Monday, September 22, 2008

Creating a Long Term Business Marketing Plan

How long are you planning on being in business? Now before you answer that question, look at these questions:

If you are a seasonal business, Are you going to be in business next year?
If you are nearing retirement, Do you have a succession plan?
If you are just starting, Are you feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, yesterday?

Unless you are out for a quick buck and not planning on sticking around town, and your primary skill qualify you as a con-man, you need to think Long Term with your marketing.

Long term does not mean weekly, monthly, quarterly, even annually. Long term should be thought of in terms of decades, and lifetimes.


Most successful businesses are built on relationships. And relationships take time, energy, and effort to cultivate.

I'm working with a few businesses that used to do short term marketing strategies and blew a lot of money on gimmicks that created bursts of activity, but then the marketing money ran out and, they were left with a half dozen gimmicky ideas and not a coherent, relationship based marketing plan.

Here's a quick way to evaluate if you are doing relationship based marketing, or not. Ask yourself if the advertising and other marketing efforts are based on your needs and desires, or are they based on your customers needs and desires.

Stop doing the gimmicks, create value, the value that your customers are looking for, and design each and every marketing and advertising campaign to enhance those relationships.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

12 Marketing Tips...Look inside First

When I returned to my profession of advertising and marketing about 6 years ago, I had a mission in mind.

That mission was to help business owners and managers make smart decisions with their advertising and marketing.

One of my goals when I have my initial meeting with a prospective client is to give them something they can do immediately to improve their marketing, and often it involves improving what they already have in place.

Here's a quick check list of 12 things that you can use as you examine how to improve the marketing of your business:


  1. Is your phone answered by a real person within the first 3 rings? People prefer talking to other people instead of an automated attendant.
  2. Does the person answering your phone speak in such a manner that he/she is clear and understandable? Rushing through the name of your business is a common mistake.
  3. Is the person that answers your phone pleasant and friendly? We had an office person that was assigned phone answering duties for a couple hours each afternoon and you could tell in her voice, that she hated that task. We took care of that promptly.
  4. Voicemail...When you leave a message, do you speak clearly and slow enough that someone can write down your number so they can call you back? Better yet, leave the number at the beginning and end of your message at a pace you would give, if you were face to face with someone.
  1. Does your establishment need a good top to bottom cleaning? Once a month, schedule a thorough cleaning, including dusting, vacuuming, taking inventory off the shelves, wiping everything down, washing windows, making it sparkle. You may even need to repaint each year, especially if smoking is allowed in your establishment.
  2. Speaking of smoking, Do any of your employees smell like smoke? This can be a real turn off and most smokers are unaware of the smell that permeates their clothing.
  3. Are there any unpleasant odors anywhere? When I walk into a restaurant, I expect to smell the aroma of delicious food. Ask someone that has a stronger scene of smell than you to do a walk-thru of your establishment.
  4. Parking lot and entrances: Is there trash or litter that needs picking up? Make it a part of the daily routine to clean this up. Also be sure to provide trash cans so people will have a place to put their trash instead of the ground. And empty them before they are overflowing!
  5. Are your restrooms clean? All the time? I know several places have a check list for hourly restroom inspections, but even those are not being followed all the time.
  1. Do your employees reflect the level of professionalism that your business should demand? I'm talking about clothing, manners, habits, language, etc. Take it up a notch.
Public Relations:
  1. Are you involved in giving back to your community? Not just money but time and service is needed and creates an excellent reputation for you and your company.
  2. Are you and your employees branding your company outside of business hours? Do you have shirts with logos that they are encouraged to wear, for example? (You need to hire employees that are a good reflection of your company even in their off hours).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Email Marketing Update

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you my experience with email marketing.

Click here to read those lessons learned for Email and Websites.

This time I have another inside look at an email campaign that I designed for the Advertising Federation of Fort Wayne, of which I serve as the Vice-President of Communications.

September 18th is our next monthly meeting and the purpose of this email campaign is to get RSVP's by next Monday, so we can have an accurate count for lunch, etc....

Today I sent an email to a list of 300 and the picture you see is the response after 3 hours. (Click on the picture to make it bigger.)

Actually the response is not much different than it was after 90 minutes.

Here's the numbers:

300 sent, 3 bounced. (I worked hard at having a clean list.)

120 were opened in the first 90 minutes, out of that number, 20 clicked through to the website and registered.

The email was sent at 10am local time, one of the best times to send an email to local business people.

We now have nearly 50% of the list viewing the email.

Now what else did I do to enhance this campaign?

On August 21st, about 50 people that attended that month's meeting recieved a small Save The Date card at the meeting.

Also on August 21st, the website was updated to people could register online from the home page.

A few days later, the Save The Date postcard was sent as a direct mail piece.

All of this I call "seeding".

Yesterday we sent out the official direct mail invite, a big post card, it should arrive today and tomorrow.

Also yesterday, I updated the front page of the website with the same artwork and design as the direct mail piece and the email blast.

I will be sending one more email blast Monday morning.

Here's the lessons to learn:

Multiple messages to the same person will increase the response rate. If someone attended our August meeting, they would have received a Save The Date card, followed by a Save The Date direct mail piece, and two emails, plus a visit to the website adds up to 5 opportunities to invite them to this months meeting.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Old ways vs New Ways

Any family run business that is in it's third generation is in trouble.


They are exceptional.

And by exceptional, I mean they have tossed out the old thinking and reinvented themselves for the future, yet retained the key elements that that made them unique that are still relevant.

This happened in my own family, and I've seen it occur in others, repeatedly.

My Dad's parents were entrepreneurs. I have a couple of my grandfathers business cards from the 1940's. He was a coffee distributor according to the card. His wife ran a bakery, together they started Howard's Restaurant in Colebrook, New Hampshire.

They put their blood, sweat and tears in the business, the family (kids) worked in the business and they knew everyday was a fight to win, to provide for the family, and be a success.

The business was taken over by my Uncle Dean, the eldest of 4. He knew first hand from growing up in the business the lessons that were learned by hard work and together he and my Aunt Jean had the right balance of hard work and rewards to continue the family business.

Dean and Jean had 3 kids who also grew up in the business and yet these three kids did not see the work that their grandparents put in to establish the business. One of my cousins took over from my Aunt and Uncle. He married and later divorced and the business was sold. Thankfully Howard's Restaurant is still in business, a waitress who worked there bought it and retained the name.

That third generation never knew the first generation and the perspective was different, not just in business but life overall.

With life spans increasing it is now possible for all three generations of a business to work side by side. Use the wisdom from the past along with the knowledge of the current and future times to be exceptional.