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Have you ever wondered how the
concepts were developed that are behind some of today's bestselling products? Having a great product is a good start to being a successful entrepreneur or businessperson, but, in order to sell up to its full potential, great products also have to have great concepts driving them. That's where people like author and marketing expert, Martha Guidry come in. Her latest book, Marketing Concepts That Win!, is sure to help anyone who has a fantastic product develop equally excellent concepts and to achieve greater success in the business world. Martha Guidry is our guest today, and I'm pleased she's agreed to this interview in which you'll learn more about Martha and her book.
Douglas R. Cobb: Martha, what first got you interested in writing effective marketing concepts? What was the first major marketing concept you came up with or contributed to?
Martha Guidry: I have been doing qualitative concept work with clients since I started my company back in 1999. One of the most frustrating aspects of this work was that I was only as good as the input stimuli I was given by the client. If the concept was poorly written or overloaded with information, I wasn’t in the position to change the concept. As such, I backward integrated my company to help provide better stimuli by teaching and coaching my clients to write more effective concepts. At that time, I changed the name of my company to “The Rite Concept” so I was living my own philosophy! Now, I run training classes for companies, develop concepts with clients, and write concepts as a partner to other researchers.
Honestly, I can’t even remember the first major concept I worked on, but I do know that I’ve done this in many different categories: pizza, chicken, industrial chemicals, grocery stores, paint, snacks, diapers, hair care, dish care, etc. Often I do not know which direction the client ultimately selects until I see a billboard or a TV ad . . . which is always exciting!
Douglas R. Cobb: You are the principal partner at the Rite Concept, Martha. Could you tell our readers what the Rite Concept does, and some of the marketing projects you've worked on while at the Rite Concept?
Martha Guidry: The Rite Concept, based in Avon, CT, uses a flexible combination of research-driven consumer understanding, hands-on learning, and ideation to help clients develop winning concepts in the market. Each of our project designs is customized for the client and depends on what they need and where they are in their development cycle. The Rite Concept is about different “Rites”—get the concept “RIGHT” – with the appropriate customer understanding and ideation. I help clients to “wRITE” and develop effective, motivating concepts, and then align them or “RITE” them with feedback from the target audience.
Douglas R. Cobb: What made you decide to write Marketing Concepts That Win!, and who would you say would probably be the most interested in and benefit the most from reading your book?
Martha Guidry: I actually gave a presentation at a Qualitative Research Consultant Association (QRCA) annual conference in 2005, and this served as the foundation of the book. I guess I didn’t realize how much I knew about writing winning concepts until I pulled it all together for a presentation.
Anyone who does concept work for a company would benefit from the book. This would include marketers, ad agency professionals, market researchers and R&D professionals. All of these individuals have a vested interested in a well-crafted concept. R&D wants their product/service to sell, market researchers want to make sure they get feedback on the “right” idea with a well-crafted concept, and marketers/ad agencies want a single-minded unique idea to drive product/service sales in the market.
Douglas R. Cobb: What is a "core idea," and how is it different from a "positioning concept"?
Martha Guidry: A “core idea” concept simply describes the product or service to the potential audience. It is used to determine whether the idea is of any interest to the potential buyer. In contrast, a “positioning concept” attempts to sell the benefit of the product or service to a potential buyer by tapping into a real consumer need within a relevant context. It focuses on the rational or emotional benefits the buyer will receive or feel by using the product.
Douglas R. Cobb: What are the three things (at minimum) that all positioning concepts need, Martha? Could you briefly go into them a bit for our readers?
Martha Guidry: The foundational elements of a positioning concept are the accepted consumer belief (ACB), the benefit, and the reason to believe (RTB). In a traditional concept, they are presented in the aforementioned order. The ACB communicates the unmet need or frustration the your target consumer feels. Basically, it provides the foundation of the concept by setting the context and the tonality. The benefit describes the main advantage offered to the consumer based on using a product or service. It answers the question “What’s in it for me?” And finally, the RTB complete the concept logic. It explains how the user how the product/service will deliver the benefit.
Douglas R. Cobb: Clear thinking is always good when one is trying to develop a great marketing concept, but what you call "CLeAR" thinking is also very important. What are the three critical areas you explore that the initials used in you acronym CLeAR refer to, and how are each vital to develop winning concepts?
Martha Guidry: The acronym “CLeAR” stands for content, language and relevance. In order to create a winning concept these three areas need to intersect and hit a sweet spot with the target audience. Content focuses on everything in the concept. You want to make sure that all the concept elements we talked about are actually in the concept. You’d be surprised how many positioning concepts I see without a benefit! The concept needs to have a compelling insight and overcome some issue. The concept language is important because it must resonate with the target. Concepts written without consumer input can sound like what I call “manufacturer-speak”. They tend to sound like what management wants to hear, rather the potential end users. The concept needs to be clear in addition to grabbing their attention. And finally, the concept must be relevant. The offering must be something the target wants or needs. Of course, exceptions exist: no one knew they needed an iPhone until they saw, then wanted, it! Concepts also need a relevant frame of reference and need to be differentiated from the competitive set.
Douglas R. Cobb: In what ways are images and visuals a vital component in developing winning concepts?
Martha Guidry: Images can certainly communicate a message in a concept. The key is if you decide to use an image, make sure it conveys or enhances the message of the concept. All too often, I’ve seen a visual added to a concept in the 11th hour without having it pre-screened by the target audience. This can be dangerous territory because, once a concept is put into some type of quantitative test, the picture may not convey the desired meaning. The last thing you want is a good concept to test poorly because the picture miscommunicated. On the flip side, a well-chosen visual may more powerfully communicate the intended message. The key is to get it right before any “go”/ “no go” testing is to occur.
Douglas R. Cobb: Could you please tell our readers what the difference is between "qualitative" and "quantitative" research, and why are both important factors?
Martha Guidry: Qualitative research uses small groups of respondents to understand behaviors and perceptions on a topic or subject. Qualitative uses in-depth discussions with people (in-person, online, via telephone, etc.) In contrast, quantitative research focuses on a broader audience and uses sampling techniques to evaluate findings that can be expressed mathematically in order to estimate future events.
Both play an important role in concept development. The advantage of qualitative in concept writing is that you can get the language right. “Real time” feedback can help sort out a variety of issues such as not using consumer language, polarizing name choices, lack of concept logic or focus, and image selection. Once your concept is in its best form, quantitative testing can help determine the “best” of several ideas or which one may have the largest volume/sales potential.
Douglas R. Cobb: What are some of the ways to do product/consumer research, and are you a proponent of any over others, or would you say a combination of several is the best way to collect data?
Martha Guidry: No one approach is the right way to conduct consumer research. Many factors influence how a project is tackled including: where the client is in the development process, how much information the client already knows, the objectives of the effort, and the budget. Generally, tradeoffs need to be made to accommodate these various factors. The one thing I do feel is absolutely critical is some type of qualitative component: in-person, online, or on the phone. Any concept MUST reflect the voice of the customer or it will lack relevance to the target audience. One can never write a winning concept at their desk and toss it into a quantitative concept test and expect to find a winning idea.
Douglas R. Cobb: What do you mean, Martha, when you mention "Frankenconcepts." and what makes them ineffective?
Martha Guidry: The “Frankenconcept” is created late in the development process. Based on the idea that Frankenstein was created by cobbling many different pieces of stuff together, the concept is created by sticking all the different elements of some average concepts together, hoping to create a winner. Generally, this happens when the client gets positive feedback about one word here and a phrase there – regardless if they are even remotely compatible. Unfortunately, this approach ends with too many ideas and no single-minded focus.
Douglas R. Cobb: What specific audiences are you referring to, Martha, when you use the terms "B2C," "B2B," and "business to intermediary"? Why should one consider the audience you're trying to direct your principal concept at?
Martha Guidry: You are absolutely right. You must know your target audience in order to communicate effectively with them. Knowing to whom you need to appeal will guide concept development. B2C stands for “business-to-consumer”; this would be any product that you and I can purchase: shampoo, an iPod, or a can of soup. The assumption is that the product or service with be advertised to communicate a message to this consumer. The language must appeal to this end consumer. B2B means “business-to-business” or when one business sells to another business. A cash register company selling to a retail chain, a lumber company selling to Home Depot, or a computer manufacturer selling to a corporate office are all examples of a B2B. While similar to B2C, these concepts generally need to focus on more tangible benefits – cost, efficiency, and quality – as the business cares about its bottom line. And finally, the “business-to-intermediary” means someone intercepts the sales process and acts as the middleman. For example, this could include a doctor who needs to prescribe a drug for a patient or an insurance company that uses insurance agents to sell insurance to a car or home owner. In this case, you need to know how the decision is made. For the doctor, you want him to write the prescription; however, if the product will be advertised in traditional media then a message must also resonate with the consumer so they will request a particular drug.
Douglas R. Cobb: Is developing a winning marketing concept the only goal businesses should shoot for? Is having one enough in itself to ensure the success of their products?
Martha Guidry: Oh gosh, no! A concept is just one aspect that a business should focus on, but it is critical. If no one will buy your product or service, you won’t have a business for long. Once a winning concept is identified, the business team needs to execute it. A great product concept can flop in the marketplace with the wrong packaging, distribution, advertising, poor product performance, etc. But, starting with a strong concept will ensure that all the marketing effort after the concept it going to good use.
Douglas R. Cobb: Martha, one more question, please, if you don't mind? Could you tell our readers about any companies you're currently working with to help them develop winning concepts? Also, would you please leave a link or more where our readers can learn more about you and how to write winning concepts of their own?
Martha Guidry: I work across a lot of different business. Some of my current clients include Pfizer Health Care, Arby’s, Bush Beans, DuPont, and H&R Block. The confidential nature of my clients prohibits me from giving any particulars, but just know if any of them have a new winning concept out for a product, I may have played at part!
Please check out my website at TheRiteConcpt.com and subscribe to my monthly newsletter or my blog at ConceptTalk.com.
Douglas R. Cobb: Wow, Martha, this has definitely been an informative interview, and I am sure our readers have also learned lots of interesting things from you. And, if they want to learn more, besides from the link you provided, I would highly recommend that they check out your latest book, Marketing Concepts That Win! available at Amazon.com
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