The World Has Changed: Has Your Marketing?

July 12, 2005
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The year was 1966 and James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was No. 1 on the charts with "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." Truckmounts had yet to be invented, carpet was still being cleaned in rug plants, Ozzie and Harriet headed America's favorite TV family, and women who worked outside the home were teachers and nurses.

Four decades later, good old James is still going strong, it's Ozzy and Sharon on TV, and it's anything but a man's world. Women account for 57 percent of all college degrees and have entered the workforce in numbers equal to men. To say the world has changed is a gross understatement, but the marketing still looks like it was created in 1966.

Women are the dominant economic force in America today, accounting for 80 percent of all purchases including such previously male-dominated areas such as small pickup trucks, riding lawn tractors and 68 percent of all new cars. More importantly they are involved in 93 percent of all carpet-cleaning decisions.

Anyone over the age of five realizes that men and women are very different. Women have heightened senses and are extremely detail oriented. They focus on their family's needs over their own. They always ask for advice from friends or experts before making a purchase. Following a pleasant buying experience they are very loyal and will tell two to three times as many people as a man about their findings. Technical facts and figures mean little to them.

The best-selling book series "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" by John Gray explores these gender differences. Men speak Martian, while 93 percent of our clients - women - speak Venutian. This is most obvious in ads that focus on the truck or the method. The testosterone-driven ads that focus on heat, psi and inches of Hg are very popular, as well as ad copy that states that their chosen method is the only one that works. Chest thumping statements about being No. 1 or being the best are redundant. All advertising needs to answer one question from the customer's perspective: "Why you, what's in it for me?" If Clara Peller of Wendy's fame were to return, she would be asking, "Where's the benefit?"

Buying decisions are right-brained triggered, meaning they are based on emotion. Ninety percent of these actions are unconscious choices. This is why emotion-based marketing is more successful and profitable than fact-based marketing. Pictures of babies, puppies, kittens or a beautiful room will get more attention to a van picture. Stock photos are not recommended. Personal pictures or ones that trigger emotions are definitely suggested.

Open up the Yellow Pages in any city and review the cleaning section. The ads are repetitive and have little differentiation. The most glaring mistakes include: headline is the name of the company or repeats the category such as carpet cleaning; ad lists features with no benefits; copy is boring or too technical; no guarantee; and no website. Play the cross out game with your ad. Compare your ad to the others in the phone book. Cross out anything in your ad that is in a competitor's ad. What remains is your point of differentiation.

This leads to the big question that you need to answer before you design any advertising. What is your unique service proposition, or USP? You can figure it out by answering these questions:

  • What is special about your company?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What does your company do better than anyone else?
  • What can you do that the competition is not doing and not likely to offer?
  • What does your customer need?

    Once you have established your USP, you are ready to plan your marketing strategy. Which media will reach your target audience - women - most effectively, and within your budget? The phone book reps will unfortunately sell ads to your competition. You can't guarantee placement and you can't change your ad for at least a year. And unless you have recently inherited a small fortune, the cost may be prohibitive for a small company. Coupon books will attract price shoppers. Face-to-face selling is effective, but very time consuming.

    Direct mail can be cost effective if you have created the right piece with a compelling message and it is directed to a select market. One benefit of direct mail is you can quickly test a piece and get immediate feedback. If the message or the market is wrong, or you are not tracking correctly, you might as well throw your money down the sewer.

    Women spend 40 percent more time researching a service than men. They love information and love to learn at their convenience. The Internet is the perfect place for them to compare services and products and is one of the reasons why more women than men use the Internet. A good Web site will provide all of the information that can't be found in a printed piece. Include pictures, testimonials, spotting charts, scheduling features and Flash media that can demonstrate your processes and services. Remember, your home page is an online welcome that invites people into your living room, so make it comfortable and friendly.

    The Web designer should understand your market and not be obsessed with adding all the "cool" stuff. In other words, the guy with the purple hair skateboarding to work, although talented, may not be the best choice to write copy aimed at a 45-year-old woman.

    Customer retention is the most important consideration in a good marketing program. An established company should spend the majority of its marketing budget on existing clients. 3M Corporation surveyed over a thousand employees asking how they chose a carpet cleaning company. Forty-eight percent of them cited "by referral." Keep your name in front of these clients so they can readily name your company when someone asks. Keeping top-of-the-mind awareness is hard when people are exposed to over 3,000 advertising messages a day.

    Newsletters can be personalized as well as targeted to your select audience - women over 35. Write general-interest articles for this audience, not carpet-cleaning articles. Use coupons to track and reward referrals. Send the newsletter monthly and your name will always be within 30 days of a buying decision.

    Free bottles of spotter with your company information on the label can be inexpensive reminders of your great service. When the consumer removes a spot and creates a clean spot in the middle of a dingy traffic area, she will realize it is time for an overall cleaning. Your name is on the bottle in her hand. With newsletters and spotters there is no reason for your customer to search for your company information in the phone book.

    Whatever media you choose, make sure that several women review the ad. Try to use women who are not connected to your business to be sure your copy is not too technical or confusing. Start writing and rewriting ten headlines everyday. Once you have the headline, write the copy. Tell a story. If your first try doesn't light up the scoreboard, change one item or maybe just a word or two and test again. Few things in your business can improve your profitability as much as the ability to write a great ad.

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