Thursday, December 02, 2010

Marketing Crap

Many years ago I learned that when selling something, give your customer a choice of 2, choose A or choose B. I may have had 40 choices to sell, but once I brought out that 3rd choice and added it to the first 2, my prospective customer was instantly thrown into a confused dither. A confused, dithering customer will invariably make no choice at all rather than risk making a bad one. Hence, no sale.

However, if you put only 2 candidates out and forced a choice of one of them, you had accomplished something. First, your customer has made a choice of one of your wares…a step in the right direction; and second, opened a spot up for you to bring out another potential choice. Bringing out choice 3 and putting it alongside your customer’s first choice set up another choice of 2 scenario. Walking a customer through this straight-line decision process resulted in a high probability of closing a sale, simply because the customer was not confused and always had their first choice in front of them, no matter how many decision cycles they had completed.

Businesses discovered years ago that one-on-one selling is expensive and sought to develop cheaper selling methods. First, they withdrew their support to only the largest wholesale customers leaving the mom & pops to fend for themselves and ultimately disappear; next, they sought to circumvent the retailers altogether with the outlet mall approach where the manufacturers would sell direct from their own stores. There, they discovered how difficult it is to deal directly with a mass market; then, they sought to sell through the mass marketers via a self-selling, bullet point card approach. This method required that neither the seller nor the buyer have any particular knowledge of the product, regardless of how complex it was. This latter method is what we still see today and has worked fairly well.

Manufacturers are entirely motivated to sell in large quantities with minimal selling costs. It’s just cheaper to deliver pallets of goods to as few retailers as possible. The last thing they want to do is deal directly with we the people…we are a large pain-in-the-ass. We demand value and performance at a cheap cost. And we will go to great lengths to achieve this goal…and we are resourceful in that quest.

Now, we have online links directly to manufacturer websites. Even then, the manufacturers have motivation to deal with we the people through third party intermediaries. It’s cheaper for them that way…and, we remain a pain-in-the-ass.
When I go to the local Target or Walmart or even the grocery store, I am repeatedly reminded by manufacturers displays that manufacturers are not and never have been good retailers. The massive displays of multitudes of choices of basically the same products in different sizes and tastes simply confuse me. I want one of the same product I’ve been using for decades. I do not want to waste time trying to find it in a stupid fog of superfluous bullshit.

Yes, I know the game is to gain shelf space and visibility in that retailer’s store. However, hot-shot…if you piss me off, I am old enough to have identified alternatives and will choose another manufacturer’s product if your display wastes much of my time looking for the product I want.

Crest in original or mint is good enough…I do not believe claims of greater things coming from Crest that costs twice as much. A six or twelve pack of Coke in original is good enough…I don’t need decaf, decaf diet, vanilla, cherry, diet, or zero in several different packages and sizes. Pepsi will do, and some of the house brands will also do.
So much for this week’s marketing rant. However, when you have one product to sell and the boss wants to sell more, about all you have to work with is gaming your customers. I got frustrated with my wife some years ago when it seemed that she was eternally adrift when trying to settle on an acceptable shampoo. I raged, “dammit, at your age why have you not picked a shampoo?” More recently, as I watched that topic more closely I saw what was going on…the shampoo manufacturers are constantly changing the names, the packaging, and dropping the familiar brands altogether. It’s an outrage. Folks, it’s perfumed soap...period.

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