Boring products create boring marketing? Not with these four tips!

How to market an unsexy product or service – 4 tips

 

Marketing a brand or product without direct sex appeal, or which seems boring to some people, can be very challenging. From my own experience, with clients in sectors as security, accountancy and the paint industry, I come across these challenges on a daily basis. How can you create relevant marketing, even if you don’t have a poster product? These four tips should help you get started!

 

  1. Provide solutions

It’s often been pointed out in the world of content marketing and I will repeat it here again. Regardless how great your product is, customers aren’t interested in features and specifications anymore. Especially when it concerns technical products this can be a challenge. It’s easy to overwhelm with a list of specifications. But that doesn’t impress your client. He needs a solution to his problem. Therefore, emphasize why your product exists and for which problem it offers a solution. And if your product is made out of high quality components as well, it’s a bonus. Of course this doesn’t apply in all cases. However, make sure that the solutions are made clear primarily before going into more details and other (technical) information.

  1. Start with a story

I once read: The difference between a boring business and an exciting one is a good story. Do you think your product or service could be perceived as boring? Then first ask people within your own company or your current clients in which ways your product has contributed. You will be surprised about the number of people who have something to tell about this. Often, what you may find boring or irrelevant can be very interesting and relevant for your clients. Be sure to stay open-minded when you collect these stories. Write them down, so you have examples of solutions to which your product has contributed. This way you will prevent your marketing content from becoming boring. Then you can publish them on your website, in a blog or article. Tip: also search for online communities, such as forums, where people within your industry gather. There you will find a lot of inspiration for stories to base your marketing on! If there isn’t a community available yet, reserve a part of your website for it! Or start a Facebook page and invite your clients to be part of it. But be careful: always put your client first in the story, let him or her be the hero, not your company or product! Only then your create stories that fascinate.

  1. Be authentic

Or be yourself. Whatever you want to call it, it’s much stronger to show a little bit of ‘you’ in your marketing. Many companies like to pretend to be much bigger than they are. Too often I visit websites of independents who write in the plural-form, or companies who pretend that their product is revolutionary, whereas in reality it’s nothing new. How great that might be for your own vision, authenticity always works better for the client. By embracing who you are and by being proud of what you make, you can really distinguish yourself. Also in marketing. If you are a small player on the market, this might even be a nice change for your client. Personal contact with a director or owner of an organization feels much better than talking to someone from a call center. And as an accountant you can make things easier and more interesting for your clients by presenting figures in a creative way. And don’t be too serious. A little humor in your marketing always works.

  1. Do something completely unexpected

If you find yourself on that market with the big boys, it will be difficult to compete with their marketing. It is unlikely that you will have the same marketing budget. And even if you could shout your products from the rooftops just as loud as they can, they will just shout a little louder and you will fade to the background. For this reason, go and search for unexpected ways of communication that will suit your budget. For example, organize a brainstorm session and write down all the antonyms of your product or service. Is your product characterized as demanding, complicated and serious? Write down what possible relaxing, simple and entertaining ways could be to describe or market your product. Perhaps this way you will find the next brilliant guerilla marketing campaign, or maybe your product will go viral because you were able to create something out-of-the-box!

 

Do you have examples of great marketing of boring products? Share some in the comments! Would you like to improve the marketing of your product? Send me a message and we’ll discover whether my approach suits you.

 

 

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listeningear

How to keep employees happy in times of change

As I wrote in one of my previous blogs, internal communication is essential for any organization in keeping their employees happy. But internal communication during organizational change is too often still seen as a simple way of how to get information from management to the rest of the organization. Simply put: top-down communication, purely meant to inform. This is most often the case in organizations that have grown rapidly in a short period of time, or with more traditional organizations that have existed in a certain form and size for many decades.

Let’s have a look at the benefits of this strategy:

  • It’s simple: management makes decisions, employees should follow.
  • Control of the information: employees only get informed about when and what the management thinks is necessary.

Sounds simple and effective? Well, think again, because this strategy also has a few major downsides:

  • Employees feel left out: no one asks for their opinion, their ideas or what’s important to them.
  • Employees have little motivation to get involved, and lack to see the bigger picture.
  • Usually they also find out about change at the very last moment. Or worse: through the press.

The results of this strategy can be devastating for an organization, especially when changes are needed for continuation or further growth. Communication is especially important when organizations are going through mergers and restructuring processes. It can be stressful for employees as well as management. When employees feel left out, they start to assume the worst, fearing for their jobs and their safety. Then, they start to resent and resist change.

But what happens when we reverse this strategy, and have internal communications be about listening? Something magical happens:

  • Employees speak, management listens
  • Employees are heard, feel involved
  • Employees are motivated to speak up and come up with new ideas
  • Employees feel more appreciated

When following the second strategy, employees are far more willing to accept changes and to cooperate into building a better company. It gives them the feeling that they participate in the decision making process. And they will market the organization from a far more positive perspective. It is like in a relationship, without good communication between each other, one can feel left out and that can ultimately undermine the relationship. That is why good communication is the single most important component of a good relationship.

There’s no rocket science involved here. Sadly though, many organizations still follow the first strategy, for various reasons. Maybe management feels like employees aren’t capable of understanding high-level decisions (you would be surprised!), or maybe they even feel threatened or are too pride. Maybe it’s just the way things have always been and no one ever thought of doing things differently.

Whatever the case, it’s time to start listening.

As a manager, it’s your job to find out about what motivates your employees, what their dreams and goals are, and what their ideas are about the organization. You should know what’s important for them, and it should be important to you too.

Here are five simple steps how to start improving internal communications:

  1. Set clear values and goals. By making sure the organization’s goals, strategies and principles are well understood, the bigger the chances are that your conversations will be constructive and fruitful, beacuse everyone knows what they’re working towards.
  2. Begin the week together. Take the time to discuss what the week will bring. Give updates on small and bigger issues that the organization faces. The more they know, the more likely they are to provide suggestions or focus on solutions in their daily work.
  3. Make small talk. Take small moments during the week to talk to individuals and listen to what is going on in their life.
  4. Be quick to respond to requests on more information. By respectfully answering questions, trust is gained and it further strenghtens the bond.
  5. Recognize and celebrate individual accomplishments of your employees. Maybe even brag about it to other key figures of the organization. Nothing builds more trust than making people feel appreciated.
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patat

Fries get cold (why do customers choose you?)

Recently, I was standing in the local snack corner, waiting for my order. There are two snack corners in our village, about 200 meters away from each other, along the same road. One is a new modern looking shop that claims to “fry healthy” and where friendly, and always smiling, ladies serve fries and sell ice cream to the customers. The other place is much simpler, owned by a middle-aged couple, with a small takeaway area. I found myself standing in the second one.

I chose the second place on purpose. Not because their food is better (for me fries are fries, I’m not too picky when it comes to that), but because I felt a little sorry for the owners as the other place seemed to be, from my point of view, a bigger success. I ended up having a conversation with the owner while he was fixing my order, and I asked him how business was going and whether the competition nearby was bothering him. His answer surprised me.

“You know”, he said with a smile, “I’ll tell you a secret. Fries get cold.” Surprised as I was, I asked him what he meant. He continued: “Across the street from here is a supermarket. Next to the supermarket is a large parking lot. You can park your car almost in front of my door. This means you will be back in your warm car as soon as you get your order and therefore you will be home sooner. The other place has only little parking space. This means that people with bigger cars or company vans, will choose to park at the big parking lot next to the supermarket. These people will sooner enter my shop, as they need to walk less far. This way, I always have enough customers, because fries easily get cold and cold fries don’t taste good.”

I was surprised by the simplicity of his answer. He didn’t seem to worry at all about the competition. It’s not just the location that makes his place a success, the features of his product suit the location. If it would be a pharmacy or clothing store at that same spot, with a competitor at the same distance, the location wouldn’t matter as much (for those products people are more willing to park 200 meters away). But walking 200 meters through the cold, to get to your car, with an order of fries? No, thanks. This man knew very well why his customers would continue to come to him.

It may be that your company is situated at an amazing location, with strong products, attractive and friendly personnel and impressive marketing. Sounds like a success, right? Yet, there are many companies that operate like this, but still aren’t successful. Simply because they don’t understand exactly why customers would choose for them. A good company strategy, for that reason, starts by answering the question why people should choose you. If you don’t know exactly why people should choose you, the chances to become successful are much smaller.

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Safety First

Internal communication – the basic need of every organization

Why are many organizations still struggling when it comes to internal communication? Why do managers and CEOs find it still such a difficult topic? And why do you so often hear: “I wish things would be communicated!” Is internal communication underestimated?

I believe that many organizations don’t fully understand the importance of internal communication. I even believe that internal communication is more important than sales, marketing or any other business element within larger organizations that contribute directly to the company’s results. Here’s why:

Good internal communication creates safety.
Safety is basic need number 1 for almost everyone (except maybe for some adrenaline junkies). It’s evolutionarily determined, a primary and biological need. Maslow’s pyramid clearly reflects this: The primary physical needs for food and shelter are followed by safety. Look at the animal kingdom, for example at the African Savannahs. Large groups of mammals, like gazelles, are safe as long as they group together, when they cooperate as a group, and when they move as a group. When one animal isolates itself from the rest, it immediately exposes itself to the danger of being attacked by predators or risking getting lost while seeking fertile grounds and water. The chance that the animal survives is then reduced to zero. Therefore, animals stick together, to stay safe, and to guarantee the existence of their kind.

The same goes for the army. Even though everybody knows what the mission is, if everybody would then go their own way, and need to fight for their own safety above fighting for that of their group, no one will be safe at the end. That’s why there are leaders, such as admirals, majors, colonels, who make sure that the group stays connected, knows what is waiting for them, and that every individual knows what he is fighting for and what his tasks and responsibilities are.

Good internal communication ensures that people will feel safe within their organization, their department, at the place where they spend the major part of their lives whilst awake. It creates engagement with their jobs, it makes them feel connected, appreciated or even loved, but above all: it makes them feel personally responsible for the company’s goals. They know what to expect and also that they’re not on their own, but that they are part of an organization where everybody – day in, day out – makes an effort and aims for the same goal. It is the responsibility of the leaders within an organization to create that feeling of safety, by maintaining excellent internal communication. If leaders fail in giving people this feeling of safety, appreciation, and responsibility within their own field of work, with room for personal development, than this will break up the organization from the inside out. Instead of people putting their efforts together, while aiming for the same goal, they will start fighting for their own right of existence and safety within the company, which inherently risks the safety of the organization.

Think about this: if someone constantly worries about his own safety within an organization, about its continuity, his position, about what is happening within the organization, whether competition is lurking, or about that manager who isn’t supportive or always continues its own course and never listens to him… How much time do you think this person effectively spends on fulfilling his tasks, contributing to the goals of the organization? Very little. Instead, this person is fighting for his own safety, to ensure his own existence within the organization. Just as long as needed to ensure his safety, perhaps at the expense of someone else’s, or until this person is overworked. Or even worse: until one day he couldn’t care less, completely demotivated. When the organization has to cope with bad weather, chances are slim that this person will make extra effort. Imagine the effect when more individuals are dealing with this same issue.

Safety is important for everyone, but also different to everyone. For one, safety can mean a fixed contract, for another it might be a clear assignment or goal, yet for another person it could be to be informed about the health of the organization. Therefore, it is very important that organizations listen to their people. Involve employees in important decisions, especially when it affects them directly! Ask for their opinion and input! Make sure that employees feel appreciated! And even more important, not just feel responsible for their daily tasks, but also for the goal of the organization. It’s not without a reason it is often said that internal communication is the oil that makes the machine run smoothly. Without oil, or with the wrong kind, everything will jam. Give your organization the right oil. Start with your internal communication!

 

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2b25d59

Customer needs – still a grey area for business owners

Last week I spoke to a business owner about his company, with which he offers training programs to those who have a hard time passing their drivers’ license theory exam. He developed a training program by himself, accompanied by a well thought (business model. His website is easy to find on Google and the price he asks for the program, including a free resit, is very reasonable. The reviews on his program are praiseful and the pass rate high. Everything seems to be a success. Still, he is struggling with his competitive market position.

Recently, another player entered the market, who offers training programs nationwide against prices far below his. “How can I cope with this?”- he asked me. “Now, customers are choosing the competitor, even though he offers a mediocre training program where the chances to pass the exam much smaller. Besides, he doesn’t even know his customers, since he is not from this region. If I lower my price, I will lose my margin, which means it won’t be as profitable for me anymore. Besides, the package that I offer is much more extensive and complete than the package and service my competitor offers.”

My advice to this business owner is simple: know your customer. By doing focused research, in order to find out what the exact needs of the customer are, it’s likely to get a clear view on what he needs to do to win back his customers. Maybe his customers don’t know how extensive the program is that he offers. On the other hand: maybe the customers don’t need such an extensive program, and by simplifying it he might be able to lower his price. And even though he is easily found on Google, it might be even better to see how he can benefit from his network. Can driving schools recommend him? Mouth-to-mouth advertising is still the best way to get new customers! Are there driving schools that would like to cooperate with him? At social media, there might be chances too in order to create more awareness.

Being flexible and to be able to change your way of thinking is what matters. Not taking the path you’re familiar with or because that’s the one everyone else is taking, but finding out what your customers need and being willing to adapt. I’m convinced that this business owner will take his shot to maximize his opportunities. And if possible, I will coach him while doing so.

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