A New Twist on Marketing Communications

by | Business Success Tools, Sales and marketing

“The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

       Gordon Gekko (Wall Street)

It never fails. Just when you think you have all the answers, someone changes all the questions.

For years, business owners were advised to consider the “Four Ps” when putting together their marketing plans.

Traditionally, the Four Ps – which comprised a company’s “marketing mix” – were defined as:

  • Product (or Service) – what need the product or service satisfies for a customer
  • Place – where customers can find your product
  • Price– what customers are willing to pay
  • Promotion– where and when customers see messages about your product

That might sound a little too 101-ish, but even if you never deliberately saw your choices in terms of the specific Ps, nearly every marketing decision you made would likely fit into one of the four categories.

But stop the presses. It turns out that the Four Ps don’t quite meet the needs of the 21st century marketing mindset, especially when it comes to business-to-business (b2b) marketing.

In a Harvard Business Review article published earlier this year, Richard Ettenson, Eduardo Conrado, and Jonathan Knowles argue that the conventional Four Ps are inadequate and too narrow, in part because it under-emphasizes your company’s potential role as a innovative problem solver in meeting a customer’s needs.

According to the authors, the Four Ps should be re-worked as follows:

  • Product becomes … Solution
  • Place becomes … Access
  • Price becomes …Value
  • Promotion becomes … Education

Or, S-A-V-E. Note the emphasis and focus on the customer in each part.

Using SAVE to Make Marketing Communications Work

Right now you’re thinking, “the SAVE guidelines sound great for giant companies with tons of staffers who can spend lots of time and resources on getting it just right. What’s in it for the operator of a small business?”

Fair enough. But a little self-analysis – specifically aimed at 1.) making your company more solution-oriented, 2.) determining exactly where your services should be found, and 3.) changing your focus to the value of your services as viewed by your clients – probably wouldn’t hurt.

But for small business, the real opportunity in the SAVE view of marketing strategies lies in point #4, the evolution from Promotion to Education. Educating and informing your clients, and putting the sales process aside (at least initially) can position you way ahead of your direct competitors and even level the field with respect to the largest players in your industry.

Providing a potential customer with useful, no-cost information builds trust, showcases  your knowledge and expertise, and creates a stronger connection than any banner ad or sales brochure ever could.

Education-Focused Marketing Communications

The beauty of providing educational information – pertaining to a customer’s problems and potential solutions – is that by the time he or she is seeking out this kind of information, they’re probably close to actually pulling the purchase trigger.

Here are three effective formats for providing unbiased, non-sales information to prospects. All can be easily stored and downloaded from your website, so a customer can absorb the information at any time.

White Papers

A white paper is a long-format document (they typically run anywhere from six to 50 pages), which provides factual, useful, and educational content relating to a particular business issue or problem.

White papers are generally targeted to a specific audience (engineers, purchasing agents, financial managers, etc.) and sometimes written with the needs of certain industries in mind. White papers can highlight processes, best practices, methodologies, codes and standards, general “how-tos,” and hundreds of other business subjects.

An effective white paper can generate sales leads, cultivate prospects and establish your company as an authority. Check out this white paper by Johnson Controls, a global leader in electrical and operational systems. Notice that the paper is heavy on information and data, and light on directly promoting the company and its products.

Business Ebooks

Business ebooks (not to be confused with the millions of Kindle or other e-reader titles written for a mass audience) and white papers are closely related. The goals are similar – you want to help a target market understand a certain issue or problem, and eventually see your company as the provider of a solution.

Recently, it’s been observed that ebooks tend to provide a little more “splash” in terms of format, graphics, illustration, and tone. Generally, ebooks tend to be less formal in the way they convey information.

That’s not to say that white papers are necessarily rigid or stodgy. But if your audience is less technically-oriented, younger, or would just appreciate a more casual presentation, then you might want to develop and present your information as an ebook.

MP Star Financial has developed a number of ebooks for clients interested in its invoice factoring and other services.

Case Studies

Case studies tend to be short (600 to 1200 words) and are really just narratives or descriptions about how a certain service or product helped solve a real world problem for a customer.

A typical format includes a “before and after” summary of the entire process with emphasis on specific steps taken to resolve the customer’s issues.

Case studies are sometimes more effective later in the sales cycle, after a prospect has a good understanding of your company’s capabilities.

Getting Started with Education-Focused Marketing

White papers, ebooks and case studies require a clear vision of what exactly you’d like to inform your audience about, an understanding of how they can benefit your clients and prospects (and your company) in the long run, and a commitment to completing the documents thoroughly and professionally.

Get your marketing team, your technical or implementation experts, and a capable writer on board.

Providing education-focused material to your customer and prospect base can position your company as a thought leader and provide you with productive sales leads for months or years to come.

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