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  1. Optimization of Products and Services to Consumer Needs and Desires

  2. Reliance on the Sales-Building Power of Employees, the "Internal Customers"

  3. Capture and Use of Crucial Data About Customers

  4. Creation and Maximization of "Merchandise Zones"

  5. Focus on the Neighborhood as the Primary Marketplace

  6. Complement Mass-Media Advertising, Rather Than Solely Relying on It

"Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing" work together but represent two side-by-side faces of the same idea – sort of the way that radio and television were two complementary manifestations of electronic broadcasting.

But there are just a handful of bedrock principles to Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing from which all of its benefits flow.  They are:

Optimization of Products and Services
to Consumer Needs and Desires

Your menu of products and services, and their pricing and packaging, are driven by consumer wants and desires. The financial model is value equals price/experience; as price goes up so must the experience. Offerings that remain relevant, provide value, are effectively bundled, and aren’t cluttered by losers, will practically market themselves. And once a company has reached that point, brand stewards must begin re-engineering everything to make sure they stay on top.

Effective harnessing of Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing means creating rather than imitating. Determine the right consumer-centered products and services, and a business will create, keep, and delight customers, regardless of whether or how often they see the company advertised on TV.

Reliance on the Sales-Building Power of Employees, the "Internal Customers"

All great companies depend on great employees who will support products and services and validate the brand.  Employees who are enthusiastic and gracious service providers make the greatest brand impression on consumers and are most effective in ensuring repeat visits.

For successful companies, the most truly effective marketing starts with employees.  Brands that aspire to greatness must treat their staffs like "internal customers."  Companies can do all the clever marketing in the world, but if employees aren’t on-board, engaged, and enthusiastic, the results will be unsatisfying for the brand.  Any executive who understands this aspect of Four Walls Marketing tends to reap tremendous rewards.

I can’t tell you how many companies I visit that are surprised by my question during our strategy sessions, "What kind of marketing plan do you have for your internal customers?"  The reactions can range from total shock ("I didn’t invite you here to talk about my employees!") to one of awe ("You know, I never thought about that.").  That’s the crux of the tenet of the "Four Walls" approach.  It’s all about recruiting a championship team.  It’s not different from sports – the company with the best players wins.

This means being careful to recruit and hire pleasant, engaging individuals whose personalities fit the brand.  It requires training them well and giving them big responsibilities.  At the same time, the most successful companies grant their employees meaningful input into how they do their jobs and even into how the company overall is managed, including a regular internal survey of employees that serves as a formal mechanism for gathering their thoughts.  They create opportunities for fantastic financial compensation.  And, these brands continually recognize employees’ contributions in front of their peers.

That’s why whenever we recommend a plan for our clients, we always start with an "Internal Customer Survey."  Our role isn’t to measure employee satisfaction; it’s to create employee excitement.  This survey gauges the self-esteem of the employees that becomes the litmus test for what happens next in the sales growth plan.  Many clients are surprised when they find out that only 35 percent of their employees would recommend the product, service, or business to their friends and family.  And we always have a follow-up survey 90 days later to measure progress and readjust the plans as necessary.  What is your service culture?  What do you stand for?  Have you aligned every one of your systems to reinforce it?  Do you recruit for it?  Do you select for it?  Do you train for it?  Do you promote for it?  Do you terminate those who don’t have it?

Your Front Line Is Your Bottom Line!

Companies are using innovative and creative ways to show employees how much they are valued.

  • Technology retailer CDW gives employees bagels and doughnuts twice a week.

  • General Mills washes workers’ cars.

  • Yahoo takes employees to a movie on Fridays.

  • Power Marketing Academy treats employees to a day at the spa or an in-office massage for special occasions.

  • Clif Bar employees have the privilege of on-site hair dressers, fitness trainers, and help with personal errands such as car servicing and laundry.

  • Masterfoods USA offers pet insurance to employees and has dog-friendly offices.

  • Two cool ideas for companies that employ young kids: If they stay after their shift for one hour to do their homework, pay them for that hour. Award the young folks with car insurance not health insurance.

Conversely, if you want to alienate your customers and devastate your employees, do what these brand categories do:

  • Hotel: Phone bill bigger than room bill

  • Banking: Returned check fee $35.00

  • Cellular: Best prices for new customers

  • Airlines: $100 change fee

  • Rental Car: Gasoline refill at three times retail price

Capture and Use of Crucial Data About Customers

The best brands regularly gather all sorts of data about their customers and analyze such information for clues about what steps the company should take next.  This is the process of data capture, and it’s one that too many businesses neglect.

Data capture can be informal, as in quizzing customers about their likes or dislikes concerning the business.  But by far, the most effective application of this practice is formal, including painstaking efforts to obtain information from individual customers from files that serve as the nerve center for effective Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing campaigns.

At the very least, obtaining information about where your customers live and where they work is the cornerstone of Neighborhood Marketing.  Capturing information such as customers’ birth dates, anniversaries, and other important personal milestones equips you to coddle those customers.  But this principle also extends to capitalizing in various ways on knowledge of your customers’ demographics.  Having a database of all or many of your specific customers helps make them ripe targets for direct mailings and other local promotions.

Data capture has another surprising advantage – it makes smart real estate sense.  When REI, the outdoor gear retailer, considers new store locations, it examines order data to find places with high concentrations of customers buying online and through the company’s catalogs, according to Alison Polenz, Director of Customer Research.

Interestingly, REI is one of the few online retailers with bricks and mortar units to make a profit, and they attribute it not to technology but to customer information.  “This business isn’t about technology,” says former COO and Executive Vice President Dennis Madsen, who was involved in the Web launch.  Madsen, a 34-year REI veteran who started working on the retail store floor when he was just a teenager, says, “It’s about understanding the customer and translating that understanding into strategies and tactics that will take care of his needs and expectations.”

Creation and Maximization of "Merchandise Zones"

Zone merchandising is a powerful marketing technique that divides a store or other business into distinct areas and uses them as message centers to reach customers.  Companies can even create merchandising zones outside their premises by figuratively extending their four walls to areas such as cyberspace.

Start viewing the space inside and adjacent to your four walls, from the restrooms to the parking lot, as marketing zones.  Use these areas in a planned, purposeful way to increase sales by influencing customers’ perceptions and buying decisions.  If your business doesn’t literally have four walls, transform brand vehicles such as employee uniforms and company vans into powerful conveyors of Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing methods.

In 2005, McDonald’s recognized the power of the merchandising zones and has decided to bring consistency to its in-store promotional materials.  The fast food chain is ditching the assortment of themes and looks that have made up its various promotions in favor of a single, coordinated effort in nearly all of its 13,700 U.S. outlets.  The new strategy, dubbed “Simple Bold,” is being implemented gradually.  It echoes steps being taken by other marketers to put more focus on promotions within retail stores amid rising doubts about traditional marketing techniques.  “In-store marketing is a critical component to the success of many businesses, as consumers are increasingly tuning out ads,” says Jenny Cacioppo, an Executive Vice President at Arc Worldwide, a marketing services unit of Publicis Groupe SA.

I’ve always said, “Your four walls are the best media money can buy.  Your locations are your TV sets.”  Looks like some have started listening.

Focus on the Neighborhood as the Primary Marketplace

Advertising may briefly get the attention of potential customers in some vague national marketplace, but the ones you’re going to sell to are those who come to your business or go into retailers looking for your products.  That’s why a crucial principle of Neighborhood Marketing is ultimately all important marketing is local.

You need to tap the true potential of your greatest profit opportunity within your own trading area – the customer base that is right in your own backyard.  Typically, 80 percent of the revenues for any business come from customers who live or work within a 10-minute drive of your location.  Moreover, on average, about one in five Americans move every year, meaning that a typical business can lose 20 percent of its current customers annually.  Of course, the other side of the equation is the customer-replenishment opportunities provided by the people moving into your marketplace.  What are you doing to capture them?

Thus, using this important principle of Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing, other businesses, schools, churches, community events, even fellow retailers become your promotional allies in building cost-effective, tactical programs to capture consumer dollars right within your reach.

Even media purveyors with access to advertise on their own multiple networks, such as Discovery Network’s Animal Planet and local cable affiliates, take their messages to the neighborhood with their annual “Animal Expo.”  Now that’s understanding the power of the neighborhood in driving customers to your brand!

Complement Mass-Media Advertising,
Rather Than Solely Relying on It

Having established brand supremacy with Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing, some brands later began using mass media as well to communicate to potential new customers a brand persona that was already very familiar.  Because of their earlier success with Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing, these brands can afford to take a much more surgical and much less expensive approach toward advertising, increasing the combined effectiveness of the two techniques as complements to each other.  In fact, my research has shown that if Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing is vertically integrated along with advertising into the brand’s mix, the topline can grow an extra 5 to 10 to 15 percent.

The only place companies, large and small, can really succeed in marketing is in their own backyards.  If they take their marketing resources and invest them inside the four walls of their stores and in their neighborhoods, sales rise, expenses are managed, profits grow, and businesses flourish.

This reality is becoming apparent to more and more brand marketers and to the people to whom they turn for advice.  Every week, it seems there’s a new convert to this truth who is willing to back up the new conviction with action.

Build your brand and sales from the ground up, scoring unique and unprecedented success in your industry by fundamentally looking at your business from the inside out to unleash your power as a marketing platform.  I’ve always said, “If you want to be successful, do what successful companies did before they became known as being successful.”  It has been said that the shores of time are littered with the bones of those who hesitated and, having hesitated, lost.  Be bold.  Step out.  Do it now.  Picture in your mind that the suspension bridge you are standing on is disappearing beneath you.  Make that leap you need to make as if your life depended on it.

When you measure the effectiveness of Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing efforts in reaching and motivating consumers who are most likely to actually purchase your products or services, the approach is far more targeted than traditional advertising.

The value in Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing lies in the strength and accuracy of the impressions and in how they affect consumers’ behavior compared with mass-media advertising.  This behavior, of course, extends into word-of-mouth marketing, exponentially increasing the power of Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing.  In the last year, for example, 27 percent of Americans have gone to restaurants based solely upon a word-of-mouth recommendation, according to a recent survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey, a Boston-based marketing agency.

Clearly, advertising still has its place in a marketer’s quiver, but Four Walls and Neighborhood Marketing techniques are waxing, while the once-central importance of mass media is waning.

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