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Marketing Tactics

7 Marketing Truths Every Business Leader Should Know

If you ask 20 business leaders to define marketing, you’ll probably get 20 different answers.

Steve Tobak

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“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” – David Packard, co-founder, Hewlett-Packard

Why is marketing so hard to pin down? Probably because most marketers don’t understand it themselves. They spend their careers locked in a narrow purview and never really see the big picture.

Its nebulous nature notwithstanding, marketing plays a pivotal role in business.

According to the father of modern management, Peter Drucker, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

What is marketing?

Legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former Intel executive Bill Davidow said, “Marketing must invent complete products and drive them to commanding positions in defensible market segments.” The man should know. He wrote the seminal book on high-tech marketing.

Funny thing is, Davidow didn’t learn marketing in school. All his degrees are in electrical engineering. Steve Jobs, another brilliant marketer, dropped out of school. I’ve run marketing for a number of high-tech companies and my degrees are technical, as well. Not an MBA in the bunch.

So how do great marketers learn about marketing? On the job.

Start-up companies are great places to earn your marketing chops because they’re all about developing innovative products and getting customer traction – and not much else. Besides, they’re always strapped for cash and needing people to wear lots of hats. That’s how I got started in marketing more than 20 years ago.

Related: 2014 Marketing Trends You Need to Know About

Here are 7 truths I learned along the way that every business leader should know:

1. Marketing is like sex: Everyone thinks they’re good at it

There are more posers in marketing than other fields, probably because the demand is strong, the supply is weak, and it’s easy to fake. As David Hornik of August Capital once said, “VCs like to think that they are marketing geniuses. We really do.” The reason, he says, is because “we can fake it far more convincingly than in other areas …” They’re not the only ones.

2. Brands win … still

Many thought e-commerce would level the playing field and render branding irrelevant. Not only has that not happened, I can make a case for the opposite being true. Back in the heyday of AOL, Bob Pittman said, “Coca-Cola does not win the taste test. Microsoft does not have the best operating system. Brands win.” Big brands like Apple, Google, Coca Cola, IBM and Microsoft have never been more powerful.

3. Marketing is about understanding people

It’s about determining what customers want, sometimes before they know it themselves. If you’ve got a knack for that sort of thing, trust your gut. Be your own focus group of one. And while it’s tempting to think of markets as amorphous virtual entities, remember that, even in the B2B world, every product is purchased by a human being in the real world.

4. Innovators don’t reinvent the wheel

Some people are great inventors. They come up with wild concepts that nobody’s ever thought of. But great marketers tend to be innovators who turn inventions into things people can use.

Marketing thrives on reusing ideas in new ways. The groundbreaking Intel Inside branding program was actually an ingredient marketing scheme – like Smuckers jam in Pop Tarts – adapted to the PC industry.

5. Marketing is too important to leave to the marketing department

Marketing is the hub of the business wheel. It’s where product development, manufacturing, finance, communications, and sales all meet. Marketing’s stakeholders are every critical function in the company. Every member of the leadership team is an adjunct of the marketing department.

6. Markets are zero-sum games

Contrary to today’s popular feel-good wisdom, in business, winning is everything. Every transaction has one buyer and one seller. If you do it right, buyer and seller both win. All the other would-be sellers lose. The real world is brutally competitive. Period.

7. You don’t need a big budget to create a big buzz

By executing the right communication strategy, great marketers can create a groundswell of customer excitement and viral demand for a company or product that nobody’s ever heard of. And it can be done on a shoestring budget.

Steve Jobs was a master at maintaining secrecy and controlling exactly how and when anybody learned anything about Apple’s products.

The truth is that great marketers are few and far between. Which begs the question, who exactly are you trusting the most important aspect of your business to? Something for you to think about.

Related: Turn Your Business Into the Ultimate Marketing Machine

What do you think makes a good marketer? Let us know in the comments section below…

Steve Tobak is managing partner of Invisor Consulting -- a Silicon Valley-based management and strategy consulting firm -- and a former senior executive of the technology industry

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Marketing Tactics

How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives

If you’re marketing on a budget, content marketing is a great way to reach your audience, add real value and gain brand traction – without breaking the bank.

Greg Tinkler

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Content marketing is a relatively new type of marketing that most businesses are still trying to get their heads around. Unlike traditional media advertising, which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides content that customers want in exchange for permission to market a product or service.

Disrupted media

There’s a saying, fish where the fish are. Marketing is the same. You need your message to appear where your audience’s attention lies. I don’t believe billboards or even TV adverts hold consumer attention anymore. People aren’t looking at billboards as they drive past; most aren’t even looking at the road, they’re so busy staring at their mobile device or listening to a podcast.

Related: Your 4-Part Formula For Creating Killer Content Marketing Videos

The traditional advertising model creates ad content that interrupts consumers. Billboards, TV commercials and radio advertisements momentarily disrupt what you actually want to be doing — watching your favourite TV show or listening to a song or chat show.

These ads don’t provide any real value to the customer and they don’t offer an immediate reason to even be viewed or engaged with. Instead, they rely on good placement, clever wording and brilliant creativity to capture your attention for a brief period of time.

The rise of content marketing

In response to these problems and restrictions, content marketing is on the rise. As a marketing alternative, it’s not only more cost effective, but it doesn’t aim to interrupt your customer. Instead, it aims to add real value to their lives and businesses by plugging directly into their interests, problems and challenges.

So how does content marketing work? Companies and marketers create content in the form of blog posts, podcast recordings, downloadable guides and infographics, video content and articles that don’t push products, but offer interesting advice, tips and opinions.

The value to consumers is provided in two ways: As educational content and as entertainment content. In both cases, access to this content is free, heightening its value.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

Get the most out of content marketing

Here are three ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts:

  1. Provide content that your customers want. Don’t make the mistake of writing your blog posts about your business. Lesson number one is that people don’t care about your business. Provide valuable content that customers want and need in exchange for their attention. This content can be educational or entertaining. It can be a ‘How to Guide’, an in-depth stats-driven article or an entertaining video. Just make sure it’s about them, and not you.
  2. Focus on content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote or push your product. This is the rule most brands and companies struggle to understand. If you’re going to provide value to your customers, you need to mostly write content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote your products within the content. People are interested in articles and posts that benefit them, not ad posts touting how awesome your products are. Give your customers content that they want, and nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with engaged and targeted audiences.
  3. Write cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is content that can be easily found by your ideal customers. It’s content that provides incredible value to customers over a long period of time. How-To Guides, resources, 101 content and instructional videos all fall into this category. It should be content that customers can refer back to, and which has a long lifespan. This also immediately increases the ROI of your content production, as you only need to create the content once, but it will continue to bring returns.

Bringing it all together

As you make your final marketing push for the year and gear up for next year, make sure content marketing forms a vital part of your strategy. Learn to write engaging blog posts, invest in a podcast setup and push video content. No one is expecting your content to be perfect — you are the expert in your area, and have great advice to share. That’s what will keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.

Just remember that this is a long play. Success won’t happen overnight. It takes time to build momentum — but over time, you will notice increased traffic, more leads and more sales.


Getting Started

  • Do you know what your clients are interested in, concerned with or challenged by?
  • Are you offering advice, tips or opinions that tap into these areas?
  • Does your content mostly focus on your clients and not you?

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Marketing Tactics

4 Ways To Implement Strategic Marketing Without Breaking The Bank

Marketing your start-up is all about the right strategies, not how much money you spend. You need to build your reputation from the ground up. Here’s how you can get started.

Mongezi Mtati

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Strategic marketing

Building a fledgling business is as much about increasing your client base as it is about building a positive reputation around the business and its expertise. Many experts and seasoned entrepreneurs argue that clients buy from people they trust and building that trust hinges on various parameters.

Take Steve Jobs, Wendy Luhabe, Richard Branson and many other leading business minds whose brands are built on years of credibility and trust. The truth is that equal attention needs to be given to great products and building trust within your client base.

Here are five skills that we’ve used to build our reputation at WordStart.

1Sharpen your writing skills for media and general communication

Create media coverage. Write on a company platform (like a blog) or for established media outlets. This will position you and your business in ways that get people to listen and share your knowledge.

Having your name next to an article on a respected platform can lead to useful connections with relevant contacts. A series of media features and industry commentary also help to position your business and team as experts in your field.

2Share industry trends

People will generally do research in and around an industry to find insights and trends, sometimes before they buy anything in that industry — and even afterwards. When I search for information on photography, Canon appears more than any other brand and they tend to set the scene on which device to buy.

Imagine your business is construction and that homeowners endorse your skills as a home improvement specialist. Packaging your knowledge into industry trends is also a great way to use your own lessons about the industry as you grow and it also helps you to connect with potential customers. Useful information with your name on it can increase your sales and client base.

3Edit. Edit. Edit

back-space

Something that cannot be stressed enough is that your writing in client documents can tarnish your brand. Many businesses tend to overlook the importance of grammar in their documents.

It can be difficult to reread and rewrite documents that you use in the business, but that is precisely what can lead to the loss of new and existing business.

Pay attention to how your business uses language and edit that work. When in doubt, read it again and be sure that nothing was missed. 

4Practice public speaking and search for opportunities

After you have written for various publications, you increase the likelihood of being invited to speak at conferences and seminars, which means that people put a face and voice to the written expertise. In some instances, the speaking engagements can be paid for by conference organisers which can be an additional revenue stream.

Public speaking, especially industry-related speaking, will increase the likelihood of selling more products or services and this will separate you from the competition. By increasing the trust customers have in you, you can improve the likelihood of them buying from you.

Once a business is positioned as a team of experts with the ability to speak for their industry, opportunities open up for that business to create unique content. Industry leaders who are able to help the public to connect the dots through the information they share are regularly on guest lists.

Is there anything you can share that your industry peers and the public may find eye-opening? There may be a conference organiser looking for you.

5Educate the market and build a client base

One of the advantages of being part of an industry is that you have inside information that the general public does not have. This presents an opportunity for you and your business to become a self-nominated industry mouthpiece.

When an individual and business share news about an industry, they can create a new client base because the public associates them with that information.

One of the best cases in South Africa is Discovery’s Vitality rewards programme, where you earn points for being healthy. This does not mean that Momentum, Bonitas, Sanlam, Sizwe and other players do not have similar or even better offerings. Vitality is more visible and more vocal about the fact that leading a healthier life can get you rewards.


A great reputation may lead to positive word-of-mouth for your business and increased sales over a longer period than a single marketing message.

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Marketing Tactics

Cut The Bull That Comes With Women Saudi Drivers

If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.

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Women belong in the kitchen, right? Wrong! Now they can drive in Saudi, and you know what that means? They can fetch the groceries too!

Bet the Feminists clicked on this article looking to wage a social media war. No need. The afore mentioned thinking is exactly how the quick acting social media teams of major car manufacturers are acting after King Salman announced the lift on banning women drivers in the kingdom.

Whether we think it’s progressive is not the debate here right now. I personally think its great that such a country who has long ‘protected’ its women from the horrors on the road now believes that women are capable of taking care of themselves out there. The issue? Let’s take one step back and mention one South African social brand so you can see where I am heading. Take Bic Pens with their infamous 2015 #HappyWomensDay post reading, “Look like a Girl, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man, Work like a Boss”. 

bic-campaign-on-womens-day

What does a Pen in South Africa and a Car in Saudi Araba have in common you ask? All their CEO’s have a twig and two berries (66% of those car manufacturers who ‘praised’ Saudi Women drivers on social, are white men) and they didn’t get there without some form of business knowledge.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.

Thinking before Tweeting 

There is nothing like a good tactical on Social Media. Every brand wants to be Oreos during the super bowl when the lights went out. Every Marketing Manager wants to be the one to get his or her clever execution out first because time is of the essence.

Did the car manufacturers do great tactical work? Absolutely!

Did the car manufacturers think about the role they didn’t play in the fight for the cause? Absolutely NOT! They just saw another opportunity to capitalise on ‘to be relevant’.

This ever-connected digital world we live in comes with an opportunity for brands to build deep relationships with their customers. Sure relevance is key, but do (straight, white, male) brands have a place in that conversation now that the hard work is done (by strong Saudi Women)? Was fighting for women’s rights to drive in Saudi ever part of their Brand DNA before the last week of September 2017? Nope, they just see an increase in sales come June 2018.

Common amongst those tactical auto brands’ values were customer service promises, the comfort of people in cars, and sustainability. Only one vouched for the respect for diversity, while another strived for integrity, vowing to keep its doors open to men and women alike. While I can understand that a Trans National Corporation needed to respect culture and politicophere of Saudi to be able to operate there, was there not an opportunity to lead the charge and help the 10- year fight for equality on the Kingdom’s roads? Would their auto brands need to advertise after being part of the battle after that?

The irony is that The Women to Drive Movement started with a 2007 YouTube video. Did none of these brands have an ORM tool that picked this up? I wonder if any evaluated the risks vs the returns had they supported the movement.

Sullivan Principles Anyone?

Back in 1977, The Sullivan Principles was a part of the world’s Corporate Social Responsibility as brands applied pressure on apartheid, South Africa. The corporate protest came with the thought that if business divested in SA, apartheid would eventually be cash-strapped and collapse. At the time General Motors was the biggest employer of Black South Africans and eventually was the first to pull out.

In 1999 the new Global Sullivan Principles was unveiled by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the preamble reads:

“The objectives of the Global Sullivan Principles are to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business; to support human rights and to encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards; to train and advance disadvantaged workers for technical, supervisory and management opportunities; and to assist with greater tolerance and understanding among peoples; thereby, helping to improve the quality of life for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality.”

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

The first part of the new Sullivan Principles reads:

(We) “express our support for universal human rights and, particularly, those of our employees, the communities within which we operate, and parties with whom we do business.”

If brands actually invested in the people and their lives first, the customers will follow. Do this and there would be no need to be super tactical when it comes to the celebrations of the marginalised. We need brands to value ethical and corporate social responsibility they have in the markets they operate in. We have seen that the likes of General Motors can have an impact on a country, especially in South Africa (let’s drop the fact that they have divested again for the purposes of this).

Bottom line is advertising, marketing and brands have the power to shape the world years before a few people can go at it alone. Yes, businesses need to make money, but see the bigger returns when you are a part of something. The returns will be greater than the PR value you got on that meaningless, thoughtless, and unearned tweet. I promise you.

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