Lorde shows power of scrappy tactics
"You can call me queen Bee. And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule," sings Lorde, aka Ella Yelich-O'Connor, in her smash-hit Royals.
And ruling Lorde is, topping charts all over the world and being labelled "the least-likely breakout pop star of the year" by Rolling Stone magazine. At just 17, Lorde has been hailed a genius and the "anti-Miley Cyrus".
We mythologise the ‘overnight' success of Lorde, when her triumph is actually the product of several years of hard work and smart decisions, including her marketing moves.
Signed at just 12 years old, a lot of groundwork was done for Lorde before the success of Royals.
An EP called The Love Club, including the hit single, was released for free in November 2012, helping to build a following and prove the quality of Lorde's music to influential bloggers and other online opinion leaders.
Early on, Lorde was everywhere her target customers would be, especially social media channels like Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. Royals was a top hit on online music sharing service Spotify three months before it even started playing on mainstream radio.
Lorde's story is a lesson for anyone with the mistaken impression that the quality of your product alone is enough (something we can be guilty of in the technology industry). She shows that you don't have to sell your soul to promote it, just be smart, and persistent about it.
It's an example of what I call the "scrappy" approach to marketing. Rather than looking for that elusive miracle tactic that will explode your product's awareness and generate a flood of sales, it is about scrapping for every bit of attention from your target customers.
It is easy to underestimate how hard it is to get through to the people you want to buy your product.
No matter how hard you think it might be, it is probably exponentially more difficult.
This makes a single-threaded approach to marketing senseless. Expecting one advertisement, direct mail letter or online promotion to yield any real results is naive. Successfully getting through to a potential customer is actually about being boring.
Not boring to the customer, because they are not taking any notice most of the time, but boring to you. It is about repeating your message in a consistent and compelling way across as many appropriate mediums as often as you can, something Lorde's team has done remarkably well.
For example, you can't just rely on one trade show, you need to back it up with a direct mail programme, some publicity and maybe some online promotions. If you touch the same customers through multiple mediums at once, you are much more likely to get through.
It is the firms that can ‘scrap' away with their promotional campaigns that reach customers and drive sales more efficiently.
Research backs this up. In the 2013 Market Measures study of sales and marketing by Kiwi hi-tech firms, companies which invested most in sales and marketing were more likely to display high growth.
In the survey, the average tech firm was spending around one third of their annual revenue on sales and marketing (a figure that includes the cost of sales and marketing personnel), while "early stage" firms, i.e. those which have matured beyond the start-up phase, were investing more than 40 per cent of revenue.
On marketing costs alone (i.e. excluding people costs), these early stage firms were spending around 15 per cent of revenue.
Increasingly, that spend should shift to being online.
A study of 330 Australian and New Zealand firms released last week by First Point Research, showed that while 40 per cent of their marketing spend was currently online, almost three quarters of the firms expected that proportion to increase in 2014.
In virtually any industry customers are using the internet to help their buying process, for even the most complex and expensive of purchases. If you aren't online, you aren't participating in that evaluation.
How do you build this scrappy approach to marketing in a cost-effective way, particularly online?
Define your market as tightly as possible, while still being able to deliver a good return. The more defined the greater the intensity you can achieve with your marketing.
Do the work to really understand what online and offline mediums will best touch this defined market.
Get boring. Build a programme of activities over 6-12 months, consistently implement them and assiduously measure the result.
Lorde is all about her product. As she said to Rolling Stone, "I put my music out with no kind of commercial expectation, and found out I was a pop star".
Behind this, though, have been some very smart backers, persistent about promoting Lorde's talent through the right channels to the right people, making her "overnight" success the product of several years of hard scrapping.