In a world where it seems like everything is changing, isn’t it comforting to know that some things just never change? Basic human nature is one of them. While we credit Abraham Maslow for documenting the five basic human needs, they have been around since the beginning of time. They are: 1. Biological and physiological needs: Air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc. 2. Safety needs: Protection from the elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc. 3. Belongingness and love needs: Work group, family, affection, relationships, etc. 4. Esteem needs: Self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc. 5. Self-actualization needs: Realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. And anyone seeking to be successful at marketing would do well to keep Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” in focus. Regardless of any “new-new” thing that emerges in the marketplace, basic human nature and needs will never change. We all know this instinctively. Yet, as a C-level executive, we have to ask the question, “Why then do so many seem to lose sight of these basic elements of marketing?” Even some of the greatest students of marketing lose sight of these basics. For example, in the book written by Al Ries and Al Ries, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (1993), a book I regularly recommend, they fail to relate back to these five basic human elementary needs. As a country, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for new things … new approaches, new theories and new ideas. This is what has made our nation so powerful and so innovative. But things can go awry when, in the pursuit of innovation, we cast-off or ignore the basic tenants of human nature. Nowhere is this more evident than in marketing. One of the reasons I enjoy reading books like The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard is that they help me stay focused on the basics … the core aspects of human nature. As a C-level executive, I’ve come to recognize the importance of never losing sight of the basics as I explore how to be more effective using the latest “new” things. This month’s “A View From the C-Suite” is dedicated to the topic of marketing. It is written with the intent and desire to help C-level executives in the mortgage industry use the latest “new thing,” while staying grounded in the basics. Financing the American dream One of the reasons it is so easy to market the American dream of homeownership is that it encompasses the following basic needs groups: 1. Provides shelter. 2. Offers protection from elements. 3. Provide security for us and our families. 4. Provides us a place to care for, nurture and love our families. 5. Our places of shelter can be places where we derive self-esteem, obtain a sense of achievement, independence, status, dominance and prestige. 6. And, for many, homeownership is a driving force for self-fulfillment. Regrettably, we have lost sight of the basics. As a country, we abandoned secure fiscal management for a materialistic extreme, as evidence by the T-shirt that reads, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” At the height of the last market cycle, I heard it suggested that we have “matured” as a society beyond the first two most basic need groups, namely physiological needs and safety needs. That was delusional. If there is anything good that has come from this painful recession, it is that we are returning to a healthier prioritization of values and what is important … our needs. As it relates to the American dream, we are realizing that the importance of owning a home (shelter) securely trumps the delusional value of owning a bigger or better “ego” house insecurely. This is going to change the size of homes we live in, how they are constructed and how they are financed. After dealing with the consequences of an extraordinary season of excess, American citizens are returning to more conservative fiscal values. It is important that your market plans reflect this trend. We, as a country, will regain our balance and bounce back stronger then ever. As we do, we will be on a much more secure foundation. Rethinking our approach to marketing So, what should be your approach to marketing in this new “needs realigned” world? Here are some suggestions I would offer to every C-level executive. Each of the following builds upon the former: 1. Explain how your products and services address “physiological needs” with statements like “By working with us, you will not lose sleep because …” Contrast yourself to those who are not taking the customer’s best interests to heart. 2. Design your marketing to address the “safety needs” of your customer, emphasizing how your products and services offer more security, order and stability to the customer’s overall financial future. 3. Develop strong meaningful relationships which will meet your customer’s “belongingness and love needs.” The mortgage business has always been a relationship-driven business. Those with the strongest “relational skills” do the best. 4. Redefine and refocus your marketing materials to meet the “esteem needs” of your customers. But remember, “secure” homeownership now trumps “size of home” ownership. 5. Through your marketing, make sure you relate how doing business with you and your company will allow your customer to achieve their personal potential and self-fulfillment as it is now being defined. I predict that we are going to see a trend of companies marketing how working with them allows their customers to achieve financial independence through a more conservative approach to homeownership. One of the ways I monitor what society trends are is by looking at what books are on the best-seller list. Granted, this can be a bit confusing to sort out with so many agendas in the world today, but if you back up and try and see “the forest for the trees,” you will be able to discern developing trends. My observation is that many books on the best-seller list today are books about returning to basic values. Pay attention and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. Also, seek advice from someone you respect in the market … from someone with an objective view of the industry. New tools for marketing We live at a time when technology is bringing us many new marketing tools. We now have the Internet, the iPhone, the Blackberry, e-mail, texting, Skype video conferencing, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace all thrown on top of HDTV, satellite radio and my latest favorite, Amazon’s Kindle. Never has there been a generation that has had more “new things” to connect with customers. Depending upon your age and “geek score,” it can be a bit overwhelming. PDAs and texting What you don’t really have a choice about is those personal digital assistants (PDAs) … those “necessary” Blackberrys, iPhones and the like. That’s right, PDA no longer just means a “public display of affection.” In spite of my addiction to my PDA technology, I have never been accused of a public display of affection for my PDA. They are one of the most intrusive devices ever invented, but to succeed in today’s marketplace, it is assumed that you have a Blackberry, iPhone or similar device. What I find interesting as the younger crowd enters the marketplace, is that “texting” is growing in dominance for quick messaging to clients. If there was any question about the growth of the text message as a communication tool, all you have to do is look at the last election and note how President Barack Obama announced his selection for Vice President. Text messaging is a great way to connect and communicate with the next generation if that is your target audience/market. But any way you slice it, you’re going to be required to carry some form of PDA technology. Electronic social networks In recent years, we have witnessed an explosion of electronic social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace, and more recently, Twitter. These tools are fast replacing, at least for the new generation, direct snail-mail or e-mail marketing campaigns for staying in contact with your established network of past customers. It is important that you know if your customer uses one of the social networks, and if so, which one is the more dominant … that is if you only choose to use one. When it comes to more professional networking, I use them all, but have found LinkedIn to be the most effective. For market updates and quick messaging, Twitter is the more preferred method for those who are “following” you. The fact that someone is taking the time to “follow” you, gives a greater probability that they will see your quick message posts. Again, it all comes down to knowing which service your target customer prefers using. It doesn’t take too much to make that determination once you become familiar with the various social networks. Tele and video conferencing Depending on your market and the products you offer, you may find that teleconferencing and video consummate conferencing very effectively. For more of a group or mass marketing approach, GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar should be considered as an option. Our company has used both to effectively reach out and quickly bring together audiences of all sizes on specific topics of interest. It is a very fast and cost-effective way of marketing your products and services. It can be very interactive and personal, especially if you employ the video conferencing component. VoIP technologies such as Skype provide easy-to-use voice and video communications that can make all the difference in the world when communicating with customers and prospects. Something that I have started using in the last six months is Internet radio via BlogTalkRadio. To learn more about this exciting new way of marketing, go to www.BlogTalkRadio.com, enter “Lykken on Lending” in the search box/window and you will be directed to my weekly radio program. You can listen to past programs that are archived there. As you listen to my program, “Lykken on Lending,” you will learn how I use this valuable tool to communicate to the industry, updates on interest rates, pending legislation and other “hot topics” related to our industry. While we are using this as a public service tool to the mortgage industry, you could use this as a tool to market your company, your products and services. Old tools still work I wouldn’t forget too quickly about some of the old marketing tools that have worked for years. Most notably, is direct mail. For those who have mastered direct mail as a marketing strategy can attest, response rates have returned to all-time highs. There are a number of factors that are driving this, but the fact remains that direct mail can be a valuable, viable and a reliable tool in your marketing strategy. A word of caution … if you’re not big enough to do your own direct mail marketing campaigns, it is essential that you find a vendor you can trust! This is easier said than done. Get references and call them. Do your own due diligence or call someone you trust to get advice on how to do direct mail. Amazingly enough, snail mail campaigns to your past customer base can be very effective in developing an ongoing referral marketing campaign. It is very effective. In fact, in a time where legitimate e-mails and spam e-mails flood our inboxes, receiving a written postcard or letter can be very effective. Whether you use e-mail or snail mail, it should be delivered in a non-bulk, non-mass-distribution manner to be most effective. E-mails can be effective, but if sent as spam, you run the risk of your e-mail campaign getting caught in spam filters. In conclusion I hope this article provides you direction or provides some new ideas as you plan your marketing campaign. One of the joys I receive from writing this column each month is the feedback that I receive from you the readers. I value and welcome your feedback via e-mail. If so inclined, please write to me at [email protected] and share your thoughts on this or previous articles. Also, I welcome suggestions on topics for future articles. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I wish you all the success as you develop your marketing strategy. David Lykken is president, mortgage strategies and managing partner with Mortgage Banking Solutions. David has more than 34 years of industry experience and has garnered a national reputation. David has become a frequent guest on FOX Business News with Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney, Liz Claman and Dave Asman with additional guest appearances on the CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV and radio. He may be reached by phone at (512) 977-9900, ext. 101.