The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Marketers

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    The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Marketers

    by Stephen W. McDaniel

    With the publication ofMarketing Highway Technology and Programsin late 1990, the FederalHighway Administration (FHWA) acknowledged that the marketing concept understanding the

    needs of the market and providing products or services that satisfy those needs has a role toplay in accomplishing the mission of the agency. In the administrator's statement at the beginningof this publication, then Federal Highway Administrator Thomas D. Larson wrote, "Marketing veryaptly describes what we need to do."1

    Many federal officials who equated "marketing" with selling believed that marketing wasapplicable only in the private sector. But slowly, a broader perspective of marketing and its valueto the organization is emerging, and most officials now would agree with FHWA marketingspecialist Martha Soneira, who recently said, "Basic principles and techniques of marketing,typically associated with corporate America, also meet the needs of the public sector."2

    In the "early days" of marketing in FHWA, the marketing effort was almost exclusively focused onfacilitating technology transfer, but recently, FHWA marketing specialists have been promoting

    the use of marketing as a "business tool that can be applied across every discipline found withinan organization."3 This perspective is reflected in the principles of FHWA's Quality Journey tocreate and sustain continuous quality improvements and in the FHWA National Strategic Plan.

    The strategic plan recognizes that "generally, [FHWA's] accomplishments result from cooperativeefforts rather than through compliance," and the plan is full of language such as "identify newinitiatives to meet emerging needs," "gathering input from our customers and partners,""committed to excellence in service to [FHWA's] customers and partners," and "[building] onongoing initiatives in quality, customer feedback, and program evaluation."4 All of this is part ofthe marketing process.

    From 1991 to 1997, I conducted 30 marketing workshops across the United States for FHWA. Inthese workshops, I was privileged to interact with dedicated highway professionals who wereinterested in improving the agency's and their own abilities to develop innovative highwayproducts and programs and then to move them through the "system." I observed manyimpressive marketing efforts in various areas of FHWA.

    Likewise, during my 25-year business and academic career (most of it spent as a marketingprofessor at Texas A&M University), I have been impressed by the marketing efforts of manycompanies in the business world. I have become increasingly interested in why some companies

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    have more success than others. What separates the most successfulmarketers such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, DellComputer, and Wal-Mart from the less successful ones? What dohighly effective marketers do to achieve their successes?

    Based on research and consulting projects I have done through the years

    and from my own observations of companies' marketing practices, I puttogether a list of seven key success factors for marketing. These sevenfactors are what I see the good marketers doing. Borrowing semanticallyfrom Stephen R. Covey,5 I have entitled these success factors "The

    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Marketers."

    In this article, I present these habits, as well as some business and highway examples of each.My hope is that administrators, program managers, and others throughout the highwaycommunity will find these observations helpful in planning and implementing marketing efforts tosupport highway programs.

    Habit #1: They are Customer-OrientedNo concept is more closely associated with what marketing should be about than focusing on the

    needs of the customer. Although many people falsely associate marketing with the used carsalesman trying to push a lemon on to a victimized customer, the truth is that the goal ofmarketing, in its proper form, is to satisfy customers. As marketing expert Philip Kotler contendsin his best-selling marketing textbook, "The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. Theaim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fitshim and sells itself."6

    So, marketing begins with finding out what customers want or need, developing that product,informing customers about it, then making it available to them. The business world is full ofexamples of products that have been successful, not because of "slick selling," but becausesomeone found out what people needed and then provided it to them.

    A recent example is Colgate Total toothpaste. Introduced in December 1997 by the Colgate-

    Palmolive Co., Total toothpaste, which contains a wide-spectrum antibiotic, is the first oralpharmaceutical ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration. A team of 200 scientists atColgate spent 10 years and $35 million developing Total toothpaste.7 Their charge was todevelop a good-tasting dentifrice that fought bacteria and did not get immediately washed away.With aging baby boomers increasingly concerned with gingivitis, the product targets consumersaware of this bleeding-gum problem. The idea of developing a product to meet a specificcustomer need has resulted in the largest marketing campaign in the company's history and asure blockbuster product.

    Examples of customer-oriented marketing efforts are also found in the highway field. For morethan 15 years, FHWA's Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), formerly the Rural TechnicalAssistance Program (RTAP), has been a model of being customer-oriented. LTAP centers haveestablished an impressive track record of helping local governments develop a sound

    transportation system through training, technical assistance, and technology transfer. A relativelynew program component that is dedicated to meeting the distinctive needs of Native Americantribal governments shows how a customer-oriented program should work.

    The Native American Local Technical Assistance Program (NALTAP), also known as the TribalTechnical Assistance Program (TTAP), has several customer-oriented objectives.8 The six TTAPcenters avoid holding their classes, workshops, and other training programs at the centers oreven hub locations. Instead, virtually all TTAP-sponsored programs are held where they are mostneeded and can be most effective at the customer's location. Through questionnaires,

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    customer evaluations, and other forms of feedback, the centers regularly solicit opinions frompeople representing local tribal colleges and governing bodies. The TTAP centers focus onidentifying customers' needs and planning programs to respond to those needs.

    Habit #2: They Know What's HappeningTo make good decisions, highly effective business marketers require good information from a

    number of sources. To manage this information, businesses usually have some type of marketinginformation system composed of at least three parts: (1) an environmental scanning componentthat monitors the economic, demographic, political/legal, cultural, technological, and competitiveenvironments; (2) an internal marketing records system that provides reports on such importantitems as sales, orders, inventory levels, costs, prices, and accounts payable and receivable; and(3) a market research component that conducts market research studies on topics of particularinterest to marketing management.

    One company that has consistently done a very good job of getting the right kind of informationfrom the right sources is Dell Computer. Founded in the mid-1980s by 20-year-old college studentMichael Dell, the company has become the darling of Wall Street. During the 1990s, Dell's stockprice has increased at a rate five times that of Microsoft a $1,000 investment in Dell in 1990would now be worth $300,000.

    In 1992, Michael Dell became the youngest CEO everto make the "Fortune 500" list, and with a net worthtoday of more than $7 billion, he is one of the richestindividuals in the world. According to Fortunemagazine, "Michael Dell's distinctive edge is hisunderstanding of ... [the] landscape in the computerbusiness." Dell Computer's vice chairman adds, "Hehas an incredible sense of the market."

    The following provides some idea of how this highlyeffective marketer has obtained this good feel for thecomputer business: "Dell ... spends one day each

    week checking out the innovations at one of the site'stech facilities. He also spends a ton of time withcustomers, including a recent visit to Chicago wherehe participated in a sales presentation to senior

    executives. For Dell, customer contact isn't just a question of boosting the business; it's stayingup on and in tune with an ever-changing market."9

    Just as highly effective business marketers require good information from various sources tomake good business decisions, highly effective highway decision-makers likewise require goodinformation. The primary sources of this critical market information are the driving public, cities,states, industry, academia, and research, as well as other FHWA divisions and governmentagencies. One particularly commendable effort by FHWA in this regard is the InternationalTechnology Scanning Program.

    Several teams recently completed information-gathering trips to nine countries to observeinnovative highway programs and practices that have the potential for transferability to U.S.highway systems. Finland and Sweden were the source for weather-related traveler information.Information on congestion management was obtained from The Netherlands. Traffic managementand transit program information was picked up in the United Kingdom. Bridge structureinformation was obtained from Japan, Germany, and Switzerland. And information-gathering tripsto New Zealand and Australia looked at road safety audits as a means to improve highwaysafety.10

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    With so much information available, better access to and management of highway informationthat is most relevant to a specific highway issue are always needed. DataPave, a new softwareprogram, is an example of one such product. For 10 years, highway agencies have beencollecting data from thousands of long-term pavement performance (LTPP) experiments. Theprogram has a set of tools for searching, viewing, and manipulating the data, permitting a PC-user to access the entire LTPP database. As a result, virtually any information a decision-makermight like to have about an LTPP site can be quickly obtained. And this site information can beselected by key demographic characteristics experiment type, climate, traffic, geographiclocation, and others.11

    Habit #3: They FocusTwo fundamental concepts critical to marketing success are market segmentation and targetmarketing.

    Market segmentation involves conceptually breaking down the entire population of potentialcustomers into groups. These groups, or segments, are then viewed as possessing some sort ofhomogeneous characteristic related to their buying behavior. This characteristic, or segmentationcategory, might be related to demographics such as age, gender, location, or buying power or to some psychographic factor such as lifestyle, attitudes, or behavior.

    Target marketing involves selecting the specific segment(s) within a segmentation category onwhich the marketing efforts will be focused. Market segmentation and target marketing recognizethat an organization cannot be all things to all people. Instead, the highly effective marketer mustfocus. And if there is more than one segment on which the organization desires to focus, then adifferent marketing effort may be required for each segment.

    Several years ago, I served as a consultant to a small company that marketed devices thatattached to windows, giving them extra strength and providing protection from high winds. Informulating the best marketing strategy for this product, initial marketing research indicated thattwo demographic categories were probably the best on which to segment. The first wasgeographic location eventually targeting people who lived in hurricane-prone areas along theGulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The second was type of property (residential or

    commercial) eventually targeting facilities supervisors in high-rise commercial businesses. Theresulting target market of "businesses located in high-rise buildings in the 10 cities along the Gulfand Atlantic coasts that were most frequently hit by hurricanes" eliminated most of the U.S.population. But this process provided a well-defined target market on which to efficiently andeffectively focus the entire marketing effort.

    In 1988, the South Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) realized it had to do somethingabout the alarmingly high level of highway fatalities in the state the third highest in the nation atthe time.12 A public relations and advertising firm, Fisher Communications, was hired to developa statewide advertising campaign designed to call attention to the problem and to bring aboutsafer driving behavior. The result was a five-year campaign entitled, "Highways or Dieways? TheChoice Is Yours."

    The hard-hitting television campaign was developed with a specific target audience in mind theperson with an attitude that says, "I'm a safe driver; nothing could happen to me." Depicting real-life situations, the campaign was designed to convince the person with a high level of self-perceived invincibility that they were not as safe a driver as they thought they were. For example,one spot showed a woman driving a minivan down the highway while looking in the rearviewmirror and putting on lipstick. In slow-motion and horrifying detail, the spot then dramaticallydepicts the fatal result.

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    The South Carolina campaign was highly effective. Over a five-year period, the state experienceda 38-percent decline in its death rate. The number of highway deaths per 100 million miles (160million kilometers) of vehicle travel dropped from 3.7 to 2.3.

    According to Fisher Communications president Kevin Fisher, the key to the success of thecampaign was the effective targeting of that driver who feels invincible behind the wheel. Many

    people wrote or called the South Carolina DOT to say things like, "I feel like I just saw myself inthat television ad. I've done that, but never again!" Clearly, the targeting strategy hit its mark.

    Habit # 4: They Are DifferentAny government agency, just likeany company, must have a basis fordistinguishing itself in themarketplace to justify its existenceor to compete effectively. A highlyeffective marketer differentiates hisproduct from everyone else's. Thisdifferentiating feature is called anorganization's "sustainable

    competitive advantage." If abusiness or organizati...