My father is in his late 70’s. He is dyslexic and consequently didn’t do well at school. The majority of his working life was spent in sales roles. After a short spell of national service he became an estate agent, he spent time running a coffee shop and then went to work at Woolworths. He worked his way up from stock room boy at a store in Bognor Regis to store manager at a large store in east London. He then spent time selling double glazing, insurance and kitchens.
He has never really retired. Him and my mother help run a community gym in the small town where they live in the north of England. One of my fathers roles – along with gardening, is to apply for grants for new equipment. He has been very successful at this, he writes a powerful and well thought out application and has managed to generate a lot of funding. He also manages to get his picture in the paper on a regular basis alongside an article promoting the gym.
He manages to do this despite never had any marketing or PR training, he knows instinctively what to do.
My background is in engineering. I am a qualified mechanical engineer who held several engineering roles before moving in to sales. After spending time in sales I moved to work in a pr agency and never looked back as they say.
I often hear it said that you cannot get an engineer to write in proper marketing communications language as they always want to write about the technical specs. Well I think I manage it. I have had formal marketing and PR training, but that was after joining the agency. I was writing press releases and articles before that. I have also worked with people who have had formal marketing communications training and still cannot seem to get an idea down on paper, in a way that can be easily understood. Maybe I just inherited some good genes.
So this brings me to my original question. Marketing communications – is it nature or is it nurture? Is it something that exists in people or can it be trained in? Are there some people who can just do it and some who will never be able to do it?
What do you think?
I would argue ‘yes’… And it will become easier and easier as these two worlds collide.
I do not try to hide the fact that my career to date has been firmly rooted in the B2B camp so I may be showing a certain level of bias. This may be true but it does not alter the fact that my colleagues and I are borrowing more and more tools, techniques and strategies from the B2C world.
And why shouldn’t we, our behaviours as consumers and purchasers does not change as much as we might think during that journey that we take between our homes and places of work.
I am working at the moment as part of a team developing a new B2B global website. As inspiration for a lot of what we are doing we have been looking at global B2C websites to see what sort of experience they provide to the user. We are also looking at the way we write marketing collateral, blog posts and web copy and we can see it is changing and moving closer to a consumer style.
The basic principles of marketing communications remain the same regardless of whether you are dealing with people working in a business or directly with the consumer. You need to understand who your customers are, what motivates and drives them, how they are likely to behave and how they may choose to interact with you. That’s it. Once you know those things then you can decide what communication strategies you need.
What do you think is our industry too ready to pigeonhole somebody as either a B2B or a B2C marketeer? Have you made the switch? Did you find it easy or hard?
You can put a lot of effort into promoting a service but if the reality does not live up to the promise you can do far more harm than good.
I have been having problems with my broadband at home so I rang the supplier. We went through lots of tests as you do and the fault was pronounced as “fixed”. We will send you a text message they said and if then problem is not fixed just text us and we will call you. You will not have to call us and wait in a queue.
The text duly arrived and I was telling everybody what a wonderful service this was and recommending this particular supplier.
Now the problem was not fixed so I did send them a text. I sent it on a Saturday morning, but that was fine because the original text said that they check their messages every day between 8 AM and 9 PM.
Imagine my surprise when I got a message in return saying the office was closed and they were only open between the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM Mon to Friday. So immediately I spotted a big disconnect between the promise and reality. Needless to say my enthusiasm for the service has started to wane.
I expected a call when they returned to the office on Monday but this never came. I did in fact give them to the Friday to reply but I was waiting in vain. I texted again on the Friday morning and got a text in reply saying somebody would be in touch soon. I waited till then end of the day and texted again.
I never did get a reply.
I gave up on the text service and called again. They made some changes and said “I will call you personally in 3 days to make sure the problem has been fixed”. Guess what – no call and not fixed.
I called again today and they have made some more changes. I was told they would send me a text message and I could just reply to the text if the problem persisted. Needless to say I told them not to bother as the service was a waste of time. I relayed my concerns and was categorically told that the text messages were checked every day of the week.
I’ve a good mind to text them on Saturday to see if I get a response.
I have gone from being an advocate of this provider to being somebody who if asked would recommend against using them.
I would probably not feel quite as bad about this if they had never made me that promise in the first place. Alright… my problem still would not be fixed but my expectations would not have been raised.
Just be sure that if you introduce a service that it works, that it has been thoroughly tested and that there are no disconnects between what you tell the customer and what actually happens. If you don’t you can end up worse off than if you had not introduced the service in the first place.
A colleague sent me an email this week asking “Is this a good deal?” What he had been offered was a free article in an industrial magazine, all we had to do was spend 15 minutes on the phone with one of their writers and they would prepare the article for us. Normally this is the sort of thing that you Jump at when you work in marketing communications. But not this time.
What set the alarm bells ringing in the first instance was that I had not heard of the magazine. Further reading of their promotional material stated that the magazine was circulated to top global decision makers, without any breakdown of job roles or even any specific circulation figures. The last piece of the puzzle dropped into place when I read that in return we had to supply a list of our suppliers. I’ve been on the receiving end of these types of promotions in the past but from the other side, as a supplier.
When i first started working in marketing communications I was mentored by the late Charles Lewis. Charles was very well known by all the editors of European process and control magazines and he taught me a great deal. Charles was vehemently opposed to promotions like this and he instilled in me the same view.
The way that publications such as this work is that they offer a company the free magazine article, sometimes they even offer to produce it as a company flier also. When the target company bites they are asked to provide a supplier list. Each of the suppliers then gets a letter stating “Company Y is placing a promotional article in our magazine. Mr X from that company would really like you to support that article with an advertisement.” I have received many of these letters and have had many forwarded to me by clients and colleagues. I have at times spoken to sales reps from these magazines. When I decline their offer I have been told “We will go and tell Mr X that you said no.” This always feels to me a little like blackmail. I have actually said this to reps in the past who have just restated their intention to “go tell on me”. This just pisses me off.
When you receive an offer like this, whether you are being offered the article or the advertising the same question still applies.
Will this reach my target audience?
If the supplier is reluctant to give you this information or if they just try to fob you off with vague terms such as “decision makers” then you should question their motives and you should seriously question whether you want to invest time or money in their opportunity.
Another useful question as a supplier when you are offered this kind of opportunity is “if I do not place this ad will it harm my relationship with this customer?”
Are these kinds of publications unique to the automation market or are they seen in other markets also? How do you deal with the pushy sales reps that work for these publications?
I flew with Thomsons today for the first time. I fly a lot in my job, mostly short flights to other European cities, as a result I get to see lots of safety videos and safety demonstrations. Normally I doze off through these, I certainly don’t give them my full attention. Today’s video was different. I listened all the way through to everything that was said. The reason…. They had children playing the part of the stewardesses. The message was exactly the same but it was delivered differently, and that made it interesting. There is an excellent lesson to us all. If you want to deliver a message and you want to make it stand out, deliver it differently.
Have you seen any other examples of where a standard message has been delivered in a different way to make it stand out. Maybe you have done this in your line of work.
When you are making a decision about whether to work with a marketing company you want to be sure that they can do what they say they can do. Often the evidence for that can be seen in how they operate and how they present themselves.
I have been forwarded the same email twice this week. The email was addressed to our HR Manager and also to our quality Manager. In that email the company were offering to get us cheap advertising on the Daily Mail website.
I visited this company’s web site and it looks impressive. Some people may be suckered in. They have a section on their site called “Contextual targetng” In this section they say –
“Contextual targeting is a form of advertising whereby adverts are ‘in context’ with the editorial environment”
Now, I would suggest that if this company had done their research they would know that an ad for our products would not be in the right context if it was placed on the Daily Mail Website. We are a B2B company and we target our products at a narrow group of engineering companies.
The other major fail is that they sent these emails to the wrong people. None of my colleagues in marketing, or me as the Marketing Manager have received an email. Do they really think an HR Manager or a Quality Manager will make decisions on ad placements or are they just playing the numbers game and hoping that eventually they will get to a decision maker.
I for one will not be working with this company. Would you?
In years gone by I used to manage a service centre. At that time I wanted to get our branding on to the service engineers cars. There was fierce resistance as the engineers saw the cars as a perk of the job and a status symbol. There was no way they were going to have our logo on their cars. I backed down and did not pursue it any more.
Here I am, 20 years later. A runner who spends a lot of money on the right running shoes. There is one particular brand that is advertised quite heavily in running mags and on-line. I have had a couple of pairs of their shoes and they are alright. When I used to see their ads my feelings were positive.
I was driving down the M27 a couple of weeks ago. I’m in the outside lane overtaking a steady stream of traffic. A big grey BMW came up behind me and started to behave aggressively and dangerously. At the first opportunity I moved over and let him past. Emblazoned across the back of his car was a logo and website address for this particular sportswear manufacture.
Now whenever I see one of their ads I don’t have the same positive thoughts. The first image that comes to mind is a grey BMW filling my rear view mirror. I wonder how long it will take for that image to be forgotten and for me to start having positive thoughts about that brand again.
I am glad now that I backed down 20 years ago. I am older and wiser and realise that not all branding is good branding
I have been out of the PR business for a while. I changed jobs in May 2011. I went from working in a marketing communications agency to working for a large engineering company as a regional Marketing Manager. It has been a hectic 10 months trying to get to grips with what my job is (it’s changing all the time as I re-define and refine it), sorting out my department – which spans two locations in two different countries, and putting together the processes as we move to providing a fully integrated marketing service to our Product Managers and business development Managers. This has all meant I have not been as closely involved with the communications side (although lots of internal communications) as I would have wished. This will start to change and I plan to blog about some of the challenges I face as we progress.