Otaku Marketing Plans

Otaku is a Japanese term, now used throughout the marketing world, to mean a person or group of people obsessed with a particular topic/problem/or interest.  Recently, I was astonished to learn that there is an Otaku group who are obsessed with a specific kind of ice – nugget ice.   I learned this from doing a deep analysis of what causes IndieGogo campaigns to succeed or fail.  You see, there is an Opal Ice Maker, which does 1 thing ~ makes nugget ice ~ that recently raised $2.5 Million dollars on indiegogo.  And this got me thinking….

Who in their right mind would PRE-ORDER a $450 ice machine?
Clearly, I’m not an Otaku for nugget ice.
But also as clear, this marketing plan worked.  And it was a pretty simple plan really, and had almost NOTHING to do with advertising or promotion.  I’ve written extensively in the past about marketing plans, and how marketing is SO MUCH MORE than just advertising.  This Opal Ice Maker is clearly a perfect example.   So, what made this successful? And how can you build a marketing plan just like it?
  1. The Opal Ice Maker is targeted specifically and exclusively to people who love nugget ice, and would die to have it at home… Clearly, there is a passionate following of nugget ice, and this entire product was built EXCLUSIVELY for that audience.  (I would never buy one, for example).
  2. The Opal Ice Maker ‘completely’ solves the problem of making your own nugget ice at home…. it does exactly what it says it will do, and most people cannot even imaging using 24 pounds of nugget ice at their home, even at a party!
  3. They went after and got people who love nugget ice, targeting people who ‘like sonic drivethru’ (who have the nugget ice), and other chains where people frequent just to get their ice fix.
  4. It’s not a low price, but a high price… because Otaku people would pay it, and a high price signals quality.
So, to replicate this marketing plan all you need to do is:
  1. Find a problem that a very specific small Otaku group have, and are extremely passionate about.
  2. Completely solve the problem.
  3. Target and reach out to that group directly (ads, PR, gorilla marketing).
  4. Charge a high enough price to signal quality.
Now, go out and market!

All of Marketing by way of “Target” and “Position”

All of marketing may be explained by clearly defining and using two words: Target and Position.  Learn to use these two words correctly, and your business will prosper.  Fail in either or both, lose focus in either, and your business will die.

Target: The single very narrow, focused customer type you really, really want to love your product/service.
TO BE CLEAR: I mean +/- 5 years of age, a clear gender, and ideally also some “qualifying” attribute. (example: M/25-35/Hardcore Gamers.)

Position: The unique place in the mind of your target you want your product/service to occupy.
TO BE CLEAR: I mean a clear position that you can own in the mind: “The Best”, “The Fastest”, “The Cheapest”, “The Healthiest”, “The Most X”, etc.  (example: “The Most Hardcore Social Game Ever”)

So, how is this “all of marketing”?
Some example questions that come up in running a business should suffice to explain:

Question 1: Where should you sell your product?
Answer 1: Wherever the Target shops.

Question 2: What kind of copy should you write?
Answer 2: Whatever would please the Target while helping your product occupy a Position in their mind.

Question 3: How should you advertise?
Answer 3: Advertise wherever the Target is likely to see it; and ideally to solidify the Position in their mind, and eventually to drive buying behavior.

Question 4: Should I have a website?
Answer 4: If your Target uses the web… usually yes.

Question 5: What features should I have in my product?
Answer 5: Those features that help you occupy the Position in the mind of your Target.

Question 6: Should I partner with company X?
Answer 6: Only if company X is appealing to the Target, and can help you solidify your Position.

Question 7: What price should I charge?
Answer 7: A price that the Target is willing and able to pay, given your unique Position.

Question 8: Should I use Social Networks?
Answer 8: If your target uses Social Networks… usually yes.

Question 9: What if I have a new product?
Answer 9: Define it’s Target and Position… and STICK WITH IT.

Question 10: What if my product isn’t doing well?
Answer 10: Perhaps you need to improve the product for a better Position, or adjust the price to match your “actual” Position in the Target’s mind.

Question 11: Should I add feature X?
Answer 11: If the Target wants it.

I could go on and on… and you may say:

With such a narrow target, aren’t you losing out on sales?
Answer: NO!

You will get sales outside your narrow target, precisely BECAUSE you appeal so strongly to your target.  (e.g. imagine all the people who “aspire” to be in your target.. or who themselves uniquely identify with your message/target).  You don’t turn these sales away, nor do you let it change your focus… it is your appeal to your TARGET that lets you win other customers outside the target.

I hope this makes sense and helps!  I am a bit passionate about this.  Email me or comment with questions/feedback/ideas.  I’m always open!

Positioning your Company or Product in the Minds of the World.

What is Positioning?  The outstanding book by Al Ries and Jack Trout should be your FIRST stop on the topic.  Those excellent narrators bring to life a concept that can seem boring; but is truly vital to the success of a product.  If you do not have a “Position” for your product… you are almost certainly doomed to fail.
Consider, when you go shopping, say for a new car, how do you choose what to buy?  If you are interested quality? Toyota.  Great Driving? BMW. Amazing Safety?  Volvo.  
In order to properly market your product, you must find a position for your brand… this means finding a place “in the mind of your target customers” for your product to live.  Imagine your target customer has a limited capacity for remembering things (certainly true)..and you get 1 shot to ‘place your product in the filing cabinet of your prospects mind’… what do you want them to remember?  The idea of positioning is that IF you can get it into their mind WITH a position; it will be easier to file away.  (rather than into the ‘misc’ category, your prospects file it in the “Safest” category or the “Best Value/Cheap” category or the “Highest Quality/Expensive” category or the “Funnest” category or whatever.
With my good friend Barry Raskin, I have adopted a formal sentence structure that helps guide the development of a “positioning statement”… can you fill out this sentence?  Can everyone on the product team?
” _(  YOUR
is a _______  that does ____________ for

UNLIKE OTHER _____________ we do _________________________.”

Having trouble?  You are not alone.  About 90% of the start-ups I encounter have never thought of their products in this simple and critical way.
This will FORCE you to put a position on your product.  This sentence is not something you share with the world (necessarily).  It is an internal guide to keep marketing focused and what you want to ‘imprint’ on people who encounter your product/brand.
There is a whole bunch more psychology and tips that the book (below) goes into.  I’ll leave you with 1 final tip from my own experience.  When you sit down and do this exercise, you’ll realize quickly that the “for ____” is a vital part.  If you are not TARGETING a well define market… your POSITIONING will fail.  Start with the target market first… then find a position in their minds you can occupy.
It is even better when you can occupy a position that nobody else has claimed yet.  The “Most, Best, Fastest” or similar terms are what you are shooting for!
Read more from the experts:

Austin Technology Incubator SEAL team Presentation

Occasionally, I am invited to speak at The University of Texas or at the Austin Technology Incubator (part of U.T.).  I love giving talks, guest lecturing, or speaking, and this weeks topic was for the SEAL program on “Startup Sales & Marketing”… an expertise of mine.  I usually just “wing it”, but today I brought slides.  And here they are attached below for your convenience and reference!

If you have ever wanted a 1-stop reference for Sales & Marketing advice at a Startup, I hope you enjoy theses slides.  Feel free to share with reference to the author (Harlan T Beverly) and my blog (tytusblog.blogspot.com).

Enjoy the Slides -> Click Here!

Proving a Marketing/Sales Model.

How do you prove anything?  Very,very difficult from an engineering perspective.  Instead, how about “verifying a hypothesis”.  In other words… create an H0 hypothesis about your sales & marketing strategy… then; test that hypothesis, and most importantly measure the results closely.

If you can say that your hypothesis works, then do the hard part: try to scale it up!  (wow, that can be tough).

So many companies think: well I’ll get X customers, and then I’ll be at a critical mass and then my model will be Y.  The problems… how do you get to X customers?  How do you know what will happen when you get there?

Instead, I focus on getting to x customers (note the smaller x), and prove that the model works at x.. (e.g. the business is profitable at x).  Then, I slowly scale up towards X.  If Y happens, great… but my X is still my x and that’s good enough for a profitable business.

Go x yourself.

How to Build a Marketing Plan

I’ve scoured the internet for a nice, simple, method for how to build a Marketing Plan, and all I find is very short, confusing, unorganized stuff (and very little of that).  So, without further ado, my 10 steps for building an “AWARD WINNING” Marketing Plan.

  1. Learn what the heck Marketing is in the first place.  (See my blog on my topic here…. my 5 year old son could figure it out… so can you).
  2. Research your 5-Cs. Customer, Company, Competition, Collaboration, Context
    1. This can be done fairly easily with some Google searching or industry related press reading.
    2. I find doing it in order is the best..
    3. Just jot down as many notes as you can for each section.
    4. Below is the goal you are trying to reach for each C
  3. Customer – Write down WHO is your ZEBRA (Ideal) customer.. then expand that view just enough to encompass a market that is of a “small, but big enough” size.  The goal here is to choose a FOCUSED group of people who you can clearly identify… NOT make it the biggest set of people possible (that’s for Business Plans, not Marketing Plans).
  4. Company – Write down what are your companies strengths, weaknesses, vision, and values.  (This will help in the rest of the plan).
  5. Competition – Write down a list of competitors and note their “pricing” and their “differentiation” claims.  SPEND LOTS OF TIME HERE.  It’s worth it later.
  6. Context – Write down trends in society, business, culture, and geography that MAY (or may not) cause you PROBLEMS or create OPPORTUNITIES.
  7. Now, write down your 4 Ps – Product, Place, Price, Promotion.  First up: Product.
    1. To get Product right (for Marketing purposes), it must fit in the following Sentences:
    2. ACME (YOUR COMPANY/PRODUCT/BRAND) is a _______  that does ____________ for ________.
    3. UNLIKE OTHER _______ we do _________________________.
    4. Now list 3 Benefits. ( NO MORE )
    5. Now list 3 Features. ( NO MORE )
    6. If you can get this focused with your product, you’re ready for the next step.
    7. NOTE: If you have engineers/tech people, don’t invite them to help with this section… do it yourself (or have someone do it for you)… then correct as needed.
  8. Place – Where do you plan to sell?  What is your selling motion?
  9. Price – How much will you charge?  What is the upsell path (or options)?  What is the average lifetime value of a customer?  How does all this compare to the competition?
  10. Promotion – NOTICE, I am last here… many people think a “Marketing Plan” is just this section… (the Advertising, PR, etc.)… but it is not.  This is important, but not the MOST important.  To me, the first C is most important (Customer) Followed by the first P (Product).  Anyways, here’s promotion:
    1. How much can you spend to acquire a customer? (see average lifetime value for hints)
    2. How many customers do you want to acquire in a period? (therefor, that is your budget)
    3. What “Free-ish” marketing can you do? (PR, Social Media, SEO, other)?  How can you measure its effectiveness?
    4. What “Cheap-ish” marketing can you do? (SEM, Google Adwords, Google Adsense, CMP, CPC, CPA)?  How can you measure its effectiveness?
    5. What “Expensive, but hopefully measurable” marketing can you do? (Partner/Reseller Marketing, Paid Banners, Trade Shows, Events, etc.)? How can you measure its effectiveness?
    6. What “Brand building” MUST you do? (non-measurable stuff like TV, Print, Billboards, etc.).?
    7. Now, allocate budget from 2-6… where you don’t spend 1c on the next item, till you’ve spent all you can (reasonably & scalable) spend on the prior number.  MOST COMPANIES SHOULD NEVER GET PAST 4.  (at least not in the early days).

Hope this was helpful!  

Comments and Arguments and Links are always MORE than welcome.