Anxious marketing strategies yield cowardice as well as poor results
If your marketing relies solely upon the features of your product/service to generate sales, you’re being a coward. And your results will suffer for it.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, ‘sticking to product’ is cowardly and the entirely wrong approach to market your company. Campaigns that use creative to solely address the features of a product/service typically do not go far enough to increase the perceived value of a company, brand, or product.
If the campaign fails, you might deem it a medium issue, or maybe even a creative one. For example, if you take out a full-A4 spread in your target industry’s leading magazine, you might deem it a fault of the media that you didn’t get any results from it. But a poor choice of media is only one that isn’t strategically chosen to get you in front of your target audience.
The less cowardly approach is to focus on building value. You cannot build value in a brand or a product by merely listing features in an already-done, microwave-ready format. That is, of course, unless your product or service is so exceptional that the mere act of consuming it is world-changing enough for your customers to become your advocates. You can’t rely on your business becoming a viral sensation to grow. It’s not strategic and it’s arguably not even marketing — it’s simple, sheer luck.
But many marketers continue to opt for the ‘safe’ option. They stick to the script of the sales team to market their products and their brand. But that’s salesmanship. Marketing isn’t sales. And likewise, sales isn’t marketing.
Skilled marketeers take a product or service, then build a strong, clear, and persuasive argument that appeals to a target audience. That’s not one, broadly defined ‘ideal customer’ — that’s an array of well-understood, clearly defined markets and segments within that market based on the value you can provide. The more complex the product and services sold by your company, the wider the array of use cases, the more segments you will need to identify and understand.
With a set of segments, you can start to build problem statements. This is where customer-centricity and customer understanding become essential aspects of a marketing strategy. I’d go as far to say that any marketing strategy that lacks this isn’t actually a marketing strategy, it’s a media plan. No matter what your product, the marketeers job is to build campaigns that connect a challenge, problem or any other sort of trigger (be that emotional, aspirational or functional) to core features of a product.
This applies to every product and service under the sun. Most chocolate bars aren’t sold on how satiating they are (I’ll concede that Snickers is). Likewise, cars aren’t sold solely on how much horsepower they produce — reputation really matters. With B2B services, the emotional connections aren’t about what values they represent, but very often trust and perceived expertise. You cannot build confidence, trust and expertise or build a compelling reason to buy through the nutrition label on a chocolate bar, much like the specifications of a product/service in B2B.
The coward marketer relies solely on product data, specification sheets, and features to let the products sell themselves. But there are very few true monopolies anymore — we’re in a global economy of abundance. And, in business, there are few rules — everything changes, and the pace of that change can be devastating.
A forward-thinking marketer needs to build stronger connections between customers and product. Because there’ll always be an improved version of your services in the future. If the marketing team doesn’t have an understanding of the market, it cannot feed that insight back into the product team — and, needless to say, the right features won’t get improved upon.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Tesla, a John Lewis, or just a small company in a rural business park. You sell to people. Make your brand represent something more than just a product, be brave, and say something. Be memorable, not a ‘me too’. It’s an act of cowardice to do otherwise.
Matt Holman is a growth marketer from the South East of England. This poorly written article will probably be reconsidered at a later date. Don’t hold me to it 👍.