Infrequently purchased products require unique marketing strategies.


Infrequently purchased products require unique marketing strategies.

Your brand is the second hand. You get business when you overlap one of the other hands.

Your brand is the second hand. You get business when you overlap one of the other hands.

The purchase cycle for infrequently purchased non-consumable products presents a different set of challenges. If you are selling a product that is purchased only a few times in a lifetime (think kitchen cabinetry, furniture, replacement windows, etc), it is imperative that you have a constant outreach. The cost of an inconsistent promotion program is lost sales.

Think of the market as an analog clock. Your brand is the second hand. You only make sales when you overlap either the hour hand (smaller market) or the minute  hand (a larger but faster moving market). 

Your marketing outreach program is reflected in the width of your second hand. Your opportunity to grow your market is like increasing the width of that second hand. A mix of promotion, public relations, email and paid advertising actively puts your brand on the radar screen of prospects who currently are in the market. It extends your brand visibility. SEM can only do so much, because prospects have to come find you — and you are passively waiting for them to come into the market.

Just by having a physical or digital presence, whether in a store, at a distributor or dealer, or doing a reasonable SEM job on your website, you’re likely to get some business when your second hand happens to coincide with the hour hand. That hour hand is a fairly small and temporary market. It’s constantly moving too, as individuals consider a product, make a brand decision and then move on. 

Think of this as your nearest grocery store. That store may have higher prices and offer a limited selection, but sometimes you go there anyway just for convenience. Some people will do the same with a durable product too, making a quick decision and moving on with their lives. These are the prospects who reside on the hour hand of our clock. You’ll bump into some simply by being there.

Yet there is a larger market represented by the minute hand. It too is constantly moving (faster!) and it intersects with your second hand from time to time, but briefly as prospects consider their product and brand options and move on. If you aren’t visible to them as they sweep in and out of the market, you’ll lose them. They don’t know the category, they don’t know the options, they don’t know pricing and they sure as heck don’t know the brands. If you miss them on native searches you’ll miss them altogether.

Unless you have a consistent outreach program. It’s how you create brand awareness and recall so that when the prospect does enter the market, they are predisposed to your brand. Consistency puts your brand on the radar screens of the planners and dreamers who aren’t in the market . . . yet.

A consistent outreach gives you the visibility you need to create more opportunities whenever the minute or the hour hand converge on your brand. Waiting for that small hour hand of the given market to come to you will no doubt result in sales. But it’s no way to gain market share.


Is the media biased? I asked "the media" that very question.


Is the media biased? I asked "the media" that very question.

I thought I’d go right to the source and ask a few people I know. Some of those I interviewed are currently working in media and some spent extensive time in the media in the past. 

My first question was “Is the media biased?”

It depends on how you identify “the media.” If you include Breitbart and Huffington Post, then yes, these media are most certainly biased. 

What about “mainstream” or “traditional” media? As Celynda Roach, General Manager of Cable One in Boise ID said, “people are comfortable reading or hearing from sources that make them comfortable. There’s a sense that if it’s on the internet, it’s true.”

Mike Collins, a long-time anchor for both the CBS and NBC TV affiliates in South Bend IN said, “sometimes there just isn’t another side to a story. Still, it’s a reporter’s job to uncover the truth and ask the right questions.”

Of course, journalists vote in elections. So naturally there is some bias in their opinions. Many media submit stories through multiple internal layers of editing so that biases are kept to a minimum.

The consensus of the people that I spoke to was that brand name media is typically "down the middle," with much of the perceived bias coming from which stories are covered rather than how they are covered.

But sometimes we like bias. The editorial page of your local or national newspaper is absolutely biased -- by design.

My second question was “How can we ensure that we are getting unbiased information?”

That garnered some excellent suggestions:

  • We can’t be at the mercy of whatever we read or see on Facebook and Twitter. Those are not news sources
  • Be inquisitive - search out more than one source
  • Use some common sense
  • Fake news has come to mean “news stories I don’t like” rather than “it’s just incorrect.” Be aware
  • We have to be more discerning and more demanding
  • Click on the story and read it (not just the headline), and consider the source 
  • Have you heard of the source? Brand names matter
  • How many people or groups are quoted in the story?
  • Is it well written? Is the grammar and spelling correct?
  • The URL can be a giveaway

But finally, it's important to be a smart news consumer. 

"Find out who owns or sponsors the newspaper or television station, just as you should know who contributes to the politician you support. It is also important to read or listen to different viewpoints, not just the ones that reinforce your own bias," said Meg Sauer, former News Director at the CBS TV affiliate in South Bend.

Mainstream is reduced in many cases to headlines and pre-packaged talking points. Solid journalism is out there, you just have to go get it because it no longer comes to you. You may need to extend your sources -- the BBC, Al Jazeera, various podcasts (I'm fond of This American Life and Radio Lab), national newspapers or broadcasts. I learn more when I compare, say, Fox News to CNN than when I watch only one network.

The real hole -- what's missing -- is local news. For example, I live in a small town near a small city (South Bend, IN, the 156th largest MSA, with a population of about 320,000). My town is too small to be covered by the local TV network affiliates and my newspaper is doing their utmost to become irrelevant. Radio news is non-existent. Who can I turn to to get local news, to keep an eye on the City and County Councils, to tell me about the delay in the construction project that's mucked up my daily commute for over a year, and other local topics? I simply can't find a source. I could possibly sort my way through some bias, but the total lack of information is, quite frankly, scary as hell.

Please note, this is a very small sample and in NO WAY are the opinions I’m summarizing here projectable to the entire media universe.

Like more unique marketing perspectives? Reach out and I'll add you to my FREE Marketing Perspectives eNewsletter.




It's the Super Bowl of advertising, too. Who won?

Which of those wonderfully entertaining commercials do you remember? Not the ad, what brands and what brand messages do you remember?

84 Lumber did what they needed to do; remind viewers that they exist. It doesn't matter what the creative was . . . in large part because you know what 84 Lumber carries . . . but now they're on your radar screen. Mission accomplished. 

KFC? What was that? Something about a fake Colonel. Oh, they do chicken.

Persil? Interesting, a new cleaner of some type, never heard of the brand before.

Buick? Waaaaayy over-produced (like the halftime show) with production that got in the way of a good brand story.

Others? Most were simply 30 or 60 seconds of entertainment or emotion.

I believe advertising should play a role in the sales process, and if that's not clearly definable, there's a good chance it's a bad ad. I've been fortunate in my career in marketing and advertising to work with brands and products that have something meaningful about them -- or I've created something meaningful to customers.

An ad, whether you are paying 8¢ per click or $5 million for 30 seconds, should have a clear message that's unmistakeable to the audience.



Are we letting "fake news" take over our conversations?

Yes, we are allowing “fake news” a legitimacy it doesn't deserve. Of course, we are all quite confident in our own ability to discern fake news from the real stuff. After all, we can recognize an ad when we see one, right? And a completely phony headline or story from the real thing.

Can't we? 

According to The Wall Street Journal analysis of a study done by Stanford University, 82% of middle-school students couldn’t distinguish between a native ad and a real news story. Four out of 5 couldn't identify the difference.

The WSJ's conclusion:

“Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.”

This study was conducted across middle school, high school and college students over an 18-month period from January 2105 to June 2016.

The study covered:

  1. native advertising and the ability to identify an item as an ad or non-ad
  2. the ability to determine if a photo on a photo sharing website provides strong evidence and
  3. the ability to consider the source of a tweet and the usefulness of that tweet

And it gets even scarier. “ . . . only nine percent of high school students in an Advanced Placement history course were able to see through’s language to determine that it was a front group for a D.C. lobbyist . . .” And “among college students the results were actually worse: ninety-three percent of students were snared.

Our perspective: We have to do better than this. It’s not an option, and it’s up to us. Here's what I think we can -- and should, and must -- do:

  1. Talk to our children about “native advertising” and “fake news” and “paid advertising.” Show and tell them the difference.
  2. Talk to each other. A quick glance at Twitter or a Snapchat post or a website we’ve never visited before can so easily give anyone false information or the wrong impression.
  3. Use our native intelligence and natural inquisitiveness. If an item just sounds crazy, review the source. Look at other channels that might cover the same topic. Be SKEPTICAL.

Support and use the sources that report the real stuff.

We all have our favorite BRANDED sources for international, national and regional news and information. Hopefully, there's a few local sources you have bookmarked, are following on Twitter or are in your Flipboard page. There is much solid work being done by local radio, TV and newspaper journalists and bloggers. Support and recommend them. Look for curated sites.

We need sources we can trust for our news and information. We're all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.




Trending: if other people like it, I will too

That seems logical. If the new restaurant downtown is packed, it must be good. If everybody I know follows the NFL, I probably do too. If the parking lot at work is full of SUVs, I’m likely to have one as well. 

Yet, if I eat at that new restaurant, is it because I want to support the downtown area? Because I like Mediterranean cuisine? Because everybody in my workplace has been and I haven’t?

In Invisible Influence, The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, Jonah Berger posits that many consumer decisions are shaped not by the individual, but by social influence on the individual. One experiment highlights a website offering free music downloads. With a twist. The music was by bands few people had ever heard of and there were no well-known songs. Participants could listen and download for free. Over 14,000 people participated. Song order was shuffled to eliminate bias. But, in addition to the song title and name of the band, some website visitors were given information on numbers of downloads while others weren’t. Simply providing popularity information had a big impact on the number of downloads for each song. The popular songs became even more popular and the less popular songs got less popular.

An experiment in San Marcos CA tried to determine what appeal was most effective in getting people to reduce energy consumption. The researchers tested:

  1. saving money
  2. an environmental appeal
  3. conservation approach
  4. the neighborhood approach (here’s what your neighbors are doing)

They measured the impact on actual energy usage, and the ad campaign made very little impact, except for the group who had received the social message. This strategy — providing utility customers (hey, that’s all of us!) with more digestible information on our energy bills and using the social nudge strategy, helped Alex Laskey and Dan Yates build a company. Opower is credited with saving 6 terawatt-hours of energy. That’s about equivalent to all of the power all the homes in Alaska and Hawaii consume in an entire year. Oh, and Laskey and Yates sold Opower to Oracle for $532 million a couple of months ago.

Does a social strategy make sense for your brand? Well, if you go to Philadelphia, do you have to go to either Pat’s or Geno’s for a Philly cheesesteak, or will one from a place you never heard of a block or two away be just as good or even better? If it’s a Facebook moment, you’re probably going to Geno’s or Pat’s.

Take good care of your current customers. They are the gateway to making your brand popular.


Does storytelling really work? That's a question I set out to answer


Does storytelling really work? That's a question I set out to answer

Does Storytelling really work? That’s a question I set out to answer a few weeks ago.

Here’s what I learned: YES!

I took to eBay to review the asking prices on recent postings of an item I wanted to get rid of. I calculated the average price, added the average for the accessory items and determined my asking price.

I started the bidding at $24, hoped to sell for $35, the difference being the average of the item plus the accessories as currently listed on eBay.

But I did something different rather than simply list the items and take a photo. I took several photos of the item and each accessory. And I told a story. The package sold for $53, over double my ask and a 51% premium over the average.

Here’s the story I included with my posting:

"This was initially a gift. It became a profession. When our 10-year old first expressed an interest in photography, his Grandmother bequeathed him this Nikon EM, the two lenses and a flash. Untold miles of film later, this portable laboratory and teacher taught all the required lessons. Someone was a good student. He’s now a cameraman in Hollywood, working in the film industry. I have no idea how many afternoons were spent mowing lawns to buy film. The four filters were as valuable as another semester. This EM is ready for the next student."

And here’s the lesson:

People love to buy things. Shopping, comparing and haggling price is a game, especially in some product categories. This is an old (25+ years) film camera. I don’t even know where one can buy film, much less process it anymore. The lenses won’t fit my DLSR. So anyone interested in this product has to be a collector or a reseller. Either way, telling a story is more engaging and interesting, more involving than simply saying “excellent condition.” Worth an extra 51%, too.

Photos of camera as used on eBay



Are trade shows back in your plans?

It seems that we are re-discovering the value of face-to-face communication. Sure, web conferences, email and LinkedIn messaging are more efficient. But typically these impersonal communication channels are less effective. You can’t read body language on the phone. You can’t see an inquisitive tilt of the head in email.

And it’s very, very hard to establish a connection on any level besides the subject matter at hand. Who wants to discuss sports or family or pets via LinkedIn? It’s harder to network electronically. In-person conversations help you establish a deeper connection. And those deeper connections can sometimes — or oftentimes — make the difference between a sale or a no-sale.

I don’t know too many people who enjoy airports and airplanes. But data suggests that we are traveling to more trade shows than we have over the past few years. Both attendee and exhibitor counts are expected to increase in 2016 over 2015. The increases are small, but any increase is a huge turnaround from the massive cutbacks in trade show popularity of a few years ago. 

Source: Convene Magazine

So maybe we’re finding a better balance point between travel and no travel, between electronic and in-person communication. Meetings are hard to get and expensive. Sometimes, there’s nothing better.


How did you watch the Olympics?


How did you watch the Olympics?

So how did you watch the Olympics? Sitting in a dedicated room in front of a single dedicated screen? Or where you just happened to be, on whatever screen happened to be handy? Did you watch at all?

Either way, you weren’t alone . . . you just didn’t have as many friends in the room as NBC predicted.

According to the New York Times,  ‘. . . NBC’s average prime-time audience of 26.7 million viewers was incredibly high — more than triple the combined number of people watching ABC, CBS and Fox at that time. But it fell short of the network’s hopes." From Bloomberg: "The promise was for ratings equaling an average of about 21 million U.S. households and the reality, as of late last week, was roughly 18.2 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.”

Did they make it up on streaming? Not really, according to vulture “. . .some viewers, particularly younger ones for whom the idea of a “network” is almost foreign, are watching in different ways. But even by NBC’s own account, these added platforms only lifted overall viewership by 5–10 percent most nights.”

Including streaming, the average daily audience was less than 9% of the US population.





How to get people to look at your digital ads

First, don't repeat the mistakes others make, learn from them and adjust your tactics. Here's an article about the use of ad blockers, and even more importantly, why people use ad blockers. So don't be annoying. Chances are good that people may look at your digital ad, but they don't go looking for them. So don't get in the way of the content they want, rather complement the content. 

Next, read this article to better understand what turns people off:

  • long video ads before the desired page (those annoying 30-second TV spots shoved down your throat before you can see the 14-second video clip you wanted to see)
  • popups and overlays that block the desired content
  • ads that follow you as you scroll down the page 
  • NOTE: some consumers don't even like retargeting, the practice of targeting ads to people after they've completed a search for a particular item (if you searched for "backpack" you see ads for backpacks for weeks)

Take a hour or so to do some research before you begin your ad campaign. Make the content interesting, compelling and appropriate to the audience. And don't do what people find annoying.