Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Define Your Name

Just what's in a name? Is your name a help or hindrance? Would you change your name if it didn't fit anymore?

Let's look at some real life examples:

Kentucky Fried Chicken. A namesake that defined a brand, a taste and all was good for years, until, the word Fried became poticically incorrect. Then they became KFC. But that didn't fool anyone. It was still Fried Chicken. Only recently did they change to a healthier cooking oil, while trying to preserve the famous taste. Call it KFC, or call it Kentucky Fried Chicken and either way we know what to expect.

Starbucks. Here's a coffee house that used brand extension principles to the extreme and lost their heart and soul. It really wasn't that Starbucks sold their goods in grocery stores, but that they stopped doing what they do best. Consistent high priced coffee drinks served in a special environment.

About a year ago, me and my wife traveled to Ohio for a weekend getaway and one of the requirements was a good cup of coffee. The small town we were in didn't have a coffee shop so we hit the road and went to the next big town. We finally found a Starbucks located in the middle of the produce section of the supermarket. Two small round tables, and 4 chairs, in between the apples, carrots, and grapes. This was amusing but not the Starbucks experience.

ROCK 104. This is a radio station I work for. And it is "Not just a radio station, but a way of life". 27 years old except for about 4 years when the station was sold and the new owners went from Rock 'n' Roll to Soft Rock. I'm glad I wasn't working there when they flipped from The Cars to Celine Dion!

But when we brought ROCK 104 back, it was bigger than life, a bigger success than it ever was in the previous 20 years. The name ROCK 104 stood for something, and we've worked hard to be true to that.

Do you know what AT & T stands for? Or IBM? These abbreviations of the original name have helped these companies stick around. If they insisted on using their full names, they'd be history.

What about redefining a common word? Apple did it, but I would not recommend it. Way too expensive.

How about creating a new name? I did with ScLoHo. And you can too if you have a good explanation for the name you create. (ScLoHo is the first two letters of my first, middle, and last name). My wife now calls me Scloho, my son has adopted JoHo as an alternate name, and the trend may continue.

We name our kids before we know anything about them. When you are picking a name for your business or a product or service that you are going to offer, you get to define your name based on what it, (company/product/service) will be.

Combine fun, thoughtfulness, and an eye for the future when you pick your name.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Certainties and Uncertainties

No Matter What (God Willing), There are somethings you can count on.

Such as:

  1. Spring is here, Summer is coming. People will be spending money because of these seasonal changes.
  2. Unless you invite people to do business with you, you will eventually go out of business.
  3. Everyone needs money to survive. You and your customers are alike in this manner.
  4. The Internet is not going away. Cell phones are not going away.
There are other certainties that I'm sure you can think of in your world.

But I ask you to start questioning ideas that you and others accept as certainties, by asking, "What If?"

You may discover some wonderful idea that can change the way you do business. After all, that's the basic question that most inventors ask themselves.

What uncertainties are there in your world?
  1. Who will be our president this time next year?
  2. What will the price of gas be in 6 months or 6 years?
  3. When will our economy recover? (Note the question is WHEN, not IF.)
  4. What's the best medium to advertise to reach new customers?
I included that last one because of the increasing options, and that while there are many strong stable favorites out there, there will also be new venues once we figure out the best way to incorporate technology and advertising. In the meantime, talk to someone that can help you look at the big picture. The really big picture. Not someone that is prejudiced towards old media, or the opposite, prejudiced towards new media.

Some ad agencies have the ability to do this, but most don't yet.

Make up your own list of Certainties, Uncertainties and What If's. Then talk to someone who can help plan for the present and the future, someone who sees the REALLY BIG PICTURE.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

3 Keys to Marketing

I was talking with a friend of mine a few minutes ago that I have a lot of respect for, asking for his advice and decided to write what you are about to read:

3 Keys to Marketing

  1. Think like a customer. Too often we know all the ins and outs of our business and we have our areas of expertise, but that does not translate into what the customer wants. A long time ago someone pointed out that folks that buy a drill, really want the end result, a hole. If your drill can make it easier for me to make a hole, great. But don't try and get me to care about all the technical stuff about the drill.
  2. Everything is a part of your marketing. Perception is reality. Cigarette butts on the ground near the front door; the gum smacking receptionist; the attitude of the head honcho; these are just as important, (or more) than your paid advertising.
  3. Dig Deep and Find Your Niche. I was in a meeting filled with business leaders and owners today and they were trying to describe their niche. Words like Customer Service, and Prices, were heard. Look, everyone is supposed to offer that. If you don't then you are on the fast track to failure. Dig Deeper, and discover what makes your Customer Service different than your competitors. Sometimes this is not easy. Do it anyway.
If you improve these 3 things, you are 10 times better at marketing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Challenge

I am fired up.

I having difficulty sleeping some nights because of the excitement.

It's not caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, or anything illegal that is doing this.

It's all in my mind.

It's what's going into my mind.

It's the reading I'm doing.

I have at least one book that I am reading from all the time.

Right now there are three books.

Last year, I discovered a book at Border's called "The Dip". It caught my interest because I was trying to decide what to do career wise. The group of radio stations I work for went through another management transition, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a part of the team anymore.

Sitting in Borders with me that Saturday evening, sharing a cookie and drinking some coffee drink was my wife, who was thumbing thru a stack of books and magazines.

I read most of the book "The Dip" and discovered that I really liked the author, Seth Godin.

So I went to the library and to check out "The Dip" but it wasn't available. Instead, I took home the book, "Small is the New Big", also by Seth Godin. I read it at night, I read it in the morning, I read it in about a week. I was hooked.

Since that time nearly a year ago, I have returned to doing something that I challenge you to do.


Not the depressing newspaper.

Not a trashy romance novel.




"I'm too busy". That's a bunch of B.S. (baloney sandwiches)

15 minutes a day? How about 5 minutes a day two or three times a day? How about turning off the TV for 30 minutes and picking up a book instead.

Here's some ideas of where to start...

If you are in sales, then read, "How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling", by Frank Bettger.

If you want to learn the basics of running a business then read all the Harvey Mackay books you can get your hands on. (I'm re-reading one of them now).

If you want to stimulate your thinking, start reading Seth Godin's books. (I've read 3 and I'm currently reading two more right now).

That's the Challenge.

Do it for 4 weeks in a row, at least 5 days a week and you will have made it a habit, one that can change your life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Invite, Invite Invite

This applies to the rookie salesperson and the seasoned vet.

This applies to the 100 year old family business and the business that you are running out of a corner of your basement.

This applies to the C.E.O. and the intern.

And everyone in between.

There is only one way for your business to Thrive and Grow, You have to invite people to do business with you.

There is only one way for your business to Survive and Stay Afloat, You have to invite people to do business with you.

There is an easy way to lose your job, your business, your livelihood. Stop inviting people to do business with you.

A good friend reminded me that any business that is coasting is going to stop. Because there is only one way you can coast. Downhill.

How do you invite people to do business with you?

Pick up the phone and set a meeting with them. Send out a postcard, Advertise in the paper, or the radio, or television. Do a billboard campaign, visit networking meetings, join a club, volunteer, develop a website, write a blog, comment on other peoples blogs. I could go on and on and on, but it all depends on what you do and who you want to do it with.

But you have to invite.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Observation Partnerships

Often as a business owner, you are so focused on the day to day operation of your business, that you don't have time for some objective brainstorming. Here's a simple solution:

Find a friend that will be honest with you, and that you can be honest with, and develop a simple observational partnership.

Keep an objective eye on each other and agree to be brutally honest with each other.

Take time and do a walk through of each others business, as a customer would, and make note of what can be done to improve the customers experience.

It could be as simple as replacing an old welcome mat, having the person that answers your phone speak slower, perhaps dusting the inventory on the top shelf. I'm sure there is something that you can do to improve and an outside set of eyes could be the first step to improving your image and your marketing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All for one and One for all

When a business grows and adds people, the personality of the business changes. As I've observed the culture changes over the past 5 years at my group of radio stations, I watched and observed this happen first hand.

One thing we have now that we lost for awhile was a team effort.

A couple of years ago, we began an open book process that helped everyone to understand what the others were doing and how we could help each other.

I sat in a seminar recently that discussed aspects of these concepts and shared a table with some who worked for the company that was hosting the seminar. Even they had some walls that needed to be removed, so I think it's a safe assumption that nearly any business that has more than one employee has some room for improvement.

With the current economy, it is easy to start blaming each other. Instead, refocus on team building and you can be a survivor and thriver.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The People Connection

I see research reports, studies, stats, and some pretty mind boggling figures as I go about my work and research week after week.

These are just tools, though. Measuring sticks. Don't mistake them for marketing.

Someone trying to get you to buy the latest and greatest form of advertising? Keep in mind the following question before you sign up:

"How does this help my business connect with the people who I want as customers?"

Until the salesperson can show you the answer to that question, you might want to wait.*

Notice the asterisk*?

*That's because there is also a time not to wait, even if the salesperson cannot answer the question. And that is when you can answer the question yourself.

Because unfortunately, not all advertising sales people can answer that question, and that may be a reflection on the salesperson, not the form of advertising they are offering you.

Marketing is all about connecting with people.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Plotting your Direction

Do you have a plan for the direction that your business will go and grow in 2018?

That's not a typo.

Ten years from now, what do you imagine your business to look like?

Let's try looking in the rearview mirror.

In 1998, did you plan for what your business is today?

Remember the Y2K scare at the turn of the century? There was this fear that the Internet and all the world would shut down, because computers would think that it was the year 1900, instead of 2000, when we entered the new century.

Guess what, it didn't happen. There were some minor glitches but we as a nation, as a world handled it pretty smoothly.

You say to yourself, "A ten year plan, I don't even have a plan for the rest of April 2008!"

Do yourself a favor this weekend, and do some future planning and goal setting. Look at the rest of this year and see what opportunities are going to occur naturally, such as holidays, seasonal events, etc.

Look at what you missed out on this year, and jot those items down too.

Now you have the beginings on an outline to at least get you started on plotting your direction.

One of the worst mistakes I've seen and experienced too is not having any direction. You may have goals, but you need to develop a map to get there. And there will be both detours and dead ends. But there may also be some expressways in the future that you were unable to see today.

Plan, Drive a focus, and keep your eyes open for additional opportunities.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How to Revive your Business

I've seen it over and over again. The family business is passed down from one generation to the next. It happened in my family.

My grandparents started several businesses including a coffee distribution company, a bakery, and a restaurant back in the 1940's. One of those businesses is still around.

My Dad's oldest brother took over the restaurant and then it went to my cousin. 3 generations of Howard's running Howard's Restaurant in Colebrook, New Hampshire.

Each generation learned from their father and each son made changes to the business. There is a danger in a business that has been around for awhile. It can get stale, boring, out of touch. Sales can remain steady, which is the first step to decline. Anything besides growth is a problem. So how do you revive your business?

Start by looking at the way things are done now. Write down as many details in the form of a list. Get input from all your key employees, and from the non-key employees. Then ask the question, "What if...?" and purpose an alternative to any and everything that is on your first list.

Do not make any judgments yet. You want to stimulate the idea process, not stifle it. Then put the lists away for a few days.

A week later or so, take out the two lists again and start brainstorming. You are looking to eliminate non-productive tasks, routines and procedures and discover a better way to run your business.

Perhaps you are have been doing the same thing, the same way as you did when you started your business and haven't taken advantage of new technology.

Perhaps you switched to a new technology and in the process lost some of the relationship building opportunities with your customers.

You will probably discover ideas that could not just revive your business, but transform and revolutionize your business. You'll never know until you start with the question, "What if...?"

Why Word of Mouth Matters

Who do you trust?
Your Best Friend?
Your Spouse?
Your Neighbor?
A Co-Worker?
A TV Commercial?
A full page ad in the Yellow pages?
A Spam e-mail?

I'm willing to bet that you trust people that you know over any form of paid advertising. When you are looking for a good deal on a computer, the best gas prices, a good meal, a bargain on whatever, if someone you trust gives you a recommendation, you are going to give that more weight than nearly anything else.

It's human nature. We are all marketing machines for the products and services we like.

So, is your paid advertising and marketing efforts designed to go with this flow, or is it contrary to what will cause people to talk about you?

Let's say you have a shoe store and your major sale designed to stimulate sales is "15% off". That's it.

You are setting yourself up for failure. Create something worth talking about. How about instead of giving your customers 15% off; you instead team up with a worthy cause, a local charity and donate 15% to that charity?

If you do it right, and create an event, you have created positive word of mouth that will create a good feeling and emotional bond with your customers that they will tell others about. (Oh, and repeat this event every year too!)

Look at the numbers. Either way you are going to get 15% less on each pair of shoes sold. But with the second option, that 15% is going to come back to you in goodwill, positive word of mouth and an emotional bond with your customers. The first option only means you get 15% less in your cash register and minimal word of mouth.

Do something that will get people talking, not just saving money.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

3 things to Eliminate from your store

Three things that no amount of advertising can overcome if these are going on:

  1. A Dirty Store. (Make sure you dust, vacuum, get rid of bad odors, and keep the trash cans empty.)
  2. Rude Employees. (Why do business with someone that doesn't want to do business with you?)
  3. Inferior Products. ( I should get what I pay for, and I have reasonable expectations for the $1500 computer, and reasonable expectations for the $2.00 cup of coffee.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Brand your Uniqueness

Distinct. Unique. Two words that should describe you. Two words that should describe what you do. Two words that should describe your business. Do you measure up?

It is not enough to be open for business and do a "good job". You need to have your own personality. Your own Brand. It needs to be something your competitor is not.

A few years ago, when one of my radio stations was a talk format station, we were near the bottom of 25 stations in the rankings for listenership. However, we were the number two talk station. That was unique.

I worked with helping a successful real estate agent brand herself a few years ago. At the time, there were around 6,500 licensed agents in the area. How would you like to set yourself apart from 6,499 competitors?

We began with narrowing our focus, and when we were done, we discovered she was one of the top 2 agents in her brokerage, which was the largest in this area. She went from being in the top 25 of 6,500, to number 2 with the number 1 firm in town. It all depended on how you looked at the numbers.

I urge you to find your uniqueness, your distinction, and if it is a positive attribute that customers relate to and are looking for, then brand it. You probably need an outsider trained and experienced in doing this to help you. (Contact me).

Brand it long term, not just for a few weeks, or months, but years. Use your Brand in everything you do, from answering the phone, to having it printed on your business cards. Include it in all your marketing efforts. This is one of the basics of marketing that will never go out of style.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Let's get Real

At the last Ad Fed meeting, our guest speaker, Dr. Susan Mboya, Global Director for New Business Development with Procter & Gamble, presented "Winning With Minorities: An Equal Opportunity Industry."

After her presentation, she and I reviewed some of her points and my notes and these are so important, that I'm sharing them with you.

First, Dr. Myboya did a comparison of advertising targeted to African-American Women in the General Media vs. advertising that was targeted to women in general in the General Media.
(General Media refers to networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, etc. vs. networks such as BET)

By keeping it "real" with less hype, the African American Women in the Proctor and Gamble focus groups, responded more favorably than they did to general advertising, because they felt like the company connected with them and their reality.

What I also found fascinating, but not surprising, the non African American Women also responded more favorably to the ads that were targeted to African American Women and aired in the General Media. As I saw the women in our luncheon audience react and comment during the presentation, they were echoing the results of the research that P & G did.

Why did non African American Women respond more favorably to advertising that was not targeted to them?

The answer is simple.

It is because the ads dealt with reality, not Hollywood or Madison Avenue Hype. And our brains and emotions are wired to look for what is real and screen out the b-s.

Let this be a lesson to all of us involved in advertising and marketing, Keep it Real.