Thursday, February 28, 2008

Living the Life

It's one thing to write, preach, teach and inspire others to do the right thing. It's something else to follow your own advice and Live the Life. This is about someone that Lives the Life.

Over a year ago I wrote to Harvey Mackay about something he wrote on his website. And I forgot about it until this week.

Monday I received a letter of apology from one of his assistants:

Dear Mr. Howard:

I am Harvey Mackay's assistant and I must apologize as I have just now come across a letter Harvey dictated to you last year when you emailed him.

It is totally my responsibility for the late response, so I'd like to briefly explain and hope you will understand.

I lost my dad in February...

And she continues:

received tens of thousands of letters and emails every year so you can probably imagine the backlog developed over that time so when your email was sent in April I was already buried. I had been sending his emails to him in mail folders as he is working on a book project due out this year and was out of the office most of the time . . . he then returns enormous amounts of written responses for me to send out...

She also asked for my mailing address so she could send a book and the letter that Harvey dictated last year.

I wrote back and expressed my condolences over her losses, and updated her on what I have being doing with my blog references to Harvey, and also the influence he has had on not only me but also my oldest daughter who is excelling in relationship based sales.

Thursday a package arrived with the letters and some more of Harvey's writings.

Lessons learned:

  1. Harvey Mackay still takes the time to respond to those who write to him, despite the enormous volume.
  2. Harvey's staff also is living the life example that Harvey lives.
  3. It's never too late to do the right thing.
Thank you, so very much.

Matching, the key to successful advertising

Over the past 50 years, the options for where to and how to advertise has grown tremendously. Some people wish for the "good old days" when there were less options and more "mass" to mass media. But like the 50 year old former high school jock that continues to reminisce about winning the "Big Game" half a lifetime ago, it's time to wake up and look at reality today.

I have made a decent living in one of the traditional mass media's know as Radio. AM, FM have been dominate for free music, news and information all of my life. That, however is changing. Technology has changed the way consumers live their lives and that includes cell phones that not only take pictures, but are music players and internet portals. We have gone beyond what the Star Trek generation imagined, (Except for the ability to "beam me up"), or in my case, the Get Smart, Maxwell Smart with his shoe-phone generation imagined.

But no matter what technology brings us, there are certain principles that need to be followed in order to make the most of your advertising dollars, and those principles fall in the category of Matching.

With the growth of new media and the choices available, it offers you the ability to screen your advertising messages to those that best match the people you want as clients and customers.

Along with Matching the Media, you also need to match the method of communication and match it with your available dollars to spend. Remember that you are wanting to reach out to other human beings and create an impression with them so that you will be thought of first, (or be in their short list of 3), when they need what you have to offer. This is the branding side of your marketing.

I'm going to use the word party and send out invitations to your party to help you understand what I have observed as a common shortfall of many business owners. If you were to have a party and do all the prep work, decorate, order special food and entertainment, but never send out any invitations, how many people would show up? Yeah, zero. That's what happens when people open a business but never advertise to let people know they are there.

It's not the biggest audience that you want to invite to your party, you want to invite the select few that will really appreciate what you have to offer. Then those people will tell others and the effectiveness multiplies. But it all starts with Matching and inviting the right people.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Measuring the results of your advertising

Over the many years that I have worked in advertising, I have heard just about every positive and negative comment about advertising. There is one thing that is truly impossible to measure and that is to able to pinpoint the results to a specific form of advertising or marketing.

It used to be coupons were a way to track, because the business owner had a piece of paper (coupon) that they could count at the end of the day. Same thing with Direct Mail.

But what about the Phone Book? Should you advertise in the Yellow Pages? The Yellow Page people will show you stats that show that a big % of the population uses the phone book. What is not asked is why a consumer will choose one business over another. It often is not the Yellow Pages ad, but the other advertising and marketing that plants the name of a business in a consumers mind so that when they see the name and number in the phone book, the business is recognized and then called. Which form of advertising gets the credit for bringing you the customer? The phone book, since that's the last form of advertising that the consumer recalls seeing.

It could be your sign. It could be the ad you place in the church bulletin or school paper. Maybe it's the attention getting billboards or signs on your truck.

If you are doing more than one form of marketing, yes I said marketing, not just advertising, than it is impossible to measure the results with 100% certainty.

Realistically, your customers cannot tell you all of the reasons that they became your customers. We simply don't remember everything.

Then there is the other side of the equation. Business owners and their people don't ask their customers. Have you ever been asked by the check out clerk why you bought a particular brand of soup or pasta sauce? Have you ever been asked by the attendant at the gas station why you picked their station instead of the one across the street? (I don't even see a person when I buy gas, since I pay at the pump.)

So if it is nearly impossible to track your advertising, does that mean it's hopeless?

No, it just means you should be very leary of those advertising sales reps that want to sell you advertising that you can track, unless they have the same insight that I've shared with you today.

I'll write more on this subject in the future.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Recession means opportunity

As I was driving to the office this morning, I heard the news, economists are using the R word.

So should you pack it in, curl up and hide, ride it out, or take advantage of what's going on?

Fight or Flight?

Only you know your risk tolerance.

But it's like the stock market. When prices drop, people instintively sell and they often end up losing money.

The smart people look at dropping prices in the stock market as a sale and buy, then wait for the market to go back up.

Your competitors are going to try and hang on to their money and cut back on their marketing budget.

That means there should be less marketing competition and you should increase your marketing.

After all, the population isn't shrinking, and if the product or service you sell is a need, than you have a chance to increase your market share.

Again this depends on many factors including whether you should even be in business, or stay in business. Perhaps you need to redesign your business model.

But please, now is not the time to follow the leaders that are going down with the ship. Now is the time to think, and plan and act independently and find your way above water.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why do they play the same songs every hour?

This morning I had breakfast with my carpet cleaner.

Josh owns his own business and he brought up a subject that is dear and near to my life, and that is radio station's playlists.

I've worked for radio stations off and on since I was 16. I was a disc jockey, I programmed the music, I moved to the advertising side slowly and except for learning some of the latest software, could pretty much run the whole thing if I wanted to. So know that you know my qualifying background, here's the answer:

Mass Media is designed to get as big of an audience as possible. Back in the 1950's a couple of guys were watching a waitress in a diner take her tip money and put it in the jukebox. And she kept playing the same songs over and over. She played her favorites and ignored the others.

You and I do this when we go out to eat. Next time you are looking at the menu of your favorite restaurant, count how many items are on the menu. Then count how many of them you have ever ordered. See, we all have our favorites in life.

Back to the jukebox story. These two guys decided to hook up with the jukebox company and get a list of the most played songs each week and play only the very best on the radio. This would (in theory) mean that by playing the very best and most popular music, they would get the biggest audience possible tuning in to listen and then they could sell commercials to the businesses that wanted to invite those radio listeners into their store and spend money buying the stuff they needed. That's how TOP 40 Radio came about.

Dick Clark hosted American Bandstand each week by playing the hits. Casey Kasem and later Rick Dees hosted national radio countdowns each week on American Top 40. In Fort Wayne in the 1960's there was a radio station that 65% or more of the town listened to: WOWO.

As broadcasting changed with the growth of more choices with additional radio stations, television stations, then cable tv and now the internet, there is even more competition than ever to gather an audience.

Some have done this by limiting the number of songs they play, so you'll always hear the most popular songs of the week of a certain genre. Others have taken the other approach and expanded their music library to over 10,000 songs. Which works better?

Think about your restaurant again. If you could pick out 10 of your favorite meals and be served them and only them everyday for the next month for 5 bucks a day would you do it? Or would you rather be served every item on the menu of say 30 items, one each day until you've had all of them, still for 5 bucks a day? Most people stick with their favorites.

With over 20 radio stations in my town, there is a variety of music available. Just push the button to find another station. Still can't find it? Search the internet. Get an Ipod.

Remember that the reason the radio station plays the same songs, is because they want to get the largest share of listeners to attract advertisers that pay to have their commercials played and pay for it all. This is mass media.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's not what you think it is

Recently, there has been several signs that the printed newspaper could disappear. Declining circulation numbers over the past 10 years have led many papers to shut down. Cities that offered both a morning paper and afternoon paper, have become scarce. In Fort Wayne, our two papers operate under a Joint Operating Agreement, otherwise we would have been a one paper town years ago.

Television viewership has been declining recently too. Why? Perhaps it is because we have more channels available, so each channel has a smaller number of viewers. Maybe it is also because of the alternatives made possible where we can time shift our viewing to suit ourselves with Tivo and DVR's... it is also possible to watch some shows online via the internet.

Radio, the profession I started working in when I was 16 is also continuing to be challenged for listeners with the growth of alternatives such as more radio stations, Ipods, the internet, etc.

These three mediums (Radio, TV, & Newspapers) are not what they appear to be. You might think that the News that you read or watch is about journalism. That the Music that you hear is about artistic expression. I used to think this too when I was on the air as a radio personality. It's not what you think it is.

So what is it?

Newspapers, Radio Stations, Television Channels, Magazines, and their associated websites are all about the money. And this is not bad, no, it actually is good and honest.

Each of these mediums provide a marketing platform that is designed to attract a certain group of people. The advertising that is contained on these mediums with commercials and ads pay for these mediums to exist. And you and I as consumers are influenced by these advertising messages to spend our money with the advertisers.

Here's how you can help keep your favorite TV show on the air, or radio station on the air, or newspaper or magazine around. Pay attention to the advertisers. Buy from them. Tell them where you heard about them. Write a letter to the president of the company or store thanking them for advertising with your favorite radio station or TV program.

This is the way it works in this country of ours, and for that I'm thankful.

And now you know the truth.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Gravel & Bricks

Three summers ago, my wife and I were doing some outdoor home improvements which inspired the following which I wrote back then:

Never confuse the foundation with the design of your project.

These words of wisdom can be applied to almost anything, but what brought it to mind was a pallet of paving bricks in my backyard. My wife is excellent when it comes to having a sense of style and design in most cases. Me? I have my own style that has been influenced by others in my life, but between the two of us, I usually let her have her way and I like her ideas.

The paving bricks are part of a project that she initiated in our backyard to build a brick patio. As Kathy focused on the design she wanted and I assisted with some of the grunt work, we came to realize that the foundation of this patio was not turning out right and we had differences in our approach to solve the problem. Basically in the end, I insisted that we get the foundation the way it needed to be, and then the design that she wanted could be accomplished afterwards.

How is your business operating? Do you have the basics in place? That could be a legal adviser, accountant, banker, along with the rest of your business plan? Or are you the type who is just going to "wing it"? Please get the foundation in place first, then you can play with the design of your business.

And in case you haven't done so yet, include a marketer to your staff of advisers and experts. Someone who is honest and not just a yes man, someone who can give you valuable advise based on what you need. There is a difference between an advertising salesperson and a marketer who sells advertising.

The Brick Patio? It's taking longer to build but it is being built on a firm foundation.

The Right Way

How many right ways are there?

If you limit yourself to just one right answer, then you have stopped looking for "righter" answers.

Okay, let's put it another way. Good is the enemy of Better.

If you are sold that your way is the only way, then you have too narrow of a focus.

There are of course a few absolutes, but not as many as we may think.

How Many Rights Are There?

I used to believe the formula:


Well that's one too many RIGHTS.


Too much emphasis is placed on the right people and very little is placed on crafting the right message.

You can yell and scream to the people who are the right demographic and all it will do is annoy and cause tune out.

However the right message can produce action. More to come.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Broadcasting vs. Niche-casting

Currently I earn my living in the radio advertising business. This is one form of Broadcasting in the traditional sense. Television is another form of traditional broadcasting. Let's take a moment though and define Broadcasting vs. Niche-casting:

Broadcasting does not discriminate. It is not picky. Anyone that has a radio or television can tune in and your advertising and marketing messages will be received by the masses that are tuned in. That's why this is also called mass marketing. Traditional daily newspapers are also part of this mass marketing broadcasting. So are Billboards, direct mail, and many other forms of traditional mass media marketing... they usually fit into the broadcasting definition I've described, that is they reach a broad audience with very little discrimination.

Compare this with Niche-casting, also known as narrow-casting. Niche-casting is designed to reach only those who are likely to use your product or service. The Internet is in the process of designing search engines that do a decent job of niche-casting. Cable TV is offering shows that Niche-cast. Newspapers and print publications are trying to do this with specialty publications and advertising sections devoted to a particular niche.

A radio station format is supposed to be a niche. On one of my radio stations, we have created some more specific niche's with some specialty talk shows and features that are designed to a very specific audience.

Your business needs to be a niche. There is too much competition for peoples money and time to be bland, vanilla, and general. You will fade into the woodwork, unseen, ignored, and die a fast or slow, but painful and expensive death.

So, how do you determine the best way to find your customers? Find out what sources they are using for gathering information. Radio, TV, Billboards, Print, Direct Mail can still work if you use it properly and understand what you are getting. They are still where the majority of your customers are.

But that is changing. Sunday's Superbowl tv ratings show that 97 million people tuned in for at least 5 minutes of the telecast. ( That's how the ratings work. Ask me and I can tell you more.) The highest rated tv show ever was supposedly the season finale of MASH in 1983.

But if you have a smaller budge than 2 or 3 million dollars to run per day, than find your niche.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Are you worthy of having a storefront?

I started writing about this subject on my other blog that quotes a research study that points out that there are certain aspects of in person retail that cannot be replaced by on line retail.

I want to make sure you are aware of some of these uniquenesses that cannot be replaced by the internet, so that your in person store is living up to it's potential.

Start with the 5 senses:

  1. Sight. Does your store look good? Is it pleasing to the eye? Does it reflect the atmosphere of you and your products and services? What should you change to improve the visual aspects of your store?
  2. Smell. Science has shown that women have a keener sense of smell than men. Make sure you have a woman with a keen sense of smell walk through your store and give you honest feedback. You can also create a scent for your store. Warm and inviting candles, muffins, coffee, chocolate, or other scents can be used to create a positive aroma. But don't just try and cover up a bad scent. Eliminate the bad oder, and then replace it with a positive scent.
  3. Taste. Yes, you do not need to be a food or beverage establishment to offer this to your customers. I know of a shredding business that always has fresh cookies for their walk in customers; a hair salon and spa that has your choice of naturally flavored water, tea, or coffees.
  4. Touch. This is a big one. I recall a few years ago helping a furniture store with their floor plan. They had all the baby cribs bunched together like a row of cars. I personally re arraigned that section of the store into a maze-like display which forced customers to look at and touch each crib. They sold their first crib within two hours. If you sell clothing, make sure you have dressing rooms that are comfortable. This is one big advantage that you have over on line retail. Yesterday I bought twice as much as I planned due to the ability to browse in a store and imagine possibilities as I wandered.
  5. Sound. Yesterday, I also visited the mall. some of those stores I would not visit because of the loud annoying music. Sound does not have to be loud to have an impact. Subtle can have a stronger impact by creating an atmosphere that our subconscious picks up on and can enhance our mood and actually increase sales by 10 to 50%, depending on what you are selling.
There is one more important reason for having a storefront that people visit and that is the human experience that comes from the service you and your staff give. Either replace or retrain anyone that does not live up to the standards that you want your customers to experience.

Remembering these tips and following these guidelines will not just help you stay in business, they will become the reason you are in business, unless you want to be replaced by an on line retailer!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Authenticity... more than another Buzz Word

This morning as I was traveling to work, the radio stations are doing non-stop coverage of the school closings, weather and road conditions, and I needed a break. I pushed the button for my local public radio station and heard the word Authenticity being used.

The context and conversation was in regards to the 2008 Presidential Race. The Authenticity is what is attracting younger folks to candidates that are offering an alternative to the typical political rhetoric that uses memorized sound bites and positions that change with the prevailing polls.

Authenticity is more than another Buzz Word, it is a marketing strategy that is based on truth.

If your ad agency uses, cliche's and "power words" that are not a part of your customers vocabulary, watch out. Stick with the truth, boring maybe refreshing if you dig deep enough and tell it like it is.

Do not, EVER say people come to us because we offer great service. Dig deeper and tell us about that service. Dig until you strike gold and discover what it is about the service that you offer that attracts your customers. You'll come up with some real nuggets of truth that can lead to an Authentic marketing strategy and advertising campaign.