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Marketing Penetration

How to effectively reach your target audience

Published in Hebrew in Status - Management Thinking Magazine, June 2003 (issue 142)
By Ari Manor, CEO, ZOOZ

If you were ever interested in marketing, chances are you've heard the rule of "focusing on the client's needs and not on the attributes of the product". This is certainly an important rule in many cases (for instance - to ensure effective advertising), and when penetrating a new market it must be applied sevenfold. While the importance of applying this rule exists, it is not always clear (as often happens with rule-of-thumb type advice) how to implement it in practice, with an actual product in a real market. The following article describes how one can focus on client needs for the purpose of new market penetration, and includes true examples from various fields. I hope you will find this article useful.

A. Manhattan, New York, 1993

Another phone call resulted in a dead-end. Limor, our saleswoman, is desperate. How can she set up meetings with restaurant owners when they are never in the restaurant, and when the shift manager claims that the catalog we are about to publish will never interest them?

It is the early 1990's. The economic boom of the 80's is long gone. Wall Street activity has decreased drastically. Real estate prices have already dropped and an era of prosperity has come to an end. Restaurant owners, which were among the greatest beneficiaries of the celebration of the past decade, and which enjoyed large turnovers and spend thrifty customers, need to adjust to the new reality.

Most have cut costs and lowered prices. Some did not survive and were forced to close down. Others grinded their teeth and carried on, hoping for better days.

How on earth could we convince restaurant owners to meet us? We want them to join our delivery catalog. In fact, my partner and I are about to produce and distribute the catalog, called Choices, free of charge. Each restaurant will have its own page with logo, menu, opening hours, delivery area and phone number. A client calling this number will be directed to the restaurant's phone through a computerized system, which would charge the restaurant every month for the number of calls passed through. One dollar per call. An average delivery costs 12 dollars or more. This is surely a worthwhile service for restaurant owners in desperate need of extra income. But how can we reach them?


I look at Limor. She is an excellent English speaker, with no trace of a foreign accent and she is convincing and can sell. If she can't do it, then we may never interest restaurant owners in a food delivery catalog. We've already invested a considerable sum in the project. What do we do? Go back to Israel? Suddenly, an idea strikes me. I ponder it for a while and decide to give it a shot. I ask Limor for the phone and call the next restaurant on the list myself.

"Hello. Do you have a catering service?" I ask. "I think so, hold on, I'll pass you through to the manager", answers the voice.

Limor stares at me wondering, and waits to see what will happen. "Hello, this is Norman", says an older sounding voice, "how may I help you?" "I'm interested in catering services. Are you prepared to deliver it?" "Yes, of course", answers Normann.

"OK, but I'm talking about catering to numerous offices in the vicinity of your restaurant. Can you offer catering of such proportions?" I can almost feel the excitement on the other side of the line. Norman must be remembering the lively eighties and the plentiful orders from firms with long work hours that pampered their employees. "Yes sir, we can offer you excellent quality and our kitchen is ready for orders", answers Norman anxiously.

"OK, sounds good. Can you set up a meeting with the restaurant owners for me?" I ask Norman, trying to sound cool and purposeful. Norman notes our phone number and promises to call back within five minutes. I thank him politely, while inside everything shouts BINGO!.

Apparently, catering is the magic word we were looking for. Limor started using it and by the end of the day we had set up meetings with all the restaurant owners we wanted to meet. We added a catering page to our catalog, offering catering service advice, guidance and tailoring from all of the 70 restaurants that finally appeared in the catalog. When we met the owners, offering them a page in a catering and delivery catalog, only one owner asked for "catering only - no deliveries", and when we said there was no such option, he joined the catalog, including delivery.

About seventy restaurants joined the catalog, including ten McDonald's branches (most of which did not have a delivery service up until then), two Domino's Pizza branches, and several first-class restaurants. When the catalog came out, only a small portion of the orders were for catering services. Still, when restaurant owners saw their page in the prestigious catalog and received phone orders (which always began with a recorded computerized message saying, "Hello, a client of Choices calling"), no one complained.

B. Stockholm, Sweden, 1994.

It is a sunny lunch-break. I'm sitting in a coffee-shop, biting into a salmon sandwich and watching the people pass by, including handsome tanned blonds - just like the stereotype - enjoying the walk outside in the two short summer months and disappearing, who knows where, during the remaining cold winter months for the rest of the year. I left the office for a short break, since I had to solve an urgent problem. We're about to publish a subway ad campaign this month that will offer, for the first time ever in Sweden, a psychometric preparation test course.

I watch the Swedes walking on the street, and I have no idea what to advertise on the boards we ordered. First of all, the test is still considered here as measuring innate ability (therefore the common opinion is that one cannot prepare for it at all). Israel used to be the same before the preparation books and courses came out. Secondly, Swedish people are not accustomed to paying for education. In fact, the government allows them to study at university for free, up to the age of 28, in addition to living expenses, which they pay back at an older age at very convenient conditions. To convince a Swedish person to pay $800 for a course, especially one for an exam that "they can't prepare for", is almost like selling ice to Eskimos...

But the real problem is that Swedes do not trust commercial firms, and do not believe advertisements. The common view here is that business owners wish to deceive you and rob you of your money. The government and government agencies on the other hand, are highly trusted and are viewed as the protectors of individual rights, and guardians of fairness and justice against all greedy businesses. The citizens of Sweden are entitled to free higher education, excellent free health services, and extraordinary social benefits, so it is not surprising that they trust their government. But I have a course to advertise, and advertisements simply don't work here.

I take another look at the street in central Stockholm, in a predominantly business area. It's quite crowded. Everyone's in a hurry for lunch and perhaps even to buy something before returning to the office. It's obviously not as crowded as a New York during rush hour, but there are still many people in a hurry on the street. Rushing but no pushing, very polite - perfect order.

I look again, and this order reminds me of something. I suddenly realize that Swedes and Germans must have a lot in common. The Swedish people have German roots, and a third of Swedish words come from ancient German. I'm reminded of a scene in a movie I saw several times. "To Be or Not To Be", a comedy by Ernst Lubich, which tells the story of a British spy disguised as Hitler who worked in occupied Poland during WW2. In the scene I remember, the disguised spy orders a group of German soldiers to jump out of a plane flying over the ocean. When they do so with no parachutes, only the spy and pilot (another British spy) remain on board. "Hitler" says to the pilot with admiration, "Those Germans are quite well-disciplined".

I look at the street again and tell myself "Those Swedes are quite well-disciplined - they believe their government, so let's go along with that. We'll give them a government campaign". I paid the waiter and rushed back to the office.

The campaign was on the subway for two weeks. The advertisement boards were simple. They consisted of a question and an instruction: "Psychometric in October?" and their instruction was "Call this number today". It also carried our HighQ logo.

Out of 10,000 examinees in the October exam in the Stockholm area, 4,000 called us. A typical conversation went like this: - "Hello, when is the exam?" (or "How do I register?") - "Hello. You have reached HighQ. We are not the National Examination Authority. Their phone number is so and so. Registration date is so and so. Registration forms may be purchased in your local bookshop. You should register by no later than so and so (by now, we have already helped them and created trust). By the way, what preparation course are you taking?" - "Course? Why course? Can you prepare at all?" - "You don't have to take a course. Goodbye sir/madam and glad to be of help." - "One minute. What is this course - tell me more." - "OK. The course prepares you for the various sections of the exam: quantitative comparisons, English, graphs and tables...and so on."

For the first exam we had two full study groups, and for the following exam we opened two new branches in other cities. Our first students improved their marks considerably, as the grade is relative and they had a considerable advantage by being the first in Sweden to prepare for the exam. Some were admitted to the faculties of their dreams, and some even joined HighQ's telemarketing team later (as no one could be more convincing). A competing Swedish firm, (a kind of Open University), which began operating at the same time, registered only half of the amount of students. Our follow-up campaign already included the slogan "HighQ improves your marks", as we became a well known organization in Sweden.

C. Tel Aviv - New Work 1996

This time, I thought to myself, we have really gone too far. Our task was to reach senior managers in the world's largest advertising agencies and sell them workshops on creative advertising. An absolute Israeli "Hutzpa".

Not that I doubted our ability. I knew that the method we teach, called Systematic Inventive Thinking in advertising, is an excellent one. I knew it worked. I knew it produced great advertisements. I knew it saved creative teams precious time. Israeli advertising agencies that had tried it won big bids and clients. When we presented it in the UK, which is an advertising capital, John, a senior manager in one of the bigger agencies, was so thrilled that he left his job and started up an independent agency and asked to be our UK representative. R. Horowitz and J. Goldenberg, the researchers who had developed the method, kept on refining it and wrote academic articles for the most prestigious magazines. But how do we convince an American manager that Israel, hardly the summit of creative advertising, is the source of such a revelation?

In addition, we had only limited resources available to us. The company I was head of at the time, SIT, was founded a year earlier as a subsidiary of the Simbol-Peres advertising agency, and hadn't yet produced significant income. In fact, the advertising agency was funding us, and we kept on going only because of its owner's vision. I couldn't dream of a campaign of any kind at all in New York, were 25 out of the world's top 50 advertising agencies keep their central offices. Only direct marketing could be considered. With 25 potential clients to begin with, and a budget for a one week travel and stay in New York, we somehow had to make them meet us exactly during that week. Considering the fact that these are very busy managers, which usually set up meetings months in advance, and that spend half of their time away on business, it was obvious that on any given week, many of the managers that would even agree to see us, would be unable to do so.

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in SIT offices in Tel Aviv. Try to focus on our New York clients. A senior manager at a huge advertising agency, with offices worldwide. Usually a 40-50 year old male who climbed the corporate ladder. A fat paycheck. Incredibly busy. Talented. Has a personal secretary to screen nuisances. Has voice mail but does not return calls. A decorated office on the 40th floor of a high-rise building.

How do we approach him? How do we reach him? What's on his mind? What's so important that he would give us an hour of his precious time for? What draws his attention? What are his needs? What excites him? What is he looking for?

Is he looking for a method for creative advertising? Not necessarily. Not really. Actually, really not. He has his own methods. He has acquired a lot of knowledge and experience. He doesn't really believe that anyone can really surprise him. Even if he does - what's in it for him? Is this what thrills him? Perhaps.

Maybe he is still excited by learning and knowing. But maybe very different things excite him. Think of the advertising world. Do you think a senior advertising manager wants you to teach him? Maybe he'd rather teach you something?

Advertising is a world of egos and pride. It is difficult to teach veteran advertising professionals how to be creative, but they would be more than happy to teach you. In the letter we wrote we addressed the senior managers as "professional colleagues". We wrote that Israeli researchers have developed a method for creativity, and that we would be happy to present it to them and learn what they think and suggest. We did not mention paying for our workshops or even trying the method in their agency. We turned to them as experts on the field, and kindly requested their feedback.

Following the faxes we sent, 13 meeting were set up (two were later canceled when we reached New York, due to other obligations). Some of the managers were excited by the method. Some were even interested in trying it out. McCann-Erickson, the world's second largest advertising agency, was SIT's first client. The two workshops given by Amnon Levav, SIT's overseas manger at the time, received rave responses. Ogilvy & Mather became the second client and involved SIT in an annual international creative conference they hold for outstanding employees worldwide. Since then, SIT has led numerous workshops for these and other agencies. Five of the world's biggest advertising agencies are now its clients.

D. Herzelia 2003

My company, ZOOZ, provides marketing consulting and management services to companies in Israel and abroad. Over the past four years we have assisted many companies in their business development efforts. We help them form strategic partnerships, raise investments, and present new technologies, products or services to the world in various conferences, sometimes for the first time. In order to successfully promote these issues I discover time and time again that one should focus on the target audience - the client, the investor, or the potential partner - and ignore the product, service or technology at hand, innovative as it may be.

Ignoring one's product or technology, even for a moment, is not a trivial matter, especially in areas where most people come from a clearly technological background. Is there some way to draw their attention to the heart of the matter?

I decided to offer a new service: marketing consulting for the stage of market penetration. The idea is simple - assist companies that have already developed a new product or service to meet their market, that is: guide them through the penetration stage, with a primary objective of landing a meeting or an initial contact with potential clients or strategic partners.

The idea is simple, but offering it to my own potential clients is not that simple. Why should a marketing manager, business development manager or CEO trust us of all people? How can we interest him? What will make him meet us? How do we convince him of the subject's importance?

I decided to write an article that would help clarify the importance of penetration stage consulting and would demonstrate ZOOZ's abilities in this field. If I would have used direct marketing - would you have been convinced? Perhaps I should simply publish it in Status Management Magazine?