Marketing Above the Noise

Linda J. Popky

Marketing today is out of control. With all the new marketing techniques accessible to the masses, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. The result is more and more messages, hitting us more often in new and more intrusive ways. For customers, it’s a lot of noise.

Through her work with a wide range of organizations from small companies to professional service providers to Fortune 500 companies, Linda Popky has developed Dynamic Market Leverage™, an approach to help cut through the clutter, stand out, and effectively build business.

Marketing Above the Noise takes a contrarian approach by not focusing on social media, digital marketing, or other new tactics, and instead helping organizations understand:

  • -The critical upfront work needed to really understand customers, markets and unmet needs
  • -The value of consistent, focused messaging
  • -Why empowering employees to effectively represent the brand is so critical
  • -How to thrive in an age of user-generated content and customer driven marketing

Why it’s key not to confuse selling with installing

The book introduces the Dynamic Market Leverage Model, which measures marketing clout by looking at eight core marketing disciplines and five additional Leverage Factors that can help an organization focus on key aspects of their marketing function that will provide the most significant return on their marketing investment.

Today’s businesses need to stop trying to keep pace with the latest and greatest marketing tactics and instead focus on developing those long term strategies that build customer loyalty and convince prospects to buy. Yes, businesses need to be aware of and integrate new media and new approaches, but they need to do it in a way that makes sense for the business. They need to maintain a clear focus above the din of the roaring crowd—above the marketing fray.

Most organizations don’t have the luxury of being able to start from a clean slate to develop new marketing strategies. They have existing customers, existing channels and relationships, existing ways of doing business. With limited resources, they’re not able to integrate every new tactic as it appears and they’re not sure how to prioritize all of these options.

What’s needed is a timeless framework—a way of looking at marketing as tied to both business growth and the building and nurturing of ongoing customer engagement. It’s time to move the focus from social media and evangelists, sales and marketing alignment, and the latest hot cloud-based marketing tools, to what really counts: convincing customers to trust you with their business—not just once, but time and time again.

About Don’t Stand Out for the Wrong Reasons

Too many times we remember companies and brands because of an extremely negative customer experience. We, or someone we know, were treated badly. A product or service was defective or disappointing. Or the employees we interacted with were poorly trained, inattentive, or, much too often, just plain arrogant.

The only thing worse than getting lost amongst the noise and chaos in the current marketing environment is standing out for the wrong reasons. In today’s connected world, a disgruntled customer experience is magnified and highlighted by ongoing mentions and reposts in social media. It’s almost impossible to mess up quietly anymore.

Customers are willing to forgive and forget the mistakes made by some of their favorite brands, but not by others. Why is that? Here are five characteristics that differentiate those organizations that stand out for the right reasons from the rest of the pack.

They get it right most of the time.

No one is perfect, but customers expect follow through on an organization’s brand promises. They expect the organization to provide excellent products and support most of the time. It’s as if each positive interaction is a deposit in the bank of trust and credibility. Those who stand out above the noise meet customer expectations much more often than not.

They genuinely care we’re there.

This is more than a card or email to tell us how important we are. Companies who truly stand out above the noise are always looking for ways to engage and delight their customers—to go beyond expectations and delight their customers. And this attitude permeates the organization—from executives down to the people on the shop floor.

Their employees want to serve us.

We’ve all experienced the hassled, obnoxious customer service rep who seems to think customers are there just to annoy him. You’ve also likely encountered those service people who ask how everything is and have no interest whatsoever in the response. Companies that get above the noise make sure their employees represent them appropriately to their customers and that their concern is real.

When they’re wrong, they take responsibility.

Mistakes happen. It’s how you recover that will be remembered. Organizations that stand out above the noise acknowledge the error and immediately set about fixing the issue as quickly and efficiently as possible. They don’t look to assign blame, especially not to their customers. And they realize that customer complaints are a gift. A customer who shares their issues and problems is engaged with you and wants to see you succeed. Every complaint is an opportunity to shine afterwards.

Then they fix the problem–once and for all.

They look for patterns—to see where systemic changes should be made, rather than applying Band-Aids. They ensure that customer feedback is brought back to the right groups in the organization and they focus on improvements. They understand that failure is a byproduct of innovation, but they move to course correct quickly.

There’s one more key point about organizations that stand above the noise:

They never rest on their laurels.

In just one recent week, I heard customers share serious issues they’d had with nearly a half dozen companies—each one a well-known immediately recognizable brand. These are brands that have previously stood out for innovation, service, and reliability. Yet the issues I heard were all fairly serious, ranging from ongoing product defects to missed deliveries to downright arrogant and obnoxious customer service.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, each of these organizations took their eye off the ball. They allowed the organization to get complacent, to focus on the wrong priorities, or to send mixed messages to their customer-facing employees.

As an executive, it’s critical that you know the key reasons you want your company to stand out, and that these reasons are communicated effectively throughout your organization.

Are you ensuring your team is doing what’s necessary to ensure this happens? Does your executive team send out a clear consistent message about what you and your brand stand for? Do your actions reinforce this message? Are you empowering your customer-facing people to represent your brand to your key audiences?

The key is to stand out above the noise. But make sure it’s for the right reasons.

About the Author

Linda J. Popky is the president of Leverage2Market Associates, a Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic marketing company that helps transform organizations through powerful marketing performance. Her clients range from small businesses and consultants to mid-sized companies and large Fortune 500 enterprises.

In 2009, Popky was named one of the top women of influence in Silicon Valley and inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. She is the first marketing expert worldwide certified to offer the Private Roster™ Mentoring Program for consultants and entrepreneurs, and the first licensee of Alan Weiss’s workshops and seminars. Popky is the past president of Women in Consulting, and she served as VP of marketing for the Northern California chapter of the Business Marketing Association. She is a member of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting and Watermark, the organization for exceptional executive women who have made their mark, where she serves on the Strategic Development Board.

Popky has served as program advisor for the Integrated Marketing Program at San Francisco State University’s College of Extended Learning, and she is a member of the Advisory Board of University of California Santa Cruz Extension in Silicon Valley.

Popky is the author of Marketing Above the Noise. Her previous books include Marketing Your Career and Promoting Your Non-Profit. A classically trained pianist, Popky recently released Night Songs, a CD of classical piano music.