Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Loss Leader

Every year around the New Year I'll get a few e-mails from some smart retailers who acknowledge my birthday.

For some time now, I've been signing up to receive e-mails from dozens of businesses including Circuit City, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, and a host of restaurants too numerous to mention.

Some of them send me a simple "Happy Birthday" message... nice... but not really taking advantage of the extremely low-cost of e-mail technology. Others, though, send me a B-day greeting with a coupon. Yippee! A good example is Don Pablo's, a Mexican restaurant chain. Their message stated that they "loaded" my loyalty card with $10 to use up until January 14th.

Am I going to use it? You 'betcha. Am I going to go alone to eat? Not a chance. I'll probably bring the family and meet some friends there too. Those friends, I might add, enjoy copious amounts of Corona beer and margaritas. Cha ching!

Don Pablo's was smart. They used me as a "loss leader" - they'll loose a little money on me but make it back five-fold on the patrons I invite to "dine" with me that night.

Can you identify a loss leader in your business? E-mail me with your industry information and I'll send you back a couple of ideas for free!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Marketing the Weather

"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." ~ Mark Twain

When the weather outside turns frightful so many people start talking about the temperature, the accumulation, the precipitation, traffic reports, school closings, late openings, and 10-day forecasts.

If there was ever a time when weather is exciting, it's now. Compound bad weather with ecology/conservation and you have a recipe for some exciting marketing opportunities.

Run an ad on the weather channel, invite the local TV station to do a live broadcast from your business, sponsor a contest to guess the average temperature for the month, take $5,000 off the sticker price of an automobile if it snows more than 2" on New Years (buy insurance), or give away free t-shirts to those making the plunge at the local Polar Bear club. You get my drift (snow reference).

Take time today and think how many different ways you can you become a partner with Mother Nature?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Green Marketing

Although I'm only in my early 40s, I can remember reading Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Mother Earth News as a kid. Making your own solar panels, growing wheat grass, and designing an efficient compost pile were common headlines throughout their pages.

Many of the people photographed to accompany the stories were usually long-hair hippies with tie-dye shirts and bell-bottom jeans. I wanted to be one of those tree-hugging groupies... complete with peace symbol necklace and a guitar flung over my back. But I never became one. I was raised in a conservative Republican family that regularly went to church and registered me into Catholic school for 12 years.

"Loving the environment" back then meant you were a pot-smoking radical. Today, if you don't have solar panels on your roof, aren't recycling every newspaper and plastic bottle, or collecting the rainwater in clunky barrels attached to your downspouts, you're considered out-of-touch.

Open any business publication or turn on any financial show and you'll hear about how companies are going green, getting off the grid, and reducing their carbon footprints. And I can't tell you how many business cards have recently been thrust into my hand that have the words "solar", "green", "audit", and "energy".

Whether we like it or not, it's cool again to be an environmentalist. The concept is not going away. Your business needs to immediately become a team player with the rest of the world. Print on recycled paper, switch to low-flush toilets, reuse what you can, encourage employees to bike to work, and turn off the lights when leaving at night. It's all good, but in regards to marketing, you have to let the world know what you're doing. Of course, it's very altruistic, to save - to conserve - to protect the rain forest... but from a business point-of-view you have to promote every one of your efforts.

(This entry written right after carrying out the recyclables curbside)

Monday, December 8, 2008

What's My Price?

Everybody wants a deal. "What, me pay retail?!" is the rally cry of those who want to spend less than everyone else.

Is there a way for you to create a special club for those customers who are repeat buyers? How can you reward those who come back to you again and again?

On my keychain I have loyalty cards for ShopRite supermarket, Staples, Borders, and CVS, to name a few. When I could, I registered at their websites and joined their clubs. I get their e-mails, coupons, and am privy to their sales. I feel empowered, I feel good, and I even save a few bucks. Most important, I go back to these stores again and again, maybe not even realizing that I could be buying the same products somewhere else at a much lower price.

Smart companies keep close track of their customers and are in constant communication with them. We get brainwashed... "Ooh, that looks nice... I'd like to have that (even though I really don't need it)."

Smart companies also offer an incentive to customers who bring in others to be part of the club... "Earn a 10% discount if you get three of your family or friends to join our loyalty program." Can you say "bribe?"

Build a fort today and start your club and let me know when your next sale is going to be. And if you send me the coupon code I will probably send it to a couple of my friends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Print is Not Dead

Newspapers, magazines, brochures, and catalogs are not dead. It's true that cable television and the Internet has redirected millions of dollars away from traditional marketing, but there are very few times I can remember that the later have been totally abandoned.

Catalogs, especially, have come to mind recently with my home mailbox already becoming crowded with Christmas catalogs. From toys to clothing, to baskets of cheese, it's all there.

Many of our clients have catalogs since they've been with us for years and are used to doing business with a bundle of catalogs cradled under the arms of their sales force.

When approached with the question "Should we stop printing the catalog?", we like to test market a small section of the catalog online. More often than not, there will be some resistance from our clients' customers - "Why did you do that?", "Should I throw my catalog away?", and the ever-popular "Now I have to print out the catalog off of my printer."

I like to judge success by comparing the average sales order for both mediums during a certain time period. For our business-to-business customers, catalogs usually do better and the business-to-consumer customers find that online ordering is more popular. Are there exceptions? Absolutely. Test and test again to find out what works best for your business.

Most important, make sure your catalog is Internet compatible and vice-versa. When designing a new catalog, take advantage of the latest techniques that make catalog upload easy, and maybe interactive.

As the marketplace continues to change, customers are looking for the easiest way to buy. The question to ask yourself is this... "In my industry, are customers more apt to boot up the computer or thumb through a catalog to find how much my product costs?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Doing a Little House Cleaning

Received a wonderful call from a gentleman who runs a cleaning company. He asked for some ideas to boost his business other than expensive Yellow Page advertising. In a matter of a half hour the following recommendations were made. Which ones will work and which ones won't? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

1. Door Hangars - Can be used two different ways. The first being a “calling card” to neighbors that you are providing a service in their neighborhood or as a general solicitation to canvas areas that you do not currently service.
2. Website - Probably the most important marketing tool a business can have in today’s “on-line” world. I’d like to see a nice home page and five inside pages.
3. Referral Program - Institute a referral program that could offer a direct incentive such as a Home Depot gift card or a discount off of a future cleaning.
4. Brochure - A simple six-page tri-fold brochure (3.5”x8.5”) should describe the benefits of your service
5. Yard Signs - It’s imperative that neighbors realize that you are providing a service in their area. There are two versions that might work well. The first being a permanent sign, i.e., ADT, Brinks, or a temporary sign that is placed in the yard while the home is being cleaned and removed when the cleaner is finished. Customers may be offered a one-time discount to keep the permanent sign in their yard.
6. Direct Mail - Design a postcard that can be targeted and mailed to neighbors within a certain radius of an existing customer.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Business Search Engine Trends

Our office is buzzing with the news that our Philadelphia Phillies have won the 2008 World Series. Pitching rotations, infielding skill, and managerial moves have highlighted the conversations. Some have even arrived in team jerseys and red colored shirts.

I jumped on Google to confirm my hunch that many people we're searching for information about our beloved baseball team. I was right. Out of the Top 100 there were about 20 listings for Phillies, Philadelphia, team clothing, and Philly baseball. The #1 search term was "Mambo Cologne" and the last was "Phinally" (the Philadelphia way to now spell anything that begins with the "f" sound.) P.S. I don't know what Mambo cologne is...

Surprisingly, out of the Top 100 I quickly scanned, there were less than three entries that were business related. Most were about celebrities I'm assuming are pop culture icons, the presidential election, and web-related sites.

Maybe it's time for www.business.com to take seriously the web address they paid millions for many years ago. It looks like a glorified paid-per-click site. Until then business owners will have to utilize the "majors" such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN and dig deep into search results to find the best match to their business inquiries.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Product Tie-In

Our agency is located midway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Right now we're in the throws of a potential World Series championship. If you are reading this today, October 27, 2008, there's a really good chance that the Philadelphia Phillies will be the champs come 11pm tonight.

Many brilliant business owners have capitalized on the buzz of the World Series. I am amazed at the creativity, and from a marketers point of view, their business ingenuity. Our local Fox news station has jumped on the bandwagon and at every telecast we see bakers who are selling Phillies' red cupcakes, office workers who are all dressed in red, and cheesesteak stands who have colored the orange/yellow Cheese Whiz to a bright blood red. I also enjoy the politicians who get in on the publicity bonanza... "if we lose we'll send you Philadelphia soft pretzels and if we win you'll send us Cuban sandwiches."

How can your business earn some valuable publicity with sports, holidays, and other cultural events that appeal to the masses? Here's a tip... the more bizarre, the better. Do you know of a unique way to cook a turkey? Does someone at your office look like one of the presidential candidates? Is there a special way you can tie-in your product with the Super Bowl XLIII? It will take place in Tampa, Fl., on February 1, 2009. The official blue and green logo represents the blue waterways and green landscape of the Sunshine state. The tagline is "Believe in Now". I can see many tie-ins already!

Go Phillies!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Create Some Buzz With A Poll

This year's presidential election is a good example on how to quickly generate publicity. All you need to do is create a poll/survey for your industry and submit the results to your industry's trade publications.

If I was a builder I would survey customers on what amenities they just can't do without. If I was a painter I would find out what colors are popular this season. If I was a private school I would survey parents and ask them what determined their decision to send their children to a private school. If I was a restaurant I would create a list of the most popular drinks ordered at the bar. The list is endless.

Editors love polls and surveys because they can be modified to fit any space they have available, i.e., if you send a Top Ten list and the editor only has room for a Top Five list, he can cut your submission to fit.

What survey can you take this month to generate some publicity for your company?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Frozen By Fear

Small business owners and entrepreneurs alike are afraid to do anything with either their businesses or "multi-million dollar" ideas with the economy being so unstable. But if there's anything that you should do right now is... something. Maybe it's not a good time to roll-out that new product line, or the timing isn't right to begin the infrastructure on your 20-lot subdivision, or you don't feel comfortable unveiling the most expensive item in your product line. But if there's one thing you should do with each of these projects is, as I've said above, is something. Why not do a small roll-out of the new product line to a very select group of customers? Maybe re-bid some of the subcontractor work for the subdivision to try to get better pricing. Is there a way to reduce the production costs of that expensive item? Now's the perfect time to sharpen pencils, incorporate Six Sigma (becoming more efficient), and tweaking plans to lower costs.

And even though these are difficult times, it's a wonderful time for entrepreneurs. If you can think of a better, faster, or unique way of doing business then people are going to flock to your doors. Still scared to do something? Why not work on the business plan? Form a networking group and invite members to share in the risk of your idea. Register the domain name of your new venture. As in the Nike vein...Just Do It.

What am I doing now? I'm making contact with old clients, reading efficiency blogs, soliciting new prospects, and taking some risks with small-scale promotions. It's working. I'm getting in front of decision makers and they're working me into their budgets for 2009.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Be Careful With Coupons and Discounts

Due to the tough economic times many businesses are trying to jump-start business by offering steep discounts and high percentage-off coupons. Be careful! Once you discount your product or service customers will expect these lower prices all the time.

You shouldn't get in the habit of sending out coupons on a regular basis, especially if you offer a premium product or service. I like to take the approach that if the customer asks for a discount I might entertain the request. I would never, though, make a broadcast offer. GMC is a good example. A while ago they were promoting "employee pricing" to boost auto sales, and lo and behold, when shopping for a new ride recently I overheard a customer ask for the discount even though the promotion was long gone. An argument ensued and the customer left shouting, "I'll come back when the discount is offered again!"

Am I saying that coupons and discounts do not have their place? They do. I look forward to my Harbor Freight coupon circular every couple of weeks and won't go shopping there unless I have coupon in-hand. Couponing is good here because the tools Harbor Freight sells are something I don't really need. I might be convinced to buy if the offer is enticing enough but I am never going to be a loyal Harbor Freight customer. I am only going to shop on price. If you think your business can survive on that kind of customer mentality then coupons and discounts are the way to go. Otherwise, you had better be selling value and charging what you are truly worth.

Drastic times do cause for drastic measures, but giving away your product or service at cut-rate prices may linger around a lot longer than you really want or anticipated.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bootstrap Marketing

Let's face it. Times are tough. The financial debacle has definitely trickled down to many businesses, even those that are not in the banking and insurance sectors.

If you are a business owner there are three things you must immediately do for your peace of mind, as well your customers. 1.) The first is to call or write to assure them that you are there for them and will offer any assistance they may need. Be strong. Be upbeat. But most important, don't try to sell anything during this discourse. To try to sell something when you're attempting to show some compassion is business suicide. 2.) You must also beef up your marketing efforts... not so much to spend more but to spend wisely. Press releases are a great example of intelligent marketing. Sending out releases to the local media outlets as well as your industry publications are probably one of the smartest moves one can make. They're cost-effective, easy to write, and provide the best credibility. And credibility is really important now. If I can believe in you today I will definitely believe in you tomorrow. 3.) Network as much as you can... and not only for yourself. You can expand your sales force exponentially if you tell others that you will promote their business if they promote yours. Can you say "network marketing"?

The bottom is near. Many businesses are doing a lot of irrational things lately. Stay the course. If your product or service is worth its salt, buyers will be coming back shortly.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vice Presidential Debate - Biden vs. Palin

Whew! If you watched the vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin you saw a great example of how a marketing plan works. Many pundits were anticipating how Palin would do on a national stage. Would she choke? Would she stumble? Could she take on the establishment - the well-known brand?

I think she did a pretty good job and started out as most new marketing plans begin - slow... questionable... uncharted... scary. For the first 20 minutes I saw fear in Palin's eyes - bright and wide like the proverbial deer in the headlights. But as time went on, her color came back, she started to feel comfortable, her message stayed on task, and the audience responded.

Marketers take note - you may feel a little scared unveiling your product for all the world to see, but as long as you showcase its "real" benefits, you should do fine in the long run. Give up too soon and you'll be remembered by your missteps and faults. Stay the course, plug along, and your buyers will eventually become receptive and open their pocketbooks and wallets.

But is there a time to quit... to move on to bigger and better things? Many scholars have argued this point ad infinitum. I don't know. Nobody knows. Sales, budgets, and timing are but a few of the factors you need to consider. What I do know is that I've seen businesses bring a new product or service to the marketplace and are just about to pull the plug when sales start to soar and they're the first to cross the finish line.

Remember... you can't win unless you enter the race.

Monday, September 29, 2008

www.financialservices.house.gov Is Good Marketing

The Emergency Economic Bailout Stabilization Plan of 2008, a.k.a. Financial Bailout, is posted on the government's website for all to read. Put on a fresh pot of coffee before hunkering down to read it because the document is well over 100 pages.

The move to upload the entire bill, though, is a good move by the government and a lesson to be learned by marketers. When you have a lot of information about your product or service you should make that information readily available to all of your customers. As mentioned in previous posts, the FAQs page in your website might be the most important one you create, so take some time to think it through before writing it. I enjoy seeing instructions - the more detailed the better - and The Top 10 Questions Most Commonly Asked. If your product or service is complicated, i.e. high-tech or industrial in nature, you might even want to add a keyword search on the page to make the user experience as enjoyable as possible.

Log onto your FAQs page right now. Add those questions (and appropriate answers) that your customer service department and sales reps repeatedly get asked over and over again.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Do You Use Autoresponders?

If you're a marketer you must use autoresponders. A quick example is when a business associate goes on vacation and you send them an e-mail only to get an immediate reply that reads, "Sorry, I'm out the office until October 3, 2008. If you need assistance, please call Mary at 123-123-1234."

But the real beauty of autoresponders is you can automate replies for just about any request. "Here's a copy of our catalog," "Find below the Top Ten questions most new customers ask," "Here's our full price list," and "Here's the free report you wanted," are a few examples.

Where do get autoresponders? Most web hosts have an autorespond feature. And here's an eye-opening fact... you can have a different autorespond message for every e-mail account. So if your host allows you 200 e-mail addresses, you can have 200 unique autoresponders. There are also free autoreponders out there - do a search and you'll find the best one for your particular application. You can even buy autorespond software if you're serious about productivity.

So if you're looking to systematize your business (read E-Myth by Michael Gerber) or just want to "get things done" (read Getting Things Done by David Allen) then look into the efficiencies of autoreponders.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

David Blaine's Dive of Death is Marketers Worst Nightmare

If you're a marketer you should take notice of magician David Blaine's recent stunt of hanging upside down for 60 hours in New York City this past week.

Once announced, people flocked to Central Park to see the illusionist suspended in mid-air. Back in 2006 I went to see him at Lincoln Center where he remained in a large, globe-filled aquarium for a week. It was kinda cool.

The problem, though, with this latest trick is that Blaine was lowered from his perch for ten minutes every hour to drink, rest, and check vital signs. Bystanders booed, shook their heads in disgust, and walked away disappointed.

Marketers need to learn an important lesson here. If you promise to offer some type of value with your products or services... you better produce. Lie about increased productivity, shortened manufacturing times, or quick delivery and you'll lose credibility real quick. You might damage your reputation so badly that your business may even disappear!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dancing with the Stars Business Opportunity

Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have seen the smash television show Dancing with the Stars. I know you won't admit it here but I know you watch it regularly or have at least caught an episode or two.

I have seen about a half dozen shows over the years and am still amazed at how some of the most awkward celebrities really get their groove on. Many have reported increased vitality, clarity, and obvious weight loss.

What many readers (and marketers) may not know is that the United States isn't the only Dancing with the Stars show. The program is syndicated in 26 countries such as Germany, Croatia, Argentina, Brazil, and the Czech Republic. Out of the 26 countries, DWTS has the Top 10 honor in 17 of them.

What can you syndicate or franchise that will make your business more money? Can your writing be sold to multiple outlets? Can you design a new business plan template? Can you sell your innovative painting technique to other painters? Can you develop a seminar that introduces your services to hundreds of people at once vs. one at a time?

Start thinking today on how you can get paid multiple times on your product or service and you'll be dancing all the way to the bank.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Talk Like A Priate Day

Attention mates... I mean marketers! If you want to create a new business opportunity why not make a special day all for yourself. Did you know that September 19th is known as "Talk Like a Pirate Day"? Started by two guys who wanted to have a little fun with their friends, the party was haphazardly mentioned by syndicated columnist, Dave Barry, about seven years ago. It has now blossomed into a unique business venture that puts money into the pockets of the originators via books, t-shirts, appearances, and CDs.

The flower industry is a great example of creating special days. Besides the standard Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, many of us are buying flowers on Secretary's Day, Grandparent's Day, and dozens of other "Days". See the pattern here?

If I was in the plumbing business I would create a Drain My Water Heater Day. If I was a web designer I would create a Check My Website Statistics Day. If I sold tires I would develop a Check Your Tread Depth Day. If I owned an auto detailing shop I would start a How Shiny Can I Get My Car Day? If I owned a vineyard I would have a Try a New Vintage Day. If I was a printer I would have a Check My Supply Day. If I sold carpet I would have a How Dirty Is My Carpet Day. The list can go on and on.

What "Special Day" can you develop for your business? Write me back with your ideas.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld in New Microsoft Ad

Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld star in a quirky new ad for Microsoft. I won't go into detail about the ad only to say that many in the technology blogosphere are calling it a dud.

I don't agree. I find it funny, maybe because I'm a big Seinfeld fan. So big, in fact, that our family regularly cracks Seinfeld references throughout the week. After such a display we often say "aren't we pathetic...still talking about a sitcom that left prime-time over eight years ago."

Seinfeld attracts. Gates attracts. And from a marketing perspective - "even bad PR is good PR." The ad, whether or not you like it, is getting people talking. Hey, I'm even talking about it.

I've mentioned PR before in previous posts. Generate some for your company. Throw something out there and see what sticks. No news to report? Why not send a release for one of your customers about how they utilize your product or service? Announce something new. Write about a trade show you've attended? Have you updated your website? Do you have new employees? Celebrating an anniversary? Given any speeches?

Be creative. And I think that's what the Microsoft ad is trying to accomplish. Be a little different, get people talking, and sooner or later, sell more product.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What's Up With Sarah Palin's Kids' Names?

What's in a name?

Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd have five children. Their names... Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig.

Here's a good marketing tip - want to be unique, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to differentiate yourself. Their kids' names are way out there, but you know what, they make you think twice, listen a little more intently... I can hear it now - "What did you say your name was?"

Google, Yahoo, Kazaa, and Wikipedia know this. What are you doing to shine the spotlight on your product or service? Does your brand speak volumes or does it labor to make it through a simple sentence.

Sometimes a name change can jump-start sales beyond belief.

Spend some time with the words that embrace your business and see if they really make sense... or better yet, if they make an impact.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Phil Collins Divorce Facts (or Fax)

This post has nothing to do with Phil Collins' music so stop reading if you're a fan. I mention Phil Collins because I read about his recent divorce from his third wife Orianne Cevey and the ensuing $46.5 million dollar payout.

The tabloids say that Phil's settlement is the largest in British history, topping the Paul McCartney and Heather Mills divorce by a mere $2 million. It was also noted, and the real reason for this post, is that when Collins divorced his second wife, Jill Tavelman, he did it by fax!

Imagine getting that document.

To: Jill
From: Phil
Re: Divorce

Dear Jill,
I think we've reached a point in this relationship where it's OK for us to see other people. Talk to you soon!

Although Collins did the unthinkable by divorcing his wife via fax, he did utilize a powerful business communication tool that seems to be collecting a lot of dust in many offices around the world. Granted, the Junk Fax Prevention Act (JFPA), passed by Congress in 2005, has scared many away from using the machine, but it should not deter you if used properly.

Without going into great detail, the JFPA specifically states that a fax advertisement may be sent to someone with whom you've had an established business relationship (EBR) if the sender 1. obtains the fax number directly from the recipient, through, for example, an application, contact information form, or membership renewal form; 2. obtains the fax number from the recipient’s own directory, advertisement, or site on the Internet, unless the recipient has noted on such materials that it does not accept unsolicited advertisements at the fax number in question; and 3. has taken reasonable steps to verify that the recipient consented to have the number listed, if obtained from a directory or other source of information compiled by a third party.

If the sender had an EBR with the recipient and possessed the recipient’s fax number before July 9, 2005 (the date the Junk Fax Prevention Act became law), the sender may send the fax advertisements without demonstrating how the number was obtained.

Many current and former customers, therefore, can be solicited with special sales, discounts, and promotions via fax. Why not start today? Your offer may be the only one they receive this week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hurricane Marketing

Hurricanes are tough. They're hard to manage. They come in quick and are soon gone. If you manage your marketing like a hurricane you're not being very efficient.

Marketing should be like a slow, gentle rain. It lasts for a long time and is easily absorbed.

Many small businesses have well intentions about their marketing. They decide on a promotion, develop a plan, and budget the dollars to make it work. Unfortunately, money is squandered because activities are done too quickly. Big ads are placed too close together rather than spaced out in industry publications; direct mail pieces contain too many sales messages rather than contain one single benefit each; and telemarketers call with a scatter-shot marketing message that talks about too many features.

Good marketers understand that you shouldn't blow your $5,000 ad budget on two big ads but spread out those hard-earned dollars to create a series of six smaller ads that will last for half a year. They also realize a four-color brochure many not be effective as a series of simple, two-color postcards sent out over the course of 12 months.

So plan accordingly and realize that being big and bold with your marketing is many times not as effective as being slow and steady.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bigfoot Sighting

Two men claim they found the body of Bigfoot in the northern Georgia mountains. Unfortunately, they have not produced the body to the media for a closer inspection. Until then, the two will have to defend themselves with more press conferences and grainy photographs.

Are you defending your product or service with vague benefits to skeptical customers? Just like the two Georgians, you need proof to prove your value. Until then, you're company is a huckster too. You can weave a tall tale about how your product is better and will save the customer time and money, but until you can prove your value, you'd better keep your stuff in the freezer.

How do you prove your case? Real testimonials are good but visuals are the best marketing tools. Sure a brochure is nice, but with today's technology you had better capture your benefits on video. Show your product doing what it's claim to fame is and I can guarantee your closing ratio will soar high above the tallest trees in the forest.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Michael Phelps and Marketing

As a marketing junkie I get jazzed when I see an opportunity for marketing. Michael Phelps, the superhuman swimmer, is/will be a marketing magnet for a very long time (at least for another four years). The bottom-line is that when you excel, when you're good, when you're the champ, and when people want to be/like you, then you are attractive to business.

We are a vain country. We like the finer things in life, V.I.P. tables, and access beyond the velvet ropes. We like to be seen and say that we have celebrity status, i.e., "Do you know who I saw gambling at the casino last week?"

Marketing will always be about making money, power, and vanity. Marketing is not a crime, and if played by the rules can transform your business to heights never imagined.

Marketing must never lie or bait the prospect into thinking he will get something that you never intended to give him. Do this once, and only once, and you'll suffer the consequences for a very long time. Can you say Michael Jackson, Brittney Spears or Barry Bonds?

Marketing is about benefits; the "what's in it for me?" mentality. Find a way to make "me" better, faster, stronger, and your company will ride the wave of profitability until the 2012 London Olympics and beyond.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Digital Variable Printing

DVP. Do you know what it means? If not, you better get updated on the latest printing technology.

DVP, or digital variable printing, is printing a small or large quantity of letters or postcards that are personalized with the recipient's name, product preferences, or company name. Personalizing your material makes the recipient feel that the sales message was created just for him or her. So instead of a postcard headline reading "Furniture Sale This Weekend", the new technology will allow you to say "Mary, We're Having an End Table Sale This Weekend That Will Match Your Leather Sofa You Bought Four Months Ago." See the difference!?

DVP is like the old mail merge feature in your word processing program. Try to use it whenever you can. The technology might be out of the price range for smaller companies, but those whose sales depend on frequent mailings may want to research printers that offer a quick payback period.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Working Vacation

Although many get away from work for a week or two every year, it's still not a bad idea to take a little work with you when you go. I'm not talking about bringing a foot high pile of reports to the beach but a small, manageable file folder containing some industry articles, your next quarter's calendar, and paper and pen.

Industry articles will keep your brain fresh and may spark a potential moneymaking idea deep within your cerebral cortex. I usually scan through magazines that have accumulated and rip out the articles that seem interesting.

I always bring my calendar. If you have an elaborate computerized system or Filofax-like binder, photocopy the next four months worth of pages. It's on these pages where you can leisurely set goals, to-do lists, and plan other business objectives.

Pen and paper are crucial too. Many great thoughts have burst to the surface while digging for shells, lazily floating on a raft, or drinking your favorite beverage as the seagulls fly by.

Make your vacation work for you now so that upon your return, your work will feel like a vacation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Search Engine Optimization

Many designers and webmasters think that "content is king." The truth is that the way to get better rankings for your website is to make sure that the coding of the site is properly utilized.

Here's a surprising fact: Many search engines will not read pages if the URL contains a question mark. This symbol may indicate that the site's content might be generated automatically which is a no-no with search engine technology.

Page linking and coding are also extremely important aspects to think about BEFORE you design a site. Make sure you code your menus dynamically because of changes to CSS properties and only use hyperlinks that are standard HTML < A > tags.

The bottom-line is that "coders" and designers are many times trying to accomplish two very different goals. Unfortunately, coders are brought in too late, after thousands of dollars have been squandered on an eye-catching website, but one that the search engines can't find.

Remember, website functionality (and better search engine optimization) is always more important than pretty colors, video snippets, and spinning logos.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Target Marketing

Do you consider yourself a specialist? If I looked at your client or customer list, is there a segment of that list that tends to favor a certain demographic? For example, if you own a rental equipment company, do you find that most of your customers rent scissor lifts? If your business is catering, do most of your customers ask for seafood? If you have an auto body shop, do people come to you because you do the best work on foreign cars? Do you see any pattern?

Some of the most successful businesses are those that specialize in a specific industry or market. "Oh, you just have to go see (insert your name here) because (he/she) is the best with (insert your product or service name here)," is the ultimate advertising anyone can get.

So take an hour this weekend and focus your efforts on some of your key customers and profile them the best you can. Try to develop your next marketing campaign based on how this group would buy, i.e., time of year, quantity, most popular item, etc.

Develop a laser focus and target your market.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Two Very Important E-Mail Tips

While e-mail is the most popular way for business-to-business (b-2-b) correspondence these days, there are many ways for you to improve its impact.

I think two of the most vital requirements for most e-mails are the subject line and attachments (don't e-mail me back stating some of these tips can't always be accomplished - I understand it's not always possible).

First - think very carefully about the subject line. Never, ever use the word "hi" or "hello". Because of the early days of spam and spam filters, those two little words are notoriously bad. Try to stay away from ALL CAPS TOO. CAPS ARE LOUD AND ANNOYING. Your best bet is to include the first name of your recipient with the basic premise of your body copy/message. If you are having a special, say it. If you are introducing a new product, announce it. Don't beat around the bush. Remain focused and stick with the facts.

Second - If you have the option, do not include attachments. The big ISP companies and corporate e-mail filtering programs can and will block your message from ever being seen. If you need to send an attachment, send a "heads up" e-mail to your recipient. Let them know it's coming. They'll appreciate it and their IT guys will have less virus checking work to do.

So there you have it, two e-mail tips that will make you more productive and will increase your odds of your e-mail ever making it into the hands (or should I say "into the eyes") of the person you're trying to reach.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Are You Right?

Advertising and marketing works best when you reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message, in the right context.

If your business can hone in on these nuances better each time a campaign is initiated then your success rate will incrementally improve.

The right person - Have you looked at your current database lately? Has your customer profile changed from its original intent?

The right time - Are your customers in the middle of their "season"? Will your message be pushed aside since they're so busy now? Do you know when they put together their advertising budgets?

The right message - What do your customers value the most - price, quality, speed, service, etc.? Are you still pushing old technology, inefficient processes, or lackluster services?

The right context - Are you too pushy? Should you be educating the customer before the hard sell? Can a referral make the sale better than you could yourself?

Take a little bit of time this weekend to mull over the above questions. As Billy Joel once said, "You may be right, I maybe crazy."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Weekend Is Just Another Monday

How often do you close up shop and head out the door on a Friday afternoon thinking "I'll start again on Monday?" Shame on you. You need to treat the weekends as a great opportunity to sell your product or service.

Why not try sending an e-mail blast on a Sunday morning? Did you ever update your blog on a Saturday afternoon and track click-throughs? What about offering a time-sensitive sale only good at midnight?

I'd say give all of them a try. You might be surprised at the results. Customers are searching at all hours of the day and night. Many are now checking their e-mails as they are traveling, walking, and shopping. I've known my daughter to inform me of a sale at a local clothing store while surfing the net, while playing the Wii, while texting her girlfriend, while listening to the iPod. You get the point. We are a wired culture, so get your message in front of the consumer any way you can.

Good luck.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Digital Media is a Must

All reports crossing my desk these days indicate that businesses must embrace digital media. Digital media is defined as those marketing tools that utilize the latest in technology such as e-mail, static web banners, pop-up banner ads, search engine optimization, and online video. Read and study about these five technologies as much as you can!

I'll comment on each medium in future blogs but want to stress the following statistics - close to 76% of marketers are using more e-mail, about 61% are using more online video, and 62% are jumping on the search engine optimization bandwagon (these stats are based on today's usage versus three years ago). The bottom-line is, if you're not part of the tech wave you better get going... and fast.

Next time... how an e-mail blast can triple your productivity at the push of a button.

PS. Don't discount print advertising as it still has an important role in generating awareness for your online presence.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Get Testimonials from Your Customers

When you are looking for a new restaurant to try what do you do? Many will ask family and friends for a recommendation. Do you look in the Yellow Pages when trying to find a physician for that medical procedure you need next month? Of course not, you ask someone who may have had or know of someone who has already had the procedure done. When traveling, don't you ask someone for a referral for a hotel that has "the cleanest rooms?" I know you did.

With your business it's imperative your sales brochures and website contain glowing testimonials from your satisfied customers and clients. These comments approve your product or service and give you a "third party" endorsement. It's like hiring the Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie as spokesperson for your specific industry.

How do you get the testimonial? Ask for it. If they say no, ask why. You'll get either one of two responses. The first being is that they're embarrassed or "not good at writing." If this is the case, ask them if you can write the recommendation for them. Nine times out of ten they'll enthusiastically agree. The other response is that they are not happy with your work. When this happens it's your chance to make good and learn from the transaction so that the problem won't happen again. Can you say "cheap market research?"

I recall a restaurateur who regularly invited the media to dine at his establishment to review the food. Many times the critiques were glowing. There were a few times, unfortunately, when the menu was not up to par. What did he did next was brilliant. He invited those who didn't write good reviews to dine on the same meal they disdained. But this time he corrected the exact shortcomings brought to light. If the veal was too salty, he used less salt. If the crab cakes were too greasy, you can be assured that they were fried less and set to drain before being plated. The result was tens of thousands of dollars in free publicity and a string of glowing reviews and testimonials that lasted for months.

So work on getting your customers talking positively about your company. If they aren't doing it already, it's time to put words in their mouths.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Check Your Business Writing

Spelling and grammar are so important in business writing that I'm surprised that many people don't take the extra time to proofread their own copy. I'm not talking about running the copy through the computer's spell-check program but read the copy with their own eyes starting at the first word and ending with the last.

I can remember many years ago being handed a brochure from a potential client. They were very proud of their latest sales piece and attempted to use it as a way of saying "we already have beautiful collateral material and don't need your services at this time." Quickly scanning the brochure it seemed as though my eye went directly to the word "accommodations." Call it divine intervention, call it proofreader's perception, whatever it is, I saw the mistake.

What the prospect meant to say was that their staff received many commendations (awards). Unfortunately, the 5,000 copies of the brochure stated their staff received accommodations, or hotel rooms. Ouch!

The spell-check did its job. Both accommodations and commendations were spelled correctly, but the improper use and lack of proofreading cost that company major dollars.

My suggestion to you... run all your documents through the computer's spelling and grammar check. Listen to the recommendations, sometimes they are warranted, sometimes not. Next, proofread your copy, and if you have the luxury, run the copy by another set of eyes. I can't tell you how many times that I couldn't pick up my own mistakes during a first reading. Check and check again.

If I can write, proofread, and come back the next day and proofread again then I'm usually in good shape. Find out what works best for you. But please, whatever you do, read what you write.

Friday, July 11, 2008

There's Not Enough Time to Run My Business

If there was ever one main reason why entrepreneurs fail it's because they try to to everything themselves. I feel sorry for the sole proprietor who attempts to be their own accountant, secretary, sales manager, webmaster, and shipping clerk. It just can't be done, and sooner, rather than later, frustration, disappointment, and desperation set in.

Technology can help with many of the daily grinds that entrepreneurs encounter - there's QuickBooks for accounting, Microsoft Office for secretarial duties and sales, and programs such as Dreamweaver for website design. But the learning curve can be challenging for most, especially in the website design category. That's why I get so excited about our website and design services at www.newbizbuilders.com. Check it out. Created with the entrepreneur in mind, it's a low-cost way to jump-start your business.

This weekend, peruse the site and call our office on Monday. A real, live person will actually answer the phone. If we don't it means we're helping a fellow entrepreneur on another line. But be assured that we will call you back.

Next week... why returning messages quickly results in more business.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Google Alerts

If I asked you "How many keywords pertain to your business?" I'm sure you could rattle off at least a half a dozen.

Google Alerts is a valuable tool for any small business. Google alerts are an e-mail update sent to you based on your choice or keyword query. For example, if I were a painter in New Jersey I would include "my company name", painters, painting contractors, New Jersey painting contractors, and New Jersey painters as my keywords. Be careful to put put parenthesis around specific words and phrases, i.e., if you don't put them around "New Jersey painters" you would get searches for the word "New" and "Jersey" and "painters" - imagine what your in-box would look like! While you're at it, also tag your competition, it's always important to keep tabs on them to see if they're offering any products or services that you could add to your repertoire.

Google Alerts is like having your own private investigator on staff and a great way to be a leader in your profession.

Get to work immediately. Go to www.google.com/alerts. And while you're there, don't forget to add an alert for us - "BizPizzazz" - so you can get important small business tips as soon as we add them to our blog.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Please Pick Up

So too often we think e-mail is communication. It's not. Communication as defined in the dictionary means "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs." The keyword is "interchange." E-mail is not an interchange, or more precisely defined, an "exchange." It's a one-way dialog. If your e-mail is never opened, what purpose did it serve. And what if it is opened but a response is never sent back? Get the point?

Think of all the time wasted as you are waiting for a reply to an e-mail when a simple phone call will do the trick. I'm not saying that e-mail doesn't have a purpose. It does work well in particular business situations, i.e., if you want "proof" that a customer changed their order from 10 widgets to 100 widgets. But nine times out of ten a call will suffice.

Today I want you to be more productive by picking up the phone rather than sending that lengthy e-mail. FYI... most people speak over 160 words per minute, but type less than 40 words a minute.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Timing Is Everything, Even With Postcards

In sales, timing is everything. When do you send a product catalog? How many times do you try to reach a prospect? Should you keep calling a potential client to set up a meeting? When do you mail a postcard?

The answer is not simple, but then again it is. Keep trying until you get a response. If you get a "yes", congratulations. If you get a "no", bow out gracefully but try again at a later date and start the process all over again.

One of the most simple and least intrusive marketing campaigns are postcards. The reason? 1.) Your "benefits" message can be seen without any effort of the prospect. 2.) They usually get in front of the recipient. 3.) They're inexpensive. 4.) If you mail them on a regular basis sooner or later they'll reach the prospect at the exact time they need your product or service.

Try postcards in conjunction with your next marketing and advertising campaign and reap the power of such a simple and time-tested concept.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Put Words In My Mouth

In an effort to keep clients moving forward on a path to productivity and profitability it's imperative that we (advertising agencies) do as much as possible for them as we can. For example, I have a client who needs a few quotes from eight of its tenants for inclusion on their website. Sounds pretty simple. The client said that she would 1.) Contact the tenants and inform them that I would be calling to do the interviews 2. E-mail or call me with the names and phone numbers of the people to interview and 3.) Write her own quote for the website. Whew!

Just think of the logistics to accomplish all of this. Do you think she'll get the tenants on her first phone call? Will she be able to write her own quote amidst all of her other daily duties? When I finally get the tenants' phone numbers will I be able to reach everyone quickly? What if the tenants can't articulate their feelings? What if I get seven of the eight tenants and the last one is on vacation for the next week? This straightforward activity could take weeks to accomplish.

The solution... Many times we know as much about out clients' business as they do. Therefore, put words in their mouths. Put them in what I call "edit mode". It makes business move much faster.

In this particular case study - What do you think the tenants' would say? What would you say if you were a tenant? It's not rocket science.

It took me an hour our so to write and edit less than 350 words. The quotes were glowing and positive. I e-mailed them to the client this morning and will let you know how I made out in another BizPizzaz update.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Video + Blog = Vlog

So you have your company's website up and running. Great.
You've added pictures. Good.
You've initiated a blog utilizing Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. Nice.
You've uploaded a vlog. A what!?!?

A vlog is the latest technological advance that businesses are using to capture audience share on the Internet. "Vlog" is an acronym of the two words "video" and "blog", a.k.a. online video.

Although around since 2003, vlogs have not become mainstream because Internet speeds were too slow to allow people to 1.) download them quickly and 2.) to view them without skipping or freezing mid-frame. But with the proliferation of broadband connections, "vlogging" is the cutting-edge tool to use on your website. According to industry reports, the Top 5 online video websites are YouTube.com, MySpaceTv.com, Video.Google.com, Video.Search.Yahoo.com, and Veoh.com. Check them out... you'll be amazed.

So what does this all mean? Your customers expect to see your product in action - "How does it work?" - "Can I use (insert your product's name) for my particular application?" - "How do I put (insert your product's name again) together?"

Just like the fax machine, sooner or later everyone has one. With vlogging, you better get used to it sooner rather than later because it's a technology that's going to be around for a very long time.

Here's a great example...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"They Said" Publicity

I have a relative who is engaging, spirited, and always “in the know” about every topic imaginable. She can rattle off the best travel destinations this month, how many International Units of Vitamin D you need to take daily, and even the make and model of the Japanese automobile with the best gas mileage.

When asked about her uncanny knowledge her response is always “That’s what they said.”

But who are “they?” For my relative it’s the newspaper, People Magazine, Entertainment Tonight, Better Homes and Gardens, the six o’clock news, and even the Regis and Kelly television show. She loves these magazines, reads newspapers from cover to cover, listens intently to the handsome newscaster at 6pm, and idolizes Regis Philbin (“he’s so cute for an older man”).

What she doesn’t know is that many of these media outlets are assisted by people like us – press agents, publicity counselors, marketing professionals, and advertising agencies. Many times we are submitting stories, sending press releases, generating story ideas, and “working the room” to get our client’s message to the masses.

Look in your local newspaper right now and if you see a byline that reads “From Staff Reports” I can almost guarantee the information came from an “outside” source (a.k.a. me).

The bottom-line is to start generating publicity and news for your business. Did you attend a seminar? That’s news. Did your company celebrate an anniversary? That’s news. Buy a new machine? News. Develop an innovative way to do something faster or cheaper? News. You get the picture.

Major Point: If your business is specialized you must develop targeted lists to receive your information - you don’t want to send a press release on how your thermoplastic pressure regulator has a redesigned rolling diaphragm seal to the editor of Soap Opera Digest – far-fetched, but I think you understand.

“They” say publicity is a powerful, income-producing tool for business, why not start making some money with it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Restaurant Marketing

Here's a money-making tip for all restaurateurs - collect the email addresses of your guests. And how do you do that? It's simple... just ask.

A postcard on the table or a quick request from your server at the end of a meal should suffice - "If you provide us with your email address you'll be the first to know about special discounts and other money-saving coupons you can use on future visits."

Many times guests will be more than happy to give their email address. A brief disclaimer at the bottom of the postcard should contain the following privacy policy that will increase your request rate even more - "We will never sell or rent to third parties any of the personal information our guests provide to us."

Did you know marketers spend $5.6 billion in coupons annually? And with the rise in gas and food prices, we believe more and more people will be utilizing coupons than ever before.

Our agency has had great success with restaurant e-mail coupon campaigns. Not only do restaurateurs see an immediate increase in business from an e-mail blast, but imagine the delight from a guest who receives a personalized e-mail coupon from 1.) a restaurant 2.) located in their favorite vacation town 3.) where they will be visiting next month. Sweet!

Cena รจ pronta,
(Dinner is ready)

PS. Don't settle for just an e-mail address. Try to capture a name, mailing address, phone number, birthday, anniversary date, and their reason for dining out. If you can't get the information at the time of their visit, attempt to get it in a future e-mail, i.e., "To better serve you, please answer the following questions..."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hot Spots: SMS is heating up over...

Video: aspect ratios. The proportions of our viewing screens are changing, and that means making sure your footage is shot to fit them. Is your trade show video looking a little streeetched?

Web: SEO. There are little things we can do to stay up in the search engine rankings and in front of your customers. Besides, everyone wants to be popular.

Art Department: banner stands. Trade Show season is in full effect, and thanks to these affordable and easily interchangeable devices, our clients aren't stuck with stale product images.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Shall Return! Not!

According to The National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail association (then why does it call itself a federation? ed.) a survey conducted of Christmas gift recipients discovered that 64% of them did not return a thing this 2007 season, which is up from 62.4 % in 2005. Among the reasons suggested was that there could be greater delays in returning in order to take better advantage of time off, and that returns would filter in as time passed. Sadly, the NRF didn't go door to door to ask why people liked their gifts better this year as opposed to two years prior, so we're left to come up with our own conclusions. And after hours of deliberation, mentally retrieving all the marketing acumen I've accumulated over the last couple of decades, I finally came up with my answer.

I have no idea. But we can perhaps find a lesson in here, anyway.

The key to providing products and services that satisfy customers is making sure your message hits the right markets, and in the right way. Sounds familiar, right? The relationship to gift buying and marketing high-tech industrial products may be as simple as doing more research on your prospects and presenting them with more accessible alternatives. In other words, know them inside and out. Know their habits. Heck, it takes a little of the magic out but why not just ask them what they want? Surveys of your market place are an affordable way to keep up to date with their needs, and need not be too lengthy or overly complex. In fact, SMS is in the process of creating our own survey and we hope to gather plenty of useful information to help better serve our clients, and keep them happy.

And we promise not to call ourselves The Scientific Marketing Federation.