Monday Mornings with Madison

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Traditional Marketing

Turning Storytelling into Sales

Great storytelling – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace– is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. Storytelling has been important to every people in history. It is a cornerstone of human existence, enabling people to communicate and connect. It’s been a primary tool used in government, religion, education, and – of course — business. The world’s most persuasive, compelling, and successful communicators were all great storytellers. Socrates was a great storyteller. Ben Franklin was even better. Walt Disney was masterful.
Thanks to the Internet, mass media and social media, storytelling has become a quintessential part of sales and marketing strategies. So how does a company take good information and turn it into a great story? For stories to be impactful, they need to be easily recalled and they need to motivate people. They must have emotional resonance and relevancy — most of which comes out in the details. A good story holds the audience captive. It stretches the limits of the imagination and allows listeners to marvel or wonder at something. It touches them and leaves them vulnerable. That’s why stories are such an amazing communications tool. Here’s how to turn a product or service into a great story that enhances the bottom line.
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How Good is Your Company’s Storytelling?

Today’s sales and marketing efforts require good storytelling. But storytelling is nothing new. Even before people could write, they were telling each other engaging stories to share information. That’s because no one is – or has ever been — interested in absorbing dry information. Even with today’s technology, dry information is still unpalatable whether it is delivered in a print ad, a radio commercial or video. Information is simply more likely to be accepted if it comes gift-wrapped in a story. Storytelling has the power to transform drab business details into something interesting.

Why do people find stories more compelling than other information? It’s physiological. When we listen to a standard presentation presenting dry information or hear a boring lecture, the Broca’s area of the brain is stimulated. This is in the side of the brain that deals with language and logic. However, when we are told a story that is rich with meaning and visual cues, there is a dramatically different response in the brain. Both the right and left lobes of the brain are activated. In addition to engaging the left part of the brain that handles logic and language, a good story also engages and stimulates the right side of the brain– what is deemed as the creative part. Stories grip us and help us experience emotions.  It is those emotions that help us connect with a brand, service or product. Storytelling helps shape the narrative surrounding a product or service. The goal, then, should be for a business to wrap every effort within a compelling story. Here’s how to start.
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The Effect of Abundance and Scarcity on what Customers Value

Rabbi Avigdor Miller once marveled at the notion that “two gases [hydrogen and oxygen] — neither of which can quench thirst – can be united into a clear and sparkling liquid which pours down one’s throat in a life-giving stream.” He added that “No liquid in the world can take the place of water for relief of thirst. This fluid is the most potent of all elixirs, although its availability and its inexpensiveness cause it to be overlooked. It is the universal solvent and the vehicle of digestion and of blood circulation. If water could be obtained only from the pharmacist, it would be the most costly of liquors, both for its vital properties and for its enjoyment.” And yet, most likely very few in the U.S. open a faucet and marvel as water pours out… precisely because it is so abundant and available.
Yet, in places like Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and even places in the U.S. such as Flint, Michigan and drought-affected parts of California, water is very scarce and the cost (and value) of water has skyrocketed. In such places, people have a genuine and profound appreciation for clean drinking water. That’s because the value of everything is deeply affected by abundance or scarcity, whether the item is essential for life or not. In the U.S., the abundance of water has caused the value of “this most potent of all elixirs” to be mostly taken for granted. On the other hand, other commodities that are not essential to life – such as diamonds, gold, rhodium, platinum, plutonium, taaffeite, tritium, painite, californium – are highly valued because of their scarcity, even if they have no life-giving properties. This value is subjective. This is known as commodity theory, and it is something that every entrepreneur, business leader, and sales professional should understand thoroughly. This is where the laws of economics and the actions of sales and marketing professionals meet. Continue reading

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When “Company Policy” Creates Lifelong Customers… for the Competition

There are three little words that help businesses create lifelong customers more effectively than practically any other phrase: “It’s company policy.” The problem is that those words create lifelong customers for the competition of the company saying that to its customers. For businesses that want to drive their customers to the competition, have at it. Use that phrase to your heart’s content. Better yet, just close your doors now and save yourself the time and slow agony of going out of business the old fashioned way… failure to make money.
Let’s face it. Saying “It’s company policy” to a customer is just a nicer way of saying “We don’t want your business.” That is what a customer hears when an employee blames “company policy” for an unwillingness or inability to solve a problem or accommodate a request. And when a manager says “It’s company policy” to an employee, he is saying “If you don’t like it, go work somewhere else.” As technology and innovation continues to disrupt industry after industry, leaders and managers will be forced to decide whether they are going to stick-to-their-guns and cling to outdated company policies that kill business and alienate employees, or whether they are going to innovate and evolve with the times. Continue reading

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Content Marketing: Quality vs. Quantity

By now, most everyone has probably heard someone harping about the need for businesses to “tell their story” or “engage consumers with content” or “connect with customers on a personal level”. For over a decade, the mantra among marketers has been that Content Is King. Content is meant to attract and keep the attention of customers and potential customers. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.” Everyone jumped on the content bandwagon. Ad agencies, marketing firms, public relations firms, SEO firms and media vendors all rushed in to help. They all touted the need for “MORE CONTENT.” The goal was quantity. Tell stories. Share information.
Today, consumers are saturated – actually overwhelmed – by content. Social media has enabled and encouraged everyone to share information and tell stories. Methods of storytelling abound. Businesses are sharing more information. Experts are writing white papers. Industry leaders are putting out Forecasts. Charities are telling stories. Teenagers are chatting and tweeting and sharing pictures, videos and stories. Even religious leaders – who used to be confined to telling their stories from the pulpit – have joined the digital storytelling revolution. And the media — the original reporters of the world’s stories — now find themselves vying to be heard above the storytelling din. People are experiencing an onslaught of ‘content’ the likes of which has never before been experienced. The whole of humanity is busy creating content. It is a growing ocean of noise. Now what?
This is where the law of supply and demand kicks in. When there is a glut of supply in the market, then the value goes down. Whereas once upon a time quantity was the name of the game with content, going forward the focus is shifting toward quality over quantity. Welcome to the age of quality content. Continue reading

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Capricious or Cutting-Edge: When Should a Business Make Changes?

It’s been said that “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” The point is that sometimes you have to break routines and try new processes, products, systems or strategies to find better ways of doing things. Innovation usually leads to improvement, and refusing to ever try new things is futile and foolish. Consider the Luddites. The Luddites were 19th-century English textile workers and weavers who, fearing the end of their trade, protested against newly developed labor-saving technologies between 1811 and 1816. New inventions such as the stocking frames, spinning frames and power of the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace Luddites with less-skilled, low-wage laborers, leaving them unemployed and obsolete. The Luddite movement culminated in a region-wide rebellion in Northwestern England that required a massive deployment of military force to suppress. So famous was their rebellion that today the term Luddite has become synonymous with anyone opposed to industrialization, automation, computerization or new technology, in general.

Of course, there is also an argument to be made that a business that is always changing processes, products and strategies may find itself wasting both time and talent. It can be expensive to constantly be shifting gears and updating systems. Learning new software or revamping procedures takes time and can be confusing – and even frustrating — for employees. So change for the sake of change can also be counterproductive and costly. It is important for businesses to evolve, but it should be done carefully and thoughtfully to ensure it causes the least amount of disturbance, distraction and distress internally and externally. Continue reading

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Marketing Focus: Client Acquisition vs. Client Retention

Every business wants to increase their bottom line. And every company promises growth in revenue and earnings, but only one in nine companies is able to achieve sustainable, profitable growth. That explains why businesses spend a lot of money on activities to achieve profitable growth! Statista, the Statistical Portal, estimates that over 180 billion U.S. dollars was spent in advertising in the United States in 2015. And that is expected to reach $200 billion this year. Those funds are being spent basically to either acquire or retain customers. Or both.
While some companies focus on customer acquisition because they view it as a quick and effective way of increasing revenue, other companies focus on customer retention because they are marketing to customers who are already engaged with the brand, making it easier to capitalize on their experiences with the company. But which is more cost effective at driving up sales and increasing revenue? And should it be an either/or approach, or should companies focus equally on both? Given the amount of money spent on marketing, it is a question that should be carefully considered. Continue reading

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Meeting Infinite Sales Demands with Finite Marketing Resources

There is a silent (or sometimes not-so-silent) battle waged between what the sales department wants and what the marketing department can and should deliver. Business leaders may only be vaguely aware of this tug-of-war but it exists in most organizations. There are two reasons for this. First, salespeople are always under great pressure (internal and external) to make sales. Not only does the company want them to sell more, but they themselves want to earn more. But selling requires a lot of time and effort. To ease the burden, they look to marketing for help. Second, salespeople are bombarded by other companies’ impressive marketing efforts. Newsletters. Email drip campaigns. Remarketing Campaigns. Seminars. Blogs. Billboards. Ads. Videos. Tradeshow exhibits. Competitor marketing is particularly irksome. Logically, salespeople believe that if they do the same marketing, they too will succeed. This is the business equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

In most companies, this ‘sales-marketing tug-of-war’ plays out with sales making infinite demands for marketing support with little understanding of the budget or resources required for implementing those ideas, or if those strategies fit in with or duplicate existing efforts. Sales teams claim that they either cannot meet their sales goals or they can be exponentially more successful if their specific marketing ideas are implemented. Unlimited sales demands are thus made on marketing departments that have limited resources. What is the company’s leadership to do? To handle infinite sales demands with finite marketing resources, leaders should implement this three-step process. Continue reading

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Converged Media: A Mix of Owned, Earned and Paid

It used to be so much simpler to market a company 25 years ago. That was before a computer programmer in Switzerland named Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web in 1991. In the days before the Internet, search engines and smart phones, marketing consisted primarily of campaigns to targeted audiences using a controlled number of channels and a controlled message. Practically all marketing efforts were paid for and directed by the company. That’s not to say that getting the message across or selling a customer on a product or service was easier. It wasn’t. But for companies trying to communicate a message to a customer, the approach was simpler and more direct. There was less messaging ‘noise’ to distract and confuse audiences.

Today, we are overwhelmed by sales and marketing messages coming at us from every direction. To be heard, companies must use a variety of approaches and a multitude of channels. This includes Paid Media, Owned Media and Earned Media efforts. Today’s marketing efforts must converge these to create a mixed approach. Each is a different way for potential clients or customers to learn about a business’ message. Each functions differently. And each has its pros and cons. In order to reach a target audience, a company has to understand and determine the right mix of its owned, earned and paid media efforts. Let’s look at how they work. Continue reading

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Top Sales and Marketing Terms of 2015 – Part 2

Last week, we explored some of the latest terms trending in sales and marketing in 2015. Some may have felt lost in lingo limbo, but most probably learned a thing or two about the emerging myriad of strategies and products available for businesses today to reach customers. Knowledge is power. But that doesn’t mean that a company should adopt every strategy, product and approach. Quite the contrary. When it comes to sales and marketing, it is different strokes for different folks. What works for one company may not have any value for another business. The goal is to be discerning. While early adopters embrace every trend, haphazardly trying each new thing, and late bloomers wait until a marketing strategy is thoroughly vetted and ubiquitous before even dipping a toe in the water, both extremes can be dangerous. The key is to be knowledgeable of all the approaches exist and determine what might work best for a particular business in a particular industry.

With that in mind, here are a few more 2015 trending terms to add to the sales and marketing vocab. Responsive web design. Adaptive web design. QR Codes. Click fraud. H2H. Nueromorphics. Media agnostic. Advertainment (not related to Advertorial, a much older but still useful marketing term referring to an article (instead of an ad) that is written to inform but with a slant/bias). Twinternship. mCommerce. Here’s what they mean. Continue reading

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