The stick and the carrot- an urban marketing tale of carbon

Have you asked yourself why are we need carbon tax? Whilst I know that this web site and my business are aimed at marketing, I felt it important to talk about the current discussion going on in Australia regarding this carbon tax.

Firstly, why do we market our product or service? So that others will find out about us and subsequently take up the offer we make to them.

Marketing is about communication and helping those we talk to see how we can supply something that will solve a problem they have. Generally, we work on the carrot principle- we give something to encourage others to do what we want them to do- that is, we give them information about our solution, about our value, customer service or whatever we believe we are good at.

Life and politics are similar, however, lately I have noticed a stick being the preferred method of communication. I am on the side of the planet, and believe that if I can control my behaviour to make it a better place, I will do so, because I want to, not because a stick is being wielded. I understand not all people and businesses operate that way, but still feel it is preferable to have a positive consequence for doing the right thing, rather than a negative consequence for doing the wrong thing.

How many of you, when faced with turning off your air conditioner on a freezing June night, or not having that curry takeaway on Friday because you can’t afford the electricity bill next week, will choose the freezing in bed option over home cooking?

What I am saying is that the current carbon tax offering, is working the big stick. The proponents are saying that if carbon producing acts and uses, mainly electricity, are made more expensive, we will use less of it, thereby, reducing our nation’s carbon footprint. I cannot personally see how that works. I believe, and have seen economic modelling to support this, that rather than stop using electricity, we will merely funnel money away from other (less essential) activities to continue to pay for the existing carbon usages our current government wish to stop.

The carbon tax supporters are saying the only way to reduce carbon emissions is to hit us over the head with a carbon tax stick. I believe we will merely stop spending money on other activities to continue to pay for our electricity or petrol or whatever 21st century Australians think is essential to modern life. The money will come from deleting those things (that more often than not are supplied by small business) like hair cuts, takeaways, garden products, etc which are not essential to life, but their production gives many people their livelihood.

I am greatly in favour or a global economy, but unlike our most economically prolific competitors, China, India and the USA, we will have a carbon tax and they will not- that means, we are not truly being allowed to compete on a global stage. If that continues, we will have to go back to the bad old days of tariffs and protectionism. Not to mention, the minimal positive effect Australia’s reduction in carbon emissions will have if these other nations are not reducing theirs.

Australian small businesses have been suffering for over two years now, a carbon tax will ensure that there is no work for marketers either, there will be nothing left to market- so what will I do with all my carrots?

Queensland flood response needs small business action

There have been many tragic and just plain sad stories that have come out over the last week, but mostly, I feel there have been volumes of uplifting and joyous stories of help, compassion and examples of the true meaning of community.
As business owners we are going to be responsible for helping to regrow the Queensland business community, just as our neighbours and friends are helping to rebuild the personal communities of this wonderful state.
You may feel that this is the wrong time to be putting any focus on your marketing efforts, but I truly want to say to you that now is potentially the most important time in decades to ensure you have a marketing plan in place. Businesses need to take into account the changes that have occurred to the economic environment due to the tragedy that has so recently taken place and have a current plan to build their business through trying times.
Include in your small business marketing ideas a quick check-up to make sure you are still servicing the same target market you were a month ago, and determine what is now the best way to reach these people successfully with all that has been happening to them.
An example of a simplistic change may be a landscape professional. Traditionally they may have offered a prestige design and creative consultancy. They may have used high end home and garden design glossy magazines with full page colour advertisements to obtain high margin luxury contracts.
As luxury services may not be easy to sell currently, not least of which because conspicuous consumption is bad taste, a new market may be useful. As a way to continue having some cash flow and as a wonderful service to those whose gardens had been destroyed by flooding, this business could offer a flat rate two day makeover to tidy and replant. To reach clients for this service, local newspapers and local or regional radio advertising may be far more cost effective and more likely to reach the right target audience.
Another area businesses need to take action following these floods is to ensure we support those who have supported us and others. I heard a wonderful story of a Brisbane restauranteur whose restaurant wasn’t operable due to flooding. They advised all their casual staff that had been rostered on to work that instead of losing their hours and pay, if they were willing to volunteer in the flood clean up, the restaurant would pay their wages. Wouldn’t it be great to continue supporting these businesses?
The Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal website (www.thepremier.qld.gov.au/initiatives/disaster_recovery/donations.aspx) has a list of all the organisations who have donated greater than $10 000. Whilst we know that being a good corporate citizen is terribly important, it is even more important that we support those who have made the effort to live up to their good citizenship responsibilities. Try and include some of them as suppliers in your marketing plan or in your everyday business.
Finally, I recently enjoyed listening to an interview on radio station 4BC with Mike O’Hagan, founder and owner of MiniMovers. One particular comment he made had a real impact on me- Mike reminded us that it was imperative to the economy, the community and especially small business, that as soon as we are able to, we must try and return to a normal routine. This includes eating out, having our dry cleaning done, doing the grocery shopping, going to the movies, filling up the car with petrol or having it serviced. All of these day to day activities keep the money going around in our own communities. Without each and every one of us doing our ‘normal’ business, there will be no hours for the casual wait staff, the mechanics will be sitting in service centres with nothing to do, and every other business will be making no income to then spend elsewhere.
So get out there, get back into your personal routine, revisit your business marketing plan and get Queensland back on its feet!

Basic Marketing Ideas- Your First Marketing Plan

Basic Marketing Ideas
A new marketing idea for your product or service can start with the basics. A good place to start is with some market research. Work on the premise of
  • know your product
  • know your audience and, and
  • know what is in it for your potential market
Having this information will give you the framework to make decisions on how to communicate your message to your market.
The first step in creating your list of marketing ideas is to work out what is your unique selling proposition. Why are you different or better, what does your product do differently than what is already in the market.
Once you know what you can offer your audience that will set you apart from the crowd, you can determine what would be the demographics and psychographics of the target market you believe your product or service will most appeal to. To gather your information,  you may wish to speak to your existing clients, survey other market areas or maybe look at the searches people do when they come to your web site to help work out some of these dimensions.
Finally, prepare a plan to reach the target group in a way that will give then the sizzle, not the sausage.  Give them the benefits they will enjoy in their life by using your product or service. It is worthwhile in the beginning to create a list or table comparing features and benefits, for example:
Preparing to Market the Model T Ford:
Feature: Comes only in black
Benefit: don’t have to worry about matching it to your outfits- black goes with everything
Feature: Goes faster than a horse
Benefit: You can leave home even later- you can sleep in longer, go out later the night before and drink more
Feature: It has four seats
Benefit: You can take your girlfriend and two extras in case you have a fight
Feature: It is run by an internal combustion engine
Benefit: No need to feed it hay, don’t need to rub it down at night and can come home as drunk as you like.
Feature: It is noisy
Benefit: Your friends can hear you arriving at the party and the butler can have the door open when you come hom
In essence, if you know what your product’s real benefits are and how that relates to your unique selling proposition, then determine what group of people this will appeal to most, you can create a communication plan to give them all the benefits to help them to make the decision to buy your product.