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OSU_1_banner-600x302 I
know it's been quite a while since my last post and I apologize. I let
myself get distracted by the holidays and totally dropped the ball on
my blog. I promise not to do that again. In fact, one of my 2010 goals
is to post on my blog a minimum of once a week. And now I've made that
goal a public promise, so I'd better keep it!

Enough groveling. Let's get into my first post of 2010.

My golf-stud daughter, Kelly,
and I just spent a day visiting Oregon State University. For those of
you who don't know, Kelly is rapidly climbing the ranks of top junior
golfers in the world. She's a junior in high school, but right now,
college coaches are starting to look at her class of 2011, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

During our visit, we met with Clete McLeod, the Assistant Sports Performance Coordinator for the Oregon
State athletic teams. Clete walked us through the massive workout
facility and explained the fitness program and philosophy for the
women's golf team. During the tour we dodged around a group of football
players pumping iron. The barbells sagged from the giant weights they
attached.

As we walked by one player curling what looked like about 1,000
pounds, Clete laughed. "This isn't an official workout for those guys,
so they're just pumping to impress the girls and bulk up their muscles.
The official workout programs aren't designed to build bulk. They're
designed to build strength – two different things.
"

Clete's comment made me think of a lot of marketers I've seen over the years. Many marketers get into a rut of creating marketing programs that look
impressive, but in the end, don't produce results. For example, it's
all too common for companies to think that a crowded booth and a fish
bowl filled with business cards at a trade show mean they've been effective. Six months later, management scratches their heads and wonders why they didn't get any measurable results. But then next year at the same trade show, they once again try to pack the booth and fill the fish bowl.

This doesn't happen just at trade shows. Marketers, who insist on
thinking like marketers, create gimmicky direct mail campaigns, "viral"
online videos, and email campaigns all designed to create awareness and
generate brand impressions. They "fill the fish bowl" and proudly pat
themselves on the back for a job well done. Then six months later,
everybody's wondering where the new business is.

As we rocket headlong into 2010, let's stop this nonsense of
"bulking up" and focus on "building strength," as Clete pointed out in
our visit:

  • Stop thinking quantity. Marketing's job is to fill the funnel
    with quality leads that turn into sales. Period. The higher the quality
    the easier the sale.
  • Stop thinking that awareness equates with sales. I've never heard
    of a company who was able to cash a check on awareness. The goal is not
    Brand Awareness. It's Brand Persuasion. There's a difference.
  • Stop thinking like a marketer. Too often marketers think abstractly and forget the ultimate objective of their work is to create sales. Period. Here's a novel idea – start thinking like the customer you're looking for.

Which brings me to what I think is bad advice from MarketingSherpa. I
have great respect for MarketingSherpa and think they do a good job
sharing marketing advice and tips. But not this time. In a recent post about social media
on their blog page, I was disappointed to read the following quote by Eric Erwin, EVP Marketing & Product Development, Wilton:

“The hardest thing for marketers is to turn over the brand experience to the community and let them define it.”

IMNSHO, this is a classic example of a marketer thinking like a marketer. The fact is marketers never have had control of the definition. The customer has always had 100% control.

The only thing we marketers have control over is our branding proposition. We don't control the experience nor the definition. We can develop a strategy of communicating a promise  to our marketplace…a promise of what we will deliver to them…a promise of the type of experience they will have. If the prospect believes us, he/she might give us an opportunity to deliver on that promise. Then AFTER we deliver, the prospect will then decide whether we lived up to our promise or not. And this is not just a discussion of semantics.

The new customer, the market, and the community are constantly evaluating us based on the promises we made. Does the deliverable MATCH the expectations they've developed from hearing our promises? Does it EXCEED their expectations? Does it fall BENEATH expectations?

It makes no difference whether we communicate with our marketplace through traditional media or new media, we must understand this — we've never had control over the definition of our brand experience.