Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why Relationships Matter

As I have advised numerous business owners, Relationships Matter.

But Why?

No matter what product or service you sell, you have at least one competitor. Even if you are the only car repair shop in town, your customers can choose to trade vehicles instead of dealing with you, if they don't want to.

So what makes you the one they spend their money with?

Depends on a multitude of factors but they have one thing in common, a relationship.

Sometimes a relationship is based on convenience such as location.

A couple of years ago I moved 2 1/2 miles and my coffee shop habits, and grocery store habits changed.

Location was one of the influencing factors that I changed.

Think about it this way, would you rather do business with someone that treated you fair, or someone that you were distrustful of?

So do your customers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

E-mail Marketing & Website Tips

At my Collective Wisdom Blog I have featured tips on websites and email from other experts.

Recently I learned a few lessons first hand.

This summer I became the Vice-President of Communications for the Advertising Federation of Fort Wayne.

Among the duties that I have assumed were the website and email blasts that we send to members and guests for upcoming events.


We use a professional service that allows me to create, customize and track the response rate. When I took over as V-P, there were 125 names and email addresses. About 30 were old, I discovered. I asked for some additional contacts from my fellow board members and added a few of my own and ended up with a list of 300 email addresses that we will be adding to in the months ahead.

That's 300 good email addresses that didn't bounce or unsubscribe. It took a number of hours to scrub the old database, and compare one list with another, but it payed off.

First email blast was sent at 6:15pm on a Monday night. I discovered this was not the best time as I was able to track if the recipients even opened the email and so I changed my strategy for the next one a week later.

The second email was similar to the first but had an update of an extra guest speaker, so there was a relevant reason for people to open the second email, even if they opened the first.

The second email was sent at 10am on a Monday. Response was triple compared to the one sent after business hours. One last email was sent the following day at 3pm. Again, the open rate was very good.

Here's the email sending tips that I learned.

  1. Middle of the morning or Middle of the afternoon during a business day works best for business related emails because the recipient has cleared out all the emails that received overnight or during lunch.
  2. Also, you have to give them a compelling reason to open the email, the curiosity factor.
  3. And if you are sending the same basic email more than once, you better have a good reason to do so. Better yet, make some adjustments to the content.

These are some of the same strategies I use in building a radio campaign that's focused on an upcoming event. And it works.

Now for the Website tips.
Make sure your site loads correctly in all the popular web browsers. Internet Explorer still is number one. However many people like myself prefer to use an alternative such as Firefox, or Opera. Apple users are most likely to view your website on Safari.

I spent a few hours trying to figure out why a page on our membership list did not load correctly in Internet Explorer and finally after trying to decipher the HTML code, found the answer and now it loads properly.

The last website tip is make sure everything is current and working. You wouldn't run an ad campaign that featured an old disconnected phone number or address, so clean up your website too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

10 Lessons to learn from Political Marketing

I look at the longest Presidential in U.S. history with two perspectives, personal and professional.

As a student of marketing, teacher of marketing and professional marketer, I have a few observations to pass along that can help you market yourself and your business:

  1. Victories are won one battle at a time. Hillary Clinton was the presumptive nominee when this battle began. The first contest in Iowa was won by the new kid on the block. Obama had 38%, Edwards 30%, and Clinton 29%. On the Republican side Huckabee had 35% followed by Romney, Thompson and McCain. 5 days later the New Hampshire Primary had Clinton and McCain on top.
  2. Focus on your Strengths. Both Obama and McCain were non-traditional. Obama stressed his youth and lack of "Washington-insider status". McCain highlighted his war record as a POW and as a maverick in Washington.
  3. Be Prepared for Attacks from your Competition. Consumers always have a choice to do business with you, or with someone else. Some of your competitors will stress why they are a better choice than you. If you know your competition, you will be better prepared to position yourself to your customers.
  4. Your customers are Smarter than you give them credit for. Many of the people that voted in the primaries did their homework before they voted. With the Internet, people are checking you out too!
  5. Your customers are not as Smart as you give them credit for. Well, how else do you explain the rumors, ignorance and that many of the electorate still believe about the candidates? And your customers, no matter how much branding you do, will not really pay attention until they need your product or service.
  6. You need to develop a brand and do a branding campaign. Even though your new customers may not spend money with you until months (or years). Top of Mind Awareness will help you stand out in a crowded field of choices.
  7. Embrace technology. Obama used it repeatedly. Your customers are using it. You MUST use it.
  8. Your customers matter more than you do. It's the classic question, "What's In It For Me?" that voters and customers want to know.
  9. Feelings matter. People want to buy from businesses that they feel good about. Candidates have been working their butts off to touch the voters hearts and arouse passion. You should too.
  10. Admit your mistake, apologize and move forward. Stubbornness creates ill will. Making things right creates good will.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Advertising on the Internet

The internet is a wonderful thing. And it is still in its infancy.

Think about the advent of radio or television broadcasting.

A nice invention, but how do you make money with it was a question someone must have asked a long, long time ago.

Eventually advertising was used to support this "free medium". I say free, because after buying a radio or television, you were not obligated to spend anymore money except for the electricity to power the radio or t.v.

Later people started paying a subscription fee to get extra channels via a cable t.v. service. Those in the Television Broadcasting business locally tell me that penetration for cable, FIOS, or satellite services is 80% in our Metro.

Wow, 4 out of 5 people pay extra money each month to watch television.
Next thing, people will pay extra for bottles of water that is no different than the water they can get out of their tap.

See how we become conditioned to accept things through marketing?

Another piece of technology that changed our viewing habits was the wireless remote control. With dozens, no, make that hundreds of channels piped into our homes, can you imagine having to stand in front of your television to change the channel until you find what you want?!

The remote also made it easy for us to flip the channel when a commercial came on. But studies show, that the number of people that flip during a commercial break is directly related to the quality of the commercial as judged by the viewer.

So what about this internet thing? Can anyone make money with it? Yes, but it will take more than setting up a website and waiting for the money to come rolling in. Quite frankly, methods of advertising online that worked 5 years ago, such as banner ads, are not as effective, generally speaking as they used to be.

Consumers have learned to tune out advertising, so it will take a marriage of advertising methods and creativity, coupled with the understanding of basic human emotions and behavior, to make an internet ad campaign successful. And odds are that within a few years, you will need to use different methods to reach your online audience, which is okay.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How to Streamline Your Marketing

This week I met with a financial planning firm that I do marketing consulting for and as we talked, I asked what criteria they used for deciding which paid media they used and what criteria they used for deciding what marketing activities they were doing or going to do.

I was disappointed in the answers, because they were not using the correct criteria for either activity.

But I was encouraged because they wanted to do better.

Here's the simple yes or no question to ask yourself:

Does this help to build relationships with my current and potential customers?

What does it take to build relationships?

Think of it as dating. If you were asked to get married on the first date, the odds are that you would have said no. After two or three dates, the answer would have been the same, but you can see the process is building.

You don't date and marry every person you meet. So it is with your marketing and advertising. You are not going to get everyone that sees or hears about you to be your customer.

And from a customers perspective, you are not going to use every product or service that you see advertised.

It takes repeated exposure (dates) for the consumer to decide to commit, buy, (marry) or reject, (dump) you and look for someone else to spend their money with.

So, if you are doing short term non-relational marketing and advertising, expect very little satisfaction (one night stand) instead of a long lasting satisfying relationship that supports your business over and over again.

One last thought on this.

Husbands and wives mess up and annoy each other at times. But they stick it out, because the benefits of the relationship outweigh the negatives.

As a business, you need to earn your customers business and referrals and take care of the occasional mess ups that are bound to happen.

Remember, we are all people dealing with people and by following these principles, it is not that hard to do the right thing for you and your business.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Ten years from now, what will be different in your life?

Ten years from now, how will your business be different?

Ten years from now, will your life and your business be the result of a plan or simply circumstance?

One of my activities is serving on a marketing advisory board for a financial firm and when I began 18 months ago, I asked the owner these same questions.

As a result of knowing where she wants to be in ten years, she can formulate a plan for today that will move her firm in the direction it needs to go.

Yes, I know there are many things that we cannot predict that will occur in the next ten years, but if you honestly take a look at your life and your business, you'll be surprised at what is predictable.

Set some goals, complete with a timeline. Then start down the path to get there. You'll be in the top 10% by simply doing these steps.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tired of your Commercial?

I was getting tired of seeing a urinal on at the top of this website, but I did what I will tell most advertisers, stick it out.

You as a business owner, or advertising professional will grow tired of an ad a lot sooner that the public that you want to reach.

So if you want are starting to want to freshen up or change your ad, take your time. Hold your breath, let it ride for another week or two unless:

  1. The ad is out of date. (Please stop your 4th of July Sale.)
  2. Uh, that's about it.
See you are more sensitive to the ad because you are paying attention to it. For the average person it will take some extra time and exposure for them to realize you have an ad, then for them to start paying attention and then for them to respond if they have a need.

So relax, and leave it to the professionals that study this. Or contact me and I'll help you plan for success.

(By the way, I wrote this on Tuesday, but decided to wait until Thursday to post it. Just following my own advice.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Alternatives and Basics

Nearly every type of advertising that you can imagine, can work.

If you remember that it is a human being that you want to respond to your advertising efforts and that their are multiple ways to reach that person and get her or him to respond, then you have the foundation for success.

Here's a few unconventional or Alternative methods that you may (or may not) have seen over the last few years:

  • Bathroom Ads placed above the Urinal. I don't know if there is something simular in the women's room, but when you are standing there, you are a captive audience.
  • Napkin and Placemat Advertising. The placemat advertising has been around for decades. Subway decided to promote their nutritional menu on their napkins several years ago. I'm surprised that I haven't seen more of this.
  • Vehicle Signage. If your company has company vehicles, this is an easy way to get the word out while getting work done. Make sure you have easy to read contact information included.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Christmas in August?

Actually it might be a little late to start planning for Christmas 2008.

How far in advance do you plan?

Here are some recent examples. Our local Philharmonic Orchestra has their entire 2008-09 season planned. This week we finalized the advertising that my stations will be doing through April 2009.

McDonald's, one of my clients, plans their advertising budgets 12 months a time, which means that their Christmas 2008 promotions were decided upon around November 2007 or earlier.

I sit on an advisory board for a local financial planning firm and during one of the first brainstorming meetings I attended, I advised them to start planning their exit strategy which is 12 years away.

The benefit of planning ahead? You have a direction, a game plan, a map that you can follow.

You also need to be open to detours and back up plans, and the ability to take advantage of new opportunities that were not in the original plan.

The problem of planning ahead? Not enough people do it. You are too busy dog paddling to stay afloat that you are too exhausted to swim the distance.

Football season is around the corner and you know they have plays and drills that they rehearse and practice week after week. Then when they are in the heat of the game, they choose the option that best fits the situation at hand.

I urge you to do the same with your business.

If you are only looking at business a month ahead, then start by looking two months ahead. Then next month, stretch a little further by planning three months ahead, and keep building.

Now is the time to start planning for Christmas 2009!