Dan Hanssel is a Buffalo native and UB graduate. He has spent his marketing career in the telecommunications and IT industries. At GTE Airfone, Dan’s team grew sales from $37 Million to $226 Million in under 5 years. As VP Marketing and Sales at Utilicom Networks, he helped a start-up to raise a $100 Million equity investment from Blackstone Group. Most recently, as Marketing Director at Time Warner Cable, he led the $370 Million Buffalo Division to become the company’s leading operation. You can connect with Dan via LinkedIn.
Q. Dan, drawing from your highly successful sales & marketing career, what book would you recommend for corporate trainers trying their hand at marketing, especially for internal marketing at a corporation?
One of my all time favorite marketing books is Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith.
Like Tom Peters and many other noted business authors, Beckwith teaches via anecdote. Through a series of over 100 short stories, Beckwith coherently leads us through critical mistakes made by service marketers, and the key factors that comprise great service marketing.
I highly recommend this book. At 250 pages it’s a quick read and worth every minute it takes to read it…it will pay big dividends in your marketing.
Q. Hmm…training organizations often provide services—classes, workshops, and coaching immediately come to mind. How might “service marketing” help training organizations “get butts in seats?”
One of my most valuable lessons from this book is simply: “Let your clients set your standards.” He points out that every profession defines excellence in their field using standards defined by practitioners of their profession; for instance, a good building is defined by the excellence of the architect’s design, not by the building’s inhabitants that actually live or work in the building. Similarly, a good ad is defined by excellent creative and copy-writing, not by whether consumers find the ad informative and entertaining.
Beckwith points out that this is the wrong way to judge things. Standards for your products, services and advertising should be derived from customer preferences, not “experts.”
Q. So we should judge our efforts from our customers’ point of view, not from our peers’ point of view. What are some methods that marketers use to get in their customers’ shoes?
In many ways, this is the philosophy behind social media, which didn’t exist (in its current form) when this book was written. Gathering interactive feedback and engaging in on-going dialogue with customers is not a concept invented by blogs, Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. However, these and similar 21st-century tools have finally placed the power in the hands of consumers to make their voices heard.
I used this lesson regularly when testing creative for ads. We would have focus groups view TV spots, print ads, billboards and direct mail pieces. The campaigns, images and copy that the focus group members thought were informative, entertaining and compelling are the ones we used. We also did lots of small batch testing of direct mail, both creative and offers, and measured call volumes and sales, before dropping large volumes of mail.
Q. Have you found success with this book in your own marketing efforts?
In his book, Beckwith has a section (page 118) called “Repositioning Your Competitors.” In it he describes a situation where an architect competing to build a new municipal building in Portland, Oregon not only defines his position in the competition, but by making his competitors’ designs look uninspiring, he redefined his competition, in a negative light.
Our “Do You DVR” campaign at Time Warner was inspired by Beckwith’s story. We positioned Time Warner as a “Local” provider by casting local celebrities that are famous in Buffalo, but not anywhere else. There was one exception: The Goo Goo Dolls (a famous rock band). Our ads were whimsical and light-hearted with a distinctly Buffalo flavor. Our competitors’ (DirecTV, Dish, Verizon) ads were all produced for a national audience and lacked any local flavor.
We ran this campaign in March to June 2007, and it was not only wildly successful, it became a launching point from which we created the most successful division in all of Time Warner Cable…we weren’t the largest division by any means, but we were #1 in making our revenue, unit volume, margin and cash flow targets for all of 2009.
Oh, and we won five international Mark Awards for Marketing Excellence. But the financial results were the real reward that validated our concept.
Q. Congratulations! I’ll have to look those ads up on YouTube. Although I know you can’t read the author’s mind, what advice might Beckwith give to training and development professionals about to launch an internal marketing campaign?
As far as HR and other non-marketing types, the key take away for them is:
- Pay attention to your target audience
- Actively solicit their feedback and establish an on-going dialogue with them
- Be sure that all your communications to that audience are informed by that dialogue.