hundreds of dollars versus the thousands required for a single, full-page print advertisement.

It creates additional marketing events and opportunities.
The finest effort could involve writing a book about your marketing to grow your business, such as Jack: Straight from the Gut, from GE's Jack Welch. Too big? White papers and articles work too. You may soon find that you are invited to speak at conferences or seminars about your innovation and experience. This is wonderful for additional exposure and you present to a room full of decision makers.

Your prospects are more open to your pitch.
When executives and business owners hear about innovative concepts, their attention increases. This is contrary to reading or hearing a sales pitch, when all defensive mechanisms seem to kick into high gear. The media's interest in you from a marketing angle gives you an alternative route into your prospect's mindshare.

Your competitors get nervous and help you (or buy you).
When the media likes you, it creates a natural tendency for comparison, either by your competition or all prospects. In a subtle way, your competitor's self-evaluation and resulting corporate esteem could make them feel a touch inadequate or behind, especially if they have received little or no press themselves.

Perception as a leader in your industry permeates the market. It is really neat, especially if you're a young company, when the competition actually begins helping you by bringing up your name in product comparisons. Professional buyers leave that meeting and call you!

Attract more talent to your staff.
Face the challenge of recruiting good people with this additional media attention, as it helps attract more talent. People like to apply and work at companies perceived to be innovative and forward thinking. Future employees feel that there is more potential at your company. They might even take less pay.

Great. This is all good stuff. How can you do it? What will attract the media to cover your marketing efforts? What should you do? You want the extra attention and media power but how will you do it?

How To Get Media Attention For Your Marketing
Want your marketing to become a media star? The following lists includes suggestions on how to do so.

  1. Get creative. Coming up with new ways to market and communicate seems daunting. However, it never ceases to amaze me how often I see novel approaches that catch my attention and seem to have a new aspect to them. Hire outside help to add freshness to your campaigns (yes, this is a shameless plug).

  2. Plan the PR campaign around your marketing, not your product. Act as a publicist for the brilliant marketing rather than a product.

  3. Be different. Avoid the same old, same old. Be slightly controversial without being offensive. Don't be so different, though, as to make your prospects feel that you're a risky choice.
  4. Do it BIG. A big splash gets more attention. It involves greater investment, however.

  5. Be daring. Take a calculated risk. Holding up New Yorkers in Manhattan traffic, like Richard Branson, can be dangerous... but it gets press.

  6. Be the first. In the world, in your country, in your industry, or in your product line. Expand your thinking outside of product invention here. Think about how you name, distribute, finance, sell, service, or package your stuff.

  7. Deliver it differently. Come up with fun ideas. Throw parties for the employees at your customer site upon installation. A bedding mattress company I know has its delivery guys wear slippers and they highlight this in their advertising.

  8. Get noticed on purpose. Write a book. Apply for awards given for innovative marketing or advertising, as well as for your products or services.

Final Notes
The release of Microsoft Windows 95 was a well-orchestrated marketing campaign around a new software product. But the news was plastered with much more information on how Microsoft was launching its new software than the product's actual features and benefits. Of course, news pieces all introduced the product and Bill Gates' claims of how Win95 was going to revolutionize the PC world.

It does not necessarily take much money to make your marketing a media star. It does take time and brain power. The more energy you invest in creativity will result in more coverage of your unique marketing approach in all media. Remember, the most important objective is the introduction of your product or service as part of the story. Get Internet, television, radio and print media buzzing about you and your terrific marketing... successful sales of your product or service will follow.

Martin Wales, the Customer Catcher, is a business development specialist helping companies win and keep more business with a focus on CRM. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused on maximum results with minimum risk using a company's existing resources. Contact him at [email protected].

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