Saturday, December 20, 2008

How to make a brochure

When do you use a brochure rather than a flyer? What kind of content should be included in a brochure? What's the best ways/places to distribute brochures. Easy Street Designs provides some answers.

How to create a brochure:

Before we get to how, let's start with why. Flyers, print ads and mailers are primarily designed to get someone thinking about your product, service or company. They have a very broad audience and are often deployed in a "shotgun" type marketing campaign. A brochure is targeted at people who are already in the market for your product and are actively shopping for it. A brochure provides more detailed information about how a shopper should evaluate the product, important questions to ask, and of course, answers to those questions.

Our biggest selling brochure is the tri-fold type. It's sharp looking, convenient to display, holds a good amount of information and imagery, and can be mailed in a standard number 10 envelope. The tri-fold gives you six panels to work with. A good way to break it down is: Front cover, four informative content panels, and a back panel containing primarily company and contact information.

The cover must have eye appeal. It's got to be attractive, while conveying the general idea of the content. It should not be cluttered with text. A nice image, with a prominent subject line, perhaps a subheading and "compliments of (your company) across the bottom is a good start.

The content should not be all about your company and how wonderful you are. Save that for the "about us" section of your web page. Instead, put yourself in the shoppers shoes. What questions would you ask? What questions do many of your prospective customers ask? What are some things a novice shopper for your product might not think to ask? By offering useful information about the product in general, rather than self-promotion, you demonstrate not only a clear understanding of your industry, but empathy toward your customers and prospects. One of the things they worry about is being tricked into a bad deal. The last thing they want to hear, or read, is a heavy-handed sales pitch. To make the reading easy on the eyes, a ratio of about 3-1 for text to imagery works well.

The back panel is where you make your pitch, but still a relatively soft-spoken one. A short paragraph plugging your company, a photo, logo, designations, certifications and all of your contact information, followed by a slogan or tag line is a good formula.

Brochures are more costly and contain more information than some of your other forms of print advertising. You'll want to be more selective about where and how they are dispensed. Ideally you want them in front of people who are already somewhat interested in what you have to offer. Offering them free upon request at your website is a no-brainer. You can also offer them in your other print advertising by simply adding "call for a free, informative brochure". This form of "opt-in" distribution can be a good source for future mailing lists as well. Another good distribution channel is though lobbies and waiting rooms, particularly where people will have some time to kill. Tire stores, medical offices, dentists, attorneys, anywhere that something to read would be appreciated. Maybe some people just pick up your brochure for something to read, but even if they aren't in the market for the product, they'll likely leave the brochure behind to be picked up again and they are now at least familiar with your product and your company. In-store or in-office distribution is another great one. Customers may come in for one product, but demonstrate some interest in another. Rather than give them the full-blown sales pitch, possibly putting them off, you simply offer them a handy brochure. Trade shows and events are perfect for brochure advertising. You get face to face contact with prospective customers who can then walk away with in-hand information about the product of interest to them and your company, and of course you'll want to bring them to every sales call.

Brochures can be a valuable part of your marketing tool box. Take some time and care in devising a sharp looking informative piece. If you save a few bucks on design and layout and wind up with 2,000 brochures that nobody wants to read, what have you saved? (and now the pitch) Whether you need printing only, or design and print, Easy Street Designs can ensure you get an attractive quality piece at affordable pricing. With minimum quantities as low as 50 (85 cents each) and pricing as low as 25 cents each (2500 +) we can accommodate any budget.

...the offer you can't refuse: Place an order on and enter coupon code "322023" at check out ($100 min order) and get 15% off your printing total (not valid with other coupons or offers). There is no set up charge if you provide a ready-to-print file in high resolution (300dpi or better) jpg or pdf format. Custom brochure design is available for $150 (call or email to place a design order).

and finally....the contact information: Easy Street Designs, 109 Kiva Road, Colorado Springs, CO, 80911, 719-390-5080, Office hours: 8:30am to 6pm, Monday through Friday.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More lessons from the campaign trail

It's time to take another look at the presidential campaign from a marketing strategy perspective. I've said before that election campaigns are the ultimate marketing challenge. You're not trying to influence decisions over a period of time. You're trying to influence a single decision at a single moment in time. The only thing that counts is the state of mind of the voter at the moment they cast their vote.

That's what makes political campaigns great case studies. I think one of the biggest mistakes John McCain and company have made over the course of this campaign is in trying to "out-Obama Obama".

McCain has been playing the "me too" card in running against George Bush and even his own party. Dedicated Republicans had a hard time warming up to McCain in the first place and were bouyed a bit when Palin, a fellow true believer, was added to the ticket. Now they've been subjected to criticism from their own candidate, who seems to be constantly telling the country what a bunch of scoundrels they are.

The problem is, if someone is basing their vote largely on an anti-Republican sentiment, why would they not vote for the Democrat? Why would you pick the second most anti-Republican candidate?

Just as in marketing, you don't go head to head with your opponent in areas where you know they are stronger. You look for where you are strong and they are weak. McCain's strength had been his reputation as a fiscal conservative. He had a golden opportunity, when he suspended his campaign and went back to Washington DC to deal with the "rescue package". Had he worked to his strength and stood up and said "hell no!" to the bail out, even if he had been over-ruled, he would have been a hero. He likely would have run away with this election. Instead he went to meetings and put his stamp of approval on a modified version of the original plan, which contained such crucial additions as aid for toy wooden arrow importers and money for wool research.

In stark contrast, when Obama is confronted by the right, he shrugs it off. He has not made a big deal of his association with Bill Ayers or his choice of words in saying we should "spread the wealth around" because he knows his base doesn't have a problem with those things. He's not trying to pander to free market capitalists because he doesn't see a need to. He's simply ignoring them.

The lessons? Discover your strengths. Know your customers. Reinforce your strengths. Take care of your customers. If you are a broccoli salesman, don't pour a lot of resources into sponsoring the "We hate broccoli" convention. Tell those who like broccoli why more is better and how you're going to enhance the quality, value and distribution. Don't tell those who are on the fence "Don't worry, I wont try to sell you that much."

I'm not buying what Obama is selling, but at least I'm pretty clear on what he's selling. But, the fact that I'm not buying Obama doesn't mean I must buy McCain. It's not enough to dissuade people from patronizing your competition. You must give them a reason to patronize you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Halloween Marketing

A Sweet Promotion!

Halloween is the biggest retail holiday except for Christmas. What does that mean? That it’s very popular! Consider supplying your friends and neighbors with coupons that the kiddos (with their parents) can redeem at your place of business for a candy bar or other treat (be specific, ie: Redeem this coupon for a FREE SNICKERS bar at ........ Stick to the treats. Don't add anything about your oil change special or closing costs discount or other offers. The idea is to give people an excuse to come visit your place of business, with no strings attached. Handing them a flyer or coupon along with the candy bar when they come in however, is a great idea. Give the coupons a week or so for expiration so they can come in at their convenience.

You'll want the coupons to either be numbered, or a less expensive way to go, have a space for "authorized signature" to avoid counterfeits. Using colored paper is also a good idea. That way you can budget for a maximum redemption, assuming every coupon is brought in. Of course you wont get 100% return, so once the coupons expire, leave out the left-overs for your walk-in customers.

You can get black ink coupons on AstroBright Cosmic Orange paper for as little as 2 cents each, depending on size and quantity at from Easy Street Designs (call 719-390-5080 for details). Shipping is a flat $7.50 to anywhere in the continental US.

In any case, it's a great way to enlist the help of your friends and neighbors in your marketing efforts, It actually helps them out in that they can give out more goodies without spending a dime, and it gives parents a safe place to go get a treat for the kiddos, while making them more familiar with your business.

If you do a 500 piece promotion, giving, say 25 coupons each to 20 friends and neighbors, you'll likely wind up spending less than $100 including printing and candy and you get free distribution.

Don't wait too long. Candy can get scarce just before Halloween, and keep it in the fridge between now and the time they come in to pick it up. If you want to give out something healthier or even a non-food item, that can work too, but it has to be a "treat", something people will make an extra stop to pick up on the way home; something the kids will insist they stop for on the way home. Celery sticks wont cut it. Slim Jim's might.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Marketing to a Sluggish Economy

It's been a tough year economically for many independent business professionals. The mortgage and housing market has been decimated. The stock market is stuck in the mud. Credit in general is tough to come by. Customers are struggling so businesses are struggling. Given the latest economic statistics, a rapid recovery is probably not in the cards. So what type of marketing strategy do you employ in this kind of environment?

Customer retention is always important. During slowdowns it's even more so. The whole point of marketing and advertising is to acquire new customers. If you're not keeping the ones you have, you're spinning your wheels at best. Take care of the customers you have. Take every opportunity to exceed their expectations. Send them updates, greetings or special offers at least once per quarter. Even if you do no other advertising, do not neglect this group.

Don't go away. It may not be a good time to engage in massive, aggressive advertising campaigns. All forms of advertising are going to be less effective in a down market than in a healthy one. However, if you don't keep your brand visible, you'll be starting from scratch when the recovery arrives. Shift more resources to "top of the mind" advertising. This is marketing designed, not so much to spur a quick sale as to keep the public aware of who you are and what you have to offer. These ads can be small and simple. They may consist of nothing more than your logo, name, tagline and contact information. Lasting promotional items are a great way to go for this type of marketing. Things like refrigerator magnets, car magnets, banners at local sports events, calendars, pens and other free goodies can all help keep your customer base "brand aware" for a prolonged time at a one-time cost.

While you may have the time to engage in more new product and service development and testing, don't put too much stock in sales results at this point. Put the new stuff out there, but don't bank on it. Also, don't label it a loser because it didn't catch wind in this economy. Save the aggressive roll out for better times. What people are looking for right now is value. Try new ways to package and bundle current products and services in a manner that creates a better value for the customer.

Misery may love company, but company doesn't like misery. Stay upbeat and pleasant. If a customer wants to vent for a few minutes, listen, offer empathy, but don't pile on. You don't have to be a Polly Anna, but keep your own problems to yourself.

If you want referrals, give referrals. In good times, a referral from a network partner, friend or associate is a pleasant surprise. In times like these, it's solid gold. It will be appreciated and remembered. Remember the first question a good capitalist should ask him or herself is "How can I help?". That's how you find and create opportunity, generate goodwill, acquire and retain customers and relationships.

In good times and in bad, all you can do is the best you can do. So, do all you can do.

Friday, August 8, 2008

How not to retain a customer

Over the past week or so, I've received about a dozen automated calls from my trash service provider. I assume it's because my contract is about to expire and they'd like me to renew.

I wont mention the company name, but it starts with a "Waste" and ends with ...agement.

The recording instructs me to call a toll free number. At first I just ignored the calls. I generally don't take orders from recorded messages. But, after a few times, curiosity got the best of me and I actually made the call.

Incredibly, the call was answered by another recorded voice that instructed me to wait on hold! I still don't know why the heck their robots keep calling. Evidently, it's not important enough for any actual human being on their end to be bothered with. Their regard for my time, on the other hand, is non-existant.

Of course I will be using a different provider when my contract with these diva's expires, which can't come soon enough.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation, It's not Just for Kevin Bacon anymore.

The Six degrees of separation theory, made popular by the Six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon game, got a boost this week from a rather extensive study conducted by Microsoft. Actually it's more like 6.7. The idea is that any person on Earth can be connected through acquaintances of acquaintances within less than 7 "degrees". One degree would be your friend, two degrees a friend of your friend, etc..

Of course the phenomenon would be less expressed in societies that prohibit or restrict communications. Connecting with someone in North Korea would be a more difficult task than with someone in London.

What does this mean from a marketing perspective. There are a few take-aways. First, come up with a consistent, but concise message. If you've ever seen "Johnny Dangerously" you know how badly the grapevine can screw up a lengthy message, even in just 7 generations. Keep it simple, memorable and to the point. Second, don't target your market too narrowly. While you may focus on a particular demographic, that demographic interacts with other demographics. Some of your marketing efforts should be directed at more general audiences. Let your message "resonate".

Perhaps the most important take-away is that any person you come in contact with is a potential conduit to billions of others. Take nobody for granted. You are always in the spotlight, even if you can't see it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Leverage Your Marketing Influence

Marketing is all about influence. You're trying to influence your potential customer base to give you a try. Of course you have to deliver on expectations once you convince someone to come your way, but your success is first dependent on getting the customer to your website, your door or on the phone.

There are many ways to go about reaching your customer base. Most of them are very expensive. After all, putting an idea in front of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people can take a lot of distribution resources. What if you could reach them through proxies? What if you only had to reach 100 people to influence 10,000?

In marketing, this is done all the time. The most common form of this type of marketing is the celebrity endorsement. The idea is to influence the people who influence your customer base, or at least a significant percentage of them. You could make the worst ham sandwich in the world, but if Brad Pitt went on a television interview and said "Boy the ham sandwich I had at Bob's Deli on 5th street the other day was the best thing I've ever tasted." you can bet that Bob's Deli would be swamped, at least for a few days. To make good use of leveraged marketing you have to get to know your customers. What else are they interested in? Who do they look up to? Where do they get their information? To be sure, all of your customers are not going to be the same, but if you could reach 80% of them by focusing on a half dozen areas of interest, you can save yourself a lot of time and resources.

Choose your targets carefully. You don't want to turn on one segment of your potential customers while turning off another. For example, if 40% of your customers are registered with one political party and 30% with another, specifically creating a message to appeal to one or the other risks turning off 60-70% of your customers. You want to associate your product with personalities and ideas which are appealing to a significant segment of your customers and at least neutral to the rest. If you decide to team up with an organization, don't choose a polarizing one.

Your budget may not allow for a celebrity endorsement from Brad Pitt, but there are no doubt, celebrities you can tap. Use the image of a popular radio show personality, team up with your local YMCA, think of industry experts in your field and how you can work together. Whenever possible, feature your current customers in your advertising.

Most importantly, keep in mind that everyone you deal with everyday will interact with a number of other people during the course of their day. Will they talk about you? What will they say? Will they relate a positive experience or a negative one? The people within your sphere of influence each have their own spheres of influence. Always be aware of that fact and look for opportunities to engage new spheres in a positive manner.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Inflation/Recession strategies

Being a business owner means predicting the unforeseeable, making adjustments on the fly and dealing with ever-changing market conditions. Inflation is looming as a threat today. While nobody can predict the future. There are ways to cope should inflation become a reality.

Just-in-time inventory management (ordering just what you need as you need it) is a good way to go in a relatively stable or declining price environment. During periods of inflation, bulk buying makes more sense. If you have product on the shelf that you purchased at $1/unit and your next shipment runs $1.50/unit, with just-in-time inventory management, you adjust your retail price accordingly and just keep up with the increased costs. If you have a large inventory on hand at the lower price, you can adjust your price immediately, increasing your margin on the previous shipment, or choose to stay below your competition for a time, giving you a marketing edge. Take advantage of bulk pricing and give yourself more price flexibility.

Cushion the blow. If you find you must raise prices you may be able to soften the impact by adding value or adjusting packaging sizes. You may choose to reduce quantity per package rather than raise package price. Conversely you may choose to up both the price and the quantity, saving some money on packaging and so reducing the price increase. You can add services, such as installation or extended warranty. You can package related goods together, or offer a free related or accessory product with the purchase.

Credit's tight. Capital can be hard to come by. But there are ways to generate cash flow without borrowing from a bank. Having a limited time big sale is essentially like writing yourself a 30 day loan (if you're on net 30 with your suppliers). You have to get the word out and you have to make it an offer that's hard to pass up (10% off is not going to get the job done). This is a very short term play and requires cash-flow discipline on your part, but it has the added benefit of generating customer traffic and buzz.

If you have fixed rate debt and your income is keeping pace with inflation, accelerating payments is not a good strategy. Your debt to income ratio is declining, providing you're not taking on new debt. Put any excess cash flow to work somewhere else. If you have variable rate debt, and you think inflation is on the horizon, now's the time to refinance to fixed rate.

A challenging economic environment can also present opportunities. Look for used equipment or special offers from suppliers. When suppliers have specials, they're generally signaling that they need cash-flow. Help yourself out by helping them out. Take advantage of sales and special offers. Look for estate sales and liquidations. Position yourself for the economic recovery now. When customer traffic increases, be ready for it.

If you've been putting off upgrading your website because you didn't have the time, and sales are currently down, you have the time. Get it done. The same is true for aesthetic improvements and maintenance inside and outside your shop or office. Consider this an economic "half-time". Don't spend it hunkering down. Spend it preparing for the next leg up. Work on new product ideas, get active in your networks again. Don't spend a lot of time conversing with peers about how tough things are. Pessimism breeds pessimism. Spend quality time with optimists.

I'm not an old man, but I've seen a few recessions and periods of enconomic upheaval. Every time, you'll hear predictions of the end of the world as we know it. Don't buy it. Staying positive, looking for opportunities and hanging tough through hard times will give you "street cred" as well as confidence. Both of which will benefit you and your business when the inevitable recovery arrives.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fourth of July Marketing

The Fourth is coming up fast. Don't wait until June 30th to start thinking about your Independence Day ad campaign. The time to start planning is now. But what to do?

First is to determine you objective. The kneejerk reaction is to think of some hook to get people to immediately come down to your store or office. Maybe a coupon or a big sale. There's nothing wrong with that type of marketing, but I want to expand on a more long term approach. Take the opportunity to be a part of the day. Be a part of the conversation, a part of the event.

What do people do on the Fourth of July? They show the red, white and blue and they barbecue. They get together with friends and relatives for fun in the sun. How can you make your business a part of the celebration? First of all, put your politics on the shelf and be a full-bore, red blooded American for a few days. People really are tired of the grade-school like bickering that goes on every night on news in the name of the American People. The Fourth is a time for everybody, regardless of politics to celebrate the fact that we're in country where all this bickering is possible, thanks to the bravery and determination of our forefathers, our servicemen and women and some very strong willed individuals. This is their day. It's not a day for persuasion. It's a day for celebration. Deck out the office, the storefront, your indoor displays. Show your pride. Let others be proud.

Now for the barbecue. People are going to spend most of there day at the park, in the backyard, among family and friends. You can still be a part of it. Now is the time to stock up on your red, white and blue promotional items. Frisbees, hacky-sacks, flags, flag pins, flag magnets, balls, toys, things that will show up at the office and/or the party with your logo on it. A red, white and blue BBQ Apron would make a great door prize for a pre-Fourth networking event, as would a nice cooler, a set of drink cups.

If you're going to be open on the Fourth, consider a ridiculous one-day discount for anyone with a military ID, active duty, retired, dependents, anyone. Even if you take a loss for the day, your display of gratitude will be appreciated and talked about.

It's an election year and emotions can run high in politics. The high price of fuel has got a lot of people steaming. Resolve now that from at least June 30th to July 7th, it's time to be optimistic and help your customers, your prospects, your neighbors to be too. Focus on what's great about this country for a week or so. There's a lot to choose from. Remember our common ground, the things that make Americans Americans: The individual spirit, the dogged determination, the unyielding optimism, the unstoppable imagination. Embrace it, promote it, be a part of it. Make it memorable, make it fun.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fathers Day Promotional Idea

Fathers Day is less than 2 weeks away, so if you're going to do some marketing around it, time to get on it.

Here's one to think about. Offer a discount on Fathers Day for Dads that bring the kid(s) with them. Use tag lines like "Show Us Your Kids!" "To Heck With Work, Take Your Son or Daughter Shopping!" "Fathers Day Special - Must Show Proof of Fathership"

It's different and if it inspires Dads to come to the store with the kids, they're all much more likely to remember the trip and your business. Make sure you have something for the young ones (bubble stuff is cheap and always a big hit). If the kids don't have fun, you're adding to Dad's stress, which defeats the purpose of the day. Avoid candy and sweets. Some kids can't have it and they don't really understand why. Again with the parental stress. Small toys, water, fruit, it doesn't have to be the Showcase Showdown, just something to show they were expected and that they are welcome.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are You Ready For Radio?

By Wendy Burt-Thomas

So you’re finally getting your big break to promote your business on the radio. Are you sure you’re prepared? Follow these guidelines to help get your ducks in a row.

One little mention on the radio can do wonders for your business. But it takes a lot of preparation to get mentioned, to sound eloquent, and to be ready for the listener response. Here are some tips to help you through the process.

Getting on the radio

Who to pitch: Call the radio station to find out to whom you should be submitting your segment idea. It’s often the station producer, but you’ll need to ask for the correct spelling of his/her name, their title, and their email and fax number. Start by sending the pitch via email, then follow up a week or so later with a phone call.

(The best time to reach a producer is typically 10 minutes after the show.) If you’re leaving a message, be sure to leave your phone number twice and have a concise (about 30-second) pitch so you don’t ramble. Be sure to leave an upbeat message with lots of energy. Think of your pitch as a “mini-interview,” since it’s the first time the producer will hear your voice and they’ll likely make a quick decision based on their first impression.

What to pitch: Because radio is auditory, not visual, you’ll need to present an idea for a segment that isn’t prop-heavy. That means you’ll want to offer ideas for listener quizzes (with prizes, if you can offer some), funny or insightful information (depending on the radio station and its listening audience), and possibly a value-added bonus that can be listed on the radio station’s Web site. The bonus could be a coupon, list of tips or resources, photos or additional information on the topic you’ll be discussing. “When I do appear as a guest on radio shows, I always include fun listener call-in games,” explains Tanya Mitchell, Director of Training for LearningRx, a national brain-training franchise. “I always have prizes and offer valuable tips, self-evaluations and printable lists for the radio station to upload to its Web site. The radio station appreciates that I drive traffic to their site and we get a link to to drive traffic back to ours. It’s a win-win.”

Depending on your topic, you’ll want to offer interesting facts, statistics or news that is relevant to the station’s listening audience. Don’t assume the producer will automatically see the tie-in; spell it out.

Being on the radio

1. Listen to several segments the week before your appearance to understand the general tone. Is it serious or is there a lot of joking going on? Is there frequent banter or does the host let the guest speak for minutes without interruption? Know your key messages and use phrases that will allow you to easily segue into them.

These phrases include:
• “The most important thing to remember is…”
• “It’s crucial for everyone to understand that…”
• “That raises an important point…”

2. Look for ways to use specific examples rather than generalities when referring to the benefits of your product or service.

3. Practice answering potential questions with a coworker or employee who knows your business so they can point out key messages if you’ve omitted them.

4. Pay close attention to the host’s advice regarding where to place your mouth in relations to the microphone. Avoid wearing loud jewelry (such as multiple bracelets) and turn off your cell phone before the show.

5. If the host plans to come to your business to do the interview, ask him/her in advance about any sounds he/she would like to purposely pick up in the background. (If you work as a teacher, for example, they may want to get the sounds from a playground or music class.)

6. If the interview isn’t live, you can take longer than normal pauses before answering your questions because they can be edited out later.

7. If you’re sharing information about a product or service that sounds too good to be true, be prepared for the interviewer or listeners to be skeptical. “It’s natural for listeners to be skeptical if your product, service or results sound unbelievably fabulous,” explains Dr. Ken Gibson, author of “Unlock the Einstein Inside; Waking up the Smart in Your Child.” “It’s important not to be defensive if the host reflects the listeners’ doubts. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe you. That’s his/her job. I’ve become accustomed to parents thinking our results with kids with learning disabilities sound too good to be true, so I use phrases to turn the skepticism to my advantage. Use concrete statistics or well-known resources whenever possibly to add credibility to what you’re saying.” Gibson’s favorite examples include:

• “I might be skeptical too, if I didn’t see that 98% of the kids completing our program see three to four years of improvement …”
• “I realize it’s hard to believe. But let me share a specific example about a child who came to us that was getting Ds and Fs…”
• “I understand why parents have their doubts. But studies show that with special training, a parent can actually prevent reading problems by 90 percent and…”
• “I’d love to read you a few testimonials…”

8. Let your staff, customers or clients know when you’ll be doing the radio interview – especially if it’s at your place of business. Find out who would be willing to be interviewed as well, and let the host know in advance. (e.g. “I’ll have two sets of parents available to interview that day” or “One of my models will be at the studio that day if you’d like to talk to her about the clothes.”)

Preparing for a (listener) response

1. If you have a Web site, confirm with your Web master that the site is ready to support a lot of visitors. Although it’s not likely with a small local radio station, the last thing you want is for your Web site to crash.

2. Make sure your staff is prepared to answer questions if you become inundated with phone calls or emails.

3. Have a clear way to track coupons as they’re submitted in person or as discount codes via the Web site so you can track your response. Your staff should also understand how to properly process any coupons or discounts that were offered along with your radio segment. (Coupons should require users to fill in an email address in order to help you build your mailing list.)

4. Archive your radio segment to your Web site for online visitors who missed the live segment, as well as for future pitches to radio and TV stations. (You want to have an example to demonstrate that you’re a good radio/TV guest.)

The most important thing to remember is that preparation is everything. It will not only make you a better guest, but it will also help you relax, and a good interview will probably garner you a repeat appearance.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with more than 1,000 published pieces. She’s appeared on numerous radio and TV programs to promote her two books for McGraw-Hill. Visit

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gay Marriage in California - Marketing Perspective

It might just have been the best marketing move since Paul decided that you didn't have to be Jewish to become a Christian.

California's supreme court today made gay marriage in that state legal, not only for residents, like in Massachusetts, but for any Americans that want to go there and get married. Of course, a California marriage will not be recognized by most home states, but still, the appeal will be great for gay couples across the country.

When couples get married they invite everyone they know, gay and straight. The idea of having an excuse to go spend a weekend on the west coast is going to appeal to a lot of invitees. If you're going to travel to another state to attend a wedding, you're likely going to at least make a weekend out of it. You might take in some sights, buy some souvenirs, of course you're going to eat and shop. Many might even decide to stay.

This will likely be a big shot in the arm for California's tourism industry. In fact, when the matter of amending the constitution to overturn the court ruling comes to a vote, it may just be tourist related business that makes the difference in the vote.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Your Competition Could Be Your Best Friend

The book "Blue Ocean Strategy" by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne describes a business mindset in which you make your competition irrelevant. It's a great book, but I would revise that a bit to say that one can make one's competition an asset. Your competition can actually help you grow and evolve.

The lowest margin business products and practices are those which are readily available elsewhere. If you model your business after a lot of similar businesses, you can expect to work very hard for low margins. How do you differentiate yourself and find your competitive advantages? That's where your competition can help. If someone else is providing a product or service better, faster, cheaper to the point that there's little business coming your way, take the hint. Focus your energy and resources elsewhere. Don't get caught up in the "who can be the cheapest" game. Visit your competition. Talk to your customers and theirs. Find out what customers are looking for that neither of you have. It may be a simple matter of packaging. Maybe people want larger quantities, or smaller. It may be a matter of quality. If you're not competitive at the low end, consider going high end, or vice versa. You may find that customers that use your product or service have other interests in common that you can take advantage of through your product and service mix.

Be agile and be attentive. Don't get married to a specific mix or model, or as radio talk show host Bruce Williams used to say "Don't fall in love with something that can't love you back."

Another key aspect to product and service mix development is to always do the math. Don't just look at percentages of return, look at hourly rate of return. If you're making a 300% markup, but it only amounts to $6/hour, you're not doing yourself any favors. Your time, your energy, your resources are better spent elsewhere. Sometimes raising prices to reduce sales in a particular category is a good alternative to dropping it altogether. If your customers want to pay a slight premium for the convenience of picking up a dozen widgets while they're at your store as opposed to making another trip to another store, that's fine. But if you know you're not going to make your fortune in high volume widget sales, don't focus on it.

Your competition can help you customize your product mix and make you unique. They do so by pointing out the areas you should avoid. Let the other guy work for minimum wage while you come up with new ideas, new products and new twists on old products.

You may be able to take advantage of new technologies to do so. For example Verizon now offers a plug-in device for your laptop that allows you to access the internet from anywhere. How can you use that? Well, if you're a real estate agent, for example , you can make house calls. You can search the MLS with your client at their home or office for their convenience. If you use free online apps, like those offered by Google, you can even schedule showings, appointments, closings and access all the files you need from someone else's kitchen table.

The up and coming Trader Joe's did not achieve success by trying to "Out Walmart" Walmart. They kept the idea of bulk purchasing, efficient distribution and low prices, but went for an entirely different product mix. They offer brands and varieties you can't get at Walmart. They recognized the fact that even Walmart can't offer everything, so why not focus on the things they're not interested in? They take pride in being different and have developed a kind of cult following. They can't open stores fast enough to keep up with demand.

You can also create "one-stop shopping" through your unique network. Always keep information on your trusted business associates handy. The more time and effort you can save your customers, the more you will be appreciated, remembered and recommended. One thing your competition doesn't have is you. You establish these relationships based on your parameters.

It's not necessary to talk down your competition. What you think of them doesn't matter. Let your customers and prospects do the talking. They'll tell you what they like and what they don't. Don't get defensive or offensive for that matter. Get pro-active. Focus on the customer. Solve their problems. No matter what industry you're in, if you're in business, solving problems and fulfilling needs is your job. Butting heads with other problem solvers is a waste of everyone's time.

Distribution of Marketing Materials - Win/Win models

One of the most, if not the most expensive portion of your marketing efforts is distribution. Unlike free-market industries, the government protected monopoly known as the US Postal Service continues to get more and more expensive as it matures with zero increase in value. This has lead marketers and business professionals to seek new and creative ways to get their message out to their prospects.

Don't expect to get anything for free, but compensation doesn't necessarily have to be in the form of cash. Information is another valuable commodity and currency. Easy Street Designs has developed products specifically for mortgage brokers that enable them to offer information in exchange for distribution. The same principal can, of course be applied in other industries.

The "Divorce and Your Home" brochure is designed to be customized for the individual mortgage broker, with their photo, logo, contact info, etc. and offers insights into issues one should consider regarding one's home and mortgage if one is going through a divorce. The broker offers these brochures free to divorce attorneys within their network in exchange for the attorney's offering them to their clients. The attorney gets a free means of communicating valuable information to their clients. The broker gets free distribution. The same principal is at work with the "Understanding the Mortgage Interest Deduction" (for CPA's) and the "Financial Strategies and Your Home" (for financial advisers) brochures.

The key is to think of related businesses within your network and what information might be useful to their clients and customers. How did Easy Street come up with these particular ideas? They didn't. Their customers did. They asked, they received. Your network is not just about sharing leads and getting referrals. Talk to your network partners about marketing strategy and how you can work together, especially on distribution, and never forget that your customers are also a part of your network and an invaluable source of information.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Create Your Own "Gas Tax Holiday"

Gas prices have got a lot of people upset. John McCain has gone as far as to propose a "gas tax holiday" from Memorial Day through Labor Day. That is, to eliminate 18 cents/gallon from the price of gas over the summer. Psychologically, this has some appeal. Realistically, it might mean something like $1.80 in savings to the typical driver per week, assuming the market doesn't simply drive the price up 18 cents in response. It's a political move, which is to say it's a marketing move. Here's how you can beat him to the punch.

Team up with a local independent gas station. Send your customer list a coupon or certificate for your "Gas Tax Holiday!". Offer 18 cents off per gallon on a specific day from 8am to 7pm (with this numbered and signed certificate), good for up to 20 gallons. Assuming a mailing list of 200 local clients and a 50% response rate (which would be astronomical) the cost of the discount would be $400, if they all got the max 20 gallons. The cost of printing and mailing, about $130. Split between you and the station owner - total cost, $265 each. Leverage your promotion by sending out a press release to area publications. Take pictures during the event to post to your website. Post banners or signs at the station saying "Welcome Bob's Realty customers!". It could be a relatively inexpensive and "buzzworthy" event for you and bring in new customers for the station owner. Raise your profile. Generate goodwill. Maybe even make some news.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Print and Mail Service

Easy Street Designs (producers of this blog) now offers Print and Mail. Easy Street Designs will print and mail your brochures, postcards or newsletters to your Xcel formatted mailing list for one low price. Design services (if needed) are not included in pricing, but are available for an additional fee. It's part of our continuing quest to Make It Easy!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Eli Estrada Returns $140,000, Receives a Fortune in Publicity

By Ed Duffy, Easy Street Designs

When Eli Estrada found $140,000 in unmarked cash in the street, he wasn't thinking promotional value. He was thinking "What's the right thing to do.". He decided to call the police and turn in the cash. While many have criticized his decision, the reward has been immense. Not only did he reinforce his own image of himself as an honest man, but his story is all over the news and the internet, along with the fact that he is part owner of the Tuff Turf franchise in Huntington Park, California.

Eli could have kept the money. He'd be $140,000 richer and nobody would have been the wiser. Instead, after returning the money he has received millions of dollars worth of exposure. Perhaps an unintended consequence, but a well-deserved one. Kudos to Mr. Estrada, and his partner, who was with him when he found the cash.

Tuff Turf is located at 3418 Hill St Huntington Park, CA 90255-6432, 13.77 miles from the center of Long Beach, CA. Phone: (714) 342-8873

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Taking it to the Streets - Street Marketing

By Ed Duffy, Easy Street Designs

Maybe it's the backlash against telemarketers and door to door solicitors. Maybe it's the never-ending postage rate hikes. Maybe it's an increased need to stand out among an ever-growing crowd of competition. Whatever the reason, "street marketing" has become very popular of late.

What is street marketing? It's taking the promotion directly to the people. Ideally, you want to create some "buzz" in the process of distributing your promotional message. Street marketing can be very elaborate or very simple. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

The most common form of street marketing takes place at events. These days marketers are no longer content to sit behind a table and offer informational flyers and free pens. They're showing up in costume, working the crowd, handing out coupons, making appointments and making sales. The event doesn't have to be huge or expensive. Greg Wickherst of Custom Concept Exteriors reports that his company recently participated in a very small event, attended by only a couple of hundred people. The result; tens of thousands of dollars in window and siding sales. Kerns Water Treatment likes to make a splash at area events with their converted VW minivan which now serves as a dunk tank. They also have a mobile coffee and beverage stand which they roll out to local events. The refreshments are free, but there's always a donation jar for a local charity on the counter. The idea is to get you thinking about water and more specifically, how their products can make it better. If you're a handyman, consider offering a live demonstration every thirty minutes of how to patch a hole in your drywall. Attorneys could offer free 10 minute consultations. If you're a vendor, send your folks out among the crowd with product for sale, or with coupons. Attract, entertain, demonstrate, sell. When done well, street marketing at events can make the event more entertaining to the public, more successful for the producers and profitable for you.

Another form of street marketing takes the streets. It can be as simple as handing out flyers and coupons to passers by. The Enchanted Fairy in Security has had great response to handing out flyers with coupons in high traffic areas. It can be a bit more involved. Domino's Pizza on B Street once handed out bags containing a doughnut and a pizza coupon at an intersection near the gate to Fort Carson at 5:30 in the morning. It was a big hit. Gordon Ramsey of "Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares" often uses street marketing to draw attention to his rehab projects. He employs things like impromptu parades and clam eating contests. Sometimes pleasantly surprising a few dozen people can have a much bigger impact than presenting a few thousand with more of the same ole same ole. What if a whole neighborhood came home one fine Spring afternoon to find one your promotional frisbees on every lawn? Tape a coupon to the underside and you've got a very easy distribution system. What if your local tire dealer handed you a flyer offering to take away any old tires from your home or garage free of charge? It might make you think of the tires on your vehicles and whether it's time to replace them. Of course a big truck with a company banner on each side would show up to pick them up. It could all be scheduled for one or two days to maximize efficiency as well as "buzz".

Getting help for your street marketing project can be as easy as calling up your local church group, boyscout or girlscout troop, or other non-profit organization. They need dollars, you need a few hours of their time. Make a donation in exchange for their help. You not only help out one of your favorite causes, you also help out your own company. Don't be shy about showing your company colors while you help out the community. The big guys do it all the time. In fact they'll often spend millions of dollars letting people know about their tens of thousands in charitable contributions. There's nothing wrong with benefitting from your good deeds, unless you're an Emmanual Kant fan, in which case you don't own a business anyway. But that's another story.

People have more choices in how and where to spend their hard earned money than ever before. I have to buy gas, but I don't have to buy it from you. However, since you handed me a coupon for a free chili dog with the purchase of $20 or more in gas as I was walking out of the movie theatre, I might just stop by.

There is no single best way to advertise. But street marketing can be a very effective and fun part of the mix. Make it fun. Provide value. Make it personal. Make it memorable.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Procrastination Can Work For You

I believe it was E.W. Scripps who said "Never do today what you can put off for tomorrow. In fact, if you can put it off, it's probably not worth doing at all." At first glance, this may seem like a counter-productive piece of advice. It is actually among his 12 points for success, and quite profound.

How can procrastination lead to success? First of all, you have to have clear goals and be actively working toward them. Each day, make a list of the things you would like to accomplish that day. Now prioritize them. At the end of the day, look at what you've actually accomplished versus your list. The undone portion may become part of tomorrow's list, or other priorities may move them down the line even further.

It's important to reconcile your behavior with your stated goals. Sometimes this means you should change your behavior. Sometimes it means that your stated goals aren't actually your goals. Did your list of accomplishments reflect someone working toward financial well-being or were you working on some other agenda? Acceptance? Validation? Revenge? Take an objective look at your own behavior and see if there may be some sub-conscious issues influencing your decision making process.

It's possible that these sub-conscious issues need to be top priority, but they should be addressed consciously for maximum efficiency. It may also be that you are burning time and resources on trivial issues without being aware of it. Become aware of it and stop doing it.

If you continually tell yourself and others that something is very important to you, but it never seems to make it to the top of the "to-do" list, your own behavior is telling you that it's not nearly as important to you as you think it is or as you would like others to believe it is. Either take it off the list, or get it done, right now.

The key, as always, is awareness. Self-observation and analysis can help you discover what is really important to you. Once you have determined that, you can focus your attention and resources on achieving what you really want to achieve. It's not as simple as it sounds. It takes continual awareness and evaluation. We don't always know what it is we really want or need, and the answers often change over time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Wave BlogCasting

Laura Benjamin, nationally known communications expert and career coach is embarking on a career in radio. But for starters, she's created a blogcast/podcast program that you can access from her site :

I was honored to be among her first interviewees. Just click on the play button under "Laura Benjamin Interview" on the right, or download the mp3.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama's Pastor Problems - Marketing Analysis

I like to look at political campaigns from a marketing perspective. After all, it all leads up to influencing individual decisions on a specific date. A daunting challenge for any marketing professional. So what can we learn from Barak Obama's latest problems regarding the fiery, seemingly anti-American sermons delivered by his pastor of twenty years, Reverand Wright?

I think this is a case study in niche marketing vs mass marketing. The Reverand Wright has tapped into a segment of the market that is extremely suspicious of the US government to say the least. This is probably something like 10-15% of the general population. One can understand the appeal. After all, if you are aware of the complex and evil conspiracy being perpetrated by authorities and most of the rest of the people are not, doesn't that make you smarter and wiser than most people? This is an audience eager for validation. One can become very successful and very wealthy going after a share of that 15%.

However, Obama needs much more than a percentage of 15% to win the presidency. He needs to appeal to the mass market. In this case, the two don't mesh. We are a country at war and the majority of people are not likely to embrace a candidate who seems to think that Al Quaida may have a point. I don't think Barak Obama actually believes everything that the Reverand is selling (frankly I think the Reverand probably doesn't either). I think Obama saw in this high profile, energetic congregation a ready-made, grass roots support group. Had the views and proclaimations of the congregation's leader not come to light, this may have been a useful tool. Now it has become a liability instead.

The lesson here is to know what you're selling and to whom. If you can accomplish your goals with a small percentage of the total market, niche marketing may be a good way to go. You can make a good living selling the best sardine sandwich in the country. But if you're trying to support a nationwide network of thousands of fast food franchises, McSardines is probably not going to fly. The more you associate yourself, your product, your company or service with a narrowly defined segment of the population, the more you risk alienating the public in general.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Knowledge - Your Most Valuable Sales Tool

Having the right look, the right speech pattern, using the right buzz words will all lead to some degree of success in the short term. Real working knowledge of what you're selling will lead to lasting relationships and a lucrative career.

Speaking as someone who is approached by more than his share of salespeople, nothing turns me off faster than a well-rehearsed sales pitch. When presented with one of these I immediately ask a question that addresses my concerns, not a set-up for a manufacturer's talking points. Invariably the salesperson will attempt to redirect the conversation, either because they don't like, or don't know the answer.

If you want to make quick sales, get employee of the month, win the latest office competition, stick with the schtick. If you want to establish and promote your own reputation and build lasting relationships and long term accounts, get to know your product and how it can best be employed by your potential customers. Listen to their questions, their comments, their criticisms. If you don't have answers, find them. If you do an objective analysis and determine your product is not suited for a particular prospects needs, don't waste their time and yours. Thank them for their time and input and move on.

Remember, talking points provided by management, manufacturers, service providers are just starting points. They are the best guess by the various marketing departments as to what your prospect might be interested in and respond to. Don't try to adjust your prospect's state of mind to fit the talking points. Adjust your talking points to the reality in the field. Let the prospect tell you what their interested in. Listen, learn, evaluate, then respond. If necessary, take notes and set up a second meeting for when you're better prepared to answer questions. Don't go back and get advice on how to "hook" the client. Go get real answers to real concerns.

Don't think of yourself as a salesperson. You're a solution provider. Behave like one. The benefits of this approach are at least two-fold: Better customer retention and the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into a variety of businesses and models. Every sales call should be seen as both a challenge and a learning opportunity.

Knowledge is an asset. The positive deployment of knowledge is wisdom. If you pass up the chance to gain some of both on the job, you're missing out on a big part of your potential compensation.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Navigating an Economic Slowdown

Sales are slow, the checking account is getting low. You've got to cut costs and/or raise revenue. It's tempting at times like these to look at your ad budget for solutions. That's actually not a bad thing to do, but your aim should not be to reduce the amount of advertising, just the cost.

The last thing you want to do during a prolonged slow period is reduce or eliminate your public profile. People may not be in a buying mood today, but when they are, they are much more likely to head for the familiar. If you've been out of sight, you've been out of mind.

There are ways to stay visible and cut costs, especially when business is slow and you've got more time on your hands. Consider using doorhangers and newspaper inserts as opposed to direct mail. Use regional newspapers and organizational newsletters as opposed to the major daily. Spend more time attending networking events. Take advantage of events large and small where you can set up a table and hand out information and promotional material. Consider hosting a network event or fundraiser. Send out update letters with your regular invoices. Develop in-store or in-office advertising displays. You can also use any extra time you find yourself with to get around to those tasks you'd been putting off. Finish the website. Start the blog. Update the business card.

This is also the time to evaluate your product and service line and see what needs updating, replacing or eliminating. People love new stuff. Give them some. While you're at it, put anything new and different into a 100 word press release and send it to the local media. Follow up with a phone call asking if they received it and if it's something they'll consider running.

Don't think of a slowdown as crisis time. Think of it as half time. Review your past performance. See if there are lessons to be learned, adjustments to be made. Get ready for the next round. When they economy does come back, and you've got to assume it will (there is absolutely no point in assuming it wont), you want to hit the ground running. Don't get caught flat-footed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Marketing Through Uniforms

By Everett Abrams

When making decisions about uniforms this line of the Profit and Loss statement usually reflects a very low number or even a zero. This is a mistake for your business. Uniforms can be a very effective form of advertising that often is overlooked. When decisions are made to cut back on expenses this is one item that contractors often cut. When planning a budget or business plan this line item should be given very careful consideration. Uniforms can be a great marketing tool that boosts your bottom line.

Uniforms should always have your company logo on them. This is part of the branding of your company and builds brand recognition. Most decision makers will also include a phone number as well. One thing to consider is to list services, a tag line, or company slogan on the back of the uniform. This does not only apply to shirts but also company sweatshirts that employees often wear. These items should be listed so that potential customers can easily read them. You should view these as walking billboards on the backs of a mini sales force.

Your employees often stop for coffee in the morning, go out for lunch during the day, and stop to pick up something on the way home at night potentially being exposed to many potential customers. How often have you stopped in a store and struck up a conversation with someone? Have you ever noticed a contractor or serviceman in a uniform and asked some questions or asked for a business card? Uniforms that list your company services can start up a conversation that would otherwise never happen.

This leads to other considerations to be prepared for though. Your employees should be properly trained on how to handle these situations. It is important to recognize that not everyone is a great or even good sales person. This does not mean that they are not great employees. In these situations they should be armed with company business cards and instructed to ask the potential customer to call the office for more details or to have any questions answered. Hiring practices are a completely different topic but, this is the perfect reason why you should hire "nice" people. You can not train "nice" and if your employees are nice and friendly it will make a difference in customer service and the "selling" of your brand. When these potential customers interact with your employees they potentially become the "first impression" of your company.

Uniforms also add a look of professionalism that speaks volumes to your customers and more so your customers neighbors! Your neighbors will notice a professional company in uniforms over the company that has their favorite rock band t-shirts on. If you are a landscaper and the neighbor needs to hire a company to care for their property they may certainly ask the neighbor about their company that is doing a great job and always arrives in uniform and looking professional. The other item to consider is how your employees feel about the company they work for. They are much more likely to be more productive and be proud of the company they work for in professional looking uniforms.

Do not forget to address the negatives though. For all the exposure that your employees and their uniforms have it can work against you. You should address with your employees that it is important to not cause a negative image for your company. They should certainly NEVER wear their uniforms to their favorite drinking hole. Alcohol affects everyone differently and you don't want your uniforms involved in potentially bad situations. Employees should always be cognizant of any actions that will reflect negatively on the company when wearing uniforms. It is important to address these situations before an incident occurs.

Now you can see why an often overlooked line on our budgets can be so important to our bottom line and increasing company profits. Investing in company uniforms now seems like an expense that your company can not afford to do without.

Everett Abrams is on the Executive Board of Directors of the Power Washers of North America (PWNA) as President-Elect, Instuctor for the Wood Cerification Class of the PWNA, and co-author of the "Exterior Wood Restoration" manual that is used to teach professionals across the country. Everett also participates on the Joint Coatings Committee of the Forest Products Laboratory. Everett Abrams is also President of Deck Restoration Plus, a franchise company that specializes in wood restoration.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

How's Your Feedback Rating?

Paypal popularized the concept of feedback ratings when it introduced them as a means of quality control on it's auction services. It's a very handy mechanism for getting an idea of whether the person you're buying from or selling to has a history of keeping their word.

The same concept can be applied to your daily transactions and associations. Consider your reputation to be your "feedback rating". A good feedback rating can greatly enhance the value of your more tangible marketing efforts. Each person you associate with has a general image of you in their mind. Is it a good one? Keep in mind that every action you take, or don't take, everything you say, everything you do, is an opportunity to add to, or subtract from your feedback rating. It may not be written down, or publicly posted, but it is very real. How will the customer or supplier you're dealing with right now respond when asked "What do think of so and so's?".

Word of mouth can be very powerful, both postively and negatively. You can't control what people say about you and your business or who they say it to. You can control their perception of you by how you interact with them.

You don't know who people deal with or talk to during the course of their day. Your lowest income, lowest spending customer is potentially just as valuable as your biggest spender. Don't cherry-pick who you're going to do right by. Do right by everybody, and accept no less from them toward you. Your efforts and awareness will pay for themselves many times over in the long run.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Website Advertising in Print

Many people market their websites almost exclusively on the web. This makes about as much sense as advertising your phone number only in the phone book. A website can be your most cost effective promotional tool, if it's promoted properly. If you're relying on people just stumbling across it or getting there from another website, you could be missing out on a lot of traffic.

Make your website prominent on your print advertising. It should be at least as prominent as your phone number if not more so. Invite people to visit. When I want to buy lampshades you don't want me to do a Google search for lampshades and maybe come across your site. You want me to go directly to I'm much more likely to do so if I have a magnet or a postcard laying around with your web address on it.

Your web address should be on your letterhead, your envelopes, your packaging labels, flyers, newspaper ads, door hangers, anything that has your name and/or logo attached to it. Make sure your web address is also included in your email signature as well as your signature block for any forums you may belong to.

If you want to get the most out or your website, don't make me work to find you. Make It Easy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Marketing Alert - PostCard Special

Easy Street Designs is having a 3 week sale on 4.25 x 5.5 post cards. Full color one side or both, any quantity 10 Cents Each from now until February 15, 2008. Get 'em while they're hot! Easy Street Designs postcard special

Need Customers? Go Get 'Em!

By Timothy Wenk

In our society there are two kinds of people. MarketERs, and marketEEs. The people who create and disseminate marketing messages, and the people who receive (we hope) and react to those messages.

In marketing, there's a fundamental truth that is counterintuitive: "The initial spark that leads to the vast majority of transactions, emanates from the marketER."

When I say that truth is counterintuitive, I mean the typical consumers or potential customers believe the 'opposite.' What they believe would appear to be perfectly reasonable. Something like, "Back off marketers! If I want to find something, I'LL go out and I'LL find it for myself. Your ads and other marketing efforts have no effect on me. I will behave in exactly the same way (buy or not buy the exact same things), with or without your marketing efforts." Again, that seems to make perfect sense.

The average marketEE believes this: "The initial spark that leads to the vast majority of transactions, emanates from the marketEE."

Problem is, this is incorrect.

And if you market your small business as if it IS correct, you are making a fundamental mistake. Possibly a fatal mistake.

The truth is, the most effective marketing happens when the marketER reaches the marketEE, not the reverse. Further, the marketER must reach the marketEE, whether the marketEE wants to be reached or not! I know that's a bold statement, and it flies in the face of 'modern,' so-called 'permission marketing.'

But let me build my case...

Here are two words which, if you take heed to the lessons they can teach you, could change your business for the better: END CAPS. End caps, as you may know, are the ends of the aisles in stores. Let's take supermarkets, for example. Ask any supermarket manager why the end cap 'real estate' is so valuable. He or she will tell you, whatever item is placed there 'automatically' sells much better than otherwise. How much better? Well, one manager I spoke to said it's a boost of about 60%. Same item at the same price as the one sitting on the shelf where it usually is. He said, if the item's on sale, it's an increase of 100%, compared to the same item, at the same lowered price, on the 'regular' shelf!

Think about that. Buy merely putting a product in front of the consumer's face -- whether he asked for it or not -- produces an increase in sales of 60-100%. The ONLY difference is creating that 'initial spark.'

Here's another example: Your local newspaper. Let's agree that the ads therein are effective to a certain degree. Keeping that degree of effectiveness in mind, let's try an experiment. Let's rearrange the paper's format. Let's put all the ads in one section, and all the news in another section -- and let's try that for several months. What would be the result? Answer: The paper would go out of business. But why? Of course, because everyone would read the news section, and ignore the ad section, which would cause the ads to LOSE whatever effectiveness they had before the change in format. To the consumer, the ads are an unnecessary annoyance. If the audience is given a choice about viewing the ads, they will choose NOT to view the ads, in general. In other words, the effectiveness of the ads is dependent on their intrusiveness. Now I KNOW no one wants to hear that, but it's true.

Here's another example: McDonald's. You already know everything there is to know about McDonald's. You know (pretty much) where they are, how to find one, what their menu is, what the food tastes like, how much it costs, what you 'experience' will be like when you go there, etc. If you wanted to eat at McDonald's, you certainly would have no problem doing so. So, why do they advertise? What in the world could they POSSIBLY tell you in an ad, that you don't already know? The answer is, telling you something you don't already know is not the PURPOSE of the ads. Bugging you is. Bugging you repeatedly.

Because McDonald's knows (and so should you), "The initial spark that leads to the vast majority of transactions, emanates from the marketER, not the marketEE."

If that's NOT true, then McDonald's is wasting millions on ads every year! But it is true.

Let's put it this way: What would happen to McDonald's if they were to STOP bugging you repeatedly? They would go out of business, because ALL 'sparks' (bugging) would then emanate from the competition -- and the vast majority of the transactions would go to them.

It's a shame, but so-called internet marketing has made this consumer's myth even stronger. The temptation to rely on search engine and pay per click marketing comes from believing (incorrectly) that the group called, "my potential customers" is exactly the same group as the one called, "people already searching for what I offer." That's not so. That's thinking like a consumer.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever been to McDonald's? Have you ever been to

The lesson here is, don't market your small business using a "consumer's mindset." Realize it is YOUR responsibility to send out as many 'initial sparks' as you can. Don't wait for your potential customers to come looking for you, believing they will behave in the same way (buy the same things), with or without your ads. Look for ways to DELIVER your marketing message -- yes, even without your potential customers' "permission." And, most of those ways can be found OFFline.


Timothy Wenk, marketing consultant, can be reached at 518-448-6642 and .

Saturday, January 12, 2008

You down with "OPP"? Other Peoples Products

Everyone likes to get free stuff. This is why it's such a great promotional tool. But most businesses give away their own products or some little trinket with their logo on it. That's fine, but consider another alternative: OPP, Other People's Products.

Free stuff can generate traffic, good will and awareness. It doesn't have to be your stuff though. Give away a free coffee from a nearby shop, an order of chicken wings from a local restaraunt or wing joint, a free oil change. The possibilities are endless and it can be just as inexpensive as giving away your own stuff.

Talk to your network partners or neighboring merchants. Many of them will agree to give you the items free if you pay for the printing of the coupon and limit the amount you're going to give out. For example, a free coffee with a purchase of $x or more, or a free apple pie certificate included with an invoice.

Promotions like these can generate value for both the business giving out the free goodies and the business providing them. Your customers will love it and they'll remember you, even if you are a hardware store giving away hamburgers. The idea is to make their visit to your establishment pleasant, enjoyable, fun, something they want to do again.

Free stuff is a great promotional vehicle, especially when the economy is slowing down and consumers are feeling tight on cash. Be a hero, get down with OPP.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Marketing and Politics

Maybe you're a political junkie, maybe you find politics boring or distasteful. If you have any interest in effective marketing, politics is something you need to pay attention to. Why? It's the ultimate marketing competition. You not only have to influence people to choose your product over several others, you have to influence them to make that choice on a specific date, and you only get one shot at it.

Presidential politics is the Olympics of marketing. Imagine if you had only one day to sell your product and it only came around once every four years. Not only that, but you're facing competition and only one of you can secure the sale. The rest wait another four years or leave the competition.

From a marketing perspective, you'll gain more valuable insights by watching each candidate and looking for what they're doing right, regardless of your political leanings. Are they connecting with their target audience? Why? How? What venues are they having success with? How are they using the news media to advance their campaign?

Barak Obama is having great success recently. Part of that may stem from his constant use of the word "we" rather than "I" or "me". His supporters are made to feel like they are a part of the movement. It remains to be seen how this will play with independents, libertarians and Republicans. But for the audience he's addressing right now, it's a winner.

This is one example of how it pays to know your audience. Of course you don't want to go too far in specifically appealing to a portion of the market, if it's going to turn off the general audience. If you were marketing a niche product, it would be a different story, but the President has to appeal to general audiences.

There is no "shoe-in" this time around. Campaigns and candidates will have to develop and execute excellent marketing strategies to succeed. Watch and learn.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Why it pays to Blogvertise, Blog Marketing

Blogvertising is a venue, still in its infancy, but it's going to be huge. Internet blogs offer insights, opinions, information and entertainment of a variety, accessibility and quantity unparalleled by any other medium. To understand it's potential value to an advertiser, you should know a few things about the dynamics of blogging.

Many people post blogs, just for fun or for their own benefit. Writing is a great way to organize your thoughts, even if only for yourself. In the process of doing so you also learn more about the topics your interested in as you research the topic of the day. Blogs are unique in that this post for example, will still be here tomorrow, next week, five years from now.

Many blogs develop big readership, either through promotion or word of mouth due to great content. But an advertiser can take advantage of the industry as a whole, even those that don't get frequent visits.

When you advertise on a blog, the most cost-effective way to go is through a mention and a link within the blog. Essentially you pay the blogger to write about you, your product and/or your company. This can be done through services like CrispAds or PayPerPost, often for as little as $5 per blogger. Of course you get to approve any post you're paying for. This accomplishes several things. First, there's the obvious. Readers of that particular blog are informed of your product and provided a link. That link, remember is there for as long as the blog exists. It may be there for years, or even decades. An added benefit is that the more links you have to your site across the web, the higher you rank on search engines, regardless of the readership of the particular page its on.

Here's where it gets really interesting. Many bloggers will attempt to maximize traffic by selecting topics based on currently popular search terms. These term rankings are updated every hour or so. Suppose you put out an offer to pay $25 per post for bloggers to discuss your company: Easy Street Designs. $25 is not huge, but it's enough to get the attention of a lot of bloggers. Most of the interested parties are going to do a search for your company to get more information for their post. If enough of them do so around the same time (shortly after you post your offer, say Monday morning), your company is going to show up in the top 100 search terms for that hour. This can result in a whole slew of unsolicited blog posts about your company by other bloggers chasing trends. In the end you may pay for a dozen posts and actually get several hundred. The downside is that you have no editorial control over the unsolicited posts. Oh well. What do want for nothing?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Future of Marketing and Advertising

I gazed into my crystal ball and saw a vision of the future of marketing and advertising. OK, it was the bottom of a beer glass and an active imagination, but it was a cool vision nonetheless.

Advertising has always been tied to art, entertainment, information. It's a means of associating a product or a company with a feeling or image. Most often, these are good feelings and positive images, from the point of view of your target audience. Naturally you want to cause your target demographic to experience good feelings in association with your company, product or service.

At present there are usually a series of middlemen between the advertiser and the creative content he or she wants to be associated with. Offerings are limited, as are opportunities for the producers, by the capacity and capability of the middlemen.

While I don't expect the middlemen to disappear, I do expect their relevance to shrink dramatically as advertisers and content creators work more directly together. First the larger companies, directly producing shows rather than buying advertising space during airtime. The advertiser becomes the producer and can even become the broadcaster as both production and transmission become easier and less expensive.

The only indispensable elements in the system are the advertiser (producers of goods and services) and the creatives. While the rest may hang around, their influence will be severely diminished. It may not be the death of the salesman, but he wont be what he used to be.

Expose Yourself - So you want to be a writer

For some writing is work, for others, it's just something they like to do. For all writers, knowing that others are reading your work is a form of compensation in and of itself. How do you get your work in front of new readers when you're just starting out?

There are several opportunities available now on the web, if you're willing to provide at least some content for free. Sites like, and provide a place where writers can post their work for reprint. Publishers of Blogs, ezines, websites and print material can access and use these works under certain parameters (full credit given, no changing the article, publish work in its entirety, etc) The conditions may vary from site to site and from article to article. It's important to read the fine print before submitting or using the work.

Whether your an aspiring writer, a part time blogger, a website owner or a publisher, the new marketplace provides an unprecedented volume of content as well as distribution possibilities.