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Six Serving Men

Updated: Mar 14


“I keep six honest serving-men

   (They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When 

   And How and Where and Who.”

Thanks for joining me. I am Jeremy Nicholson from Screen Matrix and today I would like to talk about the fundamentals of marketing, as I see them. Now they may seem obvious, but please bear with me. This is important because so much of what is written about marketing dives straight down into the complexities of brand perception or digital analytics and yet without a clear brief or business plan this is worse than useless.

Most people know the first verse of Kipling’s poem, but there is a second message:

“But different folk have different views; 

  I know a person small—

She keeps ten million serving-men,

  Who get no rest at all!”

Ask too many questions and you get too many answers. You are overwhelmed. If you are running a multi-channel eCommerce business with multiple campaigns and A/B testing it is easy to get lost in the analytics, metrics and KPIs and the result is, you “get no rest at all”. 

Furthermore,  ask the wrong questions and you get the wrong answers. You can have the best rifle in the world, but if the sights are out you will waste a lot of ammunition.

So to start the process, these are the questions I suggest you ask in order to create the Business Plan or Marketing Brief to form the foundation of your business growth.

  1. What is marketing to me and what need am I addressing? What measurements are important?

  2. Why should my audiences listen and respond?

  3. Who are my target audiences; regulators, investors, competitors, market and other stakeholders?

  4. Where will I find, fix and address them?

  5. When will they be responsive?

  6. How do I address my audience and monitor the results to enhance performance?

Q. What is marketing and, more specifically, what need am I addressing? Which measurements which are important to me?

  1. There are several definitions of marketing, which concentrate on the communication between an organization and its audience. I choose a simpler definition, “Marketing makes it easier to buy”. So my definition includes communication with stakeholders and regulators as well as customers, suspects and prospects. By my definition, anything which makes it easier to buy is marketing, so product development, finance options, investor relations, affiliates, channels and corporate reputation are just as much Marketing as price, features and benefits, messaging and media. I believe“Marketing” also includes logistics and lowering transaction cost through systems integration and automation.

It is a wide definition, so there are numerous metrics which can be applied. These divide into internal; sales revenue, margins, volume, AOV, costs, lead times and of course your standard marketing KPIs such as OTS, CPM, CTR, CoA, CLTV and CROI. Then there are external KPIs such as Market size, economic and cultural trends, competitor evaluation, segment analysis and so on.

Remember, measurements which are important for quarterly sales figures are not always relevant for long term Brand Equity and Business Development. In fact short term gains from, for example, price cutting, actively damage long term brand equity.

Q. Why have I chosen them and why should my audiences respond?

  1. This can be, “there are 10,000 houses within a 10 mile radius with central heating which requires maintenance”, to “Of all the FTSE 500, 86% of CTOs have indicated incorporating AI into product development is a key driver”. 

Of the two, I would be more inclined to trust the former, but you get the idea.

Turning this around, what marketers call going, “through the looking glass”, why would your customers choose you? There may be 10,000 houses needing heating engineers, but why should they choose your services, rather than the 50 other suppliers in your area? You can call this Unique Selling Point, or Unique Perceived Benefit or whatever but the question is the same. 

To save time here, in the majority of cases this comes down to customer service, specifically the personality of the brand.

Q. Who are my target audience, market and other stakeholders?

  1. Yes, obviously suspects, prospects and customers. But what about regulators, influencers, investors, suppliers?

Nowadays, social media reviewers, influencers, vloggers and comparison sites are, while not customers, immensely important.

Q. Where will I find, fix and address them?

  1. This might mean “where, in a geographical sense, or it might mean where in a media or channel sense, or in digital terms it can mean an ecosystem. It usually means a combination of all three.

If you are a chef, running a restaurant, you might think local business is all that matters. So why do Tom Kerridge and other celebrity chefs place so much emphasis on Instagram, where the reach is global? Partly because his restaurants are destinations and customers will travel to them from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. However, it also sells books and delivers viewers to his TV series, which makes him more valuable as an influencer endorsing products for money.

Q. When will they be most responsive?

  1. There are studies about how many prospects are capable of buying but not ready to buy at any particular time. 

"Recent research by the B2B Institute and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute demonstrated that only an average 5% of B2B buyers in a category are in the market and ready to buy at any given time.”

Whilst undoubtedly valuable for large scale marketers, adopting a basic longitudinal marketing strategy should address all your issues. What that means is identifying objective triggers. You can use data you hold within the organization, such as Date of Birth or postcode, or external data. In the B2B world, forthcoming legislative change is always a business driver.

Q. How do I address my audience and measure the results, so I can enhance performance?

  1. How you address your audience is a combination of message and medium. The objective is to deliver the right message, to the right audience at the right time.

There are acres of content on this subject and thousands of people and businesses set up to offer consultancy and services. Mine is just one of them. So I will summarize Bill Bernbach, who was a great figure in Madison Avenue advertising. There are only really three creative ways to communicate; Exposure, Example and Endorsement. This is a Very high level overview. And always remember he espoused these principles in a time of mass broadcast communication which did not include the internet.

Exposure is obvious. A classified ad or a 48 sheet poster showing a logo delivers measurable exposure. Sounds simple, but there are brilliant examples of exposure advertising being really effective. To my mind, one of these is John Hegarty’s work for The Economist, or the Google Homepage.

Example shows the product in use and gives its features and benefits, user stories, case studies and so on. This is what most advertising does. It includes lifestyle advertising such as McCann Erickson’s Gold Blend Couple Ads in 1987 to 1993.

Endorsement is my own favourite, because it achieves several of Bernbach’s principles, such as personality, relevance and honesty. A great example was Ogilvey’s 1985 Lucozade campaign featuring UK Olympian Daley Thompson, which effectively repositioned the brand from an illness recovery drink to create the brand new market sector of energy drinks.

Finally, which media should you employ and in a modern scenario, what related analytics and metrics should you choose to go with it? This is, again, too large a topic to address here and there are, literally, millions of articles to help you. 

However, in most cases the simplest method is to select what you yourself consume. A marketer must always operate within his market and be an active part of it. If you use a certain trade website or attend certain events, the chances are this is where you will find your customers, and the sources of measurement which will allow you to enhance the quality and quantity of business opportunities you receive.


Copyright Screen Matrix 2024

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