• You don’t need marketing consultants. Yet.

    image by diana grytsku

    The line between success and failure in business can be razor thin, and sometimes the difference comes down to the amount of attention that a company can attract.

    Unfortunately, a lot of companies try to attract the wrong kind of attention.

    I’m not talking about tasteless advertisements or sketchy funding gimmicks, well, not that alone. I’m talking about wasting effort, resources, and dollars on promoting any kind of attention that doesn’t generate revenue.

    It’s an especially big problem for unknown companies with unproven products, like almost all startups. But unfortunately, a lot of startup leadership tends to believe that attention is a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, they think that if they can just generate a lot of awareness around the company, sales become a foregone conclusion.

    That could be true. And it’s why marketing experts and brand consultants get paid. Usually a lot.

    However, it’s only true in certain contexts, and that context rarely includes new ventures — even from well-known companies. We were all very aware of CNN+, Google Glass, and the Amazon Fire Phone.

    Were those brands powerful? Absolutely. Were those products branded poorly or marketed incorrectly? No, not egregiously so. Should your company emulate them? Most definitely not.

    So what went wrong?

    Save branding For later


    The product that “only needs attention” to succeed is a product that is already successful. That may sound a little Catch-22, but that’s because brand marketing is best suited for expanding market reach, not gaining market traction, let alone defining a target market and finding product market fit. Those milestones aren’t random and they don’t happen by process of elimination. Not without spending a ton of money.

    Can a terrible brand sink a potentially successful product? Yes, especially when inferior competition has a robust marketing machine behind it. But lack of branding is definitely not a death sentence. Once a product is viable, has found market fit, and is gaining traction, then and only then should a company’s focus be on brand marketing to expand their reach.

    Furthermore, brand attention is fleeting attention. Like I said, everyone knew CNN+ was coming, everyone knew when it arrived, and 28 days later, everyone knew it was folding.

    So if attention is what your company needs, but that initial market success hasn’t happened for you yet, check these other boxes first.

    Your solution is your attention ice-breaker

    If you want attention, you need a good opening line. Your best opening line is always your solution.

    Your solution is not about your company and certainly not about your brand. It’s not your product, that’s just the packaging around your solution. It’s not even your offering, that’s just the packaging and pricing for your product. In short, your solution is the thing your product does that solves the customer’s problem.

    Once you have that defined, that needs to be the core of how you get attention. If your solution is strong enough, you can just talk about it, to anyone, and you’ll get the attention you want. Of course, in the real world, you’ll need marketing to connect the message to your company and amplify it.

    But don’t spend time, energy, or money on that marketing if that message is just going to result in a shrug.

    Your product is your attention land grab

    The customer’s problem is the thing they want to throw money at to make it go away. And if the first layer around the customer’s problem is your solution, the next layer is the product, the thing that houses and presents the solution.

    Spending time and resources here can make a world of difference out on the market.

    But beyond just awareness, a great product also generates outsized viral attention. And since there’s no better and cheaper way to acquire a new customer than via an existing customer, giving existing customers something to crow about will provide the highest return on any attention it generates.

    And then finally, an existing customer base is also the easiest to convert to upgrades and even new products and product lines.

    Low price attention begets low results


    The final layer out from the customer is your offering, which is your solution packaged in a product for a price. But the attention that’s gained by a low price usually results in low conversions, low margins, and low lifetime value.

    For every company leader I know that wants to be the low-price leader, very few of them make purchases based on price alone. Furthermore, the products they buy when price is a factor are usually commodities, and they’re often hard-pressed to remember the name of the company or the brand attached to it.

    And even when you win on price, you only win until a competitor undercuts you.

    Standing out isn’t just about amplifying a message, it’s about amplifying the right message to the right market. You can use one large megaphone or a bunch of smaller ones, and you can spend a lot or a little along the way. Just don’t waste that spend on messages that don’t land and markets that don’t produce.

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