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Checkpoint Marketing: The Best Practices of Marketing in Three Easy Steps

by James Connor, CEO, The James Group

The saddest statistic in business is that 80% of all businesses fail. Many a postmortem will say a company didn’t succeed because it didn’t have the right business plan. The logic of this is easy to defeat. Another competitor with an identical business plan usually comes along and does quite nicely. The real truth is that most companies fail because they do not understand how to market effectively.

Enter Checkpoint Marketing, the synthesis of the best practices of marketing into three focused steps. Checkpoint Marketing ignites the three critical engines that drive a company’s rapid growth. Checkpoint One creates a brand that forever tilts sales in a company’s favor. Checkpoint Two creates consistent brand experiences throughout all points of customer contact. Checkpoint Three creates return on investment marketing, insuring that marketing expenses per customer never exceed the value of a customer.

How important is Checkpoint Marketing to your business or portfolio companies? This checkpoint process has proven to work across twenty different industries for businesses as small as one person as well as companies with thousands of people. It has proven true with start-ups just getting their plan on paper and 30 year old companies trying to turn their market share around. It has made businesses the leader of their category. Simply, Checkpoint Marketing has made money for every business that has used it.

Checkpoint One: Perfectly Position the Brand.
Branding is a powerful but very misunderstood word. Yes, a brand is an identifier of goods and services (who made what). Yes, a brand is a promise of customer experience (think Starbucks or a Saturn dealership). But at the deepest, most powerful level, a brand is a single idea that you own that forever tilts sales in your favor.

Want an example? Ask a room full of people at your business: “When I say, think of the American soft drink that makes you smile, what do you picture?” If you find that an overwhelming majority says Coca-Cola, you’re not alone. From owning a single idea, Coca-Cola consistently turns sales in its favor across the globe. But you don’t need billions or millions in advertising dollars to own an idea. The key is to own the right idea with your target audience.

Every company has a sweet spot—the brand magic that tilts sales in your favor. You find your sweet spot by bringing together three things quickly: 1) Your target customers’ desires. 2) Your company’s strategic advantages. 3) Your competition’s exploitable weaknesses. Make a list. Get input from your target customers or existing customers. Ask people. Soon it will become clear what makes you special. You’ll identify which brand positions you must own to dominate the market. These will emerge to inform your efforts. Soon, one key brand position will pop as your brand idea, the sweet spot to own.

Notice I say own one idea. Too many companies fail from trying to be all things to all people. Branding and business is like playing chess. Nothing good ever happens while you are trying to protect all your pieces. You have to be willing to sacrifice some good pieces to go for the greater victory. I daresay you don’t have a brand until it costs you sales with some people. But more importantly, you can never tilt sales in your favor with your target audience until you do.

Checkpoint Two: Create Consistent Brand Messaging.
Once you have your brand playbook in hand, make every marketing communication emerge from it. Then, every point of customer contact becomes both a brand-building and selling opportunity. The second advantage is by implementing the best practice of global companies in keeping everything consistent, it makes your company look significantly bigger. Perception quickly becomes reality.

The James Group recommends starting with the lowest cost marketing touches and moving around the full marketing circle. The first place you want to start is with your people. People are the most underutilized resource of any business. Before you spend any marketing dollars, make sure you have consensus on what brand idea you want to own, and how you plan to consistently demonstrate it. Great things happen when the entire management team is on the same page. Greater things happen when the front line employees can all explain what the company stands for. Extraordinary things happen when the customers start to become advocates for you, using your brand language.

Next look at your internal materials that face externally: your brochures, collateral, and website. These pieces cost very little to tell your company’s story effectively. The website is simply a must. It’s your office to the world, 365 days a year. Where do you look whenever you are thinking about doing business with a company? Their website.Your target customers do the same.

Then look at Public Relations. This is a low cost method of marketing, which provides third party verification of your company’s goods and services. Typically, the next order to consider is direct mail. And then finally bring in the big guns of print advertising, radio, and television if appropriate.

Checkpoint Three: Use Return on Investment Marketing.
Every company has a magic number. Some have more than one magic number due to product segmentation. The magic number is the true value of a customer. It’s the gross profit per customer before marketing that a company gets to put in its pocket after all the time it holds a customer, expressed in today’s dollars.

Knowing your customer value number is critical to market effectively. It’s the only way you can insure that marketing will actually make you money. For example, let’s say that the value of a customer is $1,000 (after all the work, answering phone calls, etc.). If you could acquire a customer for $200, would you do it? Of course you would, taking that $800 profit as often as you could. Similarly, if it cost you $2,000 to acquire a customer worth $1,000, would you do it? Of course not.

You need to know five things to determine your value of a customer: 1. The average annual revenue per customer. 2. Your gross profit margin. 3. Length of time you hold a customer. 4. Your cost of capital (a measure of risk typically between 10-25%) and 5. How to perform a Net Present Value calculation or download spreadsheet You just put your values in and instantly you’ll know your magic number.

Next you make projections on the number of customers you are likely to acquire with each marketing tactic you consider. For each tactic, note your estimate and your breakeven (value of acquired customers = marketing tactic expense). How do you estimate what your response rates will be? Three ways: 1. Historical data. 2. Your gut check best guess, cut in half. 3. An experienced agency’s projection. Through anticipating response, then multiplying by customer value, you can choose the safe bets and eliminate the risky tactics.

It’s been said, “Process + Use = Success.”
Now you know the process. It’s up to you to use it to be successful.


James Connor, CEO of The James Group, created the Checkpoint Marketing process. His company’s core focus is exemplified by their audacious tagline:

“Our clients make more money.”

The James Group, based in New York City, is a full service brand strategy and marketing agency in its seventh year of business. They’ve created over 35 brands across 20 different industries and are specialists in marketing start-up and early stage businesses to quick profitability.

One recent victory for The James Group includes beating IBM with a 6-person start-up named eScholar who’s now the undisputed leader in K-12 education data warehousing in the United States.

James can be reached at 212-243-2022.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 11:29 am and is filed under White Papers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.