Finding the "rubies" in your orchard

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A great product doesn't automatically sell itself, as just about any businessperson who has built a better mousetrap can attest. Effective marketing is a critical factor in priming the pump and selling the customer long before the product is actually in his or her hands.

So imagine my excitement in finding a wonderful book by one of the most successful marketers in the business. At present, much of that business centers on pomegranate juice!

Lynda Resnick, aka "The POM Queen," has authored a real gem in "Rubies in the Orchard." The "rubies" are the pomegranates that she and her husband have grown on 18,000 acres of orchards to produce their 100 percent pure pomegranate juice, POM Wonderful.

The title also refers to finding "elements of intrinsic value" that consumers desire. She says, "Every successful marketing campaign begins with uncovering these hidden gems and communicating their value honestly and transparently to the consumer."

Lynda describes her very successful marketing plan for introducing an unusual, pricey juice that created an entirely new product category. She did it by promoting the health benefits to consumers and insisting on keeping the product pure. She labored over the product name and the packaging. Lynda and her husband conducted expensive research to verify their claims.

If you are familiar with Teleflora, FIJI Water, Wonderful Pistachios or the Franklin Mint, you've seen Lynda's handiwork for other companies she and her husband own. Talk about diverse products: She is the mastermind behind all those marketing campaigns as well.

In addition to learning plenty about pomegranates, Lynda has learned what sells, how to sell, and when to trust your instincts. She is a born salesperson, who actually opened her own ad agency at age nineteen. Through successes and failures, she reached a point where she raised the question, "What good are advertising, marketing and design if the product is junk-"

She admits that she didn't start out focused on value. "I'm not sure I would have seen the rubies in the orchard at the beginning of my career or understood why it was so important to nurture them," she writes. "I was a product of the time and place into which I was born. Generally speaking, that meant the burgeoning consumer landscape of mid-twentieth century America."

As Lynda tells her story, she also shares her business philosophy developed over a 40-year career. "If you don't listen and you don't care, you'll never be a good marketer," she preaches. "Every marketing program begins with the same question: What is the intrinsic value of the product or service-"

There's a variety of lessons in her stories that are easily translated to businesses across the board. I am particularly impressed with the fact that she started with nothing more than a high school diploma and has worked her way up to dean of the marketing profession.

Her instincts are probably better than most, but her fearlessness in following her heart is off the charts. Her insistence on truthfulness comes through in this thought: "As often happens when you opt to do the right thing, in the long run it is probably good for business."

While her strategies seem simple, they recognize above all that consumers aren't stupid. They are looking for value, honesty, respect and occasionally, fun. Messages come at consumers from all directions, from billboards to print media to radio/TV to the Internet.

Products and businesses fail every day for all kinds of reasons, from inferior quality to poor promotion. Lynda's advice is useful to any business that is looking to avoid that fate. Find the value in your product, no matter how basic or simple, and capitalize on that feature. Lynda managed to do that for bottled water, juice, pistachios, collectibles and flowers, all great products but hardly necessities. If your product is worth producing, figure out what makes it special.

"Success isn't a matter of throwing something against the wall in the hope that it will stick. It's the sum of research, focus, discipline and hard work," she writes. "It flows from a systematic approach to uncovering value that others have overlooked (perhaps because they were busy throwing stuff against a wall to see what would stick) and learning how to communicate that value in clever, effective, truthful ways."

Mackay's Moral:  You can't plant rubies in your orchard, but you can surely harvest them if you know how.

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