In the 1990s, one of my favorite professional sports teams was the Chicago Bulls because it was during that time when Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Coach Phil Jackson led the team to win six championships within eight years. Near the end of this dynasty, I read one of Michael Jordan’s books, The Jordan Rules. Since he is recognized as one of the greatest athletes in NBA history, I figured he must have plenty of insightful things to write. In his book, there was a philosophy that really resonated with me and it has become one that I now share: “Always stick to the fundamentals.” Sure, I’ve heard the phrase many times throughout my life, but when it comes from someone who was the very best at what he did, it takes on a much stronger meaning. So what does this have to do with marketing? Read on … Top five marketing fundamentals Back in the olden days—you know, about 10 years ago—marketing was still relatively simple. You had your choice of broadcast, print, direct mail, outdoor, trade shows, Yellow Pages and public relations. Marketing was a one-way conversation, whereby marketers told people what they wanted them to know, think and believe. Many Web sites were merely online brochures. Social media was barely in its teething stage. Times have certainly changed. It was several years ago when social media began to really consume our personal lives. At the time, we didn’t really understand their full potential, particularly as it relates to how businesses could benefit. Today, we do. When you combine traditional marketing vehicles with social media, which has opened the door to two-way conversations between people and brands, you can easily understand how anything and everything related to the Internet has completely changed the rules of marketing. Or has it? Sure, social media has added many options to the marketing game, but that’s exactly what they are … options. They add to the choices marketers have to communicate their messages, win new business, preserve existing relationships and compete for market share. Some are more effective and influential than others. However, the fundamentals of marketing have not changed: ►We need to understand our customers. ►We need to understand our competitors. ►Staying on top of consumer and industry trends is non-negotiable. ►All of us are in the relationship business. ►The purpose of marketing is to shorten the sales cycle. Understanding customers There is still too much chest-beating taking place as companies continue to focus on how fantastic their products and services are instead of focusing on the wants, needs and desires of their different audiences. We cannot forget that it really is all about the customer, not the company. If you find that your focus isn’t where it needs to be, consider this idea: Create separate points of entry or unique pages on your Web site for your different types of buyers, such as for consumers, brokers and residential sales associates. They each have unique needs, and once they sense that you understand their needs and can provide solutions to their challenges, it will be much easier for them to make an informed and educated purchase decision. Also, consider evaluating your advertising, marketing and online presence to your top three competitors. Do you find that you all pretty much say the same things, just with different graphics and copy? Are you able to identify one or two unique characteristics about your company? If not, you know what to do next. If yes, those are the characteristics that people need to know about you so that they can make that educated, informed decision. Some marketers choose to look at what their competitors say about themselves and then use that as a benchmark for their own messaging. That can be perilous. It’s one thing to stalk competitors, learning what they are up to and watching them closely. It’s quite another to “blend in” to the mix because it’s what everyone else is doing. Be unique: If you look like everyone else, you are as good as invisible. Understanding competitors You and your competitors are courting the same people—no big surprise. Your competitors are also stalking your customers. This is no big surprise either, but it is something that needs to be kept in mind. You’ll need a plan to stay on top of what your competitors are doing, what they are saying, how they are trying to win new business and what they may be saying about you. You may also want to ask yourself two powerful questions: “If I were on the other side of the business, with whom would I do business? Why?” Answering these questions requires a little research on your part, but it may be the best way to know who you are really competing with. It can also provide you with the extra surge of motivation needed to make some necessary changes from within. The good news is that there are easy ways of keeping a sharp eye on your rivals. The most obvious way is to review their Web site/Web presence and make notes about what they are doing that you admire, as well as where you feel they are vulnerable. Next, enter their name into Google Alerts so that you get e-mail updates every time they make a move or come up in the news. Finally, make note of their presence in the industry trade publications. These activities can eat up a lot of your time, but that’s what eager and willing interns are for. Find the right one for you and insist that he or she supply you with weekly updates, even when there is little, if any, change. Trend watching Trends can be broken down into four primary categories: Political, Economic, Technological and Social (PETS). Whenever there is movement in any of these areas, it can have a direct impact throughout the entire mortgage industry. Our current administration has made some very bold, decisive maneuvers that will have a lasting impact on the mortgage industry. The economy continues to remain “under construction,” with some pessimistic (yet realistic) analysts suggesting that the worst is far from over. These political and economic trends are what keep many people at bay. Technological trends include everything that has to do with how people interact with each other and with brands online. If you are wondering how powerful the Internet is, here are some figures to put it in perspective: ►In the U.S. alone, there are 20,000 Google searches taking place every second. Here is a question … When people are searching for your services, are you there to be found? If your site is not properly optimized, you are missing quite a few sales opportunities. ►People are watching two billion YouTube videos, on average, each day, and 24 hours worth of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day. ►Facebook has more than 500 million users and the percentage of business-to-business companies on Facebook is increasing rapidly. ►LinkedIn has an estimated 70 million users. This may pale in comparison to Facebook, but keep in mind that LinkedIn is strictly for business. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, make sure you sign up for one today. Why? If you have contact with customers and other business professionals, your absence from LinkedIn will be viewed as, well, strange. Social trends (family, community, personal finance, health, work and leisure) overlap with technological trends. I say this because the Internet and mobile devices have changed the way we interact with each other. People communicate through e-mail, social media sites and texting much more than picking up the phone and dialing someone’s number. There are also stark contrasts on how people from different generations, cultures and social backgrounds view the world. We are in the relationship business People do business with people they like. You’ve undoubtedly heard this philosophy hundreds of times before, because it’s true. You’ve also heard that people don’t buy from a company, they buy from people they trust and like. Your company is a reflection of your character, integrity and charming personality. The challenge we are all facing today is that social media and e-mail interactions are rapidly replacing in-person communication. It is increasingly more difficult to establish and maintain personal relationships in the spirit of building chemistry and nurturing personal bonds. It’s no longer a question of who you know, it’s now a question of who knows you. Take advantage of those face-to-face networking opportunities that you may have been blowing off. Meeting the right person at the right time will pay off. Shorten the sales cycle I’ve believed for quite a long time that the sole purpose of marketing is to shorten the sales cycle. Building awareness, promoting products and services, and growth are functions of marketing, but its real purpose is directly connected to expediting sales. As many experts and gurus have said so many times, nothing happens until a sale is made. Marketing provides the tools to make the sale faster, as long as you don’t forget the fundamentals. Scott Seroka is vice president and principal with Seroka, a full-service marketing, public relations and interactive firm that serves a nationwide client base. He may be reached by phone at (262) 523-3740, by e-mail at [email protected] or visit www.seroka.com.