A Dog’s Guide to Strategic Marketing

03 Nov
November 3, 2012

A Dogs Guide to Marketing A Dogs Guide to Strategic Marketing

Man’s best friend can teach us a lot, but did you know these four-legged companions know a thing or two about strategic marketing? OK, it’s a stretch, I know. But you’re here, so you might as well see what you can learn about marketing from a dog.


Dogs are incredibly focused. If they want something, that’s all they have on their mind and you know it. Have you ever seen a dog chase a laser pointer? Holy hell! As marketers, we often get bogged down with all the moving parts. There’s a ton of stuff to juggle and when you spread your efforts too thin you end up doing a bunch of things in a mediocre way.

Pick one or two marketing metrics and focus on them. Maybe they’re cost per sale (CPS) and cost per lead (CPL), but they don’t have to be that obvious.

The Power of Habit A Dogs Guide to Strategic MarketingIn the book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg describes when Paul O’Neill became chairman and CEO of industrial giant Alcoa, Inc. in 1987. O’Neill didn’t choose to follow the expected path of focusing on improving business ratios. Instead, he chose safety. Yes, safety. His mission was to make Alcoa one of the safest companies in the world despite the fact they worked with heavy machinery and 1500 degree metal around the clock. When O’Neill announced his mission at his first stockholder meeting, investment managers were literally running to pay phones (this was the 80’s) to advise their clients to drop the stock like it was on fire. Worst. Decision. Ever.

If you had invested $1MM at the time O’Neill became head honcho, you would have made $1MM just in dividends by 2012 and your stock would be worth more than 4 times what you invested.

Why was O’Neill’s focus on one metric so brilliant?

He chose a measurable indicator that affected all aspects of the company. Being more safe meant less injuries. Less injuries meant improving manufacturing processes and that meant improving efficiencies that drove the bottom line. And the icing on the cake? Who doesn’t like safety? O’Neill had buy-in from executives, managers and the unions. Everyone was marching toward the same goal of safety and the side effect was a more profitable company.

Try to think a strategic marketing metric that has positive side effects throughout your marketing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but having one thing to focus on as opposed to many will make your decisions easier and faster with less organizational resistance.

Be playful.

Don’t be afraid to get downright silly sometimes. One of the reasons we love dogs so much is because they can make us smile at any time. It’s never all business for them and it really shouldn’t be in your marketing either.

Social media is the perfect forum to let your guard down as a marketer. That being said, it’s important to realize that marketing via social channels is a whole different game. Social media is conversational. It’s casual. It’s where people go to escape from business. Ever notice how nearly everything that goes viral has at least a playful tone?

Look at how Taco Bell seizes the opportunity to show their fun side on Twitter:

Taco Bell Conversational Marketing A Dogs Guide to Strategic Marketing

Taco Bell Twitter Come Back Mens A Dogs Guide to Strategic Marketing

Now you’re probably not slinging tacos, but that doesn’t mean you can’t insert a bit of personality into some of your marketing every now and then. If you want to be cautious, test it. Next time you blast an email, try split testing something playful versus something more serious.

Always be excited to see the people who feed you.

Dogs love their owners unconditionally. You could lock them in a crate half the day, leave them in a car when you’re grocery shopping or forget to walk them—it doesn’t matter—they’re always happy to see you when you return. Even if you don’t doubt what I’m saying, take a minute to watch this video:

If companies devoted a fraction of this kind of enthusiasm toward their existing customers, the concept of churn and customer retention wouldn’t be the issue it is today.

We’ve all heard how it can cost up to 10 times more to acquire a new customer versus keeping an existing one. Here are a few ways you can show your existing customers how much you appreciate them:

Give them a gift that they don’t expect.

Out of the blue, for no reason, send your customers a bonus. Everyone likes a free gift and when it’s unexpected, it’s even better. Don’t just send a discount to another one of your products unless it’s truly a crazy deal. Be creative. Be thoughtful. And don’t have a hidden agenda. If it’s genuinely spontaneous with no strings attached, you’ll get an awesome stickiness factor when people try to figure out your M-O.

Host an event.

At the marketing agency I work for, I organized an event for all our clients called Marketing University. It was a full-day leadership training seminar taught by Nancy Koehn (@nancykoehn) from Harvard University. There was no up-selling, no stipulations and really little business talk in general. It was simply us trying to help our clients become better marketers. That was about a year and a half ago at the time of this writing and although it’s difficult to measure the ROI, our clients are still talking about it.

Show them you’ve heard their suggestions.

Customers and clients will always have complaints. You probably are addressing them everyday. Take a moment to let all your customers know you’re listening by showing them what’ve you’ve done to fix their problems. This is a low hanging fruit in regards to coming up with some decent marketing content. Send an email, a letter, something and thank customers for their feedback and highlight the new feature or process that solves the problem. People will really appreciate the feeling of being heard as well as being a part of your team.

Personally thank your all-star customers.

Send an über personal note to some of your best customers. This could be as simple as a Tweet, an email or a letter. Hit the right person and you could have an evangelist on your hands giving you tons of free marketing.

Realize how special treats are.

This one is pretty simple. How excited does your dog get when you even mention treats? Think about how you train a dog—you use positive reinforcement.  It’s funny how people are not much more complicated. Use incentives to get people to do what you want. Want people to sign up for your newsletter? Give them a bonus for doing so. This is such an overlooked marketing technique, yet it’s so simple! If you can attach an incentive, do it. Just keep the, “good boy,” silent.

Know the importance of a routine.

Dog Marketing 300x163 A Dogs Guide to Strategic MarketingMy dog, George, knows when it’s time for a walk. He knows the routine. I wake up, get dressed and it’s out the door. Use a routine with your customers. Get them used to looking forward for something special from you. Create subconscience excitement leading up to whatever it is every time using Twitter or mentions in other marketing materials. Maybe you create a truly entertaining video each month, give a discount on something every week, or simply send out a great newsletter regularly.

Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com posts a monthly income report that transparently shows all the money he’s making online along with his thoughts, learnings and plans for next steps. Pat now says that if he’s even one day late with this report he’ll have messages from his readers asking what the deal is.

A good friend of mine is an investment manager. With the way his business is run, he doesn’t really need to have a lot of contact with his clients. Nonetheless, he writes a very personal and super detailed monthly newsletter just for his clients that outlines his strategies. It’s his way of regularly  providing value and proactively answering potential questions. Over time, his clients have been conditioned to wait for the newsletter because they know their questions about the market will be answered without them having to pick up the phone.

Whatever you decide to do, make it good. Make it something people actually want. Then make delivering it a routine. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you start getting emails when you’re late—the equivalent of a dog whining at the door to go for a walk.

Know your place in the pack.

Dogs are pack animals. There is a natural hierarchy. If you’ve ever taken your dog to a dog park, you’ve probably since it action. Some jostle for position while others hang back and are cool with being in the middle. The small dogs have to be more alert and feisty to avoid being trampled, yet some of the tiniest ride their assertive demoner to the top of the pack.

The point is, where does your company fit into the pack, in this case the industry, and how can you use that to your advantage?

If you’re a giant, you can obviously use that fire power to get your message heard by a lot of people and you could probably squash your smaller competitors with a targeted campaign. However, you’re going to have a target on your back. Make sure to take the time to notice how your rising competitors are plotting to dethrone you. This will, in effect, give you an ample supply of inspiration for your own monster marketing campaigns.

If you’re smaller, you’ll need to go to the part of the park that the big guys aren’t. Seek out pockets of like-minded customers in smaller communities online like forums, websites or blogs. Use your tenacity to really connect with your audience and form your own mini-pack to overcome the big guys.



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