Category Archives: marketing strategy

SPECIAL SERIES-Post #5: Mastering Metrics

This is the fifth and final of a “back to basics” review series of the marketing process.  For series introduction, see 4/5 post.

We’ve often posted that being able to analyze and measure the effectiveness of a marketing program is critical.  We’ve also noted that industry experts say that about half of all advertising dollars spent is wasted:  the key is knowing which half (few do).  So, how do you know what works?

With most marketers today understandably concerned about keeping their jobs or clients, they may be loathe to actually find proof  their programs don’t work or have a negative ROI.  Yet knowing how to present metrics masterfully in this climate of fear can work to great competitive advantage. 

Every market researcher knows that it is not the actual study findings that count but how you present the numbers.  Statistics can be interpreted in numerous ways, and research firms are sure to present theirs in a manner that at least shows there is opportunity out there for their clients.  Or, at least they suggest a follow-up study to ensure they will be rehired…

There is also now the element of social media, where readily-available stats for websites, blogs and tweets are daily reminders of  direction.  Importantly, clients can easily access those too, so marketers are no longer the lone gatekeepers of metrics.  

In fact, the new social media metrics are a world unto themselves, with new lingo such as buzz rate (see post below re ambush marketing which beautifully illustrates this.  We’ll address the new social media metrics in a later post.  Remember:  this is a “back-to-basic” series…)

We’re also not going to address complicated econometrics and regression analyses here.  Leave those for the academicians or those pesky auditors.  

Then, there are clever analysis programs that come under the umbrella of  the “path to purchase” where each stage of the sales-actualization process is measured independently.  Good stuff for the big packaged goods guys, as many of the smaller marketers don’t have the time or tools to do this effectively.

Instead, below are some planning tools, plus analyses and metrics that  anyone can use to determine whether a marketing plan is delivering anything:

  • COST-PER-INCH ANALYSIS.  Perhaps one of our very favorites and a standard at PR agencies, it involves the counting of  total inches or minutes your product/company received in “free” publicity from press releases, feature stories, PSAs etc. sent distributed by you.  That is then coverted to actual dollars (based on the media’s highest card rate) to arrive at the savings from not actually buying that media.  Or, how we prefer to present it:  the value added to the program.  Works best if your program has no advertising component…
  • TOTAL IMPRESSIONS.  This is another one used often by PR agencies involving the addition of the total circulation, times the projected bonus readership (i.e. most  publications have what is termed “pass-along” readership).  Often marketers will call this IMPACT, using the standard equation of:  REACH + FREQUENCY = IMPACT.  This is one that only works with specific benchmarks (i.e.  you increase your goals each year).
  • COST PER STORE.  We kinda like this one if we are doing multi-store or chain programs where we can look at the store traffic count (# customers) and evaluate what it cost to post the POP, stage the demos or the promotional event. etc.   Dividing the cost of your marketing effort by the total store or traffic count can help determine which chains/stores deliver the best ROI.
  • CPU/CPM.  Standard measurement of media, the cost-per-unit  or cost-per-thousand (broadcast rate) is typically measured against sales gained via that media.  The goal is to show you spent mere cents or fractions thereof reaching your target audience. (the “which half of the ad dollars is wasted?” quandary…)  This is  traditional mass media measurement, slowing going by the wayside in the wake of social media…
  • COST PER CUSTOMER.  This is a common tool used by sales management, where the cost of servicing the customer via visits, phone calls, baseball tickets, etc.  is pitted against sales to him/her.  Then, typically strategies whether to up-sell, maintain or “divest” the customer are made. (The figure varies but most companies peg the average B2B sales call today at $500+).  Sales being a component of marketing, savvy marketers need to handle this delicately with the sales managers…
  • ACV.  We wrote about this recently:  how knowing the all-commodity volume of the market and chains you are targeting  makes clear sense before making a marketing investment.  Lots have been spent on only few,  just like some salespeople spend way too much time trying to sell widgets in Montana…(check out the state’s ACV.) Again, the key here is ensuring your efforts are in line with the potential of the market.
  • BDI/CDI.  Another potential-measurement tool is the Brand Development Index vs. Category Development Index.  This is a more complex matrix exercise where you plot, using sales data, the position of your product’s total category sales (all competitors, including you)  in the marketplace vs. your own product’s sales (your brand).  The resulting matrix illustrates whether the category is saturated or whether there is hope for your brand to grow.  More complicated, and deserves its own post, but suffice it to say that marketers should know about these tools even if they never (or pray they never) get to use them.

We hope you have found this small series of five posts helpful. (Selfishly, they will be part of a book by your blogger some time…time permitting)   Let us know if you would like some more of these series in the future and which topics are of special interest!

SPECIAL SERIES-Post #4: Minding the Media

This is the fourth of a “back to basics” review series  of the marketing process.  For series introduction, see 4/5 post

After your integrated marketing plan is nicely in place, the ACV assured and the complete program ready to roll, there is one area often neglected but which can mean sink or swim for you or your client. 

That area is media relations and, judging by the recent events with Tiger Woods and Toyota (see our previous posts on these hot subjects),  never make the mistake of assuming you are too “big” to learn this discipline… Importantly, good media coverage doesn’t just happen:  it requires careful planning.

Thankfully there are some experts willing to help us, like agency colleague Dee Munson, who is in the forefront of all this, having recently squired Olympian Apolo Ohno on a media tour. (Lucky lady!)  She shares her valuable insight:

“Much has changed in the several decades I’ve been doing marketing communications in the food area –especially the media.  But I do think some basics still apply now, as when I first started.  These basics are the foundation of successful communication.  It’s still the what, who, why, where and how.

First, what.  Know exactly what you want to say.  Call it ‘messaging,’ staying on point, focus, strategy, whatever.  Spend some time to really distill your message so that it becomes automatic.  You can add some subpoints and additional messages, but not until the key point has been made perfectly clear.

Second, why.  Why do you want consumers to know about you or your product?  Obviously, to increase awareness and sales.  But you have to commit to more than that.  Consumers today want you to be serving them, so determine what it is about your company and your product that will answer that “why” question.

Next, who.  There are two parts to this question.  Who is your target?  Knowing who you want to reach helps answer the remaining questions.  That target audience will be a major factor in determining the where, when and how, including the spokesperson, as well as the media for the spokesperson to deliver a message. 

For example, most food products have a common target – the woman who selects and purchases the food, and most likely for a family.  Research will help you determine more about this woman – her age, her education, where she and her family lives, what her media preferences are, how frequently and where she buys your product and more. 

The investment in research goes beyond value – it helps you know exactly who you are trying to reach.  And, in most with produce, the target audience who buys your products is not you!

If you’ve lots of bucks and can get directly to the consumer, advertising works.  Reaching consumers through channels that they use for information is less expensive and has the additional benefit of implied endorsement – from magazines, social media, broadcast.

Who can best deliver your message?  Here’s where spokespeople come in.  If you are going to use a spokesperson you need to vet that person as completely, if not more so, than a possible employee. 

After all, the spokesperson is speaking for you, standing for your product or your brand and will be the most visible representation of your product or brand. You can use focus groups, either formal or in-formal.  Or check out Q Ratings.  Q Ratings is a form of research that rates the popularity of spokespersons. 

 Also look at other products this person is representing and get recommendations, or warnings.  There’s always considerable financial investment, but the investment of your reputation with the spokesperson cannot be measured, except in harm done if you don’t do your due diligence. 

And here’s an important tip when budgeting for a spokesperson – remember that, in addition to the spokesperson’s fee you have to have enough money in addition to cover how you want to use that spokesperson: point of sale, media events, advertising, appearances and more.  Figure on at least double the spokesperson fee, or better yet three times or more.  This is investment spending.

Be perfectly clear about your expectations for a spokesperson.  You’ll be involved in a contract and working with an agent.  Be sure you have some legal guidance as well.  It’s good if you can be in love with your spokesperson, but it’s also good to have a “pre-nup”…

And it’s very good if your spokesperson is in love with your product.  Sincerity shows.  It’s important for your spokesperson to tour your operation, use your product, become familiar with your communications and be down pat on your messages.  Most professional spokespeople know that this is their responsibility, but it’s also yours, so don’t be blinded by fame or celebrity – make sure the spokesperson is yours.

Now, where.  This is where a media event comes in.  The event is an opportunity for you to bring your spokesperson face to face or computer to computer with influencers who will amplify and multiply your message. 

As you recently read in this blog, you “fish where the fish are.”  The media these days are overworked, understaffed and besieged by invitations to events.  They pick and choose, so your event has to be meaningful, attractive and convenient for them. 

Your invitation has to be specific about time and place but also about what the media will get from attending.  Familiarity with the blogs of some well-known editors can tell you just how selective they are. 

Remember that the media get many, many invitations to press events each day and yours has to stand out from the crowd.  An attention-getting delivery helps, but the substance of the information from the event has to be there.

When:  If your products are seasonal, you want to reach the media either in mid-season, or, in the case of magazines that prepare their features six months or more in advance:  far enough out that they can include our information during our season.  Broadcast, news and bloggers want immediacy.  You must decide which is more important for your product.  Ideally you’ll do both.

How.  Spend time to create a complete media kit.  It can be on a drive or disk or even the old-fashioned printed kit, and must have all the information you want to communicate, but concisely and in a format easy for the media to access. 

Photos? Absolutely!  Depending on the event, you’ll want a professional photographer there to capture as much as possible.  Following up with a photo for the editor gives you one more point of contact.

A few other pointers: 

  •  Don’t under-budget for an event.  You want enough staff there to handle all the details, to meet with the media, to assist the spokesperson and to make things go smoothly. 
  • Plan the event minute-by-minute to avoid any last minute needs and surprises, and get some professional help.  This is what we PR folk are for – we know what’s needed, what to expect and how to handle last-minute situations. 
  • Don’t assume you and a few company people can handle it; and there’s no need to be lavish, but don’t skimp.  Cheap looks cheap and reflects on your product and your company.  Again, here’s where a professional can help make a difference. 
  • Finally, it’s a positive personal relationship that can make a difference.  Make an effort to meet the media and to understand their wants and needs.  NEVER say: “We want you to run a story about our product.”  Provide the information based on all the points outlined above and trust that your planning and hard work and the right spokesperson are going to get the message across.
  • Always follow-up with more information, photos or just a thank you.  And continue to do so.  Produce people know that a successful crop starts with seeds, working the soil, ongoing attention and a thoughtful harvest.  It’s the same with media relations.”

(Dee Munson, is president of Seattle-based The Food Professionals, Inc.,  and is a veteran marketing communications professional, with experience as a magazine editor, commodity board marketing director, agency executive and spokesperson.   She can be reached at  (206) 463-5677.  Or visit her web site: )

NEXT SERIES POST:  Measuring performance!


This is the second of a “back to basics” review series  of the marketing process.  For series introduction, see 4/5 post

Now that your multi-element marketing plan is in place, you need to take it on the road.  The question is: where to?  

Allocating marketing dollars is one equation everyone struggles with at some point.  As one famous ad man quipped:  “Half of all advertising spending is wasted.  The key is knowing which half.”

We were gratified for the recent opinion of a blogmaster (those who write these for a living:  the easy life!) that echoed what we wrote about on 11/11 and then again on 3/10 about…fishing.  Daniel Scocco ( guest-posted on Copyblogger, and we paraphrase that here because it is worth repeating…ad nauseum:

Go where the fish are!

What is the most important factor you need to have if you want to go fishing?
Most people will say the fishing rod. Others will say the bait, or a boat. Interestingly enough, they are all wrong.  The most important element of the equation is the presence of lots of fish.  If you have a lake full of fish but don’t have a fishing rod or bait, you can probably still improvise something that would let you enjoy a fish dinner tonight.  But no matter how great your bait or how cutting-edge your equipment, if there aren’t any fish, there’s no fish dinner…That means…[you need to] target known customers willing to spend money.


Remember that we wrote about on 3/10 how ACV — all-commodity volume — is the retail segment keystone because it measures actual sales activity, not just population.  When you target a market with high ACV, you simply have a larger number to bite your bait.  After all, 1% of  millions is something.
 Yet there are times when marketers want to go to smaller ponds.  Fact is, high-ACV (“A” markets) such as Los Angeles, Chicago etc, are expensive.  Media costs and, in fact, costs to implement promotional programs there are typically much higher than in B or C markets.
If your budget does not allow this, or if you have a very specific product niche, then focusing on a smaller market makes sense.  But here the key is to know the specific demographic of your target to ensure no wasted dollars.
We urge you to invest in market research (primary and secondary), scanner data and psychographic studies that tell you all about your target.
Segmenting the market is the key to success today, and one that giants like Unilever have down pat with their excellent studies on ethnic and generational groups.  Then, you can tailor your message accordingly.
In short,  if you want to be a successful fisherman today, you’ve got to ace ACV.
NEXT WEEK:   The retailer’s angle…

SPECIAL SERIES-Post #1: Know the elements

This is the first of a “back to basics” review series  of the marketing process.  For series introduction, see 4/5 post

Just as the natural elements (earth, wind, etc) are a given, so should be the elements of marketing.   While this may be basic for most, we still get distressed when we see corporate titles such as:  Director of Marketing & Advertising.  Well, if advertising isn’t marketing, we’re in trouble!

Anyway, this proves that the elements of marketing continue to confuse. While there are plenty of tutorials out there on how to write a marketing plan, few explain what specific things should be in one.  

So, here we are going to define these further.  Importantly, not any one of these elements work magic alone, but a combination of the right elements, or tactics,  provide the integration that can spell success.

Let’s start by remembering the easy, classic components of marketing:  the four Ps:  product, price, place and promotion.  The elements of your marketing plan should address all these using these activities:

POSITIONING:  This is the (brief) statement that tells what you are about elegantly and eloquently.  It is what you refer to to ensure that whatever your elements they are  in keeping with the company’s unique market position expressed.  Note that this is not a theme or tag line (used in ads, etc) and usually not a public statement. 

PUBLIC RELATIONS:  This comprises publicity, public affairs and special events.  Publicity is media coverage you get where you don’t pay for the space (including blogs and web sites).  It’s most rewarding when you measure the actual inches or seconds of publicity achieved and figure out how much it would cost to buy that space or time… Public affairs is a bit more arbitrary in that it involves outreach to consumers focused on image-building or issues-management.  A corporate nutritionist, for example, may conduct public affairs programs.  Special events include trade shows, seminars, fairs:  anything that puts you in direct contact with customers.  Social media also falls under the publicity banner.

ADVERTISING:  It’s also a form of public relations, but you pay for it, typically by purchasing space or time mostly in print and broacast media.  In social media, paid Twitter may not be far away…The key equation to remember in advertising is:  REACH + FREQUENCY = IMPACT.  We’ve said once and say it again:  unless you are doing it strictly for public relations, don’t run one ad once.  A proper ad campaign is a mininum of three related ads, ideally run consecutively in the same medium.

SALES PROMOTION:  These are activities that support the sales team and work  to ensure customer purchases.  On the consumer side, it can involve price strategies (i.e. BOGOs), sweepstakes/contests, give-aways, in-store specials, etc, as well as point-of-purchase (POP) materials and merchandising, among other creative tactics.  Note that promotions is also a key element in trade marketing (B2B), and can involve off-invoice, category management, or other value-added offering to ensure retail buyers’  loyalty.

COLLATERAL:  Yes, it’s an old-fashioned term from the halcyon ad agency days but it still works and includes brochures, magazines, logo premiums, and other informational sales materials for potential customers.  These days we are seeing folks go electronic with much of this, including huge brochures on tiny Flash drives.  We are all for saving paper, but sometimes there is nothing quite like the look and feel of a quality  printed piece to position a company properly.

You can add more elements to your marketing plan if you wish, but if you don’t at least have these, don’t call it a plan…

NEXT WEEK:  Guest post from industry expert!


Folly is for clowns, not marketers
Folly is for clowns, not marketers

Our count-down series continues!  We found that folks just love lists.  Our blog stats show that the “listy” posts are the best read by far.  It just goes to prove that long-winded explanations of things just doesn’t cut it today.

Having been raised with advertising guru David Ogilvy’s 1980s “long copy sells” adage,  now we learn that the leading Generation Yer marketing guru blogger Seth (it’s OK, check out the competition at: favors short & sweet…and bulleted.  So here we go….

 After the amazing 10 MARKETING MISTAKES (post 8/23), followed by our surprising SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS (9/12), we will now address some major follies…in no particular order of foolishness:

  • FOLLY:  After we manufacture our widget, we will put together the marketing plan.”

FACT:  Perhaps that’s the most common mistake marketers make.  Always think of the cement company’s dictum: find a need, then fill it.  If there is no need for your product, no amount of marketing will help you sell it.

  • FOLLY:  “My nephew can do it for cheap.”

FACT:  This is a common approach in family companies trying to keep the lid on costs.  Unless your newphew is an EXPERT on brochures, web sites, category management, what have you, let a professional do it.  Unprofessional results, especially in graphics and image, are immediately and permanently apparent.

  • FOLLY:  “If we give it away for free, then who’ll buy it?”

FACT:  My mother often used this old adage about girls who live with their boyfriends before marriage:  “Why would he buy the cow if he can get the milk for free?”.  While this might be the case with lust,  it’s apparently not so with marketing.   It has been proven that most of the time, if you give a customer/client  something smallish but useful, at no obligation, they’ll come back.   This has been particularly so with web business-to-business, such as white papers, trend reports, guide books, even opinions, that you can download for nothing. 

Afterward, of course, you are invited to join the organization or pay for an annual subscription, etc.  By that time you are typically hooked on the stuff or at least feeling guilty, so you bite… If no one signs up or buys what you are offering, at least you know the product is no good right away.

  • FOLLY:  “If we had a larger budget, we would have gotten better results.”

FACT:  This is the plague of big companies with lots of money to waste.  We have seen more useless stuff come out of those with endless resources than from companies that actually have to use imagination and moxey to get their message across.  The smaller companies are typically better at measuring results also, which is what it’s all about.

  • FOLLY:  “We want everyone Twittering about us!”

FACT:  This is a new one since the explosion of social media.   We find many marketers today want the full plate of media options just so they can be on-trend.  At a recent trade show (posts 10/2 and 10/7) we learned that some produce companies were asking folks to follow them on Twitter.  When we asked them “Why?”, they couldn’t respond strategically.  Perhaps they think people are dying to read about what their melons are up to at any time of the day…

Folks, please have a good strategy before you adopt every new trend.  Even Mylie Cyrus knew when to give up Twitter.