Monday, Jun 24, 2024

A Lesson in Marketing from the Feds

Not all of us are blessed to sell bread or ice cream that everyone must buy or can't live without. Sometimes our goods or services are a “harder sell,” but we can make our job easier by placing our customers in the driver's seat and making their priorities ours.

America is world-renowned for its marketing genius and sometimes, even our own federal government leads the way.


For several years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been urging people to conserve energy — not by sleeping later, or by turning their clocks forward at the end of the month — but by choosing cleaner, more fuel efficient transportation options.


The EPA knew it would be a hard-sell to change habits among the nation’s leading transportation companies and shippers. A secondary goal was to convince individual consumers to buy “green” cars instead of gas-slurping SUVs. So the EPA embarked upon a marketing campaign which they called — SmartWay — the smart way to save fuel, money and the environment.


Why did they choose this slogan? Obviously, they needed to motivate people to climb on board. Sure, everyone wants to breathe cleaner air, and saving fuel sounds praiseworthy, but how do you make it meaningful? By telling your target audience that it will save them money! Now we start firing on all cylinders. Is there anyone you know who doesn’t love to save money?


Even though the EPA’s primary goal was to save the environment, they understood that you have to market the benefits to the customer, and get on their wavelength. Maybe a handful of environmentally conscious people would have signed up for a program to save the environment but if you make the pitch saving money, then everyone gets on board, because we all pay through the teeth for fuel.


The results of the EPA campaign speak for itself. Major corporations that ship freight nationwide and worldwide, like UPS, PepsiCo, Home Depot and Kraft Foods, are among the thousands that signed up for SmartWay’s Transport Partnership. By 2012, SmartWay should be saving America 150 million barrels of oil a year. At over $100 a barrel, that’s more than $15 billion in savings. Wouldn’t you rather have that kind of cash in your pocket than to send it overseas for imported oil?


You don’t need to save or make billions when devising your own marketing campaign. You can be just as successful on your own scale, as long as you devise your own smart way. Think carefully about the hot button issue for your customers or clients. If you are selling home security, your system may be laden with the latest high tech gizmos, and that’s worth mentioning, but your priority “pitch” has to be how your product keeps people feeling safe and secure. If you’re a travel agency, the hotel room with the chocolates placed on the pillow is nice, (as long as they kept the air conditioning on after they left them there), but the vacationer’s priority is rest and relaxation.


There’s one more important point to get across. You have to make people feel good about their decision to change their habits or to part with their gelt.


The EPA accomplished this by telling people that signing up for SmartWay will “reflect well on you.” This doesn’t mean that you look good in green. The EPA is giving you an ego massage. Partner with us and you will become more chashuv. That ego boost is nice when you’re sitting low to the road in a Chevy Volt instead of tall in the saddle in a Suburban.


By the way, SmartWay applied their smarts in more ways than one. As one might expect from a government agency, they are an equal opportunity media employer. SmartWay used radio, television, print, Internet, emails and even RSS feeds to drive their message home. There’s nothing like a comprehensive, diversified campaign to ensure the greatest exposure to your target market.


Bottom Line Action Step: Devise a “priority pitch” and drive that point home.




Yitzchok Saftlas is the CEO of Bottom Line Marketing Group, a premier marketing agency recognized for its goal-oriented branding, sales, and recruitment and fundraising techniques. Serving corporate, non-profit and political clientele, Bottom Line’s notable clients include: Mike Bloomberg for Mayor, Dirshu and TeachNYS.


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