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Archive for October, 2013

Be Exceptional

And we mean that in the purest sense: be the exception. The rarity. The weird one.

“Playing it safe” and “playing by the rules” might get you new business now and then, but it’s a matter of luck and brute persistence — you put your marketing in front of a few hundred prospects and maybe get a dozen bites. It’s luck and it’s numbers. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something right.

The problem is that in marketing, as in operations, most smaller businesses are tempted to follow the “best practices” of the big ones. The result is a lot of copycat websites and marketing video. (Picture a room full of suitors, each wearing almost the same thing and saying almost the same things. Of the fifty of them, maybe three will be short listed for further consideration. But the guy in the corner wearing a feather boa and saying nothing at all? He’s short listed automatically, just for being intriguing. He makes the others look trite by comparison.)

It’s the same in trying to attract business: you have to be willing to stand out. Be willing to alienate a few prospects, or you’ll get interest from almost none of them.

That’s phase one. Once you’ve got a prospect drawn in, you should switch to phase two: toning down the weirdness and demonstrating your competence. This assures the client that you aren’t all gimmicks and clever marketing, you can actually do the job. And that’s how you turn plain curiosity into new business.

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You Can Say Anything

So long as we’ve never heard it before. That’s the one caveat. Because we’ve already heard from a thousand companies with a “commitment to excellence,” companies who say “customer service is number one,” and promise to deliver “on time every time.” We’re practically starving for a new kind of message. And we’ll actually listen when we hear it.

One of the most important ads of the 20th century. Who before Volkswagen would've labeled their own car a Lemon? This was revolutionary. (Click the pic to view larger)

The human brain is hardwired to focus on the new and the unexpected. Familiar is safe, and not worth the mental resources it takes to closely examine it. That’s why our eyes glaze over whenever some business leader starts spouting clichés. It’s not A.D.D. It’s our brains saying “I can safely check out of this part. I’ll come back when things get interesting.”

So when scripting your video, prefer the unexpected and offbeat. And find some way to tie that weirdness back to your business.

If you’re a law firm, you might do a “we’re the lawyers everyone tells jokes about” campaign. And talk about how your clients laugh all the way to the bank.

If you’re someone who invests other people’s money, you could do worse than a “we’re greedy” video, giving “greed” an unusual spin (“we’re greedy. That’s why we’re so conservative with our investment choices. Because we don’t like to lose. etc.”)

Unusual is interesting. Honesty disarms. Without these two qualities, your business might still succeed. But it won’t be because of your marketing.

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Sometimes, There’s No Competition

Sure, there are other people who do what you do. But for a certain, select group – maybe your family, maybe the people you meet face-to-face at networking events – you are the only choice. They want their suit tailored, or their kid’s birthday photographed, they come to you. You’re “their guy” (or gal), as in “I have a guy” (or gal). You’re the default choice.

The backflip into water is the superior backflip. But some people would rather just sit on the dock with a beer.

You still need a marketing budget.

Because now you aren’t competing with providers in your industry. You’re competing with every industry. Your job isn’t to convince people your service is superior, it’s to convince them they need your service at all.

Like the birthday photographer who loses out to the birthday clown. Or the suit tailor whose clients start dressing casual, or wearing vests (which are “in” now, according to the guy who brings us pizza and news from the outside world). Your main job is to convince your core audience that your services are needed.

This is an important consideration, especially for providers of non-essential services like those mentioned above. If they can do without you, they probably will. It’s your job to convince them that they can’t.

Compete for share of mind. Not share of market.

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Greatest Hits: Volume One

We started this blog for one reason: to share as much knowledge about video production and the theory of marketing as we could. (Also to show off. So what? Two reasons.)

Alas. It’s the nature of blogs to bury old things as new ones become available. But this stuff isn’t news or anything. It doesn’t expire. And our first post is as relevant now as it was on July 1st, when we got this baby up and running.

So without further adieu, we present: the retrospective — a quick summary of our favorite posts over the past few months. This is a great way to see, briefly, all we’ve talked about ’til now (with links to full articles if you want a deeper dive). It’s also a great list of general marketing rules.

 

1. Perception is everything. What you say doesn’t matter as much as how you say it. So straighten that tie and make sure your shirt’s not too wrinkly. Spend a little more on your marketing materials, if for no other reason than looking like a pro.

2. Don’t go out with the P.C., P.R. -approved version of who you are and what you stand for. ‘Official’ messages are boring. Wear that suit, but don’t put too much starch in the collar. You can be well-put-together and still be human.

3. Being the “best” you can is important, but it’s more the cost of doing business than a compelling message for customers. Nobody cares about the ‘best’ product or service. They care about what using your product or service means for them.

4. Keep your message brief. No one owes you their attention. Don’t waste their time (they won’t remember a long message anyway).

5. Don’t deny public perception of your brand. Re-frame everything to be positive instead.

6. Use generosity — writing, speaking, community outreach — to build a scaffolding towards sales. Don’t just go around asking for business or contact numbers.

7. Sometimes what should work backfires, and what breaks ‘the rules’ of good communication is actually what’s necessary. Know thy audience.

8. Avoid the over-technical or over-creative. You can only sell what your customers understand.

9. Obvious selling almost always backfires. Instead show customers who they are, or who they’d like to be, and tie that identity to your service/product.

10. Pick one thing to define you in the mind of the customer. Try to stand for everything and you’ll stand for nothing.

11. Don’t talk about you. Talk about your prospect. Learn to speak the language of their hopes and fears.

Bonus tracks:

1. 3 Reasons to NOT do a Video
2. 3 Steps to Hiring a Videographer
3. Research Reveals the Power of Video Marketing
4. List of Storytelling Techniques for Video
5. 8 Questions for Measuring Effectiveness of Video Campaign
6. Ten Questions to Ask When Looking for a Video Production Company

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What So Much “Persuasive” Communication Lacks…

…is a clear direction forward. We spend so much time and energy convincing people why they should do something, the how becomes almost peripheral. It’s attached at the end as a quick “call to action,” a single, generic line or paragraph, tacked on seemingly as an afterthought. The thinking seems to be: we’ve done such good job convincing people of the importance of this thing, we can leave it to them to figure out how to deal with it.

"Clear Directions" being, of course, a relative term.

Not so. Lacking clear directions for how to move forward, people can be 100% convinced that they need your product or service, and still do nothing about it.

Don’t believe us? Check this out: a group of scientists trying to persuade students to get a vaccine divided their audience into two groups, giving one a soft sell (“get vaccinated or you’ll get sick”) and the other a hard sell (“look at these awful pictures of what can happen if you don’t get vaccinated”).

The hard sell was certainly more effective on a emotional level — the students were terrified — but it made almost no difference behaviorally. Despite their terror, almost no one in either group went to get a vaccine.

But when scientists started including a map to the on-campus clinic, “compliance” numbers jumped significantly in both groups.

The lesson here is that while your video has to do a great job of answering “so what?” it should give equal weight to the “so what now?” Remember: human beings aren’t strictly rational creatures. Just because we’re convinced something may be in our best interests, doesn’t mean we’ll take the initiative to follow up or follow through. It’s usually easier to push aside the message of hope or fear and go on living our lives.

You’re competing with our natural laziness and attention deficiencies. Give us some simple and clear next steps, or the compelling message that came before goes to waste.

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