new marketing

Last Minute Marketing

Recently someone asked me to weigh in on the concept of flash sales, specifically when used in the hospitality and travel industries. Essentially, a flash sale is a time dated offer that arrives unexpectedly and requires an immediate response to book the featured promotional rate. More back story can be found here.

I think these tactics are fine if they are relevant and anticipated by the customer and if they don't become too prominent in the marketing plan. In other words, they need to be the fallback during carefully selected periods. As booking windows become increasingly shorter, people are more comfortable with "last minute". But, penalizing the early birds, which often are your most loyal fans, definitely has consequences. What is gained short-term, might cost you more in the long run. Once the infrequent fire sale becomes the norm, fewer people are going to believe that your "normal" price is the real deal...then, trust is gone.

When making decision about marketing I often look through these filters...

  1. Does the idea support short-term or long-term goals? How much will the short-term gain erode long-term performance?
  2. Are we willing to offer this all the time and to our best customers? If not, why not?
  3. Will our customers trust us more or less when we do this?
  4. Does it build an audience of loyal, raving fans?
  5. Is the prospective idea or tactic easy or hard? Things that are easy (like buying ads) are not as meaningful and effective as doing things that are hard (building one on one relationships one customer at a time).
  6. If we do this, will it improve our care score? Will our best customers feel more cared for?

Nothing (no amount of marketing) replaces doing meaningful work that people are willing to pay a premium for. The keys are to find something you are passionate about and hoping there are enough people that agree with you.

Advertising Isn't Dead...It's Broken

The old model, selling people features and benefits, doesn't work anymore. There's too much clutter. Unless you're a gazillionaire, you don't stand much of a chance. However, you could change your approach. You could adapt to a new marketing order and use advertising for a completely different purpose. You could use ads as an opportunity to begin a conversation... instead of selling products. A quick rewind of recent advertising history might help put this into perspective.

Prior to radio and TV, if you had something to sell to people outside your immediate area, you bought print ads and billboards. It was a straightforward system, the more ads you bought, the more you would likely sell. Soon, competitors started advertising too. And, "what" you said about a product was overshadowed by "how" it was said...the advertising profession was born. Things started changing with the advent of TV. Slowly, as more and more companies could afford to advertise, we started to see ads which were designed to entertain instead of sell. Some companies figured it was better to get people to talk about the ad, not just the product. That required loads of creativity and was hard. But, those ads rose above the clutter. They convinced us that the people behind the products were interesting, imaginative and funny...that they were real people, not just big companies. Their ads created an emotional connection and started a conversation. Those companies won. Life was good. The internet (specifically, wide distribution of broadband) changed the game again. The cost barrier to entry was lowered to practically zero. Companies of all sizes and even individuals could get into the act. Viral marketing as we now know it was born. But, cheap led to a very low signal to noise ratio...lots of junk and more clutter than ever. Instead of working harder to start a conversation, companies abused the system and tried pushing old tactics in a new medium. And then, the death spiral became cheaper, which meant you could buy more ads, which led to more clutter and an increasingly ineffective mechanism. More and more people stopped paying attention.

Fast forward...If you think of customer conversations as the lifeblood of your business, you understand all this. You know how important it is for customers to go out and tell your story. Respectively, that's what you spend most of your time and money on...engaging with customers and reinventing your product and story to keep things fresh. And, as a new marketer you know that advertising is your chance to connect with people and stimulate conversation. You understand that it's not just a space to interrupt someone and sell them something. You've studied marketing history and know what not to do. So, you wouldn't waste time and money placing boring ads that look and sound like everyone else's. Instead, you would try this sort of thing.