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Marketing Mind Blog

The Marketing Mind blog is designed to help business owners, managers and marketers cash-in on consumer trends. Find out how your business will be impacted.
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The Marketing Mind blog is designed to help business owners, managers and marketers cash-in on consumer trends, by making relevant trend observations… and understanding related marketing implications.
By Mike Anderson on 9/18/2015 2:22 PM

Trend Observation:  This week, an interesting article from Research Brief explained that Millennials don’t really see themselves as… Millennials.  Indeed, few people really identify with the generational label that social scientists and market researchers have given them. See the story here.

Sales and Marketing Implications:  Terms like Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers serve as a form of shorthand for a conversation about certain market segments.  But it’s smart to remember that outside of the advertising/marketing realm, people don’t really talk that way.  And over-generalizing any group of people is to lose track of the many subsets and identities within that group.  Always a good reminder.   

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “Some companies over-generalize the market segments they’d like to attract by using demographic terms or socio-economic labels.  I’d like to talk with you about some of the more specific market sub-sets your company serves, and whether there are any market segments you’re not doing as well with as you would like…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “Without using age groups or other generalizations, what does your ideal customer look like?  By that, I mean what kinds of needs are they hoping to satisfy when they walk through your door?  What were they doing just before they arrived?  What kinds of careers or families might they typically have?  What kinds of pressures or stresses might they be under?  Let’s talk about the more detailed characteristics about the customers you aspire to serve…”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the story cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 9/17/2015 2:54 PM

Trend Observation:  By now you know… during their September meeting today, the Fed decided against an interest rate hike.   I reviewed their actions—or inactions—through the lens of these stories from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR.

Sales and Marketing Implications:  If the Fed rate stays low—at or near zero, for the time being—that means other interest rates are likely to remain steady.  Things like mortgages, home improvement loans, car loans, or financing for other major purchases will remain relatively affordable.  Had rates jumped, it would have been the first time in seven years, and almost certainly could have shocked some consumers away from considering those purchases.  So for realtors, homebuilders, home improvement contractors, car dealers, furniture and appliance stores… today brought good news.   

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “This week’s [last week’s] Fed decision to keep interest rates low means that many consumers might still be willing to consider big-ticket purchases.  Many pundits think we won’t be so lucky when the Fed meets again in December.  I have some ideas about how we can capitalize on this favorable momentum before 4th quarter is over…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “You sell some big-ticket items that often involve financing.  Do you fear the day when the Fed finally DOES raise interest rates?  Should we be focusing on the favorable financing plans you have available right now, in case those options don’t look the same after December?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the story cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 9/16/2015 4:20 PM

Trend Observation:  A story in yesterday’s Omaha World Herald (Omaha.com) explains that in a world that is flush with loyalty cards, there are even more on the way.  But the article goes on to suggest that most loyalty cards are relegated to the bottom of a purse or junk drawer, rarely if ever used. Click here to see the story.

Sales and Marketing Implications:  It’s not enough to launch a loyalty program; one must manage the program and use it to offer the kinds of incentives that inspire loyalty.  Access to consumers has never been cheaper or easier through the vast array of advertising media available. Engagement, however, remains elusive… and the secret to consistent success.   

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “A recent article about loyalty programs suggests that in spite of the effort and expense they require, few inspire the kind of engagement and loyalty that the sponsoring retailer was hoping for.  I have some ideas about building actual engagement with consumers that I’d like to talk with you about…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “So, your company has a loyalty program.  Is it performing for you as you had hoped?  Do you find the gross margins among loyalty customers to be higher, or lower?  Do these customers really do more business with you, or are they simply using the program to cherry-pick the deals you offer?”

Or –

“So that I know of, your company does not have a formal loyalty program.  (Am I wrong?  Have I overlooked one that you have and if so, should we giving it a higher profile?)  Have you ever considered launching one?  What keeps you from considering that option?  Do you have the technology means to identify and reward repeat customers now?  What kinds of things are you doing to encourage repeat visits/purchases?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the story cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 8/21/2015 3:41 PM

Trend Observation:  It’s good to jump out of your skin, from time to time, and do a little soul searching.  For a human being, that might mean simple reflection, or getting some objective feedback from a close friend.  For a company, it might involve doing a little research, with the goal of understanding what’s going and why; not just hearing what one wants to hear.  I was reminded of that as I read a recent article from Research Brief, which highlighted a study by Forbes about Millennial shoppers.   It found that Millennial consumers shop at Walmart; not because they love it or that they even necessarily like it… but often, simply because it is convenient. Click here to see the Research Brief posting.

Sales and Marketing Implications:  This article (and the headline above) asks an important question; one that can benefit any company, or even for the account manager reading this post.    

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “A recent Research Brief reminded me of the importance of how customers perceive the companies they do business with.  It inspired me to invite you to a brief meeting where we could design some methods for gaining some actionable insights from the customers you serve, and perhaps even some creative ideas for advertising or other forms of outreach…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “Have you conducted any research among existing customers about why they shop you for this category of products and services?  What is it that compels the to choose you over other alternatives?  If we were to ask the same question of your non-customers—those consumers who buy elsewhere—what kinds of reasons do you think they might give for choosing their preferred providers?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the story cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 8/20/2015 4:32 PM

Trend Observation:  A story from the Washington Post explains that U.S. consumers are more likely than ever to be dining alone.  So if you can remember the days of “sitting at the counter” rather than a booth, we might be returning to familiar territory.  One twist:  Even when they’re going solo for dinner or lunch, few consumers feel disconnected.  They’re often chatting with someone or interacting with a social site through a mobile device as they dine. The story is here.

Sales and Marketing Implications:   In today’s Category Revenue Accelerator webcast, we talked about the time sensitivity of today’s consumers, as well as they’re inclination to solve individual meal incidents, rather than head to the supermarket with a major shopping expedition in mind.  We also covered the fact that only 52 cents of every food dollar goes to food that will be consumed in the home; 48 cents is spent on food that will be consumed out-of-home.  This trend fits into that menu of change, and that’s why this trend impacts such a wide swath of food retailers, from grocery stores to restaurants, even including CPG companies, convenience stores, and dollar stores.    

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment: “A recent Washington Post article focused on the idea that more consumers are dining alone.  I have some ideas about how we can package your story in a way that appeals to customers’ “single-meal mentality,” by focusing on the time-saving options you have to offer.  This is a substantial consumer trend; can you make some time to discuss it with me next week…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis: “Customers dining alone is a major trend in the U.S. right now.  What kinds of things are you doing to cater to this single-meal prospect… and how are you maintaining lift and sales volume when revenue per order might be declining?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the story cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 8/19/2015 9:52 AM

Trend Observation:  A recent article from AdAge.com explores the essence of Chipotle’s marketing model, which often focuses more on the experiences associated with the QSR than the actual products being sold.  The tact resonates with consumers… and especially Millennial consumers. See the story here.

Sales and Marketing Implications:  In recent on-location workshops, it seems we’ve spent a lot of time exploring the distinctions between Millennials and their older Gen X and Boomer cohorts.  And one of those distinctions is the preference for experiences over simply “acquiring products.”  But there is some acculturation going on here, as consumers of all ages seem to be less interested in simply what they have, and more interested in enjoying what they have done.

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “Consumers are more interested than ever in living out experiences.  With that in mind, it’s more important than ever to create experiences for customers or associate with the kind of events that bring an experience to the product or service.  I’ve been brainstorming with my team about the kind of experiences that might really resonate with your customers, and I’d like to spend a few minutes with you to see what you think…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “Customers seem to increasingly gravitate to product and service alternatives that they can associate with some kind of an experience.  Are you noticing this trend, and what kinds of events or experiences do you see as being particularly embraced by your customers?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the story cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 8/6/2015 4:01 PM

Trend Observation:  A contributor by the name of Scott Gottlieb published a forecast for higher healthcare costs this week (Forbes), and it makes a lot of sense.  He looked at rising insurance rates, higher costs-per-procedure, and overall spending in the medical category.  He notes that even though demand has been down, overall spending on healthcare has gone up… which can only mean that prices have risen for the care provided.  One of the reasons he and other observers have noted is consolidation among providers.

Sales and Marketing Implications:  As deductibles and prices rise, the field opens even wider for retail healthcare providers (the quick clinics you see at Walgreen’s, CVS, Target, Walmart, etc.), as well as the stand-alone urgent care centers you see popping up in so many places.  Partially for their convenient hours, and partially for their “retail service” mindset, many of these providers are offering a faster—and often cheaper—means of solving healthcare needs.   The role of primary care provider for many households is no longer the family doctor.  It’s the store down on the corner.

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “There is a great deal of “churn” in the healthcare field right now, both because of the increasing number of retail healthcare providers and because of the rising costs of care.  People are considering many new options for their continuum of care.  I have some ideas about how we can encourage them to include you on that consideration list…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “More and more families are relying on retail-based healthcare options.  Does that trend impact your practice or office?  How is inflation impacting the conversation you’re having with patients?  Even though more people are insured, these days, many have very high deductibles to worry about; are you finding issue to be a concern for the patients you treat?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the stories cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 7/31/2015 2:05 PM

Trend Observation:  Most folks are familiar with publications like Consumer Reports, or review sites like Yelp.  But an organization called ProPublica has compiled all kinds of information about the success of surgeries, or lack thereof, and the complications arising out of invasive procedures, according to an article from USA Today.

Sales and Marketing Implications:  Consumer sentiment can be swayed by a great number of things, but few influences are as powerful as the experiences and opinions of past customers (or past patients, as the case is here).

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “The digital age is bringing greater transparency to the healthcare profession.  I’d like to talk with you about how we can gather some opinions from current or former patients about the quality of care they received…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “Your company’s Facebook page seems well populated with favorable feedback.  Are you doing anything harness that influential and positive commentary?  When you get negative feedback, how do you handle it?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the stories cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 7/30/2015 4:56 PM

Trend Observation:  Once upon a time, Moms were not just the primary grocery shopper for their household… they were the only grocery shopper in many households.  But times and tasks have changed; a recent trends report from the Food Marketing Institute explains that groceries are now purchased through a “shared shopping model,” where more than one household member might take on the role of primary shopper, depending on the meal incident and the household schedule.  Click here to see the Supermarket News version of the story.

Sales and Marketing Implications:  If the age or gender composition of a company or category changes, it’s important that their marketing message is adjusted, too.  Stop by your local grocery store between 5 and 7 pm, and notice who’s in line.  Women?  Men?  Are they pushing a shopping cart full of food, or just carrying a basket or armload of items that will become tonight’s meal?   Has that store’s marketing strategy responded to this shift?  This is an important conversation that not enough companies are having, if a Media Post article about Back-to-School shopping is any indicator.

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “Industry research suggests that more people in each household are participating in the grocery shopping process.  I have some ideas about how we can creatively introduce your fast meal solutions to more of this growing and diverse segment…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “The Food Marketing Institute claims that more people in a typical household are helping with the task of grocery shopping… and that grocery stores are not just for moms anymore.  Are you finding that to be true, and how has your marketing and messaging strategy been adjusted to reach this broader audience?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the story cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson

By Mike Anderson on 7/29/2015 5:01 PM

Trend Observation:  When the economy tanked back in 2007-2008, one of element of the stimulus effort was to reduce the prime-lending rate (that’s the interest rate banks charge to their most favored borrowers and other banks).  By 2009, the rate was down to roughly 3.25%, and it has pretty much stayed there since.    

A story in today’s New York Times explains the strong likelihood that the Fed will raise those interest rates in either September or December.      

Sales and Marketing Implications:  An interest rate jump of just 1% on a $250,000 loan can add more than $38,000 to the lifetime cost of a mortgage, according to Realtor.org.  A jump of just ¼ percent can mean that you must earn up to 3% more to qualify for the same loan… or start shopping for a place priced as much as 3% less.  And we’re not just talking about mortgages here; once the prime rate goes up, chances are good that interest on most forms of retail debt will follow.  So whether we’re talking about cars, home improvements, home furnishings, appliances, or other big ticket purchases, consumers could be motivated to buy sooner rather than later.  

An example of how you might use this issue in crafting a Valid Business Reason to gain an appointment:  “There’s a good chance that interest rates could climb as soon as this September, or at least by December, according to many news accounts.  That could cause a burst of activity in the short term, and I have some ideas about how we might capture a solid share of that spending…”

An example of how you might use this issue during a needs analysis:  “It is widely thought that the Fed will raise interest rates in either their September or December meetings.  Could that threat cause a short-term burst of spending in your product category?  Should I be thinking about ways to help you harness some of that spending?  What happens after interest rates go up?  Should we be working on long-term campaigns that focus on the inherent benefits of owning your product, and strive to make people a little less price sensitive?”

NOTE:  Of course, your VBR or Questions should be tailored to the specific industry and business you’re calling on.  Bring along the stories cited at the beginning of this post, so you can refer to them during your meetings. Do you have a better idea for a VBR or needs analysis question?  Please share it in the comments section below.

Mike Anderson