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These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring & Bart Jackson were prepared for the March 24, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Marketing Tactics Are Key For Business Success
History is littered with the corpses of the toughest, best equipped soldiers who charged into battle with little in the way of strategy. Likewise, many businesses with top quality products fail because they laid no battle plans or because they neglected to scout their universe of customers thoroughly enough. Granted, good, traditional market survey tools can provide the necessary clay for good strategy. But are you asking the right questions, in the right places?
What strategy information companies need to know and how to get it is discussed in Creative Marketing Alliance’s free seminar, “Marketecturea: A Blueprint for Strategic Marketing Success in Today’s Uncertain Economy,” on Thursday, March 25, at 3:30 p.m. at the CMA Offices. Call 609-799-6000 x21. Speakers are Jeffery Barnhart, president of CMA, and Robert Jones, a communications consultant.
For the last 25 years, Jones has been laying out marketing tactics for clients ranging from large pharmaceuticals down to one-person home businesses. A native of Philadelphia, he earned a degree in pharmacological science from Howard University. He earned his first MBA from Long Island University, and followed it with a second MBA, in strategic planning, from Harvard. He worked in marketing in Philadelphia and in Manhattan before moving to New Jersey to take a job as vice president of Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Division.
When not consulting for CMA, Jones commutes from his Columbus home between Muhlenberg College and Philadelphia Bible University, where he teaches marketing. Yes, even preachers need marketing skills. “I feel sorry for the poor clergy people who are put in charge of huge churches with absolutely no business training whatsoever,” says Jones.
For most businesses, the strategy is to keep afloat this quarter. Putting out fires becomes the focus. Jones acknowledges the importance of handling urgent needs right away, but he insists that with today’s breakneck pace, the urgent tasks are not always those that are the most obvious. For survival’s sake, every business must cast a wider net.
The socio-cultural shift. We are not what we used to be. The United States, and more specifically the Garden State, has drastically shifted demographics. Eighty percent of the people now live on three percent of the land; and this urbanizing crunch continues. Further, we are experiencing an unmatched immigration influx, which is bringing about enormous cultural diversity. But the most important shift has come in how we interact. “We are no longer a melting pot,” says Jones. “We are a mixed salad, with ethnic groups settling together and retaining strong ties to their land of origin.”
For the sales and marketing staff, this means a greater ethnic awareness and a more individual customer approach. Study your target clients language and taboos, advises Jones. Referring to South Americans as “Latinos” may gain more favor than calling them “Hispanics,” as the latter term can be a reminder of a less than blissful colonial history.
Also, learn the cultural purchasing process. In helping one real estate broker improve his sales approach, Jones explained the need for cultural adjustment. Machismo generally runs very high in Cubans and Puerto Ricans, and much less so in Dominicans. Conversely, many buyers of English and German ancestry see the selection of a home selecting as primarily a woman’s job. Each group’s purchasing process must be handled individually. Of course, not every customer follows the cultural trends of his ethnic group, but the salesperson must be aware of them.
National clamor. White House and Capitol Hill decisions frequently do affect even the smallest business, and its advertising strategies. This year’s sudden strictures on telemarketing and Internet ads are a good example. Furthermore, the small business owner must be aware of back hall chatter as well as bills that make it into law. Escalating talk about the fast-food link to obesity is sure to bring about restrictions. Already there is talk of taxing Twinkies and requiring every restaurant to post a detailed breakdown of the caloric make-up of each of the dishes it serves.
This talk can inspire fear, but it can also spell opportunity. Does your product promote health — or at least what the fickle food police are declaring healthy this year? If so, this may be the time to market like crazy.
In any case, it is essential to keep a close eye on what legislators are doing — and what they are talking about.
Legal and regulatory shifts. Homeland Security has slowed coastal shipping. Scream at your overseas suppliers all you want, they must obey the new regulations. State and federal changes regarding foreign employees, part time employees, and independent consultants can wreak havoc on your payroll.
Economic shifts can affect your business too. Will an improving economy cut off your supply of part time workers? Will you have to pay much more to attract workers at all levels?
If the economy fails to pick up, should you cut your orders to avoid being stuck with merchandise consumers are afraid to charge to their credit cards?
“An increasing number of consumers in this area are unemployed or under employed,” says Jones. “This changes the market and demands change from the business owner.”
Jones advises companies to look at the two factors that matter most to consumers — price and quality. Then, plot each as a continuum and place your company on a grid and see where your product falls, and how your marketing approach should slant.
Add competition and technology advances to the above factors and put it all into a business environment databank. Once the widened net of information has been cast and hauled in, you can hammer out a more successful marketing strategy. You may even discover an unguarded flank through which you can slip your low-fat, no carb, high fiber toothpaste to a receptive group of consumers.
— Bart Jackson
Business owners take note: Latinos have just become the largest minority group in the country. An exceptionally loyal group, they can be your customers for generations, but only if you are smart about approaching them — and then following through.
Deborah Rivera, a first generation Latina and the president of the Ad Directors Club of New Jersey, provides details on how to do just that when she speaks on “This is America: Speak Spanish!” on Saturday, March 27, at 11 a.m. Her talk is just one of many during a two-day Ad Directors Club of New Jersey event, Thinking Creatively, which begins on Friday, March 26, at 11 a.m. at the Kean University Center.
The idea for the conference, as well as the content, was inspired by Rivera’s mentor and former teacher, Robin Landa, whose new book is entitled “Thinking Creatively.”
Landa, who teaches at Kean, speaks on “The Creative Bargain” at 1:30 p.m. on Friday. There are a number other talks on subjects ranging from “Interpreting the Creative Tower of Babel to “When Creative Ideas Flop … and Other Love Stories.” The cost for both days is $190. For more information, call 201-997-1212 or visit www.adcnj.com.
Rivera’s parents emigrated from Cuba in 1968. After applying for a release from Cuba, they had to serve in concentration camps for a year. They were finally allowed to leave, but could not bring any belongings with them. “They brought nothing,” says Rivera. “My mother tried to hide a Cuban penny in the lining of her handbag, but it was taken away.”
Speaking very little English, the couple settled in Elizabeth, and promptly went to work. Rivera’s mother is retired from a 25-year career as a computer analyst at AT&T, and her father is a self-employed translator. She attributes her early interest in advertising to him.
During her childhood, she sat with her father as he worked on radio campaigns and print advertisements. The job involved more than straight translation, she says, because advertisements, relying heavily on slang and idioms, do not always translate literally. “He would have to write his own tag lines,” she says.
Rivera, who earned a BFA in visual communications from Kean University in 1996, has just been named head of Scion Communications, a division of Warren-based ad firm Alexander & Richardson. Rivera’s father has been pushing entrepreneurship on her for years, and while she is an employee, she says she is fortunate in working for an agency that listens to her ideas, and that has given her a large degree of autonomy.
The firm eased into Latino marketing by offering that expertise to existing clients. As demand rose, Rivera was backed in starting up a separate Latino marketing division.
“Clients are realizing that translation is not enough,” she says. “It will not get you anywhere. The competition is so great that you have to target the market with complete attention.” Effective marketing to Latinos requires an understanding of their culture, and priorities — and even of the size of their families.
Include grandma. Latinos value family above everything, but theirs are not the nuclear Anglo families we see rejoicing over new minivans or sitting down to a Boston Market take-out dinner around a tiny table.
“You see the whole family together,” says Rivera. In depicting Latino life in commercials, include any number of aunts, nephews, and cousins in the picture. And whatever you do, do not forget the grandmother. “Grandma is always there,” she emphasizes. “Always.”
Don’t forget father. “In Latino families, decisions are made at home, and the father makes them,” says Rivera. While dad is often portrayed as a hapless buffoon in mainstream commercials, that image does not play well in Latino families. Yes, she says, Latino women are beginning to be more of a force in buying decisions involving groceries, and even cars, but the man’s voice is likely to be more important than it is in most American families.
Think big. In pitching to Latinos, remember that many think in terms of large extended families — and of neighbors, too. Two-for-one offers are well received, as are any free add ons — the more the better.
Serve up reminders of home. Rivera’s favorite Latin-themed commercial includes not one word of Spanish. It is a Citibank ad in which a grandmother in a brightly colored dress weaves in and out of the picture under a bright blue sky as mambo music plays. “You don’t even see that much of her,” says Rivera. “She’s moving in and out.” The spot is incredibly clever, in her view, in being aimed 100 percent at a Latin audience without using Spanish.
The commercial creates a mood that Rivera finds irresistible. And she has only visited the Caribbean a few times. Imagine the effect on recent immigrants pining for home.
When targeting Latinos include lots of the music and color that evokes home. “Latinos are a loud, happy, fun-loving group,”she says. “Use lots of music, bright colors, fruit colors.” It’s a shame that commercials can not yet convey smell. “If you could just smell grandma’s kitchen…” muses Rivera.
Remember the children of immigrants. Rivera’s speech reveals no hint of her heritage, yet she is most definitely a Latina at heart. Advertisers need to know that the children and grandchildren of immigrants are drawn by the same themes and values as are their parents, even though they now look and sound just like their Anglo peers.
This is especially important because, even as the population of the United States as a whole is aging, Latinos are a young group. Seventy-five percent are under 40.
Follow through with customer service. Rivera finds that any number of companies go to the trouble of creating ad campaigns to target Latinos, but stop there. Attracted by an ad, a Latino will call and find that no customer service agent speaks Spanish.
Interestingly, Rivera, who is bi-lingual, loves to encounter a Latino salesperson. She doesn’t need to be spoken to in Spanish by salespeople, but she likes to be. “I get the feeling that he’ll take care of me,” she says. “That he’ll hook me up.” She concedes that this may not be true, but nevertheless, she says, “there’s an instant bond.”
Latinos are loyal to one another, and they are also loyal to the brands of manufacturers who take the trouble to understand and target them. Given the fact that, as a group, Latinos spend $500 billion a year on goods and services, this is a fact worth noting.
“If you want to communicate,” says Rivera, “act like you are meeting for the first time. Make sure your approach says `kiss on the cheek.’”
You need to start a business — right away. Now. This is the imperative advice of Hart Singh, entrepreneur and teacher. You say you have a job, a good job? No matter. You say you have no money for offices and employees? So much the better. You say you couldn’t possibly find the time? Nonsense.
No job is secure. Everyone needs the lifeline a small business can provide, and what’s more, everyone has the wherewithal to start a company. Nine-to-five employment is no bar to the entrepreneurial life. In fact, as Singh explains it, it is a tremendous help, practically a requirement for most people.
Start a business on your employer’s dime. That, in a nutshell, is Singh’s advice. He fills in all the details during his Boot Camp, which begins on Saturday, April 3, at 8 a.m. at the Dreyfuss Computer Lab on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, and continues for three more consecutive Saturdays. The cost for the four-session course is $995. Call 973-795-1028 for more information, or visit www.entcent.com, which includes voluminous information, a six-minute video, a course outline, and sample classes.
Singh’s family owned a steel cube manufacturing company in India. “I was taught entrepreneurialism at the table,” he says. After receiving an MBA from M.I.T. in 1987, he took the family business public in a 1993 IPO on the Bombay stock exchange. He returned to the United States in 1998 after receiving a Christmas card from his M.I.T. thesis advisor, John Little.
The thesis, entitled “T Factors for Establishing Electronic Markets,” was written, he points out, before the Internet existed in anything like its modern form. Little’s reference to the thesis made him think that he might have been on to something.
After consulting with his wife, he checked in with his former advisor, and then headed for Silicon Valley, ground zero of the Internet revolution, and took on a three-month gig as interim CEO of a start-up. He then launched his own company, E-Clout.
“The idea was to convert frequent flier miles into a currency for the Internet,” he says. After being back in the country for less than a year, he signed a term sheet for $3 million in venture capital to get the company off the ground. Soon thereafter, he recounts, “it died a dot-com death.”
Deterred not one whit, Singh quickly formed another company with New Jersey technologists he had met during his first venture. Enforsys, a company providing police information systems, “raised capital in a heart beat,” he says. The company went live on September 1, 2001. Potential clients immediately saw the usefulness of the product in the post-9/11 environment, he says.
Singh cashed out from the Whippany-based company in 2002, and started teaching courses in entrepreneurship. He started at Rutgers, teaching undergraduates in non-business majors. Then he moved into the business school, first teaching undergrads and then MBA students.
He now teaches at Fairleigh Dickinson, which is near his home, and at Polytechnic’s Wall Street campus. The upcoming boot camp, while it takes place on the Fairleigh Dickinson campus, is an entrepreneurial venture, and a good example of his thesis that an employer can be used — quite legitimately — as a helpmate in a start-up business.
“Don’t leave your job,” exclaims Singh, a most ebbulient fellow. “Become a second job entrepreneur!” Here’s how:
Take your employer for all he’s worth. “Learn on someone else’s time, and someone else’s dime,” says Singh. This, in fact, is probably the most popular route to a business start-up. Any number of former corporate HR directors, for example, are now selling their services as everything from contract head hunters to diversity trainers. They owe their skills, and a good portion of their credibility, to the companies they left behind.
Build a raft. While a corporate background is a fine set-up for life as a business owner, Singh urges caution in jumping overboard prematurely. In fact, sticking around as along as the ship holds up — or is willing to carry you — can be the best idea of all.
“A raft can easily float with a minimal load. It’s when you jump on that it becomes unstable,” says Singh. Translated:
A business can earn a gross profit, but when you need to replace the salary, medical benefits, Social Security payments, insurance premiums, and expense account that your employer was providing, your business’ gross profit can quickly become a deep net loss.
Singh is not urging that you shirk the job for which your employer is paying you. Rather, he suggests that you cultivate business, perhaps by going ahead with projects you have pitched to your employer, and he has rejected. Make contacts, or mine those you have, form an LLC, get some business cards printed, and use some of your spare time to apply your skills to your contacts’ needs.
Get organized, and cut the excuses. When Singh presents his “start a business from your corporate desk” plan, students often balk, protesting that there would be no time. Nonsense, he says.
In Singh’s experience, the average corporate man spends large parts of his day figuring out how to avoid work. There is plenty of time to plot a new venture, he tells his students. When they continue to protest, he brings out his other stock argument.
“You don’t stop work when you have a child,” he says. Well, of course, some people do, but a whole lot more add the whole new job of child care more or less seamlessly into their lives, while holding onto and progressing in a job. Why should starting a business on the side be any different?
Go it alone. Many of Singh’s students, eager to get their ventures going, speak of hiring help. Mistake, he says. Big, big mistake. “Avoid employees,” he says. “It’s like having an elephant jump onto your raft.”
At a minimum, he says, it will cost $25,000 to add even a low-level helper. That amount, he finds, is just about the profit many a start-up can expect in the early years. Don’t blow it all on an employee.
Avoid partnerships. The first three letters of “partner” are the same as the first three letters of “parasite,” Singh points out. In his experience, the business owner will, sooner or later, come to view the partner as an unnecessary burden for his new company.
Stay lean. Don’t let infrastructure get ahead of demand. Fulfill all of your orders yourself, and aim to reach a stage where demand exceeds your capacity to supply. Only then should you consider infrastructure growth.
Package yourself. In the course of working for others, everyone picks up skills, contacts, and information. Everyone is therefore one short step away from becoming an entrepreneur. “Your years of experience combined with your contacts and your strengths is a unique package,” says Singh. “Wrap a business layer around this to come up with a startling value proposition for a well defined group of customers.”
“We keep hearing about a jobless recovery,” says Singh. In his view, it is more “jobless” than “recovery.” No one is safe. Now is the time to prepare to add that business layer to corporate skills. He suggests that everyone add one new income stream of some sort each year.
“Getting a client is easier than getting a job,” says Singh. “Become a second job entrepreneur!
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