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If a traditional marketing campaign is really well done it makes people say, "Great ads. I like those ads." Values-led marketing evokes a different reaction. People say, "Great company. I love that company. "Which response is likely to foster a more long-lasting relationship? Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry's Double-Dip: Lead with Your Values and Make Money, Too
Marketing is about creating relationships. Yet people don't want to be marketed to-they want to build a relationship with. A core question every company should ask itself is, "What kind of relationship am I building with my customers?"
Old-school marketing was based upon selling products or services. If you were a marketing executive and your company was launching a new product, you would call in your ad agency, look for a sexy or manipulative way to gain some "mindshare" from your target audience, and then spend the big bucks to sell your audience on why they should want your product. The relationship between company and customer would be purely transactional-not to dismiss the fact that loyalty sometimes would be created in the process.
New-school marketing is based upon satisfying needs.It recognizes that we live in a world of advertising pollution. Pushing product doesn't work anymore, especially in the era of the Internet, when savvy customers can connect with each other and trade stories about your product-and your company-and can easily find alternative choices. Furthermore, it isn't even all that clear who your target customer is anymore since traditional demographics are no longer so predictable, and traditional barriers such as distance have all but disappeared.
In the past, the company controlled the relationship, but in today's remote control world, customers are no longer passive. In fact, customers have never been so powerful. And after years of being manipulatively marketed to, customers have a healthy skepticism about most companies. And right they should.
During the last four decades, Americans have had cause to be skeptical of all of our traditional institutions, from government to religion to media to business. These institutions have not been consistently trustworthy. So the newly powerful customer, who still desires and searches for deeper relationships and meaning, looks for new institutions to fill the values vacuum.
Fortunately, the emergence of a whole new type of company-the socially responsible business (SRB)-has been one of the most promising commercial developments of the post-Vietnam era. More mainstream Fortune 500 companies are realizing that they can do well by doing good. When we write about socially responsible businesses in the book, we mean to cast a wide net as it's remarkable how many businesspeople in small and big companies are determined to create an intersection of market and meaning in their business. Certainly, a growing number of customers are altering their buying habits to assure they buy from companies that speak to their values.
Socially responsible business leaders recognize that for-profit companies have a massive impact on the world and as a result have responsibilities beyond maximizing return for shareholders. These leaders do their best to balance their company's need for a fair profit with the environmental and social needs of the community and their employees. In essence, socially responsible businesses look at their relationship with their community as being long-term and sustainable-not short-term and transactional.
Ask a few socially responsible entrepreneurs what "sustainability" means to them and you're likely to hear some very progressive ideas about how businesses can do a better job of taking care of the world. But they can incorporate environmentally and socially sustainable practices only if they have an operating model that allows them to sustain their business. Unfortunately, for many of these business leaders, marketing is seen as the ugly side of that operating model, a necessary evil when you realize that your bottom line isn't able to sustain all of your aspirational business ideals.
Quite often, entrepreneurs passionately pursue a new business idea and launch their new product or service to the world with all the enthusiasm of a small child making their first mud pie. Too often, entrepreneurs are disappointed when they come to realize that, outside of their circle of friends, no one has ever heard of them or their company. Rather than feel victimized by this reality, entrepreneurs who truly want to build a sustainable business need to learn the ABCs of marketing and how these apply to their unique business. That's where we come in. The voice of this book comes from two down-to-earth (or at least that's how we like to think of ourselves) entrepreneurs who've applied these marketing practices to our own businesses and have had the good fortune to glean wisdom from our contemporaries in a variety of industries. The culmination of these experiences is presented here to help you find greater success in your endeavors through socially responsible marketing, whether you're working for a green start-up or you're part of the marketing department of a multinational corporation.
Chip started Joie de Vivre Hospitality nearly twenty years ago and has grown it into one of the largest independent hotel companies in the United States, operating more than thirty-five unique hospitality businesses. As CEO, Chip has helped the company win a number of national awards, including the Guerrilla Marketer of the Year, the Hospitality Humanitarian award, and the Experience Stager of the Year. Named as one of the Top 10 Companies to Work For in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times, Joie de Vivre has one of the lowest annual employee turnover rates in the industry (25 percent versus the hospitality national average of 75-100 percent) and consistently receives the highest marks for customer satisfaction. With annual sales of more than $125 million, Joie de Vivre spends less than $50,000 annually on traditional advertising yet has a greater market share than its hotel competitors.
Seventeen years ago, Eric founded Metropolitan Group, one of the country's leading full-service strategic communications and social marketing agencies, with offices in Portland, Chicago and Washington, D.C. As creative director/president, Eric has developed brands and marketing strategies for many well-known socially responsible businesses, has developed corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community engagement strategies for large corporations, and has been a leader in applying strategic marketing to the needs of nonprofits and public agencies. Eric's work has won national awards including the Public Relations Society of America Silver Anvil Award. Last year, the brand Eric helped create for ShoreBank Corporation was recognized by Fast Company as one of the nation's top ten storytelling brands. Eric is particularly passionate about harnessing marketing to drive social change and is the primary author of the Public Will Building Framework, a model for approaching strategic communication to creating sustainable social change.
We both describe our companies as socially responsible organizations. By this we mean that our goal is to operate our companies to be profitable, great places to work, and positive contributors to our communities and the planet. We recognize that our own companies are constantly striving to improve and have found that marketing is an important part of this discussion. But that doesn't mean we're perfect. And you don't have to be either. Becoming a socially responsible business is a process.
We know some of you are involved with a small start-up and others may be part of the marketing department of a big company. While we haven't had the opportunity to interview each one of you about why you picked up this book, we believe you're looking for the following information from Marketing That Matters:
* How to build your confidence in the marketing arena so that you can understand what's worked and what hasn't for big and small socially responsible businesses.
* Language that can help you make your argument for why marketing is important to your business and how social responsibility can (and should) be factored in.
* An understanding of the core applications that you can use in your business, with specific tips for how you can immediately start using these practices.
* Inspiration from successful stories of businesses that have used the practices in this book.
Marketing That Matters is meant to be an easy-to-use field manual that you can refer to when you're deep in the trenches and looking for some direction. For those of you entrepreneurs who are sweating to meet payroll, we truly can relate as we've been there too. We're thrilled we can share these practices with you as hopefully they will help you grow revenues. Growing revenues has a miraculous affect on your ability to sleep at night.
We are not doctrinaire in our marketing belief system. Nor do we proclaim to hold the secret formula for marketing all socially responsible businesses. We believe the ten practices we'll introduce in this book are relevant to just about any company, but they are particularly useful to a company that's building a values-driven relationship with its customers. We do our best not to be righteous in our presentation of these practices because we don't think that's a particularly useful means of marketing-from us to you or from you to your customers. Furthermore, we may surprise you with some of our marketing philosophies. For example, we believe that it's okay to market a lifestyle and it's just fine to try to connect emotionally with your customer. Taking that approach to your marketing doesn't make you socially irresponsible, but it does mean that you can be on a slippery slope so you just need to be conscious about how authentic and open you are in your communications with your customers.
Three subjects get us on our soapbox, and we'd like to clarify them right up front. The first is the use of the word consumer. We don't use it in the book except when it's in a quote from someone else. If I approach you as a consumer, that makes me a producer, and neither one of those words sounds particularly humane or relationship oriented. In fact, one of the chief complaints of capitalism is that it creates consumers who are unconscious of the impact of their consuming. So you won't see us use that word as it dehumanizes the relationship and creates the opposite of what an SRB is looking to do: satisfy needs and desires rather than promote consumption.
Second, while we're big believers in pushing the envelope with marketing practices, we're cautious about how SRBs can sometimes handcuff their own organizations. For example, we've seen SRBs with poor marketing campaigns that came about as a result of choosing process over impact. What we mean by this is that they were so tied to their dos (always include all the facts and details, spend your advertising dollars only in publications that support your politics and point of view, only market products and services that are critical to human survival, etc.) and don'ts (never print in full color, never use humor in your marketing, etc.) that they forgot to ask, "Does this marketing approach have an impact on our customer?"
You will find that we see socially responsible marketing as inclusive of many techniques and practices that work for any business. Some provide SRBs with special advantages because they are better suited to carry them out and to be believed. Others require additional caution for SRBs because we can be held to a higher standard.
Finally, we get on a soapbox about narrowly defining marketing as a set of promotional tactics (advertising, PR, etc.). You will find that we see marketing as a broader business strategy that informs numerous choices critical to establishing, building, and maintaining customer relationships. We believe this is especially true for socially responsible businesses. So in this book about marketing, you will find us discussing human resources, supply chain, product development, and customer service strategies and examples because we see them as imperative to walking the talk of real strategic marketing.
Chapter 1 outlines our belief that marketing is a core part of business strategy. It's not something you do purely to promote a product or service or to trumpet the philanthropic efforts of the company (although that can be an important part of a marketing strategy). Instead, developing a marketing strategy, along with tactics that introduce your product to your ideal customer, is one of the true basic foundations of business and is part of making key operations and management decisions.
Chapter 2 will help you delve a little deeper into the core mission of your company. We provide you with a list of key questions and tips that will help you clarify your value proposition, your values, your voice, and, ultimately, the soul of your business.
Chapter 3 adds a little accountability measure to the mix by way of asking, "What is your definition of success?" We introduce a matrix that will help you think about your advancement of mission versus your return on investment. Most importantly, we amplify our belief that defining clear goals is an essential part of developing and executing a successful marketing plan.
In the next few chapters, we ask you to explore your relationship with your customers. Chapter 4 will help you become more aggressively customer centered by learning your audience's needs, desires, values, and perspectives. Whether you're creating an organizing principle for understanding your customer, encouraging your customer to help create the product, or tapping into listening posts to clarify how your customer feels about your company, we firmly believe that building a close relationship with your customers is one of the best steps you can take for your business.
Chapter 5 asks you to question conventional wisdom, something that may come naturally to socially responsible business-people but could be missed when they focus too much on "preaching to the choir." We ask you to evaluate your assumptions about your market-are you just preaching (or marketing) to the choir or have you imagined how your product or service can reach out to a wider audience? This is an important chapter because many entrepreneurs make the mistake of creating a product purely for themselves without considering how a few tweaks in their product or marketing could help them reach untapped markets.
Chapter 6 is required reading for any business with a desire to become more socially responsible and create a deeper relationship with their customers. This chapter explores the classic question, "Are my customers choosing my product or service because they like the tangible value it provides them or are they choosing it because they like the values that we're espousing?" SRBs are faced with a balancing act between communicating value and values to their core customers and communicating them to their secondary customers. Get this right, and your customers will love you. Get it wrong and they're likely to ignore you.
We know that chapter 7 may bother some of you because our basic premise is that it's important to connect with your customers' hearts first and minds second. That premise is part of the reason many of us are disgusted with manipulative mainstream advertising. Yet to ignore human nature may make you righteous, but it won't necessarily make your business sustainable. This chapter explores how you can build a relationship with your customers by developing a brand story and an authentic voice. We will dispel the notion that SRB customers would prefer to wade through walls of statistics in a crowded marketplace. For most of our customers, emotions trump data.
Excerpted from Marketing That Matters by Chip Conley Eric Friedenwald-Fishman Copyright © 2006 by Chip Conley and Eric Friedenwald-Fishman. Excerpted by permission.
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