Do we ask the right marketing questions?

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He’s in the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. He’s authored 18 books in 35 languages. His latest is “What to Do When It's Your Turn.” He’s an in-demand speaker and his blog is one of the most popular in the world.

His name is Seth Godin. And if you want a great way to start your workday, just type “seth” into Google and you’ll find he writes daily about marketing, leadership, spreading ideas and very often advocates changing everything.

Last week Godin blogged that “every marketing challenge revolves around a series of questions.” I found them clearly worth pondering by every marine dealer, given the fact that dealers typically operate with fat sales goals on lean marketing budgets. So sales should always be top of mind and a dealership should never pass up a chance to build awareness and market to potential customers. But there are serious considerations. Here are Godin’s seven questions:

  1. WHO are you trying to reach? Godin says if the answer is “everyone,” start over.
  2. HOW will they become aware of what you have to offer?
  3. WHAT story are you telling, living and spreading?
  4. DOES that story resonate with the worldview these people already have? (What do they believe? What do they want?)
  5. WHERE is the fear that prevents action?
  6. WHEN do you expect people to take action? If the answer is “now,” then you must identify what can keep them from saying “later.”
  7. WHY? What will these people tell their friends?

Each question will make you think and measure. The order seems important, too. After all, clearly identifying your target customers and how you’ll reach them will essentially dictate how you’ll market.

But the most interesting questions are Nos. 3 and 4 — what stories are you telling prospects about you, your products and the experiences they can expect? Experts say the old method of selling boats via “push marketing” (repetitive advertising and repeatedly calling customers) is out. Today it has to be “pull marketing” that requires building a reputation and a dealership brand so when customers are ready to buy you are in front. It means “storytelling” these days, thus Godin’s Nos. 3 and 4.

The fact is people relate to stories. For example, stories posted on the dealership website can bring back reader memories of fond past experiences or highlight the promise of good things to come when buying a new boat. Stories about how current customers enjoy their boats can entertain, inform and educate all at once. Positive stories about the dealership build that brand. In a sense, every dealer should propose to make a “sound” that resonates with the target prospects.

Which reminds of a Marine Retailers Association of the Americas convention years ago in Las Vegas. A former marketing director of Harley-Davidson was the keynoter. He rode into the ballroom on a Harley, stopped in front of the stage and let it idle for a time. Then he said: “You’ve been hearing the distinct sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It’s one of the things that separate a Harley from all other bikes. No other cycle makes that unique, recognizable noise.

“So my question for you today is simple: What noise is your dealership making in your marketplace?”

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