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 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.