A Marketing Strategy That Consumes You and one that simply doesn’t Wash

I was watching TV last night, a rare occurrence that I’m sure reflects the media diversification trends and the decreasing importance of the traditional TV spot, but I digress from the 2 ads that struck me, one positively stimulating my senses and the other making me mumble “what happened to their marketing strategy”?

Good, Better, Bosch…those were the days…

I used to love BOSCH, the German multinational that stood for quality across a range of product categories from brown goods, to car parts and even business services! I was disappointed when they dumped the brilliant positioning statement “Good. Better. Bosch” And yesterday when I saw their ad for the dish washing machine I was simply dumbfounded! Then again I was even more surprised to find that in Europe they were starting fires.

Even if I wasn’t a marketing consultant or an ad agency professional who is preoccupied with marketing strategy, I think I’d be even more offended as a consumer.

Here’s the offending commercial, albeit the version I saw was sans the Finish promotion!

Water conservation is an important concern for all of us, but an ad aimed at convincing you to use a dishwasher instead of washing by hand? Really? Seriously? How many people do you know who still wash dishes by hand? I could understand Bosh running this ad in Brazil, India, Russia, but in Australia?

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong; maybe Bosch decided that Australians were more like their English forebears where only 1 in 3 households own one and decided to take a leadership position but a quick check of the ABS Statistics going back to 1999 showed total Dishwasher penetration being around 95% of the population in Australia!

If you still don’t have a washing machine, and you are thinking of buying one wouldn’t you be comparing different types of washing machines?

So shouldn’t Bosch be signing the praises of its marvelous machine and highlighting their point of difference rather than comparing it to washing dishes by hand? I simply don’t see the logic and I have tried! Then again emotions are so much more effective, even in B2B markets!

So maybe that’s what the folks at Bosch were trying to achieve? Get to me emotionally?

However forming an emotional connection at its most basic, is all about helping others see you as the same as them, as someone who gets them…not someone that insults their intelligence! And let’s get real; the Bosch machine is priced at the premium end of the market, ranking at 7th and 10th spot for 2013, hence one would guess they are targeting a fairly intelligent demographic?

In contrast this ad, through it’s sheer cinematic brilliance and use of a haunting Nick Cave soundtrack made me want to visit the Barossa Valley and discover the mysteries it has to offer!

Most interestingly have a look at the number of people who viewed both ads and the number who actually engaged with it, in this case “liked it”. That’s a story in itself!


What Makes a Marketing Consultant Cry

Maybe I have been experiencing self-delusion all these years but during this rainy weekend whilst catching up on all the TV programs I have missed, my bubble of idealism was painfully punctured, not just in relation to myself as a marketing consultant or in relation to consultants in other business disciplines but to people and consumers in general.

The sad truth was probably always there in the recesses of my mind, but my wishful self just kept suppressing the truth in the same way that we all suppress information that is likely to clash with our firm held beliefs or wishful thinking.

In 6 out of the 7 episodes (I couldn’t bear watch any more) in Season 1, of The Pitch” by AMC – the reality TV show about ad agencies pitching for new business, the client chooses not the strongest idea but the average idea that was presented in the slickest way. Interestingly, almost always, the agency that used video won the pitch! It seems that even seasoned marketers of big brands lack the strategic foresight and imagination to recognize brilliant positioning or the big campaign-able idea for their brand.

Presentation and Execution win over Strategy every time!

You can’t imagine the disappointment I felt when I was rudely awakened by the fact that Style beats Substance. Surely as a seasoned marketing consultant this is something that I should have known? Of course I did…but maybe my own knowledge and 20 years experience in the marketing industry, together with the knowledge of these 3 facts below, have been the very culprits that have clouded my mind and lulled me into a false sense of security:

  1. Most clients in the small business arena lack marketing strategy,

  2. Brilliant strategy is nothing without the execution and

  3. Great marketing strategy allows a company to create an execution that will WOW the target audience

How could I have become complacent about the very essence of marketing communication when it comes to our own business, something that I repeat to every one of our clients, every day of the week, which is that humans are mostly creatures driven by feelings not rationality, making emotional decisions and then justifying them with logic!

Maybe like me, you love what you do, but remember to place enough emphasis on the execution part, especially during the sales or pitch process, the very process that gives us the professional service providers or consultants the opportunity and privilege to work with the client in the first place!

“The Pitch” is a show that once again highlighted to me the basic human need to see explicitly the “finished product” or the “end result”.
People simply don’t have the time, imagination and desire to work hard and turn that great idea into a great execution or result, they’d rather buy the idea that simply looks good and is ready to use!

That’s why a furnished house will beat an unfurnished one at an auction and why an average idea executed well will beat a great idea executed in an average way!
Of course my judgement about “The Pitch” is subjective and based on the footage shown to us as TV viewers, whereas in reality that is outside of ‘Reality TV’ there would have been other factors at play other than a competition of brilliant ideas. The size of the agencies, their personalities, passion, the clients perception about the agency’s ability to make their idea come to life, would have all played a role in the client’s decision.

A lesson for all professional services providers and consultants – have the great idea but make sure you execute it brilliantly to win the client!

My only consolation is that once the ideas are accepted and put into practice the brand needs both substance and style to get the target audience engaged and all things ‘executional’ being equal, the better idea will win, but that sort of comparison is rarely possible!

“Industry executives and analysts often mistakenly talk about strategy as if it were some kind of chess match.  But in chess, you have just two opponents, each with identical resources, and with luck playing a minimal role.  The real world is much more like a poker game, with multiple players trying to make the best of whatever hand fortune has dealt them.” – David Moschella

But in the end it all comes down to relationships, being liked and playing the hand you’ve been dealt. People buy from people they like. Tall sales people out-perform short sales people and being attractive is likely to swing the odds of a deal in your favour which means that the rest of us who are under 6′ and do not belong on the cover of a fashion magazine just need to work smarter.

Sopranos & Sons of Anarchy Lessons for Marketing Consultants

What can professional service providers and consultants learn from crime families when it comes to business to business marketing? – Is it debt collection? – Cash flow? – Flexibility? – Confidentiality? It’s none of the above. It is EXCLUSIVITY. Exclusivity with a marketing referral program like no other! Television shows that delve into the depth of the underworld such as Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy, illustrate how hard it is to join these outlaws. And of course it is even harder to leave! The marketing strategy lesson is to increase your barriers to entry not just barriers to exit.

Of course traditional thinking sees most marketing consultants recommend making it as easy as possible to “try before you buy”, or to experience a product at the lowest possible cost in hope of then building a long term and loyal relationship. And undoubtedly this works across most product and service categories. However there are cases when marketing consultants and their clients can use one of the 6 Laws of Persuasion – The Law of Scarcity (in other words Exclusivity).

Of course it is not exclusivity alone that is the drawcard, whether it be joining an exclusive golf club or an organised crime syndicate. It is the benefits; from the feeling of safety and belonging to the power and the financial windfalls, whether through networking at a golf club or profiting from the illicit trade, there are substantial benefits, that keep the “member” engaged!

For marketers the challenge is knowing when and how to use exclusivity to your advantage.

David Staughton – The Business Improvement Guy has a great summary I’d like to share with all consultants:

Consultants in any profession who work with:
– Anyone (no defined target audience)
– do Anything (no defined area of expertise)
– Anywhere (no defined geographic area)
– at Any price (no defined value) are simply DESPERATE and get “crappy clients”

Whereas those that work with:
– THESE people
– doing THESE things
– throughout THESE LOCATIONS
– at THIS PRICE are FOCUSSED and have “cream clients”.

We’d love to hear how you have managed to find your CREAM, and if you are still looking then maybe we can help!

Why most recruitment consultants are damaging their personal branding and company without even knowing.

The objective of this post is to highlight the importance of personal branding or good old reputation improvement in layman’s terms.

I hope to show that the opportunity to build your reputation or personal brand is not only being missed by the majority of recruiters, but the way in which business is being conducted is detrimental to brand building.

Rightly or wrongly, Real Estate Agents and Lawyers are some of the least likeable white-collar professionals with a real image problem, but having picked on lawyers previously:

  1. Why do Law Firms have a serious misunderstanding of what branding is and how to do it
  2. Judging Australian law firm marketing – Guilty on all
  3. Simplicity – Your competitive advantage in raising the marketing bar of the legal profession!

and trying to alleviate marketing mistakes and problems in the small business arena on a daily basis; from manufacturers to management consultants, it’s high time we pick on someone new.

It’s not only fun, but also a great way of exercising one’s grey matter, stepping outside the daily routine and looking at a particular industry segment through the eyes of a Richard Branson or Steve Jobs. What would they do? One thing we can be certain of is that they would take away the features client have little interest in and improve on the benefits that are valued; they would turn the market on its head! Sir Branson, if you are reading this, please feel free to invite me to lunch on one of your private islands to discuss the opportunity further.

Most recruitment agencies like most professional services firms have not developed powerful brands that connect them to their prospects and customers.

Most do not have a unique offering in the marketplace that is delivered in a memorable and campaignable way both in terms of marketing communication and user experience. Other than specialising in a particular industry segment there is little else that differentiates them or provides a unique experience to their clients or candidates.

Before going further, allow me to note that this is not an attempt to provoke or put down the recruitment industry.

Firstly, when referring to the “majority” we mean transactional recruitment. These firms could learn much from Executive Search firms who are very good at targeting and engaging in a conversation with relevant prospective applicants. They are more strategic and have the vision to see that today’s candidates may be tomorrow’s clients; they see the relationship as a journey, not a short trip.

Secondly, most firms do want to treat candidates well and have good intentions. However they often fail for the following reasons:

a. Their business model is 100% client driven and hence they act only in the clients’ best interests. This means that there’s no time allowed to maintain candidate relationships.

b. They don’t realize the importance of maintaining their candidate data or doing so is difficult an unproductive. If this information was kept up to date, it would be much easier to contact candidates with the relevant roles and show that they understand the person they are calling. Lack of good candidate management software (CRM) means that companies can’t be as process driven, as they would like to be.

Thirdly, there are many talented, professional, hard-working and passionate members of the recruitment industry who are great at their jobs, but unfortunately they are not the majority. Those that do this properly really differentiate themselves in a positive way. Smaart Recruitment, The Neil Williams Company, Briggs Communications, Chikara Capital all share passion, experience, knowledge and excellent client service that makes both the applicants’ and clients’ experience truly remarkable.

Finally, recruitment agencies are probably one of the few professional services firms that have the ability to very quickly build a great services brand. Why you ask?

Recruitment, especially the search, selection and applicant communication part of the recruitment process is a “high contact sport.”

Let’s start by listing the different target audiences of a recruitment firm:

  1. Client – The one that signs the fat commission cheque.
  2. Prospective Candidates
  3. Referrers – Those who may not be interested themselves but know people who may be.

Let’s take an average job and count the number of personal and recruitment firm brand touch-points:

  • The number of applicants to have applied in response to the advertisement
  • Prospective applicants that were proactively approached by recruitment consultant to see whether they would be interested
  • Shortlisted applicants that would have been communicated with multiple times.

Our research shows that on average each recruitment consultant may communicate with anywhere between 40 and 300 different people for any one position.

So all these contacts made by recruiters in what I have called a ‘high contact sport’ is a great opportunity to generate positive brand perceptions for:

  • The recruitment consultant personally
  • The recruitment firm
  • And in many cases for the company brand of the client

So what’s the problem and hence the opportunity?

The prospecting effort by most recruiters or headhunters ends up being perceived as similar to that of a pushy second-hand car salesman.

A recent Seek survey showed that 40% of applicants were disappointed by the lack of feedback* however if you speak to most people looking for work you will find that the percentage is actually much higher.

Over the last 24 months I have spoken to dozens of jobseekers in the I.T., Marketing and Administration industries who in the majority have had a negative experience with the recruitment consultant who contacted them.

The negative brand perceptions quickly add up as a result of:

  • The number of prospective applicants who were contacted to see whether they would be interested in a certain position or to see whether they would refer to someone who may be interested
  • The number of applicants who have been rejected with a standard and delayed ‘templated’ e-mail response or worse received no response at all
  • The number of cold calls and emails being made to prospective clients by recruitment business development people.

In all these cases the way in which the recruiter communicates with these audiences, via phone, email and LinkedIn has been detrimental to their brand instead of contributing to brand building.

Pressure from management, lack of planning and doing it the way it always has been done, are all contributing factors.

As pressure to win retained jobs increases, recruiters are feeling the strain. A few years ago it was acceptable to place a candidate over a few months, now results are being demanded in two weeks. Often these timeframes are promised to ensure retained work, but it then becomes almost impossible to adhere to them and build a good candidate list without something being compromised. Often the first area to suffer is ‘candidate management’, followed by poorer quality candidates being sourced.

Young or inexperienced recruiters with high or almost impossible KPIs are under pressure from day one and the turnover in some of the larger transactional firms is very high. Under this sort of pressure and lack of maturity or understanding of business etiquette, recruitment consultants send off mass and untargeted emails to candidates, call inappropriate people and fail to screen and qualify candidates in a uniform and process driven manner.

Here are just 4 examples to illustrate my point:

Case 1:

We recently advertised for a senior role in our consultancy on LinkedIn. The role was a business opportunity to build your own business under our banner and was not in any way a typical job, the opportunity description was very specific, e.g.: it had no salary, no set hours of work.

We received 2 calls from recruitment consultants who cleverly managed to conceal their identity until they spoke to me. When told that we were not interested in their services and that I was very happy using LinkedIn, there was no polite offer of sending me some information that would convince me to change my mind, such as ‘Pitfalls of DIY Recruitment’, or any other attempt to show their expertise through thought leadership and experience, there was no attempt to highlight the benefits of using their recruitment services. There was however ‘begging’ to keep in touch with me to see whether our needs would change. When contacted in approximately 6 weeks, one of the consultants couldn’t even remember why they were calling me and their CRM system was under the impression we were looking for an employee!

Case 2:

This is an email I received from a senior recruiter wanting to connect with me on LinkedIn and ask for a referral:

“We currently have a role for a <Job Title> Expert with a leading <industry> brand. Looking for someone with at least two years <area of expertise> experience. If you know of anybody please send me your number for a chat.

Thank you,


Case 3:

<Recruitment Consultant’s Name> has indicated you are a person they’ve done business with at <Recruitment Firm Name>·

Hi <Name of Prospective Candidate / Referrer>, I came across your profile and wanted to drop a quick line to see if you are exploring other job opportunities. I have a <Name of Position> opportunity – 12 months fixed term contract in <Name of Geographical Region>. If interested please call me on <Phone Number> to discuss further.

Case 4:

<Name> has indicated you are a person they’ve done business with at <Recruitment Firm Name>

Hi <Name of Prospective Candidate / Referrer>, I’m recruiting a role which I think may be if interest to you – are you open to career opportunities at present? If so please contact me on <Phone Number> for a confidential chat, thanks, <Name of Recruitment Consultant>.

My reply to Case 2 went something like this:

Hi <Name>, thank you for the invitation to connect.

It took me a while to respond due to the fact that I didn’t know who you were and you didn’t provide a reason for wanting to connect. You indicated that we have worked together at <Name of Recruitment Firm> which is not true, and indicates to me that you can not be bothered finding my email address or paying for an InMail or learning the many other ways of connecting on LinkedIn.

In saying this, I’m always happy to assist fellow professionals if they just ask – nicely! And this raises the question of networking NOT just social media utilization.

You probably wouldn’t call me or meet me at a networking function, and ask for what you are asking below. LinkedIn is NOT Twitter, it is a much more personal medium. Most people, myself included hate receiving “broadcasts”.

I realize how busy and stressful business is today, especially in recruitment and especially at your level of top management, but your below request for a favor is missing 2 critical elements for getting the favor:

  1. We have never met and do not have a relationship you can ‘leverage’
  2. You have not illustrated at all, how I will benefit by helping you! Why should I call you?

If you do this 20 times a day and even if a fraction of the people think like me, you are not creating the optimal perceptions about you or the company you work for. This is something a lot of recruiters don’t think about, but those that do can really stand out from the crowd.

Although I later found that the LinkedIn message was written by a junior with access to the senior’s LinkedIn profile, and the person has since been dismissed, the above highlights the problem which is happening on a mass scale and the crime is being perpetuated by the very people who should most be aware of social media etiquette in general and LinkedIn specifically as they spend so much time in this environment.

What will the future bring? Will it see talent agencies arise to represent the interests of the employee rather than those of the employer? It already happens in Professional Sports, Modeling and Acting. Can this happen in I.T., Marketing, Engineering, etc.?

Will your typical recruitment agency survive or will it morph into a new animal? Will the agency model be increasingly catering to executive search and selection and any thing below executive level be done by employers dealing directly with the talent pool through even more advanced online technologies? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain, the industry deserves a shake up Mr. Branson!

* Your Career, Marketing Magazine June 2012