Your Game Changing Message On a Budget – Eric Fletcher

by Alicia Arenas on March 18, 2011

I was in Dallas a few months ago sitting in a cafe with three people having an energy-charged conversation about small business, customer experience and marketing. One of the brilliant people at the table is our guest expert today, Eric Fletcher. Eric has an unassuming air about him, but watch out – he’s a sleeper! Full of fantastic ideas and the determination to make them a reality. He is currently the CMO of a prestigious national law firm and in his former life he was an agency director, broadcaster and consultant. He is a regular contributor to Social Media Marketing Magazine and I enjoy every opportunity I have to chat with him.

Eric, welcome back to March Marketing Madness.

 

Spreading Your Game Changing Message

No business person I know has small ideas or modest messages. The opposite is almost always true. In fact, the coal that stokes the fire of entrepreneurs and small business leaders everywhere is out-of-the-box thinking that gives birth to innovative products, services and solutions.  And it is this kind of thinking that has the power to change the face of neighborhoods, communities and entire cultures.

But let’s talk bottom-line execution.  Communication, advertising and marketing demands time and costs money.  Significant amounts of both.  And for many innovative business women and men, the scope of the idea and the resources available to market it are, all too often, not at all proportionate.

So, in the real world, where entrepreneurs and small businesses play a major role in fueling the economic engine, how do we construct a marketing strategy big enough to reach its intended audience?  Or is game-changing marketing reserved for a select few with big-time budgets?

(Drum roll…………..)

Here’s the good news: marketing success is not inexorably tied to budget. In fact, rarely is budget a critical success factor when it comes to successful marketing.

Now, before your skepticism (or outright doubt) prompts you to exit this post (and before Alicia wishes she could rescind her generous invitation and cordial introduction), let me get to three practical issues that Do define marketing success.

You Will Be Successful In Marketing If…

1. Can you name your TARGET audience?

Admittedly, it is much easier to skip this step, and employ a marketing strategy that insures your message reaches everyone. (Who wouldn’t like to have everyone as a customer – right?).  But this is (obviously) resource intensive and is almost always an exercise in futility.

A strategic approach begins with specific target identification.  Cookie-cutters are rarely functional; however, generally speaking, the more compressed your timeframe AND/OR the more limited your budget, the more specific you should be able to get with target identification –right down to actually naming names of your desired customers/clients.  Need to move 5 units in thirty days?  Be able to list the individual names of 15 potential customers, focus on connecting with this list, and you’re on your way to a winning initiative.

There are a number of factors in the equation – timing and length of your effort, the cost of your product or service and the size of your budget are just three.  But a strategic marketing plan begins with target identification.  Without it, you may as well take to the street with a megaphone.

2. Do you know your TARGET audience?

More specifically, do you know what they care about with respect to your service, their schedules and habits.  Do you know their economic realities, and the relationship (in their minds) between price, quality and service?  Put simply, this is where you get beyond the name, and learn what makes your buyer tick.

Consider the late 1950’s story of the man who built (literally) a better mousetrap.  Tired of cleaning up the mess created by conventional spring-loaded traps (got the mental image?), his new and improved version lured the unsuspecting rodent inside a mini-mouse-sized-dome.  The inevitable attempt to free cheese not only triggered a death blow; it sealed the opening to the dome, keeping the mess contained inside.

Only one problem: the marketer did not know his target audience.  In the late 50’s in the United States women did most of the shopping for household goods  And even though men might have cleaned up the resulting mess – as was the case with the inventor– a cleaner mousetrap was not important to the individual making the purchasing decisions, even though it came at an only slightly higher price.  The better mousetrap was a miserable failure.

Know what your target cares about, and you have the foundation for a connection.  Find a way to connect over what keeps them up at night or drives them crazy, and you’re on the cusp of marketing success.

3. Can you engage your TARGET audience?

Powerful communication takes place in the context of shared experiences.  Walt Disney understood this.  An empire was built because he promised his audience a magic experience.

Most of us aren’t marketing a land complete with castles where fairytales can come true; but the principle is no less magical.  Engage your market.  Share in the aspirations.

It is an exciting time to be an entrepreneur.  Social media tools like Twitter and Facebook have, to a degree, leveled the marketing playing field.  Invest in this three step process, and the shape of your business will begin to change.

 

Who is Eric Fletcher? Eric is the Chief Marketing Officer of McGlinchey Stafford PLLC, a national business law firm with nine offices in six states across the U.S.  A former broadcaster, advertising agency creative director and partner, and professional services consultant, his communications, marketing and business development career spans more than twenty-five years in business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing and sales endeavors.  In the professional service consulting arena Eric led successful targeted pursuits for as much as $350M.

A little more than a decade ago the primary focus of his work began to shift to the development of strategic marketing, communication and business development initiatives for business law firms.  In this environment, his approach to client team initiatives has produced a better than 15% year-on-year growth rate.

Eric’s approach is rooted in strategic targeting, and the belief that, at its core, successful business development and sales is relationship-based, rooted in the art and discipline of dialogue.  His great interests – family, friends, music, (even basketball), and the pursuit of what really matters – provide the best learning environment in the world for his professional adventures.

Eric is an Advisory Board Member for Hildebrandt Institute’s Marketing Partner Forum – the legal industry’s leading marketing thought leadership group.  He contributes a regular column for Social Media Marketing Magazine, is a member and contributor for The Social CMO, and blogs about strategic marketing and values in today’s marketplace at http://marketingbrainfodder.blogspot.com.

He and his wife, Darlene, and their nineteen-year-old daughter, Lindsay (a freshman at Baylor University), reside in the Dallas, Texas area.

 

You can connect with Eric via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and via email at erfletcher@gmail.com.

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Eric Fletcher On Intrepid Radio!
April 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Ogden March 18, 2011 at 6:35 am

Love your post, Eric, and welcome to our intrepid group for March Marketing Madness.

I love your theme. As I say, the better you know your buyers, the better you can engage with them. It is the foundation of great marketing.

Jeff

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ava diamond March 18, 2011 at 6:48 am

I love the point about creating an experience for your audience, Eric. As a speaker and speech coach, I know that if you don’t engage that audience in the first 30 seconds, you’re working uphill for the rest of your time with them.

Naming, knowing, and engaging your target market helps you stand out, become the “go-to” person and expert in your field, and helps you not be relegated to being a commodity.

Great post!

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Kevin W. Grossman March 18, 2011 at 7:32 am

You are correct, Eric. It’s all about doing your homework as you outline above and then how you apply said budget across a variety of marketing activities to generate visibility, traffic, leads and ultimately sales. Even with social media you need a budget — ain’t nothing free. ;)

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Jeanette March 18, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Eric, thank you for your simple and direct suggestions for marketing success! I am wondering if you could share one of the most creative “out of the box” ways you have used to engage customers? Many thanks….

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Eric March 19, 2011 at 6:27 am

Way to cut right to the chase, Jeanette. Here are two thoughts.

The reason engagement is critical to your plan is that engagement accelerates relationship. So I begin with one of the things that is fundamental to relationship – Dialogue. Methodology will vary depending on the specifics of your situation; but consider how to ask question and solicit feedback. The idea is not out-of-the box, but how you execute it can be. Ask you market, point blank, how to improve your product or service. This is almost certain to engage.

Secone, brainstorm around how you might engage your market (or at least your tier one clients/prospect) in a face-to-face experience. If your market is far flung this is a bit more difficult, but consider the upside. Again, there is nothing out-of-the-box about the idea of a marketing event. So execution is the key.

Practically speaking, one way professional service consulting firms have accomplished this is by inviting key clients to participate in a “white-board” session — actually engaging clients in the creation of a consulting solution. An innovative retailer actually invited its best customers to help design and layout a retail outlet. An on-line merchant has engaged its customers in the constant improvement of its web presence, hosting monthly lunch meetings around what to do to make their site user-friendly.

Finally, one of the most effective “engagements” I’ve seen is built around hosting a private screenings for a blockbuster movie release — inviting the entire family, eliminating long lines, and creating an entire experience around the “premier.”

The key to engaging your market? Make it all about the market (vs. all about you/your business). Remember that the objective is to build/deepen relationship. And tee-up your next conversation or interaction.

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Jeanette March 19, 2011 at 8:53 am

Eric: Awesome…..you rocked it and my imagination is on fire! Many thanks….

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shari March 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Eric, number one on the list sounds a lot easier than it is, and this is where I often get stuck.

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Eric March 21, 2011 at 7:34 am

You are exactly right. Shari. Target identification is often the entrepreneur’s stumbling block. We are, by nature, opportunistic, and believe our idea, product or service is right for everyone…if we can just make them aware! But the identification of your customer is one of the cornerstones of a successful marketing plan, so I am in constant pursuit of a process to help with the task. Every endeavor is different, but I’ve found these three questions to be a helpful “starter kit.”

1. Who among my existing contacts is the best prospect for my service or product? (This is where Social Media can be a terrific resource for small businesses who have cultivated relationships with their connections.)

2. With respect to my business, is there a “first adopter” or trend setter — someone groups, communities or entire markets tend to follow? If yes, do I have a connection or can I map a relationship to this individual?

3. What individuals/companies/industries will be drawn to my product/service based on a) metrics; b) affinity; c) an affiliation with other customers; d) reputation/past experience.

It is some of the most critical planning you’ll do. Hope this sparks an idea or two that simplifies the task, Shari.

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Shari Biediger March 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thank you. Very helpful (I hope), as I’m adding your questions to my list for Sanera Camp homework and will begin to answer them.

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Matt Stigliano March 22, 2011 at 3:10 am

Eric – Defining your market is not lost on me. As a real estate agent, I felt like everyone was my market. I didn’t want to “throw away” business by not being available to everyone. Through Sanera camp, I have come to understand that this is probably the worst idea to hold onto. By focusing everywhere, I was focusing nowhere.

We all know small business owners wrestle with the idea of “throwing away” clients (I use the phase as that was my first thought) – how do you recommend they get over that hump and begin to truly focus? It’s easy to say “you just have to” but we know the reality is that there is always going to be doubt and that nagging voice in the back of the head saying “but what if…” Although I find myself growing more and more comfortable with the idea, I definitely still hear that voice.

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Eric March 23, 2011 at 6:16 am

That IS the challenge, Matt…especially for those of us in a service related business. As a real estate agent, you KNOW you can help anyone who needs your counsel. Here’s how I (try) to deal with the “nagging voice,” as you put it.

First, realize that Focus does not limit opportunity; rather, it maximizes it. Highly defined target identification means that I will know more about my best prospects — what they expect in the way of service, what they most value in a product (or service), the way they prefer making the buying decision to name a few. This “business intelligence” is differentiating, and it is almost impossible for a small business owner to know everything there is to know about every possible target. Focus on your target and differentiate yourself from the competition.

Second, Target Identification does not eliminate those serendipitous opportunities. Again, the opposite is true. The business people that do the best job of target identification often wind up with unexpected opportunities to break into new markets. It’s the old “make your own luck” principle. Focusing on a target market almost always increases opportunity.

Finally, when that little voice gets too loud in my head I remember that I have limited ammunition (resources). If I want to hit the bulls eye, my chances are much better when I’ve thoroughly scoped the target.

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Matt Stigliano March 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Eric – This line here sums up what I discovered in Sanera Camp. It was a lightbulb over the head moment.

“Second, Target Identification does not eliminate those serendipitous opportunities.”

To me, identifying the target meant cutting everything (everyone) else out of the picture. When I realized that I was focusing my knowledge, my expertise, my marketing, etc., but NOT telling people I couldn’t sell their house because it didn’t fit into my defined area, I relaxed and accepted the concept much quicker.

I wish I could teach people how to have that lightbulb moment. That “nagging voice” is probably stopping a million agents from making choices like I am now.

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Barbara McNeely March 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Great info Eric.
I’m just starting up a new business as a Natural Health Coach. I’ve chosen a niche market and want to get started in the best way possible. When it comes to engaging my market, should my business name, domain name, twitter handle etc somehow reflect that target – say as a search term they might use to find me?

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Eric March 23, 2011 at 6:31 am

You’ve hit on a couple of important issues, Barbara. First of all, the value in knowing enough about your market to be able to build around search terms, key words and, what I call, “drivers.” To be sure, all of this helps you connect and communicate.

But the second issue (and stick with me on this), especially in the case of a start-up adventure, is to have done such a thorough job of target identification that you are able to be proactive in connecting with them. Remember the mousetrap story — it is often difficult to get the market to find you. Build around what you can do to find them. With this as a foundation, the right domain name, Twitter handle, etc. will be great assets.

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Alicia Arenas March 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Eric, your advice is spot on. It all comes down to niche. Defining that opens up a world of opportunities and allows us to focus our resources for better ROI.

Thank you for your great advice and for being a part of March Marketing Madness this year!

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Eric March 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm

My plleasure Alicia. Your readers are terrific!

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