Marketing Challenges for Diversified Companies

Diversified companies face challenges in their marketing outreach that need to be addressed. Goals should be set to overcome those challenges. The greatest challenges have to do with diversity. Diversity can lead to lack of focus and poor marketing communication. If objectives are met, diversity can become a strength.


The main challenge is how to better manage marketing for diverse businesses under one corporate umbrella. Those diverse businesses were probably stand-alone companies at one time. They all had separate marketing departments and separate brands. They were probably bought and assembled into one corporation with the aim of reducing costs and leveraging each others strengths.

Cost reductions usually come by integrating systems, de-duplicating personnel, and sometimes reducing interest on debt if the acquiring company has a better debt rating. Marketing is sometimes left alone because of a lack of overlap in that area. Put another way, there is a perceived lack of synergy in the marketing departments.

Opportunities for Betterment

Integration should be the goal. Not necessarily complete integration, because the individual brands still have value. Nevertheless, some overarching corporate image should go along with the individual brands so the market can start to see some connectedness.

Some grouping of the diversified companies is desirable. Those groups should ideally have overlap among buyers of the products. That’s because the marketing outreach should start to converge so that a buyer of one product, service, or solution can recognize kinship with the other brands.

An important goal of branding is developing brand loyalty. It makes perfect sense to leverage the brand loyalty of one brand to develop loyalty toward its kin. Customers like companies for lots of reasons, including quality, value, design, customer service, etc. By not leveraging these qualities between brands, the parent company is not getting full value out of its structure.

Similarly, if one brand is clearly better and more recognizable over another, serious consideration should be given to eliminating the weaker brand. The stronger brand can absorb it.

Contact Think of Whiting

Contact Think of Whiting to help organize your brands and to develop a marketing and brand integration strategy.

Back to top of post

B2B Marketing Trend – Understanding Buyers Better

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is increasingly focused on understanding buyers. According to recent marketing research completed by ITSMA (Lexington, MA), this trend is now becoming the primary focus of B2B marketers. The trend is occurring at the expense of brand and positioning (B&P), which have been the primary marketing focus areas in B2B.

Before: Brand and Positioning

Brand and positioning have long been the best strategic focus areas available to B2B marketers. These focus areas have been the “tools” that have given marketers control. Marketers implement a strategy according to a plan that aligns brand and positioning with organizational goals.

There is a downside to brand and positioning and that is that these strategies usually require that the marketer cram a lot of information together, trusting that the customers, prospects, salespeople and influencers will sort through and discover the specific information pertinent to them. Some variables can be broken out into smaller bundles, such as by language and country. But by and large, a B&P focus ends up with broad categories of products, services and solutions.

Forcing buyers to sort through broad categories and wide product selections can be arduous for the buyer. In the worst cases, sellers essentially post a catalog online, and depend on the buyer to have a product number or the exact right description of a product or service. Many have minimal or no visual clues to help navigate.

Now: Focus on Buyers

The new trend is buyer-focused. Getting to know the customer has always made sense, but it has been hard to do well in practice. In businesses with lots of buyers, there may be great diversity in buyer behavior, motivations, knowledge levels, and specific needs. It’s now becoming possible to capture some of that information efficiently.

For large purchases and recurring purchases, it may be the salespeople, who have a relationship and knowledge of the buyers. So the salespeople hold key customer knowledge. Valuable knowledge-of-buyer may consist of institutional knowledge, product/service needs, motivations, etc. It’s important that this knowledge gets channeled back to the marketing department. Otherwise that knowledge may not be acted on organizationally.

For smaller purchases across a diversity of buyer personas, it helps a lot to give the buyer the power to self-select some of his or her segmentation variables. The marketer now has information that is useful for predicting buyer preferences in real time. This can easily be done online with data to support at the back end.

Market research and competitive intelligence still add value. By planning ahead, and using the right tools, marketers can truly focus on buyers and by doing so, improve results, whether they be measured in revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction, or some other metric.

Call on Think of Whiting

Let Think of Whiting help you achieve better focus on your buyers. Contact Think of Whiting today for strategic help with improving focus on your organization’s buyers.

Back to top of post

Innovation: a Key to Business Success

Innovation stands out as being one of the most important factors driving the success or failure of business. The high level of importance for this factor has been evident over the past 20 years in particular. Of course, innovation has been part of commerce for centuries, possibly millennia. But never before has it been more broadly applied across so many types of businesses.

The Spread of Innovation

The spread of innovation today covers virtually every corner of commerce: communications, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, medicine & healthcare, retail, consumer products, sports, and entertainment. Innovation has been easier to come by with advances in technology, particularly in computing power and engineering. Through the application of these technologies, it is possible to produce ever more innovative products and services.

Innovation is important in product and services marketing, both in Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) markets. Business people depend on the latest technologies to improve products and services, and add value to their offerings. Consumers buy innovative new products (like smartphones), and traditional products with innovative new features (like cars that park themselves). Consumers use services that save them time and money, and make their lives easier. Innovation is at the core of these new services.

Innovation an Element of Productivity

Innovation in manufacturing and services often leads to increased productivity. Boosting productivity, doing more with less, yields a return on investment for both the producer and the buyer. Companies and the economy can therefore expand at a faster rate than would be possible without innovation-inducing productivity.

Innovation in productivity and in features, is also being driven by competition from low-wage economies. In both products and services, if there is no differentiation by innovation, then the low-cost provider wins.

Innovation in Steps and in Bounds

Innovation can occur in small, incremental steps, and also in great leaps. Products and services that are already proven successes usually benefit from the smaller steps.

There are now many cases where giant leaps forward have occurred through innovation. Recent examples include cloud computing, social media, smartphone apps, etc. The leaps that occur usually render great benefits upon the innovators and the customers, be they businesses or consumers.

The Downside of Innovation

Unfortunately, some innovations in business economics incommensurately reward scale and power. Examples include Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) monoculture agriculture, and the financial tomfoolery of 2008. Innovation has made lowering costs through scale much easier, which has led to concentrations of market share. Bigger has been better. You name the industry and that has been the case. Unfortunately, the hidden costs, often called externalities, that result from scale are rarely accounted for.

The downside of this trend toward bigness can be seen all around: the concepts of “too big to fail”, excessive off-shoring of production to countries with lower costs and poor human rights, reduced competition due to mergers (resulting in smaller pools of management talent and less risk-taking), insular management, and greater reliance on non-renewable energy in production and transportation. Of course, innovation is not the cause of these ills, but it is a facilitator. It speeds up the process of both good and bad effects.

The Future of Innovation

Innovation can also be used to reverse the trend toward “bigger is better”. Smaller is nimbler. When smaller enterprise proliferates, smaller also has the advantage of more minds in management positions working to solve problems, taking risks, and making a bigger economic pie.

A reversal from “bigger is better” can also take place through heavy-handed government action, of course. However, reducing or eliminating tax loopholes and subsidies for established businesses, and recognizing and pricing externalities (such as with a carbon tax) are market-based and inherently fairer. When the system is fairer, there is less reason for individuals or businesses to try to game the system.

Being Mindful and Acting on Innovation

An organization that has a culture of innovation is one that consciously supports risk-taking. Human resources must be mindful of the importance of risk-taking, and hire employees who are willing to take prudent risks. When a company actively seeks out innovation from it’s employees, then innovation is much more likely to take place. On the other hand, if a corporation’s management is insular, and primarily trying to please its board through the management of quarterly expectations, then it is much less likely to be innovative.

Any organization seeking to be more innovative might consider the taking on the following as creed: frequently think about what can be done to make the product or service better. As a group, agree on it, write it down and commit to act. The results will likely make the effort worthwhile.

Back to top of post

Using Case Studies to Achieve Communications Objectives

The Case Study – An Effective Communication Tool

A case study is one of the most effective communications tools available. Case studies work because they tell a story that people can relate to and learn from. People like to see how a product or service is used by others. A case study is often a good way to show that.

A case study can be written to lead the reader (or listener) on a narrative, guiding the reader to specific objectives, such as to fill out a form, take a survey, attend a webinar, etc.

Communications Objectives – Education and Raising Comfort Level

Companies need to communicate with lots of different people: potential customers, customers, their own sales people, their development teams, their investors, influencers, and others. The communication objectives often have several things in common. Educating readers about some topic is a common objective. Case study narratives can be very good at achieving this objective with these diverse audiences.

Even if the readers are generally familiar with the topic of the case study, a case study can still be used to raise the reader’s comfort level with the product or service. This is an important objective, not necessarily for the earliest adopters, but for those coming later. Developing a comfort level can be a critical factor for many people, whether they be buyers, influencers, or for those selling to others. Increasing the reader’s comfort level can allay fears of failure that hold people back from making a purchase.

Communications Objectives – Introducing Terminology

A third objective for a case study can be to introduce the reader to terminology and concepts they may not be familiar with. Introducing terminology within the context of a case study is a good way to convey how that terminology applies in real-world situations.

Using Early Adopters as Case Study Subjects

Early adopters are people who buy a product or service when it is first introduced. Often, early adopters are loyal customers who trust the company, and the promised value of the new product or service. Whatever the case may be, early adopters can be the best subjects for a case study.

People relate to the stories of others. When a narrative reveals a person making a decision that shows intelligence and leadership, readers are more likely to follow suit. The challenges faced by the early adopter, and the rewards and successes to the adopter by making a good decision can be inspiring.

The reader may develop an affinity for the product or service by recognizing similar challenges faced by the adopter in the narrative. The affinity grows stronger when the case study shows how the subject of the narrative successfully overcomes those challenges. The experience of the early adopters can become a template for the approach of the reader toward the product, service or solution.

Two-way Learning from Case Studies

A surprising benefit of writing a case study is that there is often two-way learning happening. Writing a case study is a process of learning about the customer, and interviewing that customer about his or her challenges, failures, and successes. The study process helps the writer understand the customer better. Just from going through the process itself, valuable realizations and insights can occur.

That two-way learning should factor in when weighing the costs and benefits of the case study. That two-way learning can be hard to measure, but is unquestionably beneficial. You can start by asking yourself if you’ve learned anything from your completed case studies. Then ask your salespeople, marketers, customer-service representatives, and others if they gain value and insight from the case studies. If the internal benefits are great enough, the case study can be entirely justified from that back-flow of knowledge.

Case Study Help

Let Think of Whiting help you with your case studies. From planning, to interviewing, to writing and editing, image acquisitions, and formatting, Think of Whiting can help with every step of the process.

Back to top of post

Speechwriting, and the making of a good speech

Through the ages, mankind has motivated, enlightened, moved and inspired audiences large and small with the power of speech. A speech can be just as powerful today as ever. It takes organization, focus, well chosen words, and good oration skills.

Great speeches can carry through the ages. We still hear of historic speeches such as Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, and countless others. Your speech may not have quite the same impact, but then it just might have a big impact on a few people at least. Think about making that your goal.

What to include in your speech

To begin with, always think of the audience. Speechwriting should take into account the demographics of the audience (age, subject knowledge, etc.), and the audience’s expectations (humor, education, wisdom, etc.). What could you tell them, from your own unique experience, that might benefit them? How can you convey that to them in words and tone so that the speech is well-received?

What makes the difference between a good and bad speech? In short, its all in the words; which words, how they’re organized and how they’re presented. Make sure there’s a central idea that you want to convey, and focus on conveying that idea effectively. You can develop that idea with stories, anecdotes, insights, humor, or other devices.

What to avoid

Sometimes, speeches can be dry, boring, and soporific. Rambling speeches, stilted vocabulary, stumbling oratory might get to be remembered by the audience, but for the wrong reasons. Organize well, and don’t try to cram in too much. Make sure you’re well prepared. Few people are successful when they try to “wing-it”.

Make sure there’s some life in your speech, even if the topic is technical or covering a complex subject. Even with an audience where you expect familiarity with jargon and acronyms, it’s often best to use a less jargony word or phrase to introduce a concept. Consider also breaking out an acronym into its individual words the first time you use it. If your speech is hard to understand, you will risk losing or alienating some of the audience from the very beginning.


Oration skills are important for conveying the message. Practicing the speech can be very helpful so that you get pronunciations, pauses, and pace correct. Make sure you know how much time you have and make sure, through practice, that your speech has an acceptable length. Avoid stooping over, staring at the paper, and stiff posture. Rather, stand up straight, and practice speaking so that a person seated in the last row can hear and understand you.

It helps your cause if the audience is providing their full attention. If they’re not paying attention at the start, it will be harder to get their attention later. Hold off with the formal part of the speech until you have their attention. Make eye contact with people in the audience. If you can, try to lead with some remarks that give them some confidence they can expect something worthwhile.

Speechwriting Services

Don’t be afraid to reach out and get help if you need it. The ideas can still be yours, and the speech is still yours to give. If you just don’t have the time, or you need a second pair of eyes to help with organizing and editing, then reach out to a professional. Think of Whiting would be glad to help with speechwriting services.

Back to top of post

Editing: Like Baking a Cake

Writing without editing is like mixing cake batter but not baking it. You might have all the right ingredients but you don’t have a finished product.

The goal of all your writing is not to fill a page with words, but rather, to communicate effectively with your audience. By giving you their time and attention, your audience should be at least a step closer to reaching the objective you have in mind, whether that be making a purchase, attending an event, or valuing your thought leadership.

The Cake Batter

The process of writing involves gathering thoughts together, and perhaps mixing in data, quotes, metaphors, and some descriptions of one kind or another. Words become sentences, the sentences become paragraphs, and the paragraphs become sections. Within this amalgamation of words and paragraphs are the kernels of the the finished product, but chances are there are loose ends, jagged edges, and inconsistencies of one kind or another. Possibly even some misspelled words that slipped through the spell-checker because they are real words but used in the wrong grammatical context (e.g. there, their, they’re). It is common to see inconsistencies in time (e.g. past participle, perfect participle, present), inconsistencies in writer’s perspective, and so on. Left as-is, you will have some disappointed readers. Your chance to communicate will be wasted.

The Baking

Once you have your “batter” ready, you then must bake it. Careful editing is the process that bakes the cake so it is delicious to look at and taste. The editing process is one that rearranges thoughts to make them more coherent. Editing looks at organization and reorganizes where necessary. Editing trims out excess words and jargon, eliminates duplicate statements and extraneous paragraphs, creates better focus, and facilitates flow.

The Tasting

You may have heard the old adage “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The same goes for our cake.

After completing the editing process, the content is now ready for your audience to spend time on. It’s presented in a way that is interesting and informative. The content is well organized and flows easily. It’s easy to understand and hopefully memorable as well. Your readers will appreciate the extra effort, and will hold your communications in higher esteem than they might have otherwise. The objectives you had in mind at the beginning of this process should be met or at least in closer reach.

Give it a try and see how you like it. Chances are, you will want to keep on baking!

Editing Services

Contact Think of Whiting for professional editing services.

Back to top of post

Writing about Business Services

Writing about Services – The Challenges

Writing about services often has challenges not faced when writing about products. Services don’t have “features”. Services aren’t “photogenic”. They are intangible, and because of that they can be harder to describe. Add the complex nature of some services, and you have a real challenge to communicate effectively.

Services are the sole source of revenue for many companies. Product-oriented companies are expanding into services because the revenue streams can be more consistent; products tend to be driven more by business cycles whereas services are less cyclic. For all of these companies, there’s a need to have service offerings communicated effectively to potential customers.

Writing about Technical Services

Technical services can be hardest of all to describe. There is jargon and there are acronyms. Technical services can be complex. People may or may not have heard of these technical services before, and even if they have, they may not have a clear idea of what the technical services are, how they may be of value to them, and if it’s even possible to integrate these new services with pre-existing services.

Create Content that Serves Reader Types

Like teaching to a group of students who are at different levels of proficiency, writing about a technical service should cover a range of proficiency levels from basic to advanced. Technical service subjects should be written about in a way that unwinds complexity. It’s important to keep in mind that many different non-technical people may be looking at the information, from customer executives, to interns, to the people who may be using the service someday. If a newcomer is reading, that reader should be able to learn about the subject step-by-step, and not be turned off by jargon. For those more proficient in the subject, navigating past more basic descriptions and should be made easy to do.

Something else to watch out for: technical subjects can make for dry reading. Lists of service areas have their place, but to engage the readers at various levels, some other writing strategy is needed.

Storytelling Case Studies

A “storytelling” style can be a very effective way to awaken the imagination of the reader. People naturally relate to stories, especially when the person in the story faces similar challenges to the reader. Stories can pick and choose details to emphasize. A good story will show how the company’s service offering found and implemented a solution to a customer need. Showing the problem-solving ability of the service company can give the reader some confidence that issues he or she faces can be dealt with effectively in a similar fashion.

Remember, the reader might be looking at the story from one of several perspectives. She might be a prospective customer. She may a current customer who could benefit from the new service. The reader may even be a salesperson who needs to be familiar with his own company’s solutions.

Story Structure

The story should be a true one, based on a real customer experience. The story might start with a typical customer need, perhaps expressed in the “voice” of a customer. Describe the need. Describe why the service company was well-suited to address the need. Describe the approach taken to solve the customer issue, and how the customer benefited. Once again, in the voice of the customer.

Summary – Consider reader proficiency, and a story-telling approach

To summarize, writing about services, especially technical services, should invite readers of different levels of proficiency to read and learn. A good approach is to include customer stories which can awaken the imagination of the reader.

Think of Whiting Can Help

Think of Whiting can provide the writing services you need to communicate your service offerings to your various audiences, both internally (within your company), and externally, to your business partners, investors, and clients.

Back to top of post

Biography and Autobiography

Many people today are interested in writing an autobiography. Others are interested in having a biography written about themselves or someone they know. There are so many people deserving of this honor. Many are notably famous, and many others are living lives underneath the radar, so to speak. They all have stories that are worth telling and preserving.

Interesting People

The progress and vast changes experienced over the last 100 years could not have made without the hard work, good fortune (and bad), great sacrifices, love, and commitment of many people to their causes. Families, communities and nations have benefited in innumerable ways. People shape, and are shaped by the world around them. The rapid pace of change is a driver of interesting stories, from virtually every walk of life.

Our Interesting Times

The times we are living in are very special indeed. People living through these times have a great many unique experiences worth sharing. Think about world events that have shaped people living today; events too numerous to mention occurring in every decade of the last 100 years. Progress has made great strides in transportation; cars, trucks, ships, trains, planes, and rocketships. The advent of radio, television, computers, mobile phones and the internet all within the last century. Great advancements in science, medicine, and agriculture. A proliferation of music in entirely new genres. Explorations where man had never been before. Industrial-scale changes in production of products. Services that change lives for the better. People have personal connections with these great advancements. These connections make great stories which can be shared for friends, family, and future generations.

Making a Story

A biography can be about a lifetime. It can also be about an episode of a person’s life. A childhood. Or perhaps a wartime experience, a relationship with a special person, or an entrepreneurial endeavor. Putting these thoughts and experiences down on paper can be a good experience in itself. These episodes can reveal a narrative thread that brings experiences together into who that person is today.

Think of Whiting can help work through ideas, help with writing, or editing, and even facilitate the process of publishing and distributing the finished piece.

Back to top of post

Writing for Websites

Making Good First Impressions

Popular wisdom has long maintained that first impressions are very important. For many if not most corporations, that first impression to the outside world is made by its website. As a website’s primary impression-producing assets are its content and its organization, it’s fair to say that the content and organization of the website are very important for creating a good first impression with viewers. A good first impression along with good organization and writing makes viewer engagement with the website much more likely.

Communicating with Words

Think about the objectives you have for your website. If your website is intended to promote your business, you should break it up into discrete pages that might be attractive to different groups of visitors. Some visitors are first-timers. They might want to know about the history of the business, the owners, and the people who they might be in contact with if they call. Most visitors also want to hear about your products and/or services, so one or more pages devoted to that would be appropriate. Other visitors are looking for resources, contact information, reasons to buy from you.

All the information you post to your website should be well organized and should flow easily from one sentence to the next. Think about the website from the perspective of the typical visitors you expect. Certainly people want to read about your products and services. They may also want to know why you do what you do, and how you do it. Think about how you might work these important aspects of your business into your website.

You may find that you don’t have the time to do great writing from the get-go. If that’s the case, try to at least get the structure right from the beginning. Then, over time, go back and improve the content bit by bit until it is an accurate reflection of who you are. If you take pride in your business, that pride should show through in your website, through its content.

Website Images

Many websites today contain a lot of images. Often, those same websites are light on content. The problem with image-heavy websites is that images do not engage the viewer. They might make a nice impression, but they don’t hold the viewer and draw them in. If a website is overly dependent on images, there is less reason for a first-time visitor to explore, or even return for more information, tips, announcements, engagement with a blog, etc.

While we’re on the topic of images, there are some which should be avoided under any circumstance. A good example is images that are automatically changing in front of the viewers eyes. If you’ve seen those websites, you’ve probably noticed that the movement of the images is very distracting. It’s the same on sites that load up with advertisements. Other bad images would be employee pictures that look like mug shots, or those that are blurry, poorly cropped, too small or too large. A good approach is to look at what others have done… see what you like, and use those to guide your choice of images.

If your objective is to get the site viewer to buy something, learn about something, or inquire about something, then make sure your site’s organization, writing, and images support that objective.

Back to top of post

Writing to Optimize Search Engines (SEO)

If your web site content is well written and well organized, your web site’s visitors will not only have a good first impression, they will also spend more time on your site.  The more time viewers spend on a web site, the better that site will perform in search engine rankings.  This is an observation made from experience, and from consideration of what search engine optimization (or SEO) software values in its guidance.

How search engines rank web sites is not completely clear because the search engines don’t publish their methods. Clues can be found in looking at what SEO software providers prioritize.  One of the top recommendations in SEO software is for publishing a minimum of 300 words per page.  Although this number may actually be somewhat arbitrary, someone reading 300+ words is bound to be spending more time on that web page than on a page with fewer words.

Of course, if the writing is uninteresting or poorly organized, the page viewer won’t spend much time on the page, and thus the page ranking will probably not improve.

A web site may also benefit in its SEO from repeat visitors.  Encouraging repeat visits is not something that SEO software can help with, but it does seem to have some effect with SEO rankings.  Whether or not having repeat visitors plays an important role in SEO, it is clearly beneficial to have people re-engaging with your content.

A good way to encourage repeat visits is to keep creating and posting new and worthwhile content so people will have more reason to come back.  Also an email newsletter with links to the web site provides the prompting when new content is added. If people click through to the site, the fresh content will hopefully hold their interest.  Of course, to do this it helps to have people sign up for the newsletter when they visit, and to give them good reasons why they should sign up.

Perhaps your web site could use some attention to its content, to help with SEO and to better engage your site visitors. If you could use some help with the writing and organization of your web site, please call or email.

By the way, this blog posting has 388 words in it.  I hope you’ve enjoyed every word of it!

Back to top of post