It's all about the experience.
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 article:
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:
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:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
There's this advice on using mass media:
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.