Monday, December 31, 2007

Blogs, the new Radio?

In looking at the development and evolution of the blogosphere it occurs to me that the dynamics of the marketplace are very similar to radio, only better.

Like radio, you never know how many people will be tuning in at any given time. Unlike radio, your message is there waiting for them whenever they decide to show up. The marketplace is demand driven. Blogs are sought out by people seeking specific information and points of view. There is no content "gate keeper". No doubt one political party or the other will soon be pointing out how "unfair" this is and propose some kind of "Balanced Blogging Bill"

Blogs are extremely versatile. I have several areas of interest and enjoy writing, so I have several blogs. Taking a page from the radio advertising play book, I decided to experiment with "call in contests" on one. This morning I posted a question of the day, along with a link to where one could find the answer. The first person to email the correct answer before the deadline wins a free pizza. Of course, the winner would have to be someone close enough to come pick up the prize, which is why it's posted on a locally targeted blog. I'll let you know how it goes.

The marketing opportunities are vast. Sites like and can help you make money and/or advertise on other blogs. An ad often consists of being paid to put a link within a blog post or do a review of someone else's blog. Unlike radio, a blog post doesn't go away as soon as it's aired. Who knows how much "airplay" you'll get for your $5.

The blogosphere isn't new, but I believe it's on the verge of becoming HUGE (or HUGER). The potential is tremendous. Once again, Google is ahead of the curve, leading the market in blogging tools and gadgets, not to mention free web space. From here I see the blogosphere branching out into video stations as the technology catches up with demand. Other media could have evolved along side it and taken advantage of the trend, but they seem to be content in trying to fend it off, a lost cause.

Here's something I'd like to see: A radio station that has a site where you can download free (or for 20 cents or so), unrestricted mp3's of up and coming bands. The station uses the download data to determine which songs to play and how often. The bands get great exposure, the consumer gets great new music. The radio station operates not as a radio station, but as a brand name for a particular genre of music. They could sell ads on the website, the radio, even a monthly newsletter or magazine.

As for TV, how about YouTV? An expansion of the "public access" channels. You have a series of channels that feature viewer submitted content. Different channels for different content. 3 minute clips submitted by viewers. The cable or satellite provider also makes individual clips available in the ON DEMAND menu. Again, they use the demand data to determine which videos to replay. Of course they also make the videos available on the web.

The marketing industry shifts back and forth, sometimes favoring distribution channels, sometimes content. At the moment and for the foreseeable future, it looks like Content is King. Hitching your wagon to a particular distribution channel is probably not a good idea.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jesus Camp - Total Immersion Marketing

The Movie Jesus Camp has caused some controversy. It displays the indoctrination of young children into Evangelical Christianity. Without comment on anyone's religion or the merits of this form of "education" I would like to take a look a the marketing aspects of the approach.

The most important part of mass manipulation is in establishing "community". Community is a sense of belonging to a group and can be established through shared experiences and memories, which become the community's culture.

Children are far more capable of suspending their disbelief and accepting what's been told to them. In any movement, the majority of participants are not going to become zealots, but a small number will, and the majority will likely at least remain sympathetic to the cause.

Total indoctrination at a young age, continuing through adulthood serves a variety of purposes. It creates a community. A mass of people who can be manipulated, directed or influenced by community leaders preserving and creating the culture.
It developes leaders. A small percentage of youngsters and newbies will get the "fire in their belly" and retain their enthusiasm into adulthood, either because they see the potential of the organization, or because they really are "true believers".

This is your primary sales force. These individuals will go out and sell and grow the organization and advance its agenda. Most of the remaining individuals will go along with or at least not interfere with, the community's agenda (as set by its leadership). They are also consumers, benefactors, fund raisers and in some cases, field workers. Evangelicals, for example, were on to "crowdsourcing" way before the term was coined for modern marketing execs.

There is a fine line however. If your organization crosses into behavior that it's greater society will not tolerate, the organization can collapse. You want to connect your membership in a manner that is unique, while not being offensive or threatening to non-members. If you really must expand your influence beyond your potential membership in an organization, start a second organization, or a third.

Regardless of your feelings toward religion, it's obvious that churches and religions are a great source of case-study when it comes to marketing, especially long term marketing.

Here's the movie: It's a long one

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Value of Raising Your Profile

Raising your profile in the marketplace, promoting awareness, branding, whatever you'd like to call it, can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your other marketing efforts. How should one go about it? How much of one's budget should one dedicate to it?

Marketing designed to raise your profile or increase awareness of your business includes things like calendars, event marketing, newsletter sponsorship, networking and other activities that primarily make your company name and image visible rather than promoting a specific product or offer. It doesn't have an instantaneous, at least not immediately trackable impact, so many businesses don't recognize it's value. If you ask a customer why they came in today or how they heard about you, they're not likely to say, "well, I saw your logo at the Fun Run and just decided to drop by." But these types of ads do have an impact on the effectiveness of your other ads.

A customer may report that they responded to an offer you placed in the paper. What they may not report, or even be aware of, is that they responded to your newspaper ad because they were familiar with the name or logo. They may not know where they've seen it before, but they have. Consumers are more likely to respond to companies that they've heard of before, than one they're seeing for the first time.

Awareness ads are usually targeted at general audiences. They don't require a tailor-made mailing list or a lot of demographic research. They can be as simple as a logo on a concert or event poster, or a business card ad in the homeowners association newsletter. Networking is another form of profile raising. The idea is to make it more likely that when your company name comes up in conversation, or someone sees one of your other ads they'll say or think "oh yeah, I've heard of those guys".

Think of profile raising or awarenss ads like adding gas treatment to your tank. You'll get more milage out of the rest of your marketing. A good rule of thumb might be around 20% of your ad budget, although it can be less if you use your imagination. A banner can be used again and again, as can car magnets and decals, shirts and hats. Link exchanges with other websites can often be had for free. Co-op marketing can give you wide exposure at a very low cost.

This part of your marketing tool kit can inspire people to seek more information and take a closer look at your other material. Of course you have to be ready to provide the more detailed info when they come looking for it. Have brochures and flyers on hand, ready to email, mail, or hand out upon request. Make sure your employees are up to date on your latest promotions and ready to answer questions.

Good marketing campaigns are like good songs. A nice mix of vague and specific, familiar and new, predictable and unexpected. Strike a chord with the marketplace. Draw them in with a catchy refrain and then give them the lyrics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Earthrace - Mega Event Marketing by SGC Energia

New Zealander, Pete Bethune plans to break the world record for a speedboat circumnavigating the world, and he intends to do it using biofuel.

The event will begin in March of 2008. Bethune and his team landed a major sponsor in SGC Energia of Portugal, who will be supplying all of the biofuel needed for the trip.

What a shrewd move by SGC Energia, based in a country famous for its record breaking world explorers, the company is a leading manufacturer of biofuels. The publicity garnered just in sponsoring the attempt will be enormous. Should Bethune and his team succeed, the payoff will be astronomical.

Even a close finish will demonstrate that biofuel is ready for prime-time. New technologies making algae farming for biofuels more economical, being worked on by SGC and a host of other companies, could help make biodiesel a major contender within the next decade.

For more information visit In any case, the boat looks really cool.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is Print Marketing Dead?

You've probably heard the rumor, mainly from guys trying to sell you internet, radio or TV ads, that print is on the way out. So is it true? Not exactly. This proclamation was brought to you by the same folks who predicted the "paperless office" a decade or so ago. Print marketing is different, but one look at your mailbox or office desk should be enough to tell you that print is alive and well.

The death of print advertising predictions stem mainly from the drop in circulation in major newspapers. Major newspapers tend to try to be all things to all people. That's what's dead. The "average American" is a myth and always has been. Everyone has different interests and the surge in information and communication technologies has enabled individuals to be more discriminate about the information they consume. It's much easier to find info related to a specific field, no matter how obscure.

In marketing, you don't need to choose between one medium and another. The important thing is to determine who your customers and prospects are. Give them information they can use and connect yourself to it. One should still do some "shotgun" marketing (targeted at general audiences), but a good deal of your efforts should be focused on individuals who already have some interest in what you have to offer. The medium isn't as important as the content.

People who watch TV, listen to radio and surf the web, still read hard copy. In fact the internet has actually created a boom in book sales, by making them more available at competitive prices. The internet, radio, TV and print can all compliment each other. When your company and logo become familiar, all of your ads work better. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Use any or all methods that will reach who your looking for, but make it interesting. Simply getting in someone's face and screaming "Buy My Stuff" isn't going to cut it anymore.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Being "Remarkable" or Purple Cow Marketing by Seth Godin

This video by Seth Godin points out how marketing has changed with the marketplace. How offering information to the interested is much more cost effective than pushing information through interruption.
It's 18 minutes well spent.

Fun with Top Search Terms...and Ryan White

As you probably know by now, many bloggers choose their topic of discussion by checking to see what search terms are currently hot. Here's an experiment you can try with some of your friends and/or coworkers, to see if the system works in reverse.

First: I'm not sure if a single person doing 10 identical searches counts as 1 or 10, so we'll have to do some trials.

Okay, now pick a ridiculous topic, one that's not likely to come up normally. Something like "polka dotted leprechauns". Now coordinate with friends and coworkers to type the term into the Google search box at a specified time, and keep doing searches for the same term for, say 15 minutes or so.

Now go to and wait for the next update. See if your term shows up in the top 100, then check out how many blog entries suddenly appear about Polka Dotted Leprechauns.

If done correctly and over a long enough time, one might even be able to get tv producers to come out with some pretty absurd stuff (more so than usual) as they try to stay on top of the trends.

For all you college students who were wondering what to do over the holidays for fun and sport...You have your marching orders. If you actually schedule a search, post it to comments.

(in case you were wondering "Ryan White" was the number one search term at the time of this post)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nutty Buddy by Mark Littel, A picture's worth 1,000 words

Former pitcher Mark Littel has come up with what he claims is a better groin protecter for athletes. How do you go about marketing and creating buzz for a new and improved cup that costs twice as much as conventional ones? Well, Mark decided to "take one for the team". In this video clip, he demonstrates the effectiveness of the product by standing in front of a pitching machine and putting his product to the test.

The clip has gotten more than 50,000 views thus far and counting. Proving once again, show is more effective than tell....and people never get tired of seeing guys get hit in the groin.

Search Term and Trend Blogging

I've recently experimented with incorporating top search terms into my blog titles and posts to see what kind of impact it would have on traffic. I've already made some interesting observations.

When I simply put the three top search terms into a title and the article had little or nothing to do with the terms, very little impact was seen. Normally a blog search will display a bit of the article, and if the subject matter isn't what the searcher is looking for, they're not going to click.

On the other hand, when I wrote a story related to the a popular search term such as Whopper Freakout, I saw very significant traffic increases. However, if the search term is too "hot", like "Prometa" was after the CBS interview on the topic, the effect is diminished. I assume this is because there are thousands of trend watchers out there using these terms as well. One should also keep in mind that the hot search term right now, may not be so hot 20 minutes from now.

I guess the moral of the story is that it's worthwhile taking a look at top search trends before you start writing a post and if you can incorporate a word or phrase into the title or body, go for it. But, if you want to retain consistency and value in your blog, it still has to be good information consistent with your blog's theme.

If you use your blog as an advertising vehicle for other sites, you also have to determine if increased traffic is resulting in increased business. Who's your target audience? Is the subject of your post something related to their interests?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Whopper Freakout,

Here's an interesting marketing experiment. A Burger King decided to see what would happen if they discontinued the Whopper. The Whopper was taken off the menu for a day and customers were told that it was discontinued forever.

The response was fascinating. Of course most were confused and upset. Many also started reminiscing and waxing nostalgic about their first Whopper and instances where they went to great lengths to get a Whopper.

The net effect was to make people appreciate the product more by forcing them to acknowledge their feelings about it consciously. I guess it's true, "absence makes the heart grow fonder".

The promotional value of the marketing experiment/prank goes farther than a single store. At the moment it's among the most popular vids on YouTube and the search term "Whopper Freakout" is among the top five on Google.

Hmmmm... maybe Cartman really had something on the South Park episode where he wouldn't let anyone into his amusement park. If you want to create buzz for your product, don't let anyone have it.

Full Screen Video available at

Small Event Marketing

You may think that getting a booth at a local event is something that only venders and large companies should do. Actually, local events create great networking and marketing opportunities for any business.

Consider the cost/benefit analysis. You need a table, a chair, some promotional material (which you probably already have on hand), maybe have an employee staff the booth, and some refreshments for the employee.

Assuming the event is 4 hours long, you may have to pay the employee something like $50. The booth space itself is going to vary, but most small events will give you an "information only" booth for around $100 or less. Maybe you spring for some new promotional material to the tune of $300. Total cost: around $500.

Now some adjustments to our cost total: Any undistributed promotional material can be used another day. Anything that was distributed was obviously worth the trip. Your real cost, over and above what you would have spent anyways, is more like $150. Now the only question is, how much business will your company's appearance generate?

If the day's efforts result in a single new customer, for most businesses, that's certainly worth $150. You have to consider how much business a new customer will do over the life of the account, not just the initial purchase. Maybe you'll generate renewed interest from a past customer. Maybe you'll meet a new, valuable contact. In any case you'll increase awareness of your business, which helps make all of your other marketing efforts more effective.

You're also generating goodwill. Most small events benefit a local charity or non-profit in some way or another. Your support will be appreciated by the organizers as well as many attendees.

The next time your Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Events Organization, PTA or other organ ization puts on an event where you can expect 500 or more people in attendance, consider taking advantage of the opportunity. You can even split the cost by going in on a table or booth with a network partner, or two, or three.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mayweather fight, Bad Day at Black Rock, Saluki

Google now has a site where you can view trends in internet searches. Among other things it lists the current top 100 search terms. Those in the title are the top three. This post is an experiment to see if posting these terms in a blog title results in more traffic. If it does, it could inspire some very creative blog titles in the future, like "A bad marketing campaign can make you feel like a real Saluki after a Mayweather fight on a Bad Day at Black Rock.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Getting to the Point

Sometimes it's not easy taking the customer's or end user's view when designing or thinking about how to present your marketing material. Who is your audience? How are the materials being distributed? How long will the piece be in someone's possession? How are they going to use it? How much do they already know about you and your product?

Business cards are a great example. Many think it's wise to make the phone number very large and to list as many of the products and services provided as possible. Think about how people generally get your business card. In most cases, you give it to them. They already know something about you and what you do. The business card is an easy reference guide for them. When I look through my business cards, it's usually because I want to get hold of somebody. I know the phone number's on there. It doesn't have to jump out at me. I'll find it. What's more useful is being able to spot your card among the crowd. A colorful background, a recognizable logo, a picture, something that tells me right away....that's the one I'm looking for.

In the case of an ad such as in a newspaper, a doorhanger or a flyer, the viewer may not be familiar with you, or your services. You have just a second or two to catch their attention. A prominent picture of someone enjoying your product, or the results of your service is a good start. A consistent logo will also add leverage. Recognizable images catch one's attention. Of course you want to include contact information, but job one is to get them interested in what you're selling. Too much information jammed into a small ad is self-defeating. Get them interested enough to look for more.

Brochures are a great venue for more detailed information and are normally picked up by people looking for just that. Again, you want to "illustrate your point" with imagery between blocks of text or tables. There's also room for a map of your location. Helpful tips related to your product or service will increase the probability that the recipient will hold onto the brochure longer.

Websites are the new Yellow Pages, only better. In fact, I only use the phone book these days if I can't find you anywhere else. You can put as much information as your heart desires on a website. You start with an overview on the main page and links to more information on subsequent pages. Your web address should appear on everything you put out, just as often as your phone number and address. If you're not "web savvy" don't be intimidated. Just Google "free html lessons" and take a few hours to learn the basics. You don't have to become a web designer or do your own site, but knowing how it's done will take the "magic" out of it and you'll have a better understanding of what you're paying for when you do hire someone.

Whatever the medium, consider the viewer. Different contexts call for different presentations. They all have different functions which can amplify and enhance one another.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Be the Customer

What makes your repeat customers choose you over the competition? What makes a potential customer choose someone else?

A common mistake business owners and managers make is in assuming that the aspects of their business that are important to them are the same things that are important to their customers. For example, a business owner may be very proud of the equipment and/or training and certifications they have received because it helps them do a better job or offer a better product. While this may be a legitimate source of pride and may well result in better product or service, the customer often can't relate the two because they don't have the same knowledge of these instruments that the business owner or manager has.

I'll pick on carpet cleaners first because almost all of them do it. What does a customer who might hire a carpet cleaner really want? Clean carpets at an affordable price. They really aren't that interested in the type or brand of machinery you're using because they don't know anything about it. Yet, in their advertising, many choose to highlight their machinery and try to "educate" the consumer about why it's important. Before and after pictures would be much more effective, or even just a picture of the kids playing on a freshly cleaned carpet while Mom beams with satisfaction. Of course you have to deliver on your promise, and your equipment and training are a huge part of that, but the customer is buying the result, not the process.

Service professionals are guilty as well. You may have taken numerous educational courses and earned dozens of certifications, but if I don't have first hand knowledge of what those courses were and why they are important, they don't mean anything to me. I don't want you to explain the course content, I want you to sell my house at the target price in the time frame I've spelled out. I'd rather see your track record than your transcript.

What is more likely to make you want to eat a steak? A series of tips on the proper way to evaluate and prepare a piece of meat, or an image of someone obviously enjoying a delicious steak?

Highlighting equipment and credentials is effective when your audience has working knowledge of the items in question and perceives them as providing better value. For instance a highly touted, new and improved laser eye surgery machine might be something the public is well aware of and would take into consideration in the purchase decisions. On the other hand the model or type of snow removal equipment you use to have my sidewalk cleared by 8am after a snow storm, doesn't really concern me. Just do a good job and have it done by 8am. In your advertising, assure me that the job will be done on time, every time. Show me testimonials from satisfied customers. Show me a clear sidewalk surrounded by snow.

It's not always easy to put yourself in the customers shoes, especially if you've been in the business a long time. You know what it takes to do your job well. They don't. They just want you to do the job well. If you're not sure what factors go into a customer's purchase decision, ask them.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Listen Up

One of the best pieces of advice I've heard regarding networking is "If you want to be interesting, be interested." People are much more likely to remember what they said and who they said it to than what was spoken at them.

When you engage in conversation with someone, be genuinely interested in what they're telling you. Find out what they are trying to accomplish and what their obstacles are. Think to yourself - "How can I help?". You don't have to immediately connect it to your business. First help come up with suggestions or solutions, then see if there's a way to connect it to your business. Even if you can't, your help will be greatly appreciated and remembered, which is excellent PR in and of itself.

Every conversation is an opportunity to learn something new. With the price of higher education spiraling ever higher, it would be foolish to pass up the chance to absorb valuable information and insights for free. Think of conversations as idea exchanges and make sure you walk away with more than you came in with. Of course, by offering truly valuable information and insights in return, both parties walk away wealthier.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ramsey's Way

I've become a big fan of Chef Ramsey and his shows. On both Hell's Kitchen and Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares (both the British and US versions) he unapologetically forces people to acknowledge their mistakes, ignorance and inefficiencies and deal with them. A knee jerk reaction might be to view his style as cold-hearted, mean and vulgar. On closer inspection I see him more as the "Mary Poppins" of the restaurant business. He comes into an establishment, assesses the problems and develops a unique plan of attack to quickly remedy them based on the personalities of the people he's working with.

Many of the situations display common mistakes that are prevalent in business in general, not just the dining industry. Here are a few to be aware of.

Too many items on the menu:

In the interest of trying to appeal to the widest audience possible, many business owners wind up offering more choices of products and services than they can possibly execute on well. Not only does an over sized product offering make it tough to execute, it makes marketing harder and less effective. For example, a mortgage broker may choose to offer reverse mortgages, traditional mortgages, refinancing, first time buyers programs and a host of others. The aim may be to create a "one stop shopping" image. The reality is you create an image of a broker that specializes in nothing and no one program stands out in your marketing. There's also the training aspect. How can you expect your employees to have in depth knowledge of hundreds or thousands of products? If you want to stand out from your competition you have to be more than a commodities broker, whether it be in retail or professional services. Play on your strengths. Figure out what you do well and get even better at it.

Clinging to Bad Ideas:

Another mistake Ramsey often comes across that's common to business in general is falling in love with your own ideas to the extent that you don't listen to what the market is telling you. Another great business mentor, Bruce Williams often advised "Never fall in love with something that can't love you back". Reality is not emotional. No matter how great you think your product or idea is, if the market's not buying it, let it go. Trying out new ideas is a good thing, but you have to compare the way it played out in your head with the way it plays out in reality. Don't let the failure of one idea stop you from trying out others, but don't cling to an approach that's not working because you believe it "should" work. Believe your own eyes.

Fully Trained Employees:

Owners and managers often make the mistake of believing that once an employee completes the training period or program, they can now leave them on "auto pilot". Training never ends. Not for your employees, not for you. The marketplace is dynamic, which means it's always changing. Employees, managers and owners need to remain constantly engaged and observant. Talk to each other. Share ideas, methods and observations with your people every chance you get. Reinforce good practice and behavior. Never stop learning. Never stop teaching.

Passive Equals Nice:

Another business blunder is to equate being a nice guy or a good boss with being disconnected or passive. Allowing substandard performance, avoiding criticism and confrontation is not "nice". You don't promote self-improvement by condoning incompetence. You may avoid confrontation, but you are not doing yourself or your employees any favors by allowing them to continue in their incompetence or mediocrity. Be in charge. Be the captain. Be the coach. If you find you have an employee or two that can't deal with striving to excel or at least improve, cut them loose. Be a leader, not a babysitter.

Poor Communication:

Every aspect of your business is connected to every other aspect of your business. To execute well, the right hand has to know what the left hand is doing. Put systems in place to ensure the smooth flow of an order from first contact with the customer to product or service delivery and on to service, support and feedback after the transaction. Facilitate and require effective communication between employees and departments. If someone needs a particular bit of information, make sure they know where to get and how to ask for it. Whether it be verbal or digital, an effective communication network is crucial to operational efficiency.

Letting Mistakes "Out of the Kitchen":

You don't save money in the long term by hoping your customer wont notice or wont complain about your mistakes. Every product that leaves your "kitchen" has your name attached to it. The value of your brand is directly linked to every item you sell. If the product or service is substandard "Put it in the bin". Bite the bullet. Take the loss. Start over and send it out right. Consider it an advertising and training expense and money well spent.

Lower Quality Equals Lower Standards:

Not everyone can afford the very best. There is a legitimate market for lower quality, less expensive fare. For example I may choose to buy a plastic watch rather than a sterling silver watch due to budget concerns. However, I still expect the watch to work. I may choose to order the hamburger rather than the prime rib, but I still want a great hamburger. If your product mix includes items for the budget conscious or lower income buyer, offer the very best in the price range. If you're a producer, remember, lower cost raw materials doesn't mean less attention to detail on your part. Every customer is a valuable customer regardless of the ticket total. Treat them all with the respect you'd want to be treated with. Give them the value they deserve. Earn your money.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Ramsey's shows and a few like it is the fact that they display methods of achieving business success in a totally transparent manner. There's no "tricking" the customer into anything. It's all about honestly creating value by focusing on what you're offering and delivering on your promise. Given enough time, anyone can make a great meal at home for a lot less than they can buy it in a restaurant. They don't want to or they wouldn't have come to your place. They're counting on you to make the effort, put in the time, monitor the quality and do the hard work. That's how to create value and wealth and be proud of it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Value of Co-Operation

One of the biggest challenges facing small businesses is that they often must compete with chains that can spread advertising expenses over dozens or hundred or thousands of stores. A $1000 ad that benefits 10 locations costs $100 per store. The same ad for just your one location costs $1000/store. This is why so many small businesses get frustrated with their advertising. It doesn't seem to be generating enough bang for its buck. That's because it isn't.

One solution to this dilema is co-op advertising. Instead of buying advertising for your single location or office, you team up with related businesses and advertise jointly. An example of this is our upcoming South Side Holiday Savings brochure. It's a 10,000 piece, glossy, full color brochure that will feature 16 area retailers. All will be the kind of place where you might actually do some Christmas shopping. Things like car care, restaraunts, professional services, will be covered in later editions. Distribution will be through newspaper inserts in 3 different small regional papers. The advertiser gets a 2" x 3" ad, great targeted coverage, in an attractive, substantial, festive looking, holiday themed brochure for 1.5 cents per piece.

You can also team up on things like calendars, memo boards and other "top of the mind" type promotional pieces. This not only gives you the advantage of volume buying, but it gives you several additional distribution channels, since each participant will be distributing their portion.

Another opportunity not to be overlooked is events that offer vendor booths. It might not make sense for you to pay the booth fee just to give out your own promotional material, but it would be very cost effective to go in with several of your network partners on a single booth. You could make the purchase as "The West Side Alliance" or whatever you want to call your group. For $10 a piece or so you could spend a few hours reaching hundreds or thousands of potential customers.

Yet another great co-op is a campaign involving prizes. People might not get excited about a $25 gift certificate, but they probably would take a look at a $500 shopping spree! (20 participants each put in a $25 certificate. Entry forms and boxes at each participant's location.) You could market the campaign jointly. Newspaper inserts can be had for around 5 cents each (not counting printing) and the cost, again, is split 20 ways. It might be easier to organize a smaller group, maybe 10. The cost is still minimal. When you consider the cost of goods sold plus a fixed amount each for promotion. The whole thing could be done in a targeted manner for less than $100 each including gift certificates, printing and distribution.

Don't try to mimic the chain stores. The single location operation is a different animal. Leverage your relationships to benefit yourself and your network associates.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Time Rich and Cash Poor?

The troubles in the mortgage and real estate markets have spilled over into other parts of the economy. If you've found business is off a bit and you have more time than cash for marketing right now, here are some things to keep in mind.

Two things you DO NOT want to do:
Don't waste time worrying about what you can't afford to do. There are plenty of things you can afford to do and now you've got some time to do them.
Don't try to cut costs by not advertising during slow times. If you "go away" in the minds of consumers, someone else is going to fill that space.

Here are some low cost or no cost marketing activities for the Time Rich and Cash Poor:

Newsletter Sponsorship: Homeowners Association, Neighborhood Watch Groups, Chambers of Commerce and other organizations often put out monthly or quarterly newsletters. Most would be happy to put an ad in for you if you offer to pay for all or part of the printing cost. Depending on the type of newsletter and the size and type of distribution, you can often get advertising for as little as $25. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. You can create great goodwill by showing your support for even a small organization that someone belongs to.

Get Social: If you haven't been to your networking group in a while, this is a good time to get reacquainted. If you don't belong to any, ask your colleagues to recommend one. Even if they don't result in a slew of new referrals, it's a great place to meet like minded business people and bounce ideas off one another. You can also make more time for social events in general. Get out in the community. Catch up with friends. You don't have to give them the pitch. They know what you do. But the old addage is true "out of sight, out of mind" Get back in sight.

Self Distribution: You could use the excercise anyway right? Instead of paying the ever-rising rates of postage, get yourself some door hangers or flyers and take a walk. Contrary to your reservations, most people are friendly and will give you a pleasant smile if they see you out there working the neighborhood. Those that don't.. well give them a smile anyway and just go on to the next house. If you're not up to it yourself, there are plenty of young entreprenuers who would be glad to have the work at 10 cents/house or so. Just remember, Trust But Verify. Do a driveby afterwards to make sure, and let your helper(s) know in advance that you'll be checking.

Co-op: Partnering with other businesses on things like calendars, memo boards and other handy promotional items not only reduces costs by enabling volume buying, but it greatly increases the distribution. You're not just putting your ad in front of your customers and prosects, but you're getting in front of the other participants customers and prospects as well.

Car Magnets: Make all those trips around town work harder for you. A pair of full color 12 x 18 car magnets can be had for around $89. Compare that to the cost of other advertising media. When you consider the visibility and the duration, the cost is next to nothing per month. What? You don't want to put an ad on your car? Your business paid for that car. The least you can do is let it use the outside of the door. Besides, your already providing free advertising for the car manufacturer and probably the dealer that sold it to you. Don't you deserve as much?

Happy Customers: The best form of marketing still is, and always will be, happy customers. Your marketing efforts will be greatly enhanced by delivering on your promises. They'll be greatly diminished if you don't. Take good care of the customer in front of you first.