The Value of the Indirect Approach

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In strategy, one of the most important concepts is that of indirect approach. 

B. Liddell Hart says, "a direct assault on an unshaken enemy in position has no justification in history," and the same applies in marketing.

When our competitor launches their latest ad campaign, our gut tells us to launch one of our own. When they lower their prices, we lower ours. When they rebrand, we rebrand.

And yes, there are times when you may want to copy your competitor's approach, but we usually want to beat them.

So instead of copying them, Hart says that when our competitor moves, we must "avoid a frontal attack on a long-established position; instead, seek to turn it by a flank movement, so that a more penetrable side is exposed to the thrust of truth."

When they lower their prices, instead of lowering ours, we should promote our higher quality. When they rebrand, we should seek to build a legacy. When they launch an expensive TV campaign, we should look for more cost-effective media and blanket the customer with an opposing position.

Why? As Hart says, "The way to success is strategically along the line of least expectation, and tactically along the line of least resistance."

Meaning, your competitor has a limited budget, just like you do. So if they have an established position in which they've invested, they are spending less somewhere else. They are both less prepared, and because they believe it to be less important (or else they'd have invested more), you will face less resistance along that approach.

To give an example, if your competitor has invested heavily in TV advertising, it is safe to assume they are spending less somewhere else. So that might be a good time to heavy up on your social media advertising or AdWords, or even PR. If they have a strong commitment to social media marketing, you'll likely face little resistance in more traditional media.

If they have lowered their prices, they may expect you to lower yours. So by focusing instead on quality, you undermine their position.

If they have a fancy new brand, by focusing on legacy, you make their rebranding less valuable.

Of course this is extremely simplified, and every industry and business faces unique challenges and competitors. But simple lessons expose basic truths: your competitor expects you to have the same values that they do, and to invest in the same places they do.

So if you want to beat them, determine the media, channels, and messages your competitors value, and find their opposites—using the indirect approach.

 

5 Online Tools and Resources for In-House Marketers

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Does your team make their own social media graphics, videos, or ads—or do lots of online research? These online tools and resources could be helpful!

1) Canva.com
A go-to for social media marketers the world over. Their attractive, easy-to-use templates and simple editing tools make creating social media graphics much easier—and faster—than traditional image editing tools. 

2) Lumen5.com
You've definitely noticed an aesthetic taking over online videos. That's largely because of easy tools like Lumen5. It makes turning blog posts or scripts into engaging videos (like the one on this page) a breeze. 

3) FancyHands.com
Need an extra hand to do internet research, proof read a document, or make phone calls? The assistants at FancyHands can save you hundreds of hours a year. 

4) AskWonder.com
When you need more in-depth research done, look to Wonder. Their researchers scour public sources and compile data to provide actionable insights on things like competitor analysis, market sizing, and product reviews. 

5) Squarespace.com
Even if your company already has a website, you can use Squarespace to house content that doesn't otherwise have a home. And you can host landing pages, contact forms, and create offsite blogs. Their templates are easy to modify and responsive out of the box. 

Do you have any tools or resources you can't live without? We'd love to hear about them

The Value of Constraints

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One of the biggest challenges for any in-house marketing team is to continue to grow and innovate year-over-year but with the same budget and resources as last year.

These constraints can often feel insurmountable, but they may be your secret weapon. 

We often think of constraints as things that hold us back. However, the truth is actually the opposite—we need constraints to achieve our full potential.

In fact, good work may even require constraints. It may not be possible to do our best work when we have free rein. 

George Lucas needed the constraints of the original Star Wars—a limited budget, brand new technology, doubting studios—to achieve his full potential. Once those constraints were removed and he had his own personal fortune to draw on, unlimited use of technology he’d pioneered and perfected, and final say on every decision, we got Jar Jar Binks. 

Constraints force us to be inventive while the lack of constraints allow us to be boring. As Ernest Rutherford said, “We've got no money, so we've got to think.”

In A Beautiful Constraint, Adam Morgan and Mark Barden say that Zappos’ success is largely due to the constraints of buying shoes online. Because the shopper wouldn’t have the ability to try the shoes on before buying, to be successful Zappos had to pioneer their “we pay all shipping costs” policy and they had to create a best-in-the-world customer service experience. The two things that make Zappos unique come from the constraintsof selling shoes online.

Dollar Shave Club started because the CEO’s friend had a warehouse of razor blades he needed to unload. So what did they do? They created one of the best advertisements of all time. With an unlimited budget? With a famous cast? With an expensive ad agency? No, with $4,500 and a friend with improv experience. The constraints made them famous. With more money, we’d probably have never heard of them.

Sailor Jerry was selling more than a million cases of rum a year before they ran any advertising. Because its creator, Steven Grasse, wanted full control over how the product was marketed, their distributor wouldn’t invest in advertising. How do you sell a spirit brand without advertising—a pretty enormous constraint? Grasse did it by creating an entire lifestyle brand and aesthetic around the product.

Grasse credits the success to “being interesting on the inside.” Because when you don’t have money to spend on telling people about your product, you need people to talk about your product on your behalf, which means simply being more interesting in every way.

In-house marketers are fortunate that they have a lot of constraints. Budgets rarely change materially, and there are always more requests, goals and wishes than there are hours in the day.

But the best in-house marketers are looking at each of these constraints as an opportunity. Marcus Aurelius said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way,” which Ryan Holiday summarizes as: The Obstacle is the Way.

Whatever your current constraint, behind it is an opportunity to do something special and unexpected.

Look past your constraints into their potential and you’ll find that there is a lot of value in constraint.

6 Lessons for Managing Marketers

Managing people is, without a doubt, the most difficult part of my career so far. But it's also been the most fulfilling. For the past six years I've managed marketing teams and advised business owners on managing their teams.

Here are five quick lessons, in no particular order, that I've learned about managing marketers.

Using Squarespace for in-house marketing

If you listen to podcasts or watch any major television event, you've seen or heard Squarespace's ads by now. With John Malkovich's clothing line and Keanu Reeves' motorcycle company, Squarespace wants you to know their platform will work for your business.

But will it?

We've built a lot of Squarespace websites for our customers, and we also often recommend full, custom WordPress builds.

How do we know when it's the right time to use Squarespace (or, say Wix) and when it's the right time to use WordPress (or another custom web development solution)?

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Pros of Squarespace

The pros for Squarespace are easy to identify:

  1. Ease of use — Without being a professional designer or developer, you can set up an attractive and functional Squarespace website.
  2. Quality design — Because Squarespace is responsive (works on mobile) right out of the box, and because their templates are professionally designed, your website will look good and work well.
  3. Affordability — Squarespace is also affordable. For under $30/month you can have an attractive, functional website and custom domain name.

Cons of Squarespace

But where there are pros, there are cons:

  1. Restrictions — Because Squarespace websites are templated, if you want a very customized look and feel, you'll need to bring in a developer and designer to help you fully customize your website.
  2. No/Limited Database — While Squarespace can integrate with platforms like Mailchimp and Google Drive, if your website needs to contain a customer database or if it needs to include custom-coded tools, Squarespace is likely insufficient.

How to choose

 By identifying your Desires and Goals first, you'll know which website platform is right for your project or business

By identifying your Desires and Goals first, you'll know which website platform is right for your project or business

The best way to know whether a Squarespace website is right for you is by digging into your Desires and Goals for your project. If your desire is to have a professional web presence for your project, and your subsequent goal is to have a simple, easy-to-use website that you can update yourself, Squarespace is probably right for you.

If your Desire is to have a global community around your brand, and your goals include a way for your customers to store information, share files, or participate in a forum, or if you're hosting thousands of pages and posts, you'll likely want custom development.

The important thing is knowing what success looks like and working back from there based on the resources and timeline at your disposal. In many cases, a Squarespace site will be the right fit.

Example uses for Squarespace

Not sure if Squarespace (or another hosted platform like Wix.com) is right for your project? Here are some ways we've helped our customers use Squarespace recently:

  1. Annual Report/Corporate Report Card
  2. Customized homepage for a platform over which the client has little control
  3. Ecommerce platform for a small retailer
  4. Full website for a food & beverage business
  5. Homepage/hub for a social media campaign

On one end of the spectrum, Squarespace can be used when you already have a website, but you have content (like an annual report card) that doesn't have its own home.

On the other end, you can use Squarespace when you have a business (like a restaurant or service provider) that needs a whole website to help promote itself.

Better In-house Marketing

By choosing the right tools based on your Desires and Goals, you can make sure you're using your budget effectively, meeting your deadlines, and keeping more profit in-house.

If you're ready to take control of your marketing and start doing more in-house, with the team and resources you already have, consider a Marketing Guidebook.