Turning marketing on its head: The rise of Predatory Marketing

Predatory MarketingAll of us want our message heard. All of us want our message to impact our customers’ lives. All of us want to drive sales and boost profit margins.

But the brutal truth is, more than often, our messages are ignored and our perspectives – no matter how valuable — are being missed. Australians are bombarded with thousands of ads and calls-to-actions a day and the fact is: people are becoming desensitised by information overload.

Predatory Marketing is the answer to being heard above the noise. It’s a development that challenges any preconceptions we may hold about how organisations can expand their client base. To get a better understanding of how Predatory Marketing is helping companies, we sat down with 2015 TEC Speaker of the Year, Ashton Bishop, Head of Strategy at Step Change, to learn how his new tool is affecting the way companies communicate.

The new marketing reality

The way marketing is taught has followed a typical pattern for decades now – that it’s about meeting the needs of customers. But this is changing.

It’s no longer enough to assume that your target audience has needs that require fulfilling. The business world is advanced enough that most of your target audience is likely to be at least satisfied with the goods and services they already have access to. Today, the only predictable need that customers have is a need for less corporate ‘noise’ – communications that are overwhelming customers with too much information.

The challenge is now for business leaders to stop thinking about simply meeting customer needs and to target the weaknesses of their competition (more on this later). In other words, companies need to embrace Predatory Marketing.

Predator or prey?

Now that companies can no longer think solely about satisfying needs, they have to start asking, “Who has my money?” It’s a zero-sum game that businesses are operating in, and organisations now have to tailor their marketing practices to ensure they accommodate this new reality.

Failing to keep up with these changes will ultimately make it harder for companies to grow, especially as their competitors actively start trying to poach customers from their brand.

Cutting through the noise

In Australia, we spend roughly $13.3 billion on marketing per annum – translating into around a million branded messages that each of us see every year. That’s 3,000 every single day.

Of those 3,000, we will only notice 80 and react to 10. And of these 10, we instantly treat half as unwelcome intrusions into our lives – leaving only five messages a day we actually notice, react/respond positively to and absorb.

When crafting a message that can qualify as one of that handful, you also have to remember the five-ninths law. This law states that five-ninths of marketing messages will be misattributed to the leader of a market segment, rather than the company paying for the message.

For organisations that aren’t in this leadership position, they are essentially cementing the position of their leading competitor with their own marketing budget. Overcoming this gap, and crafting messages that actually move market share away from competitors is therefore key to building a successful Predatory Marketing campaign.

What does Predatory Marketing look like?

Whenever we work with clients who are looking to embrace Predatory Marketing, there are four key steps we advise them to take:

Step 1) Identify where the money would go if your company didn’t exist

Imagine your business didn’t exist – where would your customers’ money go? A competitor? Or would customers spend it on a completely different offering?

Asking these questions is the foundation of a competitor analysis. From just asking these questions, you’ll usually identify four or five competitor organisations that are offering a comparable product that your customers would gravitate towards.

From there, we are looking to narrow down the list to find a target. This means identifying a competitor that is very large or is perhaps a little lazy and isn’t meeting the needs of its customers. If you can find one of these, then you have the starting point of your Predatory Marketing campaign.

Step 2) What are the strengths of the opposition?

Now that you have a competitor lined up, you need to objectively evaluate their strengths. To do this, put yourself in the shoes of a customer or consider why a third-party would recommend them.

What you are looking at here is the natural language around what the company’s offering, rather than a slogan grounded in marketing jargon. When you can express in simple terms the strengths of your competitor, the next step is much easier: weaknesses.

Step 3) Find the weakness that comes from the opposition’s greatest strength

Within every strength is a hidden weakness. The challenge with Predatory Marketing is to find the specific weakness that arises from a particular strength and then explain it to the customers. The reality is that customers won’t necessarily notice this weakness by themselves, nor will they know that you can address this weakness – unless you tell them.

Step 4) Where are you strong?

The final step is to build your strengths to address this pain point and then convey this value to customers. You can be explicit here when communicating with prospective clients – acknowledge the strengths of a competitor before honing in on the weaknesses that your products and services can address.

Many business owners won’t have taken this step. They don’t to really understand where the value lies in their own product offering and how these match the weaknesses of their competitors.

Tailoring a Predatory approach to the market

These four steps represent the core of a Predatory Marketing campaign, but it’s also important, to tailor this offering to the specific market conditions that a firm is operating in.

For example, a firm that already occupies the dominant position within its sector usually shouldn’t be applying a Predatory Marketing approach towards its direct competitors. Instead, it’s generally smart to be using these same tactics to grow the market and bring customers into their category.

Challengers who aren’t in that dominant position will instead be looking for the competitor or class of competitor that is currently occupying that dominant position. In a very fragmented market, or one that is very generic or confused, it may even be that would be competitors are best to band together to shift a certain audience mindset.

Regardless of whether the target of a Predatory Marketing campaign is a single business, a group of businesses or potential customers, the process is relatively consistent.

Lastly, a Predatory Marketing campaign has to change with your business and with the market. Just as context is key to a great strategy, so too is it central to a Predatory Marketing campaign. If a Predatory Marketing campaign is so successful that a company has become the dominant force in their category, for example, the techniques that got them there may no longer be relevant.

It’s time to get Predatory

Customers don’t have needs anymore; their needs have been filled. We need to arm ourselves with new tactics that can help us rise above the noise of our competitors and ensure that our message is the one being heard. Predatory marketing is the best tool to disarm your competitors and will ensure your company is in a position of strength and ultimately boost your profits.

Apply Ashton Bishop’s Predatory Marketing to your business and ensure you are always ahead of your competitors and in your customers’ minds. Take action today and subscribe to Step Change’s blog to keep up with all the latest thinking around marketing, strategy, tactics and business insights. If you have any questions surrounding your own business strategy and how you can best incorporate Predatory Marketing, you can send them your enquiry here.

How to create the perfect LinkedIn profile

For any executive, having a social media presence isn’t optional any more. Being active on social media is now an essential part of a CEO’s efforts to build a reputation for themselves and their business.

So what makes a great LinkedIn profile? Here’s a quick guide that can help you to get the most of your LinkedIn presence:

1) Start with a brief summary of yourself

Among the first steps to take for your LinkedIn page is to add a short introduction to yourself and your experiences.

This will begin with a short description of your position, which will need to be limited to 120 characters and appears below your name. Here’s a good example:

CEO of XYZ Corporation | Our Vision: To provide exceptional products and services to ASX 200-listed organisations

This description should cover your job title, what you do, why you do it and give an example of the sort of clients your organisation works with – valuable information for anyone viewing your page.

Next, include more information on the subsequent sections of your personal profile. This should be similar to an elevator pitch or how someone might introduce you at a speaking event. The purpose is to be concise and convey all the important information about your personal brand so that people are interested and want to learn more.

As well as including useful information, you should also consider optimising the content with keywords, which are words or phrases that people associate with your business and which people might search for if they were trying to find you. Including these in your description will make it easy to find a person online.

Once you have this basic information, the next step is to personalise it and make it interesting for a reader. This means taking the time to add some personality and make your page unique. Also, consider removing and reorganising the sections on your home page. All of this information is customisable and if it isn’t holding it’s weight, deleting it can help to keep your page concise.

2) Use the right photo and background

LinkedIn users have the opportunity to use both a personal picture and a background photo to make their page more unique.

For both, it pays to use a professional image which also gives some insight into your business. A picture of a recent awards ceremony or similar achievement as a background photo can help to make the connection with your company, while a professional personal photo is also valuable

As a rule of thumb, use a profle photo of around 200 x 200 pixels and a background image of around 1,400 x 425 pixels and under eight megabytes in size.

3) Customise your URL

Rather than having a string of letters and numbers after your page, LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to select your own URL address. This means that when people share your page, it is much easier to recognise the page is yours, based on the text of the link.

To do this, go to the “Edit my Public Profile page”. The option to change your URL should appear on the right.

For example, a person named Gregory Hewitt, might change their custom URL to something like:

au.linkedin.com/in/GregoryHewitt

Or:

au.linkedin.com/in/greghewitt

4) Set your profile to public

If people cannot easily identify you, it becomes a lot harder to be visible on LinkedIn. Make sure that your profile is set so that other people can see your name and title so they can recognise you when you visit their page.

From the Edit my Public Profile page, your privacy settings should be located directly below your personal URL settings. You can then tick the boxes to display as much of your profile as you want to be viewable to the public.

5) Integrate it with your online presence

It’s important to treat your LinkedIn page as a lead generator that can direct people towards other sources of key information that are available about you online.

Linking to your personal site or blog is an easy way to further build your reputation. You can also build a badge for your personal blog or website, making it easy for people to be redirected to other parts of your online presence.

This can be accessed from the bottom of the right-hand panel of the Edit my Public Profile page, directly below your privacy settings. From there, you can choose the badge you like and copy the code into your professional blog.

6) Find new connections

One of the most useful features of LinkedIn is the ability to find new connections or engage with people you may not have had contact with for some time.

This might include fellow alumni from university, contacts from your email accounts or suggested people from LinkedIn. Each of these sources will be essential for building your reach on the network.

Once you know who you want to contact, reach out through LinkedIn’s messaging tool to try and build that connection with another user.

Rather than sending a generic message, make sure to mention how you know the person you are trying to connect with as a way to build that connection early on. That will be especially important for individuals who are receiving a high volume of messages.

Another useful tip is to think about what your goal is when making a new connection. If you are looking to build a useful industry contact, think about how you can structure this message to achieve this result.

7) Join professional groups

Almost every industry has professional groups on LinkedIn that can help to expand your networking efforts and which will allow you to engage with other leaders in your field. Membership in these groups may be restricted so it pays to take the time to understand which are worth investing your time in.

It’s also worth seeing whether the groups you are involved with in a professional capacity, like trade organisations, are active on LinkedIn. Complementing these real-world connections with a digital presence can help to boost your reputation.

If there are no groups that suit your industry, don’t be afraid to start a new one yourself.

To find possible professional groups, you can use the “groups” subcategory from the drop down menu to the left of the LinkedIn search bar. Then you can search for keywords that are relevant for your industry to find groups that are active in your area. You can also see the groups your connections are a part of by visiting their page, making it easy to spot relevant industry groups.

8) Publish your own articles on Pulse

You are now able to write and distribute their own articles on Pulse – the publishing platform that every LinkedIn user has access to. This gives CEOs a sizeable opportunity to show their expertise, while also creating articles that can be shared throughout the network.

It’s important to put the time and effort into writing a unique, thought-provoking piece when approaching this option that what you have written is meaningful and offers a unique perspective on your industry.

Publishing articles is also a great way to align your presence with that of your company, letting you play a part in your organisation’s broader LinkedIn strategy.

By following these steps, you can build a solid LinkedIn profile that is ready to be noticed online. Make sure you are investing the time to ensure that your network is continuing to grow.