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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is Your Message Too Complicated?

Consumer marketers who work in CPG (consumer packaged goods) know that simple is powerful.

You can’t expect a consumer who is bombarded with messages all day long to hear five reasons from you why your soap is better than the competition. Complexity rarely helps in marketing.  Over time, I learned these lessons as I got to market various snack foods and beverages and other consumer products and in my B2B experiences. 




These are powerful ways to communicate.

In business to business marketing, the exact same need exists yet marketers tend to over complicate the communication.  I like to seek out the simple, precise and sharpest message that can be most effective at reaching my goal. Then I try to tell the story around that message in different ways to my target. And in trying to get to simple and clear, I also know that I have to understand the landscape of messages coming from my competition.

Understanding The Landscape
If I have 4 main competitors and they all talk about innovation, how will anyone hear what I have to say?

I doubt that my innovation message will break through. So a very helpful exercise for marketers is to map out the messages that your audience hears from the competition. Put it up on a white board. Look at the competitions websites, collateral, ads and other communication from the competition and try and extract what their key words are that they use.

Then the fun begins as you try to find an opening. A gap. A path that isn’t being taken that you could own.  And then you have to find multiple ways to explain that key message to your audience.

Let’s assume that convenience is your point of difference.

You offer a level of convenience that your competitors don’t and you want to find a way to explain this benefit to prospects.  Do you know if your prospects really care about convenience? If so, how precisely does it help them? If they could buy from someone who has a more convenient product to use, what would they say the benefit is to them? How would they feel about a company whose product makes their life easier and less complex?

Sharpening Your Message
Beyond mapping the public messages from your competitors, another way to get some insights is to work with a local business class (college or preferably at a graduate level). Have students reach out to interview prospects with open-ended questions that allow the potential customer to express his pain points and what he needs. A prospect may share a need with someone who isn’t selling anything that they won’t share with you. This one tactic can help you get a leg up on the competition if you hear a repeated pattern of need.

A simple message is powerful if it touches on a nerve. If you can be as convenient as Uber to your customers, find a crisp, precise way to tell that story. Maybe you illustrate this to them by offering them a free Uber ride to drive home this message of convenience. 

Then do it over and over again in ways that help raise awareness, educate them and cause them to take action.



Need some untangling of your marketing? Connect with me through Clarity and we can unravel your message together. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Video From Your Future Self

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? Adults love to ask this question to kids all the time. When was the last time you asked yourself this question? Do you stop and think about this for your business, your brand and your professional career? 

What do you want your business to look like in five years?  Wouldn't it be helpful if you could watch a video of your future self reminding you about where you want to be? One of my first questions I ask when someone seeks out advice or coaching about marketing is the vision thing. Where are you going? What do you want? What would your future self tell you where you are heading? 

It helps to give a brand direction toward something, even if it can’t be perfectly described.

Long-term planning is difficult. The rapid change of technology and commerce is easy to see zipping past us as we try and move forward. But without some destination in mind, your decisions lack a context and direction.

The tricky part of this conversation is that I also believe that a lot of multi-year budgeting and forecasting work is a waste of time.  Businesses try and project sales and expenses and rarely ever do the post mortem work to say why we didn’t hit our numbers or why are our expenses higher than planned. They just move on to the next planning cycle like robots without asking how to do things differently. Companies easily get lost in the details and miss the big picture. 

But looking backwards from the future is powerful. And it can help you realize a vision about tomorrow. It can help identify a north star toward which you are heading. 

Imagine yourself five years from now. Describe your business to me. Will you have 10 locations, sell in multiple channels or will you have sold it and moved on to the next thing?  Will you be bankrupt or booming? What choices did you make that you regret and what things did you do that were pivotal toward the success? 

As you sit in the future, what were the critical decisions you made that helped bring you to this point.

I recently consulted with a mid-sized company who was looking to rapidly grow and expand their consumer packaged goods business. (I’m intentionally keeping the details of her industry and brand private at her request. She was cool with me sharing the vision she developed for her future).

They had a great first two years under their belt having launch a product and grown it to a substantial level in their category. But they felt stuck lately and unsure of where to go from here.

So we did a simple visioning exercise where I ask them to close their eyes.

What would bring you the rewards and happiness you seek in five years?  Help me understand in very specific terms what that might look like by describing what you are truly seeking. What surprised this business woman was that she had not taken the time to think about where she wanted to be. 

She was so busy doing she never had time to dream.

So we spent some time dreaming and came up with a specific list of where she’d like to be on December 17, 2019.

In five years, I want to:

Distribution: Have my product line distributed through 25 major retail chains and through at least the top 3 online retailers.

Manufacturing: I want to eliminate my manufacturing headaches and outsource it but find a way to maintain the highest level of quality possible to protect my brand equity.

My Day Job: I want to personally only do the design work and have others managing the day-to-day part of the business. If this means giving up being the CEO, I’m okay with that thought.

New Technologies: I want to adapt to new technologies but not get distracted by them so that they get us focused on the wrong things. I have trouble staying focus so I hope I will have learned to do this better.

Clearer Understand of My Customer: I want to have a richer, deeper understanding of what my customers love about my product and how I can continue to serve them in the future.

Steady Income: I’d like to have a steady income over six figures but also be able to pay my team significantly higher than industry standards.

Respect: I want to be well-respected by my employees so they love to come to work and bring their passion to our brand.

After writing up a summary of her vision, we are working on creating a video of her talking to her current self from the five years out in the future. Its done on an iPhone so its more of a fun exercise but it’s on her phone and in her pocket. She can take out this short 2 minute video whenever she is uncertain about a decision. It’s nice to be connected to your future self when faced with a tough choice. (What would I tell myself).

Perhaps you are struggling with your career and could do a similar exercise about where you want to be in five years? Having it on video as a reminder is powerful and allows you to see your future in the palm of your hand. A personal video is motivating and like a career GPS guiding you toward that future place. 

What would your future self be telling you about your future direction? 


Trying to get some clarity about your future? Need a marketing coach who can help you find your north star? Connect with me through Clarity and lets go back to the future. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Seven Marketing Tips for Small Business

I often get the same question through my blog and my online connections from small business owners. What is the best marketing for my business?

This is still an odd question because small businesses don’t have time to distinguish among things like sales, marketing, product development, customer service and on and on. As a former small business owner, I can testify to this reality. 

The small business owner is so busy try to stay afloat, that often they don’t have time to think like a big business does subdividing activities. Small business owners have to wear so many hats that you rarely stop and think about things in terms of different silos like marketing, quality or sales. 

Yet, the need to understand what to do to promote a business doesn't go away and keeps popping up. So let me offer 7 tips that I share with those who seek out my advice through Clarity. 

Be Original.  Don’t try and be like your competitor or other people who market with in your category. Find a way to use your own voice in how you share your message. You are unique and no one else can be who you are. Can you give your business and brand your own special personality?  Someone else can make a better cookie, but there is only one cookie that can come from you. Check out this wonderful small business whose tag line is 'Baking A Difference'. Saira's company, GIVE, provides amazing cookies and a choice of a charity to support. Saira is original. Seth Godin, the great marketing thought leader wanted to reach people who don't typically read books so he created a book as a magazine. Check out how original this idea is as a spark. 

Be a Story Teller: At its heart, marketing is story telling. It is attaching meaning and value to a thing or service. It is in the story that we transfer value. More people like McDonald’s coffee yet pay 5 times the price at Starbucks. Speaking of cookies, another cookie company was inspired by his grandmother in Alabama. Robert Armstrong's G Momma brand tells a story about these southern style bite sized beauties that his grandmother used to bake for him in Alabama. The story wraps around the cookie to make it connect beyond the butter and the sugar. Only these cookies could come from Robert who is a wonderful story teller. 

Be filled with Empathy:  Customers have needs that must be fulfilled. As you deeply understand their situation, their problems and daily activities, what emerges is an opportunity to provide them with a solution. Through your product or service, you can change how they feel. But first you must feel it. You must stand in their shoes and walk with them. Empathy is a small business owners greatest marketing resource to help them uncover true needs from their customers. 

Be Alert: We can all watch the same behavior and activities and take away different descriptions of what occurs. But the business that succeeds, grows because of their hyper sensitive awareness of what is occurring around them. Someone say, I’m so tired of waiting in the rain for a cab, why can’t they just appear (Uber). Or, I’m so tired of the same dull and boring hotels when I go to a new city (AirBnB). How much are you listening to your community talk about their own needs. Social media is a gold mine - like a public focus group to hear and sense where there are unmet opportunities. I can't program my thermostat; how can I save money on my energy bills? (Nest)

Be Useful: If you offer value and usefulness, people will want to buy from you. Utility is a powerful driver and many marketing people forget how helpful this can be.  Dove Soap brilliantly started to change how they showed woman in their ads to help reflect a more positive and transparent view of what woman actually look like. They helped a community to see beauty in a new light. They facilitated a fresh discussion. In return, over time, their brand grew and expanded because they were providing value and usefulness to their customers. (contrast this to the stupid stuff Coke did with Fairlife Milk inthe UK). Can you create a useful guide to your industry that gives information without asking for a sale in return? Some might think of this as karmic marketing - where what goes around, comes around. To me, you have to gain trust before anyone will buy from you. Why not begin by giving away something of value? 

Be Direct:  When picking tactics to reach an audience or tribe with common interest, how can you go as direct as possible.  Advertising is a mediated experience. Speaking in person to people is a direct approach to marketing. Direct mail that puts your product in the hands of 100 people to touch, taste or smell is remarkably effective if you truly have something remarkable. (worth remarking about). I'm always asking myself, what if I give away 100 samples of (my product or service). What will happen? Experiment. Test. Try stuff. But be as directly connected as possible so you can hear the customer's response. 

Be a Sampler:  How can you give away samples of your work? If you are a photographer, can you offer Saturday clinics for dads to learn how to take better photos of their kids? If you are an accountant, how can you offer an online forum to answer last minute questions about tax preparation? If you are selling an amazing chocolate dipped pretzel unlike anything ever made, how can you wrap it in a story and share a small taste with people who will post information on Facebook to their friends?

What tips do you have they you can share about marketing your small business? 

If you enjoy this blog post, you might want to subscribe. My posts will comes directly to your email twice/week. 

As a gift, you can receive my eBook UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES OF MARKETING. Its list price is $9.99 on Amazon as a physical book, but the eBook is free to subscribers. It is filled with 21 lessons to help you grow your brand. Just fill in your email address in the red box at the upper right hand corner of my blog. 

And thanks. 

If I can be of help to provide marketing coaching to you, reach out through Clarity and set up time for us to talk. And don't forget your free copy of my eBook, just for signing up to this blog. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Milking It - Another Coke Fail

I learned about Coke’s entrance into the milk market last week with a new product positioned as lower in sugar and higher in protein and calcium. They decided to test market in the UK and to try out an ad campaign. So far, so good – although I thought milk consumption was way down and I didn’t think it was a growing category. 

Then I saw the ads they chose to run.

Now I am not afraid of ads that intentionally grab attention if they align with the brand’s position, but this really missed the mark. The ads depicted woman in ‘milk dresses’ that show off that great new body they’ll get when they drink Fairlife, the brand name.

In 2014, these ads are so off they almost felt desperate. 

Coke must have known that these were going to be seen as sexist by the very audience they were trying to reach. These ‘Vargas-esque’ women shown in the ads felt like something out of Playboy in the 1960’s.  Very Don Draper.

Of course all the noise around the sexism of the ads did gain great attention in the media so it achieve the purpose of getting people aware of Coke’s new milk venture. But in the long run, how can you alienate the very audience you want to reach? Did this do more harm then good? Can you imagine how many people will be annoyed by this campaign before they taste the product? 

There are always options. 

If I were the Coke/Fairlife brand manager, here are some things I would have considered doing differently...

I wouldn’t have tried to position the brand around sexual imagery. Instead, I would have focused on successful woman in various walks of life where Fairlife supported them each day.

I would have used product donations to non-profits that support woman’s causes and to use publicity to suddenly be the brand associated with woman’s causes.

If the brand has a specific benefit to teenagers, I might have played up the Pro TEEN (protein) idea.

I would have considered everyday working Mom’s to be the face of the brand – not overtly sexy woman whose image appears dated and out of touch.

I would have used Instagram to catch woman in a ‘Fairlife moment’ that shows them getting through their day because of the added protein in their morning glass of milk.

From the Gallery
Of course it is easy from the 'peanut gallery' to say what you would do. I'm sure the brand team got seduced by the beautiful ads that were created and lost sight of who they were trying to reach. 

Last month I wrote about Coke's new soft drink Coke Life that I predict will fail as it too misses the mark. Read more about that here. I have nothing against the folks at Coke. I just want to see better product launches and marketing efforts. Testing is a normal cycle for a product launch so they get a do over although the UK media response should help them rethink the imagery and messaging. 

You have to market your product for the time you live in not some throw back to another era. Political correctness, right or wrong is ever present and there are too many outlets that will push back against old stereotypes. 

If you use advertising to market your product, are you confusing awareness and interest? I may be aware an ad campaign but feel off-put by the message or imagery. I think Dove's campaign with real woman has been the gold standard of how to do this right in the past few years. It is so important that you are crystal clear about the objective of any ad campaign. How do you want the majority of customers to feel. 

Go ahead, wipe that milk mustache off your lip. 

Jeffrey Slater
Need a fresh perspective on an ad campaign? Looking to milk an old message to a new audience? Maybe I can help. For marketing coaching, connect with me through Clarity

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Products People Hire

When consumers or businesses have a problem, they need to hire a product or service to do a job. An obvious example is when you have a leak, you need a plumber.

But if you want to shampoo your hair you have dozens if not hundreds of choices. If I want to shampoo my hair and manage my dandruff, I might hire Head and Shoulders for that specific job.

If I want to avoid itching and scratchy dry skin, you might hire Oil of Olay moisturizer with aloe vera instead of 32 other choices. 

Each product gets hired to do a specific job in a specific segment.

Segmentation is wildly important yet often misunderstood by marketers.

How the job gets done is the really important part of segmentation work. Outcome-based segments is what consulting firm Strategyn focuses on in their practice and they shines a bright light on this topic in their effort to understand what truly makes customers different?

You can’t just use simple 1950’s style methods like age, geography, sex, household income, etc. Or in business, you might segment based on small business versus large or vertical markets like healthcare versus transportation.

The deeper layer to explore is the needs state of discrete segments and to truly understand what makes consumers different.  Twins who have common DNA may value fancy coffee drinks differently where one favors Dunkin’ Donuts versus Starbucks. General Managers running a healthcare or transportation may have common needs and desire similar 'jobs' for certain products. 

Segmentation is interested in the shared value of a specific targeted community.

In a white paper about this outcome based approach to segments, Strategyn outlines an example with Motorola and their two-way radios. Previously they sold and marketed these products to distinct vertical segments like utilities or public service sectors. When they started to look deeper, they found three distinct outcome-based needs from their customers. 

One was for covert communications, one for dangerous situation that demanded 100% effectiveness and the final group for team and group coordination activities. When Motorola refined the marketing messages for those groups, they found they could sell a less expensive product to three distinct segments with different outcome needs and expectations. Thus more customers were satisfied with a product made for them. The business unit grew by 18% because their customers were ‘hiring’ a specific product to do a well-defined job.

For those of us who love metaphors, think of a tool box. You don’t hire a screw driver to do what a hammer can do.

Apply the Lessons in Segmenting Your Opportunities.

SURVEY:  How clearly do you understand why customers hire your product? Can you survey a large enough sample to understand and see clusters of different needs as well as the common needs too?

UNMET NEEDS:  Do you truly understand the unmet needs within the larger target of customers? You may be selling a toolbox filled with screw drivers to customers who need to knock a nail into a piece of wood. Or, more specifically, you may be selling flat head screw drivers to customers who have Philips head screws.

PLATFORM OF PRODUCTS:  You may need to have a platform of products that meet clustered outcomes. Of course no one wants too many products, but a wrench, hammer or screw driver have multiple sub-segments based on the outcome of effort. A common platform (brand) may enable you to have a few distinct products built on outcome requirements.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES: Outcome based segmentation allows you to see your market in a new light and to more deeply understand the needs of a community. If you are looking for growth, perhaps you need to rethink, reexamine and redefine who you are trying to reach and to understand the job they might hire your product or service to do for them.

To read the full whitepaper on this topic, go to and look for the article called Outcome-based Segmentation. Their CEO's book, What Customers Want is on my reading list and I'll review it on future blog post. 

Jeffrey Slater

Do you need help in thinking through the segments of your marketplace? Let’s talk. Connect with me through Clarity and I’ll help you sort out some new opportunities.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Seat at the Table

Who is truly at the center of your business? 

Jeff Bezos is so focused on being customer centric that he always includes a seat at every meeting that represents the customer. Sounds odd, but it is one of those emblematic ways that he demonstrates what he believes is Amazon’s most important difference from other retailers. 

I heard another story on a John Jantsch's podcast called Duck Tape Marketing that a guy had to return a package back to Amazon because he bought the wrong power cord and needed to replace it. Amazon sent him a return label and he took the package to the UPS store. As he left the store, his phone beeped and he noticed a text telling him that Amazon had just wired money into his account as a credit for one he purchased.
Amazon hadn't received the merchandise back yet but given that person's loyalty, they felt why not return his money instantly? 

Talk about over delivering on their promise.

Amazon's category teams leads have goals that are focused on customer satisfaction levels that exceed the category. Everything they do is to over deliver on their commitment that nothing is more important than the customer's satisfaction. 

Center of the Universe
How does your business make your customers the center of your universe? What actions are you taking as an organization to find a way to delight the people that you serve? Often it is something small that can be incredibly powerful. Your competitor may not even think about getting you a credit faster to please you but think of how that makes you feel?

A few suggestions on how to act more customer centric:

Little Things Matter:  How do you feel when you are given great customer service when you make a purchase either at a shop or online? Sometimes having a cashier look at you and smile and acknowledge you is all that it takes. If online, a simple little bounce back note that says your order has been received and I am grateful that you choose to shop with us from a real person can make a big difference. Showing up as a human being is a great place to start to be more customer focused. Empathy goes a long way in what is typically a cold business climate.

Voice of the Customer
Are you guilty of believing you understand a market so well, that you (and your colleagues) know exactly what they want? Unless you are the reincarnation of Steve Jobs, this is an ineffective approach

Now it is true that customers and consumer say and do different things, but understanding how they view the current choices they have in a category and to see the gaps and opportunities, is invaluable for both product development as well as the marketing of the product. Let your customer have an early and frequent say in what you are creating for them. Don't just show up with a product and hope they want what you believe they need. 

Surprise and Delight:  When was the last time you told someone about an experience that you had with a product or a brand? What was it you were sharing and why? How did you share it with your friend? When you catch yourself surprised and delighted, you might begin to see how your customers could feel that way if you did something equally unexpected. I recently picked up a sandwich through a drive through as I was rushed for time. The woman handing me the sandwich said, we put our special dressing on the sandwich but I want to make sure you are happy, would you like a little extra container of the sauce?  I was surprised and noticed that little gesture of kindness.

Spend Time With One Customer:  The more time people throughout an organization can spend with customers, the more they understand how their work affects the customer’s experience with your business. Suddenly a woman from finance or a man in human resources realizes something about the influence his own work has on your customer named William.  It makes it real and tangible. It humanizes the impact of your daily work.  Suddenly the connection of your input is seen in the delight it brings to a real person not this amorphous thing called the customer.

If the center of your world is all about you and your company, your destiny is limited.

Apple doesn’t tell me about the components in their computers, they show how a customer feels using their product. Patagonia urges consumers not to buy more clothes than they need because they share your values and want to live consistent with that approach. Whole Foods wants to reflect a community of shared values with the customer vision for a better world at the center of their messaging; thus value matter.

When your customer is at the center of your circle and you give them tools to be happy or successful or to feel good, life is good and your business will flourish like flora in the amazon. 

Jeffrey Slater


This is my 400th blog post for MomentSlater. I'm feeling proud and honored that so many marketers are reading my posts. Thanks for spending a little time with my ideas.


Struggling with a how to find a seat at the table for your customer? Give me a call at Clarity at let's discuss how I can help set the table for you. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks


Our minds are wandering all the time. 

It is very difficult for most of us to stay focused. 

A recent Ted Talk on this topic reminded me of why mindfulness and being in THIS MOMENT is a rich source of happiness for me and my life. No one has a perfect life. We want to be richer, taller, smarter and on and on. Yet in each moment, when I am fully present, I can find how happy I am to be alive. I can enjoy all of the joys of this very moment and the abundance I have right now. 

This Moment

My family is healthy and thriving. 

I can breathe freely. 

A smile from a co-worker can make me feel appreciated. 

My work is satisfying and the project I am focused on is creative, productive and challenging. 

 The tea I am drinking called Desert Sage has a wonderful fragrance.

 I can walk without impairment. 

 An email that arrives from a friend reminds me of an important connection. 

 Quiet in the morning is a gift that I am learning to relish. 

 Fresh rosemary, when rubbed between my fingers gives off a scent from the oils that makes me feel satisfied and fulfilled. 

 Warm water in a shower relaxes me. 

 I vacuum the house not as a chore but as a momentary gesture to my space to keep things in order. 

 I drink a glass of water and its stillness and quenching factor are pure and simple. 

Want to be happier? Stay in the Moment
 Watch this short Ted Talk about happiness by Matt Killingsworth. 

He is a scientist studying happiness and his talk reminds me of all the grace and thanksgiving I have in my life. Matt has done a scientific study of what causes happiness using an interesting app called

From the data, he believes that mind wandering can be part of the problem. He has 650,000 pieces of data confirming this notion. This talk resonated with me and I want to share it right this moment. 

 Can you give thanks every day, every hour and every moment? Just take 30 second and take a few deep breathes and feel how fortunate and blessed you are right now. 

Enjoy this moment.