Friday, December 26, 2008

Not Another Best Of List

At this time of year, I am getting a lot of "Best of 2008" lists in my email.

But instead of creating my own Best of list, I picked a few articles that I've written that tell the story of the Not-So-Secret Writings of ScLoHo.

First, the first

The Experience

It's all about the experience.

No matter what you are selling, or buying; it is the experience that the buyer goes through that will determine your level of success or failure. This experience is based on emotion. It doesn't matter if you are a multi-million dollar parts supplier or the corner coffee shop, you simply cannot remove the emotion from the buying/selling experience.

And so I begin this blog as a place to store lessons on The Experience. One day I will craft a new word for this concept but, this is a work in progress. Eventually people will be spending money to get this information, but for now if you have stumbled across this blog, it is yours for the reading.

There's this piece which everyone should read:

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.

Here's another one:

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.

No dancing bears, just stuff you need to know:

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.

There's this advice on using mass media:

It's this simple

Marketing and Advertising go hand in hand with your business expectations. If you expect to be in business for 10 years, then plan your marketing and advertising for the next 10 years.

The Best Strategy is the strategy that mirrors natural human behavior. And that is to build relationships.

It is going to take consistent, positive exposure and contact between you and your potential customers to build those relationships.

Don't ever expect to build a long term business by using short term, one or two shot advertising and marketing methods.

One more example:

Would you rather reach 10,000 people and convince them 10% of the way to buy from you?


Would you rather reach 1,000 people and convince them 100% of the way to buy from you?

The expense is the same, the results are vastly different.

And last summer I shared my own story:

Relationship Based Personal Marketing

This is a personal story.

In 2003, I returned to the world of advertising after a sabbatical in plastics, publishing, and automotive manufacturing.

I was back in my home town, having returned to Fort Wayne in 1998, but when I joined the group of radio stations I work for on Lower Huntington Road, I had never done radio sales in this town. My previous experience was in Detroit.

So, I needed to meet business owners and decision makers. I did what most people did. Grabbed the Yellow Pages and started calling to make appointments. Not much fun.

So I hit the road and knocked on doors to schedule appointments. I was better at this.

But after about 6 months with moderate success, I came across a local electrician that had a small informal networking group and he asked if I would come and speak to him and his friends.

A few days later, after being introduced to the room of business owners, I did my stuff.
Except it wasn't exactly what they were expecting.

See, they thought I was going to tell them all about my radio stations and try and sell them on radio advertising. Instead I gave them something they could use right away.

I talked about marketing.
I talked about their telephone.
I talked about what their customers wanted when they called.
Together we discovered that this small group of business owners could increase their business by 20 to 50% if they just changed their phone habits, so that they would be easier for their customers to do business with.

Later some of those business owners came to me for more advice on marketing and advertising and some spent money with me on my radio stations. All of them remain friends.

A few months later, I was invited to be a guest at a B.N.I. Networking group. This was a very well organized and committed group of business professionals and I joined this group and was a member for 3 years until other commitments prevented me from attending. I still use some of the members services and recommend them to others.

About 2 years ago I started attending a couple of local networking groups and met even more people. The last two years when I have attended our communities annual business expo, I have people come up to me that I've met at various networking functions over the past 5 years.

I now divide my time to between giving and serving; and selling. Oh, I still do prospecting, and with the current economy that is just as important as ever. But I find that the relationships that began a few years ago by my giving have been stronger than those where I was just selling.

This is my marketing plan and it works. I urge you to develop a marketing plan that involves relationship building through giving and serving and see how it helps you too.

As we get ready to experience a new world with a new calendar that says 2009, I'll continue to add to this collection of writings, and you can contact me at

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why Marketing is More Than Advertising

You may have noticed the phrase on the right side of this page, "Marketing is so much more than advertising..."

But why?

Advertising is a part of your marketing.

Advertising is a paid form of marketing that you can control.

It's the invitation for people to do business with you.

I sometimes use the invitation comparison like this:

What if you decided to have a party. It was going to be one BIG Extravaganza! You hired a band, a caterer, rented a reception hall, spent tons of money on getting everything all set for 500 people but you left out one key element: You never sent any invitations with the details.

No matter how much planning you put into your party, if you don't invite anyone, no one will show up.

Same thing with your business. That's the purpose of advertising. To get peoples attention to what you have to offer.

Marketing is the whole customer experience. It includes the way your phone is answered, the way your staff treat customers and potential customers. The professional appearance of you, your staff, the vehicles you drive, the way you handle complaints, the way you thank people for doing business with you.

There's the way your building looks, the way your website looks, and the image they project. Your business card, your follow up and follow through. The way you and your staff conduct yourselves in your off hours, that "personal time".

Each of these items build on each other. It can be a delicate balance like the stack of stones in the picture.

If any of these marketing issues are lacking, no amount of paid advertising can fix them. Sure, you can try and compensate for a bad location with excellent service, but advertising... that's another animal.

As you prepare for the new year and deal with a new economy, you have an opportunity, and a necessity to work on all of these areas that I've tossed into the marketing arena, including advertising.

Need help?

Contact me at

Monday, December 15, 2008

What is Social Media? Part 1

Up until now, the majority of the folks I know personally in the advertising business are clueless about how social media works, and how to use it. So let's do a quick, basic primer on the beast.

Social Media is also know as Web 2.0.

We have come a long way since AOL was giving away discs to get us to sign up for the America OnLine version of the Internet. Accessing the internet at home meant tying up your phone line for hours and waiting for a connection, and what are now considered incredibly slow upload and download speeds. This was less than 20 years ago!

Social Media has been made possible due to the technology advances in computer hardware, software, and what I'll call netware. Netware is the stuff that is the programs that are not stored on your computer, but are out there somewhere on the internet. Like this website for example.

As the speed of the internet has increased, it has allowed us as individuals to do more, and do more faster.

Let's look at the root of Social Media by looking at the two words:

Social. We are by nature social beings. We interact with each other, in person, over the phone, and now by using technology like text messaging and the variety of internet resources that allow for two way communication.

Media. Despite some beliefs, most old media did and does allow for a two way conversation, just not at the speed of the internet. Newspapers usually featured letters to the editor. Radio and Television have had talk shows that allow viewers and listeners to call in and interact with the person live on the air. But the internet has leveled the field.

In order to have a voice on the internet, you need access to a computer and time. You do not need a printing press, you do not need a licence and broadcasting equipment. There are plenty of resources online that allow and encourage you to use them at absolutely no cost to you.

So how does this work? So far the advantage is in the favor of the individual. We have been willing to trade the free social media for a few advertising messages. Like the radio stations I work for that anyone can listen to at no cost, we make our money selling advertising.

What is the challanging part is to come up with a business model for social media that attracts both advertisiers and consumers and effectively links them together so that the advertisier sees a positive return on their advertising investment.

Many traditional media outlets, (radio, tv, print) have added websites with advertising, but the jury is still out on the success of these websites. It will continue to evolve, just as the technology that makes the internet possible evolves.

One thing is certain. The internet and social media will continue to grow and those that ignore it are doomed to extinsion. Don't know when that will occur, it could be years, decades, or generations.

Now is the best time to hop on board and be a part of it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's as Simple as your A B C's

Do you know the alphabet?
All 26 letters?
I bet you know them in a certain order too.
How quickly can you spot the missing letter:


Did you need a paper and pencil? Did you sing a little tune to find the missing letter?

Let's try it again:

This time I added a letter and I bet you found it within seconds.

Now, I want you to go beyond this exercise and look at the "why's".

Sometime in your life, you learned your ABC's and could sing them to a particular tune. But in order to learn, you had that drilled into your young little head repeatedly. How often as an adult are you asked to sing your ABC's? Not very often unless you are around young kids.

It is the power of repetition, enhanced with an easy to remember tune, and a fun experience that helped you to learn your letters.

This same principle of repetition, enhanced with other positive emotional stimulants should be used in the branding of your business.

By the way, can you name two other songs that use the same tune as the alphabet song?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Do you have what it takes...

to be successful?

Bill Gates is one of the most successful modern day business men alive. His first versions of Microsoft operating systems were prone to the "Blue Screen of Death".

My former father in law taught me how to reboot his computer with the "three-fingered-shut-down". Now days the world revolves around Windows, and despite upstarts such as Apple and Google, I doubt that either will overcome Microsoft in less than 10 years, if ever.

Speaking of 10 years, Google recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. It took around 5 or more for them to become the dominant search engine.

In the field that I work in, radio and advertising, changes are always going on. Radio for example was transformed from the original live mass electronic media to a music based electronic media when television went main stream and radio needed to reinvent itself.

Newspapers, which have been around for centuries are needing to reinvent themselves due to the growth of the internet.

Actually the internet has transformed everything from radio, tv, telephone service, books, phone books, retail, catalogs, you name it, and "it" has changed due to the internet.

So back to the question,

Do you have what it takes to be successful?

Do you have a long range plan that includes a bare bones survival and growth mode that you can live with for a few years?

Are you willing to do what it takes to support yourself and your business idea for the long term success that will not occur overnight?

Or are you looking for a quick buck? Are you impatient and going to be fickle? Or will you do what it takes? Are you going to be stubborn and try and only do things your way, or are you going to read, listen, ask, and seek advice from those that can help?

I hope you have the guts to be humble, passionate, thrifty, wise and patient.

By the way, one of the worlds most successful marketing gurus, Seth Godin wrote recently about this subject recently and the time table for the growth of one of his projects. Click here to read his words.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Lost Opportunity

I understand that sometimes we let opportunities slip thru our fingers. Most of us are doing more, gone are the days of a personal assistant, now we do our own research, typing, etc.

However if you let your marketing slip by the wayside, eventually your whole business can slip away.

This week I had lunch with a friend at a popular Irish restaurant. Actually, this was our second choice because the place we originally were going to is now closed at lunch time. The economy? or a lack of marketing? I guess the later.

So we went across the parking lot and went into this restaurant that I had not visited in about 3 years. We each ordered something off their express lunch menu and the food was fair.

Midway through our lunch I noticed several items that were lost opportunities. After we left I jotted down a few more. Here's a partial list:

-Waitress was forgetful with our very simple drink order, Water & Diet Pepsi. She had to ask twice.

-Music was too loud to have a pleasant conversation with someone seated across the table from me.

-Music selection did not enhance the atmosphere of an Irish restaurant. Instead of Irish music, they played some boring, generic top 40.

-Music was probably chosen for the workers and the volume turned up to keep them awake?

-Body piercings in un-natural places that looked painful, such as eye-brows, nose, lips. This is Middle America, not the coast.

-Mediocre attitude from waitress, like we were interrupting her "smoke break". Never made any food suggestions, not a people person.

-Food was presented on a very plain plate. A spring of parsley could have make it look more appealing. (This was pointed out by my friend who was in the restaurant business.)

-Bright sunlight in the bar area magnified that the place needed a good cleaning. Here's a tip, lower the lights until you scrub the place down.

-No suggestive selling. Even McDonald's will ask if you want fries with that.

Okay, there's more but first because this is the Holiday season, now is the time to push gift cards, etc. So on that theme, I continue:

-No table tents, promoting ANYTHING for the holidays. If you can't afford theme, I know how you can get them at no out of pocket cost.

-No mention of anything holiday related on the menu, by the waitress, zip, zero, nada.

Some of the best marketing you can do is to those that are already your customers. Coffee Shops in our area started this with a free punch card to reward frequent visitors. Others do it now.

So you tell your staff to do suggestive selling and they refuse. Reward them. Cut them in on some of the action.

I noticed this recently at a drug store. The cashier was very bold about it, and asked everyone that he rang up if they would help him reach a sales goal and buy a candy bar that was half price. (He probably sold Boy Scout Popcorn door to door in his younger days).

He was going to be rewarded and he was bold and honest in his approach. He even took a candy bar from the display and held it in front of you as he asked.

Okay, what about your business?

How many lost opportunities to earn money do you have?

Need some help finding them? Contact me at for help.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why You?

Every time you have an opportunity to interact with a client/customer, or potential client/customer, you have to earn their continued business.

Every time they pick up the phone to request a service call, every time they walk in your doors, every time they go to your website, you need to answer their question, "Why am I willing to spend my money with you?"

Shorten that phrase to, "Why you?"

There is one car dealer I buy from. Every time I have gone to him, he continues to earn my business with his honesty.

The carpet cleaner my wife calls has earned lots of money from us directly and indirectly with the referals we give him.

The plumber I used to rely on however has lost my business. 3 weeks ago, we had a plumbing/sewer problem and they sent out a plumber who spent two hours at our home but was unable to fix the problem and wanted to reschedule a time to come back later in the week.

So we blindly (looked up in the Yellow Pages), another company and they sent two guys over that afternoon and took care of the problem. They got $354.00 for fixing the problem.

Thursday, (Thanksgiving Day), less than 3 weeks later, the problem occurred again. Fortunately we have two bathrooms. The next day, I called back the folks I gave $354 to and asked for help. They explained that they were short staffed but when I told them the problem, they said that the owner himself would be out if they couldn't find the guys they sent previously.

Turns out within two hours, the original guy they sent out came to our house and fixed the problem again. It was his day off. He did not charge us anything. He wouldn't even accept a gift tip for coming out.

He told us what we needed to do if the problem happened again along with a price, couple grand, to fix the problem, or we could be very careful and he gave us some temporary advice to keep things running smoothly.

They answered the question, "Why you?"

How about your business? What are you doing to continually earn your client/customers money?