Marketing Minute: If you’re not racing to the top, you’re racing to the bottom - Dec 2019

By Paul Friederichsen

David Axelrod, political consultant and analyst, once observed, “Candidates never stay in one place. If they’re not rising in the polls, they’re falling in them.” The same can be said for flooring brands, whether you are a manufacturer or a retailer. The simple fact is, you are never just sitting still.

As the current year comes to a close and a new one begins, it’s time to make assessments. Take stock. Will 2020 be the year you continue your race to the top, or will you begin a race to the bottom?

STEPS TO THE TOP
Racing to the top is always intentional. It requires sure-footedness on some essential steps in your climb to growing your company. There are many steps, but these are the key ones to include in your 2020 marketing plan.

The Differentiation Step: This is the outcome of knowing two things-your strengths and your competitor’s weaknesses. Leveraging this understanding allows you to position yourself to stand out as a viable and obvious choice for your potential customer. Personadesign.ie offers a helpful article, “Brand Differentiation: 30 ways to Differentiate Your Brand,” that can get your creative juices going. Differentiation should be obvious, above all, in advertising.

The Advertising Step: Yes, this is a dirty word among many marketers these days. However, some amount of advertising is essential. Unlike other media strategies, you actually pay for advertising, and therefore you control its placement, frequency, reach and content. Reference our “Marketing Minute” May 2019 article for tips to determine the right media mix for your brand. Regardless of business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) advertising, the mission is the same: engagement.

The Engagement Step: If you’re a retailer, building consumer relationships is the name of the game nowadays. That’s why social media continues to play such a crucial role. You must appear to be trustworthy as well as open and generous with your advice, praise and inspiration via Facebook and Instagram in order to be considered. Don’t forget the importance of online reviews, networking and sponsorships.

The same holds true if you are a B2B marketer. However, customer engagement strategies (aside from a LinkedIn strategy) tend to be less broad-based/digital and more focused/traditional. Examples include marketing strategies for key accounts, customer encounters such as webinars and events, tracking and responding to customer satisfaction indexes through CRM, and staying in touch via well-executed, content-rich, consistently produced newsletters, blogs or white papers.

By engaging with a consumer-centric or customer-centric attitude, a sales promotion strategy becomes even more powerful because it’s perceived as a reward for brand loyalty, not a cheap bribe for quick sales.

The Promotion Step: Brands must demonstrate value-one of the key drivers in maintaining brand insistence. Effective use of promotion can reinforce this and keep your message fresh. Promotion can spike interest as well as sales without denigrating your brand positioning.

TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS
On the other hand, racing to the bottom is often the unintended consequence of a variety of factors. No one wants to fail, yet some brands will seem to drift in that direction out of uncertainty, complacency, playing it safe and the futile desire to maintain the status quo. This inevitably leads to sacrifices down the road, first by sacrificing margins, then limiting inventory, then losing staff, then…well, you get the picture. It’s not pretty.

The bedrock principle of all marketing is the brand. Build your brand insistence on differentiation from your competitors, support it and promote it in the marketplace, and you’ll have a good chance of running a race that will actually grow your business, come what may. On the other hand, if you let your brand slide and “save money” by not supporting and promoting it adequately, all the price cutting in the world won’t save your business.

By the way, price alone is never a long-term strategy. It’s easily preemptable, and the truth is that people don’t buy products. If they did, price alone would win every time. What people pay for is the experience and the promise of happiness and satisfaction that comes from those products. The product delivers it. The retailer sells it. The manufacturer makes it. And here’s the best part-that’s worth something to consumers.

So, in 2020, are you a retailer destined to become one more victim in the retail apocalypse? Are you a manufacturer satisfied in the #3 or #4 position in your category but destined to drop further behind by year-end? If that isn’t the outcome you’re seeking, then you’d better lace up your marketing shoes because the race to the top is about to start. You can either listen to the naysayers about a potential recession and lament the unstoppable trajectory of Amazon and do nothing. Or you can take care of business-starting now.

BUILD YOUR BRAND
As we have examined this year in “Marketing Minute,” the race to the top in your business category requires, at least in part, a renewed and dedicated marketing mindset. The marketplace is changing almost daily–getting more and more competitive. Keep the advice of these experts in mind as you plan the coming year.

Get your priorities right. As Denise Lee Yohn, brand expert and keynote speaker at the upcoming Domotex USA points out, your brand has more to do with how you treat your employees and your customers than it does with the “look and feel” of your marketing materials.

Simply generating awareness at the top of the sales funnel isn’t enough anymore. Work to build strong consumer and customer engagements mid-funnel by effective use of digital media in 2020, says Jeff Rosenblum in his article “Building Brands in the Middle of the Sales Funnel” in brandingstrategyinsider.com.

Can price reductions have a negative impact on brand equity? It depends, so says Brad VanAuken. Read his brandingstrategyinsider.com article, “How Price Reductions Impact Brand Equity,” and find out more.

If you’re a retailer, remember as we explored in our March 2019 “Marketing Minute,” all marketing is local. It’s all about your unique consumer-centric approach, your niche focus and specialty, and your zeal for networking and problem-solving.

Remember, you’re either rising, or you’re falling. The race to the top is harder work, but the rewards are sweet.

Copyright 2019 Floor Focus