Posts Tagged ‘Strategic Planning’

Goodbye to “Sir or Madam” Marketing

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
© Brunoil |

© Brunoil |

“Dear Sir or Madam,”

“Have you heard about our new [product/service]?  There has never been anything like it before.  Best of all, it’s designed just for you, [prospective client name here]!  Worry no more about [financial security/maximizing returns/funding college/on-time retirement].  Our [product/service] will fit your needs like a [glove/shoe/favorite T-shirt].”

Most marketing has gotten well beyond this level of obviousness, of course.  But below the smoother surface of our mail-merges, much corporate thinking about marketing is still stuck in the one-size-fits-all mindset that should have gone out with legwarmers.

American Express was successful for years with the all-purpose slogan, “Don’t leave home without it.”  But with the 1990s came the advent of a new consumer mentality, one that encouraged customers to feel that products and services were not generically designed for the masses but tailored “just for them.”  American Express recognized this and retooled its approach, adopting its revised, targeted slogan, “The right card for the right people.”  As Richard Weylman noted in Opening Closed Doors, AmEx had realized that “it is more important and effective to reach the right people than it is to reach many people.”

It’s one of the great insights of modern marketing.  In today’s advertising climate, the wider you cast your net, the lower your marketing ROI.  Instead, spend some time identifying and wooing the very specific fish that are most likely to bite on the bait you have to offer.

How do you identify these fish?  Look around your tank. They’re already swimming in front of your nose.  Your current happy customers are the best predictors of what your future happy customers will look like.

After all, your current happy customers are happy for a reason—they love what you have to offer.  If you think of them as generic “customers” and go out looking for more “customers,” you are missing out on the golden opportunity to discover just what it is that brought them in and kept them with you.  Do you have accounts belonging to young families?  Realtors?  Educators?  Members of the Kiwanis?  Golf-loving retirees?  New homeowners?  Each of these comes with specific needs and desires.  Find out what they love and want, then build tightly targeted marketing around that subset of your local population.

And how do you find out what they love and what they want?  ASK them!  Remember that people love to talk about themselves.  Send out a personal letter to every current client who recently bought a home.  Tell them that you are eager to have more clients just like them.  Who wouldn’t want to hear that?  Ask what would make their lives easier—from actual financial products and services to a pizza delivered on Moving Day—then create it, advertise it, and reel ’em in!

In the end, your marketing should consist not of one big blast of generic information, but six or eight smaller, more carefully crafted campaigns.  Believe me—it’ll be the biggest bang for buck you’ve ever had.

Planning for Certain Uncertainty

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
© Solarseven |

© Solarseven |

You’ve probably heard of the Butterfly Effect, where the beating of a butterfly’s wings sets off a chain of countless small reactions until you’ve got a hurricane on your hands. That’s the economy for you – an incredibly complex web of tiny causes and huge effects. It’s difficult to predict what the world will look like three, six, or twelve months out.

Given all that uncertainty, any minute-to-minute plan you carve in stone is doomed to fail. The move from Step 5 to Step 6 that seemed so logical and inevitable in January may be suicide in July, once the economy has shaken the ground beneath your feet a few times. What you need is a constant reassessment and reorientation to the end results you want, coupled with the skills to adapt and adjust your strategies as the world turns. And churns.

So when you meet later this year to plan your company’s strategic direction, put away that chisel. Instead, define the targets you intend to keep in your sights and build the shared commitment to reach them.

Be strategic. Speaking of your strategic plan, you might just want to put some…you know…strategies in it. You think I’m kidding? The fact is, if you were severely allergic to strategies, I could fill a swimming pool with the strategic plans of typical banks and throw you in, and you wouldn’t get so much as a SNIFFLE. Why? Because most strategic plans are scoured clean of strategies.

They might have goals—yes, lots of them seem to have goals. There may be some initiatives, too, or tactics. And fonts, and margins. But without strategies, world-class results will be something you read about in headlines about the other guy.

Be specific. Vague wandering in the general direction of results will get you vague and general results. Instead, create a plan that zeroes in on the results you expect with glistening, crackling clarity, and build in follow-through templates, making sure that everyone is aligned through weekly check-ins.

Be systematic. Good intentions are swell. A good start on your plan of action is peachy. But you will never connect the dots between Point A and Point Z unless you put a system in place. Not a system that is written up and forgotten, but one that you return to every week for realignment and one that is integrated into every employee’s quarterly plan.

These elements of a successful plan—strategies, precision, and a drum-tight system—are all optional. So is success. But if you choose to follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to the kind of success that will have your old-school competitors running for their silver bullets. Let ’em run—you’ve got things to do—and an uncertain world in which to do them. Best to have a flexible, dynamic plan to meet that challenge.

The Project Sandwich

Monday, February 15th, 2010

* Transcription

Thank God it’s Monday!™ The Project Sandwich—your job is no doubt filled with project requests. The problem is, in the project request sandwich, people often times forget the bread.

Think of it this way. There is the bottom slice, absolutely fundamental to every project. This is the requesting of what are the specifications of the project. How do you know what they are looking for? What’s the outcome? The deadline? What should the check in points be? What are the resources available?

If you don’t ask these questions and go right to the meat of the project, you are going to have a mess and it will take much longer.

For most projects that involve any amount of time, a check in with a “Am I on the right track?” question can save you a ton of wasted time as you flit along down the wrong path.

Then, there’s the top piece of bread and that is essential as well and often missed. This is the part where you bring it to the person who assigned it to you and ask, “I think this is complete. Did this meet the expectations or are their changes to be made before we put this baby to rest?”

Without that step, the project is in no way complete. Know that it is your job to make sure that you never forget the bread or you will exhaust yourself doing unnecessary steps and repeating work.

Make sure your project sandwich tastes good every time.

Have a great Monday!


Roxanne Emmerich’s Thank God It’s Monday! How to Create a Workplace You and Your Customers Love climbed to #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list and made the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists—all in the first week of its release. Roxanne is renowned for her ability to transform “ho-hum” workplaces into dynamic, results-oriented, “bring-it-on” cultures. If you are not currently receiving the Thank God It’s Monday e-zine and weekly audios, subscribe today at

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It’s Self-Evident: All USPs are NOT Created Equal

Saturday, December 12th, 2009
© Juliafreeman |

© Juliafreeman |

So you’ve got the message.  You know that marketing today is not about blending in to some industry norm—it’s about standing out.  You’re looking for a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition, something that will get the customers flocking your way.

Unique is important, but is unique the only thing that counts?  Are all USPs created equal?  Not by a long shot.

A USP can be based on almost anything if it makes you visible and appealing:  location, hours, price, product approach, celebrity endorsements, delivery approach, you name it.  But go back and read that IF clause.  If it doesn’t make you visible AND appealing, it may be unique, but it ain’t a USP.

So what makes for a good USP?

It matters to the customer.  Maybe yours is the only bank in town whose president is a Capricorn.  Maybe you’ve got the only rotary-dial phones in the Tri-State area.  Bully for you.  But does it make you visible?  Does it make you appealing?  If not, keep looking.  Find out what matters to your customers, and be that thing.  “Open ’til 10 p.m. on weekends” might sound like a snoozer—until you find out that’s just what your customers were waiting for.  Then it’s a USP.

It’s dramatic.  Not all USPs are dramatic, but if you can find one that is, you’re home free.  Learn what your customers hope for, yearn for, ache for—and give it to them.  The slogan “Federal Express—when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” spoke directly to the desperate hopes of sweating middle managers everywhere.  When Club Med called itself “the antidote for civilization,” countless millions sighed and reached for air margaritas.

It’s definable, explicit, and absolutely free of fluff.  I’ve never met a fluffy USP that was worth a nickel.  Say something REAL.  Say something CLEAR.  When Dominos promised “fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed,” they had themselves an explicit, clear USP that put millions of pizzas into millions of Americans.  Don’t tell me about your 24 years in the business.  Don’t bother me with “competitive rates.”  I don’t sit up nights yearning to give my business to a company with a few more years of experience or (please!) rates that are (pfft!) “competitive.”  Give me something solid and I just might bite.

Bottom line:  The best USPs solve real problems that real people have.  I remember the first time I saw an ad for a toothbrush with that ridged rubber grip on it.  Is this a real problem?  I thought.  Are people everywhere struggling with the problem of toothbrushes flying across the room in mid-stroke?  I somehow doubt it.  Listen carefully to you current clients.  Listen even more carefully to your prospective clients.  And when you find out what they really need, what they dream of, what they yearn for, you’ll have your marching orders—and you’ll have your USP.

Just Say NO to “YES” Men

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Ever dream of being surrounded by people who always tell you just what you want to hear?  Think that would be a pretty sweet deal, do ya?

If so, President Kennedy would like a word with you. (more…)