One of the things entrepreneurs and chief marketing officers of Inc. 500 companies have in common is their desire to turn "consideration"--marketing-speak for having prospects think of their product or service--into sales.
As the head of a marketing communications firm, I hear the word "consideration" multiple times a day. The good news is that there are some surefire ways to get your product, service, or organization added to a buyer's consideration list. In fact, one McKinsey study found that "brands may 'interrupt' the decision-making process by entering into consideration, and even force the exit of rivals."
Consideration doesn't guarantee your cash register will ring--you'll still have to close the sale--but you can't discount its importance. So in the spirit of the upcoming Super Bowl, allow me to help you carry the ball across the consideration goal line. Here are five tips:
1. Use publicity in unexpected ways.
Earned media provides credibility, which in turn can impact consideration. But most entrepreneurs do little more to leverage an Inc. profile than push it out in an email blast, slap it on their website, or both. Ho-hum.
Here's a tip: Go old-school. My company has represented Duke University's Fuqua School of Business for a decade. When we began working with them, Fuqua was seen as an arriviste in the rarified world of Harvard, Wharton, and Tuck. So rather than follow the conventional PR wisdom of the day by email-blasting every positive article, Fuqua's fund-raising and business development executives instead sent quarterly, threefold mailers that contained our most recent Wall Street Journal feature. They were entitled "Fuqua in the News." Nothing more, nothing less.
It sure broke through the clutter. "Fuqua in the News" earned the b-school a seat at the consideration table when Inc. 500 company-sponsored executive education programs were being awarded.
A recent GE Capital study showed that 81 percent of consumers go online before heading to a store. Your competitors know that, and will leverage the Web. So why not go retro, and send the remaining 19 percent of your prospects a mailer?
2. An award is a many-splendored thing.
When another of our clients, Earth-Kind founder Kari Warberg Block, was named second runner-up for the SBA's National Small Business Person of the year in 2013, she didn't just pocket the award and "thank all the little people."
Instead, Kari, our client, leveraged the award into a feature story in The Huffington Post. That in turn led to an ongoing column with the influential publication. Earth-Kind's business increased consideration and sales as a direct result.
3. A crisis can actually enhance consideration.
Too many companies ignore the profound impact a crisis will have on consideration. We once represented a major appliance manufacturer whose washing machines were actually catching on fire! The powers-that-be knew quality had been compromised, and issued a product recall. But they insisted on continuing a marketing campaign that emphasized the reliability of their machines. That bunker mentality not only confused prospective buyers and retailers, it outraged them.
Compare that approach to the one embraced by Toyota in the aftermath of its 2010 recall of some 2.3 million cars. Despite a Kelley Blue Book study that found 20 percent of consumers had scratched Toyota off their shopping lists, and consideration had been cut almost in half, the automaker placed a moratorium on all marketing communications. Toyota wanted to be sure it had fixed the problem before it again began climbing the credibility and consideration ladder. Today, the brand is stronger than ever.
So first solve the problem that caused the crisis. Then rebuild. Crises can make, or break, consideration.
4. Be transparent in your publishing.
Even though hordes of companies are now bypassing traditional media outlets and publishing their own Web-based chats, forums, and entertainment, most are doing it wrong. Instead of listening to and connecting with prospective customers by addressing issues that matter most to them, marketers are still designing content that promotes their product, service, or organization.
The Federal Trade Commission, for example, castigated Shape magazine for running print ads disguised as editorial content to promote their own line of Shape drinks! They were taken to task for deliberately blurring the lines between advertising and editorial by not labeling their article as a print ad.
Creating and curating content on your website can be very effective in impacting consideration. But with the ad/edit lines blurring, it's more important than ever for entrepreneurs to create content that is relevant to prospects and doesn't breach ethical or moral standards. For help, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) provides a great list of guidelines.
5. The right gimmick still works.
Advertising legend David Ogilvy famously said, "The consumer isn't stupid. She's your wife." That may have been a sexist statement, but the essence still holds true. Experiential marketing, which is marketing-speak for special events, stunts, and gimmicks, can have a big impact on consideration, as long as it doesn't insult your audience's intelligence.
A few years back, Welch's created a two-page print ad in People magazine that featured a lickable strip providing consumers a "pre-taste" of their grape juice. Lickable ads became marketing's shiny new object for about a nanosecond. Consumers ended up rejecting the flavor strip gimmick because of safety and sanitation issues.
On the flip side, human resources managers attending a small business conference embraced a stunt my firm created for EmployeeMatters, a startup that handled benefits for small business owners. Since the company was unknown, we disrupted the conference by hiring Drew Carey look-alikes (at the time, Carey played an HR manager on a hit TV sitcom bearing his name). The look-alikes "boycotted" the conference and carried posters that read, "I quit doing business as usual!"
The stunt generated major national publicity, EmployeeMatters entered the small business consideration cycle, and Intuit bought the firm for millions of dollars.
There are many other methods of impacting consideration. Knowing about them is one thing. Implementing them correctly is where the rubber meets the road.