Understanding your strengths

Target the customers with whom you are succeeding

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Chapter Two of the recently published book “Contrarian Marketing,” written by Nick Mavrick, former vice president, marketing and strategy, Volvo Rents, Asheville, N.C. Mavrick has taken a year off to devote his time to promoting the book and raising money for the Folds of Honor Foundation to help provide scholarships for spouses and children of service members disabled or killed as a result of their military service. Copies can be purchased as an e-book or print-on-demand direct from amazon.com, createspace.com or contrarianmarketingseminars.com. To donate directly to Folds of Honor, visit foldsofhonor.com.

In the 1990s, the most fearsome and revered boxer in the world was Mike Tyson — a World Champion for many years. A kid from the streets, molded and mentored by the great Cus D’Amato, the media followed him with intense interest. With strength and precision, he dominated and decimated opponent after opponent.

On Feb. 11, 1990, something strange and unexpected happened. An unknown challenger defeated the great, unconquerable champion. Buster Douglas, a 42-1 challenger, brought down the house and Mike Tyson was never the same.

George Foreman, the former world champion of boxing, had memorable remarks and profound advice for Mike Tyson after his loss to Douglas. In George’s opinion, Mike Tyson was like a Ferrari — the greatest sports car the world had ever known. Except that Mike did not know what made him great because his success and skills came so effortlessly. His confidence and natural talent made him a champion. When Tyson lost the fight to Douglas — the equivalent of his Ferrari breaking down on the side of the road — Foreman related that Tyson did not know what he was, what he stood for or what had previously made him unconquerable. In Tyson’s mind, he had always been a champion.

So when Tyson — using Foreman’s car metaphor — walked to the front of the Ferrari — and opened the hood to find out what was wrong, instead of seeing a powerful engine, Tyson saw a skinny-legged chicken that pedaled the car to supersonic speeds.

It was a powerful visual that captured Foreman’s advice to Tyson: Since you have always been a champion and now you are dethroned — go back to the basics. Understand what you are good at — even if it is a mirror of your past accomplishments. Appreciate your strengths and recognize them.

What happened and what is this story’s relevancy to marketing? Marketing is not much different than boxing or any other sport. To excel consistently, it is essential that you understand why you are succeeding or failing. Once you understand your customer base, you can determine where you want to go.

Before we go any further, I want to introduce several concepts that I will be covering in this chapter and remaining parts of the book. This “Bill of Rights” will keep you focused on the key concepts as you read further.

Contrarian Marketing Bill of Rights:

  • Marketing success can be engineered by mathematically tying your company’s business and financial objectives to acquisition and retention of your Best of Best (B-of-B) “raving fan” customers. Customer data and their percentage contributing to your company’s revenue and profitability allows you to establish a neutral framework in which you can engage participation from your employees centered around data. Your marketing strategy is now “data-centered” or quantitative, as opposed to focusing on the opinion-based, subjective qualitative side of marketing — advertising, design, colors of logos, etc., which is the proverbial “tail wagging the dog.” By analyzing your company’s financial plan — revenue and profits — you can successfully create a simple table that details the number of customers and prospects that drive the majority of your revenue and profits. This table will focus the marketing program on customer segmentation, the 10 percent/70 percent rule and the proportional allocation of marketing capital to your B-of-B customers and prospects.
  • This point is a key concept, so keep an open mind. Design your marketing strategy from the bottom up by seeking input from the field and tailoring your approach to support the unique needs of your local markets and salespersons. The process imposes a discipline of fact-based capital allocation to your best customers and prospects and also a simple procedure to measure results. It also will remind you that while tactics comes from the field, it is the employees who execute them.

a. Using a bottom-up marketing strategy, personalized marketing accounts can be established based on the local office or salesperson’s potential contribution to your company’s revenue and profitability. A good example of this bottom-up approach is the Ritz Carlton Hotel allowing its employees immediate discretion to spend up to $2,000 on a customer to uphold the company’s reputation for superior customer service,
no strings attached.

b. By contrast, the “top-down” creation of marketing strategy and budgets often results in tremendous waste and ineffectuality because every market and every customer is different.

  • Marketing tactics for your best customers and prospects can be identified and agreed upon with your field offices and sales teams. The field and salespersons are empowered to access their budgets and launch tactics within the agreed upon framework to your best customers and prospects, as long as they target the right customers. Your corporate office and especially the marketing staff will serve as a field support organization. While counter-intuitive to most, work to extract the most effort from your sales personnel in order to promote a greater balance between empowerment and accountability. The result: Greater field and sales team alignment.In sum, it’s a dramatically different — contrarian — way to market. As Gabriel Shaheen, former CEO of Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., once stated, “The goal of marketing in our business is to make the salesperson’s job easier.”
  • A data-centric approach to marketing sets the strategy for field offices and sales teams, and is used to allocate the budget to each. The field and sales teams buy-in since they are the ones empowered with their own marketing budget and resources.
  • Key focus areas and themes:

a. Use data for fact-based decision-making in marketing.

b. Pick your customers before they pick you so that you are not targeting a mass market and ending up with mediocre or “bad” customers. “Acquire your competitors, one customer at a time,” as Michael Dell says.

c. Don’t take a victim approach to marketing. In other words, don’t misplace your trust by accepting promises from advertising vendors that may fall through or by expecting someone else to do all the work. Marketing is too important to leave in the hands of anyone not fully vested in the end result.

d. Don’t engage in mass media or similar “spray and pray” marketing schemes.