20. More Marketing Basics

The marketing process, as discussed earlier, consists of these three steps:

1. Identify the group of customers (“target market” or “market segment”) most likely to buy your product.

2. Rework (“repackage”) your product so that it will appeal even more to those customers.

3. Connect the customers with your product via a marketing campaign consisting of advertising, public relations, Internet marketing, word of mouth and/or other tactics. A good distribution strategy—so that the customer can actually get her hands on your product—is also an important part of this step.

Done right, these steps accomplish the following:

• Creates or strengthens the customer’s sense of need. As discussed earlier, most people will be motivated by a combination of surface and deep needs. The surface need might be, “I need to do something about global warming” or “I need to help a progressive candidate be elected.” And the deep need might be one or more of the following: “I need to feel hip,” “I need to feel safe,” “I need to feel successful,” or “I need to feel like a good person.”

• Presents the product in such a way that the customer immediately and easily sees that it fills her needs. The customer shouldn’t have to do any work (or much work) to see that the product is right for her. Consciously or subconsciously, the customer should look at the loving couple in an ad for a diamond engagement ring—or the sexy couple in an ad for a bottle of liquor, or the affluent couple in an ad for a mutual fund—and immediately, almost reflexively, think, “That love [or sexiness or affluence] is what I want, and if I purchase this product I will get it.” Likewise, the customer should look at a flier for an activist organization and immediately, almost reflexively, think, “I need to feel like I’m doing something good for the world. This organization looks as if it will let me do that, and also as if it will provide me with the fun community experience I have been craving.”

• Gives the customer an appealing view of your product, and also of the company that makes it. “Appealing,” of course, means different things to different people. Some might find the laid-back, countrified persona (or “brand,” in market-speak) of companies such as Ben & Jerry’s or L.L. Bean appealing, while others might respond more to the youthful or hip brand of companies such as Sony, Nike or Apple. Brands, by the way, don’t arise spontaneously: companies create them carefully and deliberately, often over many years and using many millions of dollars. Most marketing texts define a brand as a kind of shortcut message that conveys many points at once to the customer. Disney’s brand is wholesome, yet sophisticated family entertainment. The New York Times’s brand is comprehensive news presented seriously; it is, after all, the “paper of record” that gives us “all the news that’s fit to print.” I’m not saying that these companies live fully up to their brands, by the way; most, or perhaps all, companies do not. But the brand generally describes the company both to itself and its customers.

Activist organizations are also branded. The smart ones choose and create their brand, the way corporations do; while the naïve ones don’t, and let the public—or, worse, their opposition—brand them. Some organizations project a serious, mainstream brand (Sierra Club, Amnesty International), while others project a more radical, hip or edgy one (PETA), while still others project a more scholarly (Union of Concerned Scientists) or legalistic (Southern Poverty Leadership Council) one. If you and your colleagues are wondering which brand you’d like to project, you’ve forgotten Bitter Truth #3: it’s not about what brand you’d like, but which will most powerfully attract your customer.

• Tells the customer that people like her are, indeed, buying your product. Contrast the people you see in, say, Mountain Dew ads with those you see in Starbucks or Budweiser ads. The importance of this message—that “people just like you are buying our product”—cannot be overemphasized. As discussed in Chapter 7, there’s a natural fear barrier that must be overcome for most sales to take place, and showing that people like the customer have, in fact, overcome that barrier is one of the strongest persuasive messages you can send. The same holds true for activism. One of the strongest persuasive arguments you can make to get someone to support, endorse, vote for or donate to your cause is to show him that people just like him have already done so.

• Provides the customer with all the information she needs to locate and buy the product. In an activist context, this could be as simple as listing your organization’s Web address and phone number on a flier. Always list your contact information on every page of every document you distribute. Your audience should never have to hunt to find out how to reach you.

All of these goals, taken together, help the customer be less afraid of you and your viewpoint and, hence, more likely to buy it. In fact, as discussed earlier, marketing, done properly, makes the customer wild to buy your viewpoint, in which case sales becomes a snap.

The next chapter begins our in-depth discussion of the steps of the marketing process as applied to activism. It is followed, in Chapter 24, by an in-depth discussion of the sales process.