Skip to main content

STOPWATCH MARKETING

By John Rosen

and AnnaMaria Turano

Portfolio, 244 pages, $25.95

MEATBALL SUNDAE

By Seth Godin

Portfolio, 232 pages, $28.50

Executives are constantly warned about the importance of alignment and synchronizing elements of their business. And that's the message in two new marketing books, one calling for you to harmonize your marketing with the time your customer decides to buy and the other urging you to mesh your company's activities with the hot new marketing techniques available to business.

In Stopwatch Marketing, consultants John Rosen and AnnaMaria Turano say that consumers have an internal stopwatch that is ticking when they consider your products or services.

In some cases, the purchase decision may be quick, as when a tire blows and a replacement is needed. In others, it may be slow and lengthy, as when a high school student and his or her parents are contemplating which university to attend.

Your challenge is to understand the prime stopwatch used by your customers, and then move to take control of it, by timing your approach to the customer accordingly and even nudging the consumer to change his or her pattern in beneficial ways for your firm.

Whole Foods Market Inc., for example, slows down the ticking by providing a supermarket experience that gets people to luxuriate in the purchasing of food, rather than trying to get it done as quickly as possible. Microsoft Corp. stops the ticking entirely, packaging its operating system and office software programs so that they become entwined with the purchase of a computer - in effect, no decision is made to buy those Microsoft programs.

The consultants say that marketers have to enter the consciousness of the customer at precisely the right time. "They have to make sure that they can deliver what their customers want before those customers glance at their metaphorical watches and decide either not to buy or - even worse - leave for another, competing, line. They have to time their selling messages to be no longer than the amount of time that buyers have allocated for hearing them." The consultants add that their work has taught them that "time isn't money; it's much more important than that."

Consumers will use different stopwatches for different purchase situations. But four patterns are common.

IMPATIENT SHOPPING

This involves products or services that are urgently needed but rarely purchased in advance. Consumers don't spend a lot of advance time preparing for this decision, and then decide quickly. Examples might be needing to buy a padlock for your child's locker the night before the first day of classes, or buying tires for your car. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s TripleTred tires, with its name, powerful-looking treads, and the symbol depicting sun, rain and snow on the sidewall, gets the message across clearly at the time of impatient consumer decision-making.

RECREATIONAL SHOPPING

Shopping is turned into an experience, slowed down with many opportunities to reach the consumer. Whole Foods Market reinvented supermarket shopping by turning it from slow-moving drudgery into theatre. Charles Schwab, with discount brokerages, found customers who enjoyed do-it-yourself investing.

RELUCTANT SHOPPING

Shopping for tires or plumbers may be distasteful, but can't be put off. Some purchases, on the other hand, can be put off, as customers try to avoid making a decision - staying with things that are "good enough." Think cellphones, or computer software. So Microsoft just keeps you going again and again with its systems, rather than having to learn to operate new ones, and cellphone manufacturers try to keep you locked in so you can't calculate the advantages of switching.

PAINSTAKING SHOPPING

These decisions need not be painful but they will take a long time, as when selecting universities, the perfect car, or the perfect mattress for sleep. The customers can't be rushed; indeed, in some cases you may want to slow them down to persuade them to pick higher margin items.

With that framework, the consultants explain how to discover which formula applies most commonly to your business, and how to use that knowledge to your advantage. It's a logical approach, and can help you see your marketing in different ways.

Seth Godin wants you to do more than see your marketing in different ways. He believes that if you want to embrace the new forms of marketing that the Internet has provided, you have to redesign your business to synchronize with those approaches. Otherwise, your business will be an unappetizing Meatball Sundae, as the book title suggests, and the result will be indigestion rather than delight, he says.

"Specific marketing models require specific organizational models to back them up. Which comes first? You find an organizational model that will take advantage of the marketing tools available to you."

Those new marketing tools involve capturing scarce attention through permission marketing - seeking the permission to market to somebody, rather than interrupting them with an unwanted message - and trying new forms of media, with powerful storytelling. He offers some general advice and 14 trends to take advantage of, but the problem is that for all the talk of being in sync, the various elements of his book often don't seem to fit together in a coherent way. However, as always, Mr. Godin is provocative, illuminating, and may well be right.

Just In: Two classics on achievement have been republished: Charles Haanel's The Master Key System (Tarcher, 284 pages, $13.25), a step-by-step guide to using the law of attraction and Robert Collier's The Secret of the Ages (Tarcher, 401 pages, $46.25).

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct

Tickers mentioned in this story