Don’t Fear Your Marketing Competitors. Learn From Them

chessRegardless of the products you’re trying to market, the audience you’re trying to cater to, or the industry you happen to be operating in, all businesses face competition. This is just a fact of life. But it’s important to realize that a competitor isn’t just another company that is trying to go after the same pool of customers that you are. Competitors are invaluable learning opportunities that are just waiting to be taken advantage of, provided you approach things from the right angle.

Learn About Your Audience

One of the most important lessons that you can learn by taking a closer look at your marketing competitors has nothing to do with your competition itself and everything to do with the shared audience you’re both going after. For the sake of argument, let’s say that your number one competitor offers products or services that are very similar to yours.

How is your competition marketing those products and services to that audience? What types of print materials are they designing? What tone do they use when speaking to them directly? What prices do they charge, and why do they feel like the market can sustain that? What values do they choose to single in on when representing their brand?

All of these choices, along with the public reaction to them, can tell you a great deal about what your audience is looking for. Marketing is all about making a connection, and if you can pick up something through observation that you can adapt and make your own to strengthen that connection, you should absolutely take that opportunity.

Learn About the Competitors Themselves

The second lesson you can learn by taking a closer look at your marketing competitors comes down to how they choose to run a business that is very similar to yours in many ways. This goes beyond just the products or services they provide. Look at how they choose to distribute and deliver those products. Look at the steps they take to enhance customer value or build loyalty. Have they recently instituted a rewards program with great success? If you were thinking about doing one yourself, congratulations, someone else just did your trial run for you.

Perhaps the most important thing you should be watching out for when it comes to your marketing competitors is how they react when they make a mistake. These days, everything is essentially an extension of your marketing arm – from the print collateral you’re putting out into the world to customer service interactions on a site like Facebook. Everything is taking place in the public space, which means that other customers (and you and your associates) can all see everything go down in real-time.

Did your biggest competitor have a particularly nasty public interaction with a customer? What factors caused it to occur in the first place? How did the customer react? How did the business react? What did the rest of the audience have to say at the end of the day? Remember that mistakes are only a bad thing if you choose not to learn from them. If you can get someone else to make a mistake and arrive at the same lesson, you come out all the better for it.

Competition in the world of business (and especially regarding marketing) isn’t going away anytime soon. However, it’s not something you should let get you down. Instead, look at it for what it is: an incredible ongoing education into your market, your industry, and even your own business that someone else is paying for.


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The Best Marketing Solves a Problem

diamondDiamonds are a girl’s best friend, right? Unfortunately, not always. After learning about some of the poor working conditions and high levels of violence associated with most diamonds on the market, many girls (and guys) have decided that a conventional diamond is not the ideal expression of their love. While some have turned to vintage pieces or alternate stones, one Los Angeles entrepreneur has provided a third option: high-quality jewels grown in a lab instead of under the ground.

Vanessa Stofenmacher did not know much about the jewelry business when she started VOW, her line of engagement, wedding, and promise rings. To cope with the limitations of current diamond-tracking laws, she opted to have the stones for her jewelry line made by Diamond Foundry, a laboratory that makes diamonds in California.

In her market research, she found that women in their twenties were likely to be concerned about the source of their diamonds. They typically did not mind wearing lab-grown stones as long as they looked as good as natural ones. This research made her line a success; the company, beginning with $8,000 in seed money, was valued at $3 million in 2016.

Don’t Be Afraid to Live Your Values

Many of us feel that, in business, our personal convictions should stop outside the doors. However, if we do not create products and marketing campaigns that align with our own values, the chances are good that they will not hit the mark with anyone else.

By choosing a product that she felt strongly about, Stofenmacher found the characteristic that makes her product line different from every other one out there.

Millennials, in particular, are happy to do business with companies that take an ethical stand. By doing something about your beliefs, you can increase connection and engagement.

Think Like Your Customer

The other thing that Stofenmacher did right was seizing an idea that had been troubling many people in the market for diamond rings.

Is there an issue in your industry that you are in a position to address? It does not have to be an ethical concern. It can be a common pain point, such as:

  • the amount of waste currently associated with a product.
  • the inconvenience of current ordering practices.
  • a lack of educational materials about your product and others like it.
  • an area where prices are out of line with consumer expectations.

By looking at what your customer cares about most, you can increase the chances of creating a product and a marketing campaign that will resonate with them.

Listen to Your Customers

How can you find out what people want? Just listen. Stofenmacher learned about the desire for ethical lab-grown stones by perusing Instagram. You can set up social listening on platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see what people are talking about in your industry. Many brands also use customer surveys in front of gated content to learn more.

Over time, you will find that your customers respond best when you directly address an unmet need. The marketing campaigns based on this concept will get higher levels of engagement, a better conversion rate, and will help you build long-lasting relationships that are good for you and your customers.


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The Major Qualities That Separate B2B and B2C Marketing Collateral

b2b-b2c

When it comes to any marketing, the importance of taking the time to understand your audience cannot be overstated enough. Marketing is all about communication, and how can you expect to properly open up a conversation with someone if you don’t bother to learn the same language? This is especially true regarding both B2B and B2C marketing collateral, which aren’t as different as you might think. You can approach things from similar angles and even use both channels as a way to convey the same message but, at the end of the day, the major qualities that separate one group from the next comes down to your understanding of your audience.

B2C Marketing Can Be More Emotional

B2B or “business-to-business” marketing is all about solving problems. You have a product or service, your customer has a problem, and only you can solve it. Therefore, your marketing becomes all about showing in the most logical, rational way possible how you can help your customer accomplish that goal in a way that meets their needs and falls within the budget they have to work with.

B2C or “business-to-customer,” on the other hand, is intended to side-step the rational side of it all and play more to a person’s emotions. Your end goal is less “here is how my company can make your job easier” and more “here is how my company can make your life better.

B2B Markets Are Typically Smaller

Concerning sheer market size, when you’re going after a B2B audience you’re usually talking about a much smaller group of people. It’s much more of a niche audience, which lets you laser-focus your messaging on core pain points without worrying about alienating people who can’t relate to them.

Because B2C markets are much, much larger, your messaging will tend to be a little broader at the same time. Instead of focusing on how to make your product or service appealing to a few thousand people, you could be trying to go after as many as a million or more with one sleek, sophisticated message. This will also change everything from the language you use to the type of materials you put out there.

Your Goals Are the Same. Your Tools Are Different.

As stated, your ultimate goals in both B2B and B2C situations are often very similar. It’s how you achieve those goals that will vary wildly. Case in point: both B2B and B2C customers are much more likely to make a sale if you can establish yourself as an authority in a topic area.

B2C customers like their marketing collateral short and snappy, so real estate is at a premium. You have to get in and get out, all while still showing off how much you know in the process. With B2B customers, you can take your time. You can use more lengthy, highly detailed content that is filled with technical jargon not because the audience is more sophisticated, but because they’re looking for the same thing in a totally different way.

While it’s true that B2B and B2C marketing collateral can often look completely different from one another, they’re not as distant as you might think. The “what” and the “why” of marketing never changes, regardless of what you’re trying to sell and who you’re trying to sell it to. It is the “how” of it all that will play an important role in the types of decisions you make moving forward.


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2017 Price Change Information: USPS Marketing Mail and What You Need to Know

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A new year always brings with it a variety of different changes, and it seems that 2017 will be no exception, as far as the United States Postal Service is concerned. Anyone who relies on the USPS for their direct mail marketing activities would do well to sit up and take notice, especially with regards to the price change information and other news that has recently been announced.

What’s In a Name?

According to PitneyBowes.com, the USPS “Standard Mail” tier will be rebranded as USPS Marketing Mail in 2017. Additionally, what was previously known as “Alternate Postage” will now be called “Share Mail.” Pricing structures have been changed (and arguably, simplified) accordingly.

When the new branding goes into effect, letters that are 3.5 ounces in size or less will cost $0.284 – a reduction from the current $0.290 pricing structure. Flat rates for items that are four ounces or less, on the other hand, will actually increase to $0.555 from the current rate of $0.546 that is expiring. It’s important to note that these rates are for the USPS Marketing Mail items that are processed through non-automation means.

Other Upcoming USPS Changes

The USPS also announced a number of other changes, particularly to items that fall into the presorted mail category. Overall, people can expect a price decrease on average of about 0.25%, though it’s important to note that certain types of items will actually increase in price at the same time.

One change that marketers will no doubt be happy about is the fact that presorted First Class Mail will see a significant price reduction. Starting at the end of January, sending 3.5-ounce materials will now cost the same price as a one-ounce letter. Up until these changes go into effect, the pricing category ranged from one to two ounces, not 3.5 ounces.

Those First Class letters up to one ounce will now cost you $0.49 as opposed to the current $0.47. Flat rates up to one ounce will increase to $0.98 from $0.94, while First Class Mail parcels will allow you to pay one price ($2.67) for any item up to four ounces in size. Each additional ounce will cost you $0.21, which is actually one of the few categories of pricing that will remain unchanged in the new year.

Changes Behind the Scenes in 2017

It’s also important to note a significant change in the way these types of items are processed. Items that used to fall under the 3-Digit and AADC categories are being combined with First-Class Mail Presorted Automation Letters and USPS Marketing Mail Automation Letters. Ultimately, this won’t really change the price that you can expect to pay when you send your marketing materials out into the world, but in theory, it should make them easier to process and send out once they’ve made their way into the hands of the United States Postal Service.

All of these changes will go into effect on January 22, 2017. Until then, the current pricing structure will still apply. As marketing budgets get tighter than ever during a period where direct mail marketing has never been more important, it’s always essential to stay as up-to-date as possible on any and all USPS pricing changes to help make sure you’re getting the most out of your hard-earned (marketing) dollar.


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