Three Steps to Spark Marketing Creativity and Launch New Offerings

Almost everyone today is affected by the crisis happening around us, one way or another. As entrepreneurs and marketers, this creates chaos and pressure in making ourselves relevant and or vital within our market's limited and frugal purchasing decisions.

One valuable book I read lately was Lateral Marketing of Philip Kotler and Fernando Trias De Bes.

Lateral Marketing Mind Map (click on the image for bigger view)

In its simplest way, the book challenges readers to use lateral marketing as a compliment to traditional vertical marketing approaches. It was inspired by Edward De Bono's Lateral Thinking method whose six ways include: substitution, combination, inversion, elimination, exaggeration, reordering.

Kotler and Des Bes, in this book, applied the method to traditional vertical marketing thinking to create new offerings and innovations.

How this book captured my attention is its Lateral Marketing framework (as shown in the mind map above). The outcome of the process can be a new utility within the same product or service, or a new category, or a new subcategory.

The method requires as Step 1 - the identification of a product or service. For this book summary, I'm picking on the Club as an example. When I started this in December 2003, I considered it as an experiment in community development monetization. It grew from there.

Step 2 requires me to choose whether I will focus on creating a lateral displacement or gap at the market level, product level, or at the rest of the marketing mix level.
  • Market level focus requires me to focus on elements within a dimension that I've discarded or haven't covered, pick one, and explore that opportunity. This can result in product changes or new uses.
    • need or utility - publish books of club members' knowledge/talents.
    • target - attract start-ups and college students.
    • time - one year to lifetime memberships. Currently thinking of pure online membership.
    • places - school edition or the creation of location-based membership.
    • situation - birthday gift (access to the site with trial membership offer)
    • experiences - e-commerce summit in a hotel to exclusive camps or purely online learning.
  • Product-level focus requires removal of one or several elements (usage, packaging, tangible product, brand attributes, purchase) of a product and create gaps.

    The six ways here can also be used at any dimension at the Market level. Again, pick one, and explore that opportunity. Example:
    • Substitution - from face-to-face training to purely online training.
    • Combination - training, mentoring, and funding.
    • Inversion - from open for membership to by-invitation-only.
    • Elimination - remove levels to one membership category only.
    • Exaggeration - get unlimited e-business training programs and mentoring access in a year.
    • Reordering - attend a conference and automatically become a member.
  • Marketing Mix level is often chosen if there is no intent to change the market or the product. This can result in a subcategory or innovation in its commercial formula. This is where we apply our current formulas in this area to other existing products or services in which we are not naturally associated with the category we compete in.

    The above six can also be used for each item here. Again, pick one, and explore that opportunity.
    • Pricing - membership without annual fees (one-time membership).
    • Distribution - private label the club site and partner with a recognized e-commerce advocate in that area.
    • Communication - offer membership to business publication subscribers and through event organizers.
Step 3 requires an assessment of new product or service idea and choose. There is also a possibility that one needs to adjust the product or service.
  • Find possible setting.
    To carry out pure online training and attract international members, I may be inclined to fully develop my profile site and offer it there. Build more on top of it later.
  • Extract the positive.
    The good thing about it is that I don't have to develop sites per country to replicate the club.
  • Imagining the purchasing process.
    Subscription takes place at the profile site and social networks, forums, and email used for constant communication on progress.
Of courses, whichever I will choose from the above will require developing the idea and concept. Test if possible. Do budget analysis. Prototype and then release it.

In my case, all of this is in perpetual beta that requires continuous idea exploration and adoption.

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