Is it surprising that employees, customers and prospects have a foggy understanding of a company's message?
3. Marketing activities should enhance your brand. Although there's endless talk about "brand," it's little more than that, endless talk. Somehow it doesn't sink in that a company's most essential task is not production or sales, but brand management. Everything else pales in significance compared to that responsibility.
If there's any marketing rule that's near sacred, it's this: if it doesn't enhance the brand, don't do it. For decades, Toyota was relentless in cultivating its brand with a powerful emphasis on quality and safety. Everything else took a back seat. Then the gas pedal issue hit the headline, with the loudest voices immediately predicting the downfall of the Toyota brand. Some suggested that it would take a decade for the company to recover.
Toyota responded dramatically and unpredictably by shutting down its factories. This decision sent a clear message to consumers: the company was dead serious about maintaining brand integrity. In spite of negative publicity swirling around the company, including a U.S. Senate hearing, Toyota let the auto buying public know that it would solve the problem before the assembly lines started up again. On top of that, they created more goodwill by paying their employees during the shut down. All of Toyota's commitment to brand management was put to the test. Then, when they introduced an aggressive marketing strategy, sales snapped almost instantly.
4. Stop telling and start helping. This may be the most critical issue of all–and the one that's most often ignored. If there's anything about Apple that's unique, it's the company's ability to know why they are in business. Others try, but no one comes even close.
The day of the recent introduction of Apple's latest product, the iPad, New York Times reporter Brad Stone, captured Apple's essence, when he interviewed a customer at an Apple store in San Francisco. "It's beyond technology. It's a culture. It's a community," said Rey Gutierrez. Stone described him as "a diehard loyalist" with a tattoo of the Apple logo on his left hand, who lined up at the San Francisco Apple store at 4:00 a.m. And then added, "No other company can drop a device and generate this much energy. Every big brand is envious of what Apple can do."
Time Magazine's Stephen Fry said it succinctly: "It's not about the features -- it's about the experience." Apple never talks about what its products can do; it's always about what consumers can do with its products. This is what creates the excitement and passion with Apple customers.
But that's only the beginning. Unlike just about every other manufacturer, Apple products are deliberately unfinished when they hit the market. They are designed to grow on you. Consumers pour themselves into Apple products and this is what creates continued interest, excitement and produces a "wow" experience that renews itself over time. Rather than "telling" the customer what to do with an iPhone, Mac computer or iPad, Apple says, "Come on in and see what it can do for you." This is why Apple stores are always packed. It's all about an adventure, the ultimate expression of a marketing mindset.
At a time when salespeople are having difficulty finding customers and even a harder time persuading them to buy, the marketing mindset changes the game. As Matt Davis says, "I teach and train them and that's why they come back to me."
John R. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and sales consulting firm. He writes for a variety of business publications and speaks on business, marketing and sales issues. Contact: 40 Oval Road, Quincy, MA 02170; 617-328-0069; email@example.com. Blog: grahamcomm.com/wordpress. Website: grahamcomm.com.