by Kenneth Rudich
Some things are shrouded in secrecy. This post is not one of them, however. It comes straight from marketing 101.
Be that as it may, there remains a chance you’ll still be glad for having read it just the same. Sometimes it’s good to step back and take stock, just to make sure nothing comes up missing or seems out of place. At any rate, let me know what you think about this piece, won’t you?
the power of three
Three words describe marketing better than any others, and they should hereafter roll off your tongue with mantra-like ease. They are awareness, interest, and action.
Awareness amounts to getting the word out and around, and around, and around. It all boils down to asking: who among my potential prospects is unaware my product exists, and how might I reach them to change that?
The means and mechanisms for spreading awareness range from old to new. It’s a dizzying array when you think about it. Magazines, newspapers, radio, tv, billboards, business cards, fliers, signage, and good old fashion word-of-mouth all carry the well-worn stamp of having been time-tested. The advent of the internet, on the other hand, has introduced previously unknown opportunities like social media, web sites, email, social bookmarking, blogs, discussion forums, and search engines. And this is not anywhere near an exhaustive list of every possibility. Think of the countless trinkets and gadgets bearing names and logos, or all the other points of visibility they’ve somehow managed to assume.
Each alternative has its pros and cons, and not all of them are equally accessible or usable to everyone. Some may be cost prohibitive for the sender; others may not reach the right audience. Some can be carefully controlled; others invariably cannot. Some lend greater credibility such as word-of-mouth among friends or other trusted sources; others get the nod because of their shock value or amazing ingenuity.
It’s always advisable to have a clear reason or purpose for choosing the mechanisms you do employ, and to determine whether they should be used only as a one-off or as part of an ongoing campaign. The term cross-platform marketing was coined to signify the importance of managing message consistency across the different communication channels, particularly if it’s in the context of a branding strategy. In this case, each channel should be selected with the specific intent of it reinforcing or complementing the others.
Also be sure to track the effectiveness of the reach of each channel – in other words, how many people is it reaching, does it appear to be reaching the right audience, and is it catching their attention long enough to create awareness? After all, not even the seemingly free channels are genuinely free when you consider how much time they can consume. If you’re not getting a good reach among your potential prospects, there’s little point in continuing to use the same channel(s).
Once you’ve reached your prospects, you have to capture their interest. As anyone who has ever tried can readily attest, it’s not easy to cut through the clutter of messages that are already bombarding people left and right.
The objective of creating interest is best served by promoting the benefits your product offers. Sometimes messages of this kind contain information about the features of the product or service and then fail to mention the benefits. Knowing about the features is not always the same as knowing about the benefits they deliver. Insofar as you have only a minimal amount of time to make your message stick – think of your recipient as having a very small piece of it to spare – you must try to maximize the impact of it. If you do mention a feature, make sure it either also conveys the benefit, or be sure to add that information along with it. You might even consider whether you can get away with talking only about the benefits alone. Never assume the recipient will figure out the benefits or automatically see them. Be conspicuous when drawing attention to them.
In an earlier post, “Creating Value…or Climbing Up a Waterfall?” I encouraged the idea of learning to speak directly to people’s motives and needs. The ability to distinguish these motives and needs helps with evaluating how to frame the message for making it meaningful to your particular target audience.
It also helps to know the difference between the mass communication information capabilities of some marketing channels and the customization capabilities of others. There is a big difference between broadcast tv and, say, a social media tool. Broadcast channels literally deliver a carefully packaged message, and they typically try to do so with a broad brush stroke. Social media involves the nurturing of a conversation with a community of people. As is the case with any conversation, it can move in various directions and cover a lot of ground. Information in this channel is more likely to take on the characteristics of customization according to what people are interested in or what they already know and want to share about your product.
After awareness and interest comes action. In my estimation, there are two facets to the notion of action. One is the call to action, and the other is the actual experience people have with the product or service while in the midst of using it.
Once you’ve whet a prospect’s interest, the call to action prompts him or her to take the next step of using it. It might be as simple as urging them to “act now,” or it might be in the form of some inducement such as a limited time offer, a coupon, or a free added extra thrown in as a bonus.
You may need to distinguish between new customers, repeat customers, or returning customers in the call to action. This is particularly true if a returning customer had a lackluster experience the last time around and has reservations because of it. Or maybe something recently disclosed in the media has threatened to tarnish the brand image. For instance, Toyota is currently dealing with the issue of a sticking gas pedal and the dangers it foreshadows. Unless they can convince people they’ve identified the real source of the problem and fixed it, the next call to action is likely to fall flat.
This brings us to the actual experience people have with the product or service. Once you’ve created interest by telling them the benefits they will derive, you have to deliver fulfillment. If that happens, you can then do a new call to action for getting them to come back again. Or prompt them to spread the word among friends and associates for gaining more awareness.
As you can see, awareness, interest and action do not operate as individually separate or discrete functions. Strong ties exist between them, and they must be managed in a way that makes them work in a harmonious fashion. They may be three words but they make for one marketing mantra.
Please share your thoughts and insights on this subject. Should we delve more deeply into certain areas while ignoring others, or is there an altogether different approach that would work even better?