From 1991 to 2004, Kristin Zhivago wrote a newsletter called Marketing Technology, "an ezine for marketers." It was brilliant. She now helps company owners as a revenue consultant and with her book and blog that can be found at http://www.revenuejournal.com/.
Kristin was one of the first four people I asked to present with me at the inaugural Marketing on the Internet seminar series in 1994. The two biggest lessons Kristin drilled into my head have been the foundation of my consulting practice, my books and articles and every presentation I've ever given.
1. It's About the Customer
2. It's Political
Here's how Kristin explained item #1 in February, 1994: "If your delivery medium was water, broadcasting would be like using a big hose to spray a crowd of prospects, hoping some of them will enjoy getting wet. Narrowcasting, a term used by producers of specialized cable TV programs, is like using a smaller hose and only aiming it at people who have already expressed an interest in getting wet. Cybercasting (marketing on-line) is the act of creating a pond of water in cyberspace, telling people that you now have a pond, and inviting them to come for a swim. Prospects can visit your pond anytime they want, stay as long as they want, and dive in as deeply as they want. The extent to which they immerse themselves in your pond is determined completely by their own personal interest."
My shorthand for that is: Make your Web site about your customer and not about your company. Easy to say, tough to do.
I am a fanatic when it comes to testing and measuring. I know what I like when it comes to advertising, marketing and customer service, but I am not the target audience. What rings true to me may not ring true to the great masses of potential customers for a given product or service. So test and measurement are feed for the goose that lays the golden eggs.
However, as Bob Page, manager of analytics engineering for Yahoo, likes to point out, all metrics are political. He is so right. Walk into an office with a chart, graph or spreadsheet in your hand and the person on the other side of the desk will immediately assume you are there to judge them.
Kristin Zhivago described budgetary politics as the corporate Power Baton. She devotes a whole chapter to this in her latest book, "Rivers of Revenue."
When times are great, the advertising and branding people hold the Power Baton; they have their hands on the budgetary controls. All the senior executives in the firm smile broadly around their lit cigars and watch Super Bowl ads and blimps bearing their product's name.
Then, times get a bit tighter. The Power Baton moves, sometimes undetected, over to the promotions people. What, the company wonders, can we do to boost sales? When the profitometer needle swings lower still, the Baton shifts out of marketing and into the sales department. The people with their feet on the street who speak directly to customers hold the reigns and call the shots. Finally, when the red ink outweighs the black, the CFO holds sway.
Guess where the profitometer is pointing now?
Guess which corporate expenditure the CFO is least likely to defend when it's time to make cuts?
Now is the time for all good marketers to make friends with the CFO. Go into that den of bean counters and show them your beans. Do not show them your bean plants, your fertilizer, your complex watering system and your trusty crop rotation schedule. Do not try to explain cross-breeding and organic fungal growth control through the use of enzymatic synthesis. You will only get dull stares in return.
When you become outraged at how thick-skulled they are, and with voice raised, ask them whether they are ignorant or apathetic, they will reply, "Don't know and don't care."
Instead, show them the beans, the whole beans and nothing but the beans.
Explain that you can control the size and number of new beans in each harvest. If they are willing to give you the resources for the complex cultivation necessary, you can promise a return on their investment. You now have their attention. You now have their interest.
At the moment they ask you how much you want them to invest, the Power Baton has started its transition over to the marketing department. Once they ask how much, the rest is just negotiation.
Indeed, your star is about to shine.