Friday, May 29, 2015

Marketing Strategy with Facebook

Keeping up with the competition isn't easy if you are a small business owner.  There are only so many hours in the day and so many dollars available for market research.  Happily, in the Internet Era there are resources that can help get the job done.  Consider our friend Facebook, home of millions of people, organizations and interests.  This seemingly lightweight platform has features that can help a business keep one eyeball on competitors for no additional cost.

For starters, simply "liking" a competitor provides clues about market strategy, new products and services, and customer response (either by reading comments or counting "likes").  One can easily rank businesses by their total like counts and establish who are the "big dogs".  More directly there is a "Pages to Watch" feature accessed through the Overview section of "Insights" that shows the business' postings, top posts, and customer engagement.

Use "Interests" to generate an interest list that includes businesses you want to watch.  This is a way to keep eyes on things without letting the other side know you're doing it because you do not need to like the page to list it.

Log results of any metrics you track (such as number of page likes) to see how customer engagement may be changing over time.  And don't forget to compare to your own to ensure your work is driving a better response over time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Zip Code or Circle?

Attentive business owners, especially those who operate a physical location, understand their market in terms of a well defined local area.  That is, they see the lions' share of customers coming from within a few miles/kilometers of that location.  And they look at portrait of households and consumers within that radius.  There are various ways to define that local area of which the two best are the local zip code(s) and a circle of a given radius around the business address.

Each has its strengths.  It all depends on how the data are used.

Zip Code based data are best when paid advertising is being purchased.  Print media usually think in terms of zip codes and can sell to selected ones, although direct mail would be most likely to cherry pick one or a few codes.  In evaluating the print media's effectiveness a zip code report can be compared to reported demographics and your own typical customer.

Radius based data are best when applying some kind of door-to-door strategy, or its equivalent.   And the radius will give a clear and comprehensive sense of who lives immediately around your location---something you want to do when deciding if you are effectively reaching your target customer.  In every case the radius report will cover.

No matter what, it makes great sense to keep both of these data reports on file.  The wise business owner continues to explore the local market and understand it.  Let me know if I can help you find these critical data!

Friday, May 22, 2015

More Thoughts on Thirty Seconds

As I network, I listen intently to others' "30 second commercials" and "30 second elevator speeches".  As I have noted before these vary in quality.  Another matter I notice is repetition.  There is sometimes a place for it, but it does pay to freshen the text regularly.

In my thinking, a standard 30-second spot is perfect for known first contact situations, almost certainly in 1:1 environments like "speed dating".  Those are absolutely cases where a first impression makes a huge difference.  And in such cases the most polished delivery works for you.

Then there are networking groups, leads groups, BNI clubs, and more.  Here, repetition of the same thing is deadly.  I have reached the point in mine where I can almost reproduce some others' "30 second commercial" word-for-word.  These poor folks have become wind-up monkeys and I see others tune out.  I really enjoy speakers who always have something new to say, perhaps another way they helped someone, or a new fact that makes their service compelling, or a new way of understanding what they do.  For the fresh-deliveries, in no cases is the core message changing.  It is reinforced by supporting detail.  

A great question for all of us.  How fresh is our "30 second commercial"?  Are people tuning in or tuned out?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mobile Exposure

Google's recent announcement that the search giant would no longer index content on web sites that are not mobile device-friendly is a jarring but welcome jolt to our web site consciousness.  Let's face it: the world is oriented ever more to the dictates of mobile devices.  If our customers and prospects can't quickly and easily navigate our web pages on their smartphones and tablets we deserve to be bypassed.

This announcement should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat.  By ensuring we are mobile-friendly we can take advantage of the enormous marketing power of a mobile device.  A prospect can see our QRC, click immediately to a web site, click immediately for directions, contact information, and products and services---and all wherever they may be.  The consumer can act immediately, not just when they remember, later, to look us up.

Take the trouble to verify that your web site is mobile device-friendly, if not already done so.  A web designer can help.  There are tools that can test web sites for mobility that will diagnose problems.  Don't wait until it's too late!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Personal Presentation Pays Off!

As a regular at professional networking groups I am still amazed at the wide range of "personal appearance codes" that show up.  I confess to being of the old school.  And that means I am regularly shocked at what fellow entrepreneurs look like when making their presentations.

You can pay consultants a great deal of money to learn that one's appearance is a highly integral part of one's brand, and that someone sizes you up in seconds.  Nevertheless, too many people do not get the message.  This week at one group alone I beheld the following specimens, all arguing for me (and others) to connect them with customers:

(1) An older gentleman professing to have a background in banking, now in the food service, wearing soiled shirt (untucked), baggy shorts, and sneakers.
(2) A young lady in the real estate business, dressing like a bad parody of one of the Kardashians in her middle school years.
(3) A youngish man in torn jeans, a questionable tee shirt, and equally questionable piercings who runs a school of some kind.

Sorry, folks.  I was unimpressed,  and even alarmed.  I had much higher respect for those who looked like they had respect for the process, wanted to be seen as professionals, and who were trying for heaven's sake.

Lesson for the day: we can all do better at sizing ourselves up and ensuring that our own appearance is aligned with the image we wish to convey to our prospects.  A little effort can make a difference in projecting the best possible brand.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Aligning To Trends: What's The Way To Go?

No matter the era, it is a given that many if not most marketers will align their presentations, products and services to trends.  I vividly remember a late 80s trend when manufacturers scrambled to make their products "clear", when ads first touted low-fat and low-calory, and so many more.  Nowadays there is a strong "sustainability" trend with subplots involving "organic" and "local" accents.  A question arises: is it worth getting on the bandwagon?

It's a tough one.  On the one hand, we want our products and services to adapt to the market lest we find ourselves out of business.  But on the other hand, consumers, I think, can spot the phony adaptations and claims.

I'm firmly in the camp of those who see value in aligning to trends only where it's plausible and necessary.  To market, say, fried chicken and biscuits under a "gluten free" banner is just plain silly.  But if I am in a zone where my product is highly competitive and can be adapted, say, if I sell soup and salad, I might want to adjust the menu accordingly to arguably healthy alternatives.

Furthermore, if I made changes that make sense, I'd caution toning down the advertising.  I confess to be automatically suspicious when a marketing campaign trumpets from the heavens some alignment to a hot trend, as if it was a major triumph.  Something softer, perhaps a second-level notice that says "...and check out our latest X which has less Y and tastes amazing" gets the job done without so much patronizing bloviation.

Last of all, think hard about any change in product or advertising that aligns to a trend.  Remember that the trends come and go, and a mistake will cost your brand dearly.  Keep up but don't move with a mindless herd.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Color Your Customers' Emotions

This week I came across a discussion of the emotional power of color.  This is terrifically interesting stuff for business owners especially as it relates to brand position.  We have known for many decades that color can influence our emotional state: one need only visit a hospital ward to understand this.  The theory here is that we have a subconscious reaction to branding color in the same way.

My own colors of choice fit right where I want them, conveying (according to the theory) confidence, cheerfulness and friendliness.  Of course, these do not work in isolation and my own efforts in personal presentation must be complementary.

How do your color choices work within your brand?  Are you well-aligned, radiating the most appropriate emotional connection?  or are you clashing, say, being an ad agency that has a blue scheme?  If they don't fit consider speaking with a design professional and taking steps to generate a cohesive whole!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Beating a Tough Location

While networking yesterday I heard from a fellow businessperson that her location was turning out to be a major challenge.  Her business (sales of donated recycled office and art supplies) has relocated for the second time in two years and inhabits a virtually deserted wing of a shopping mall that has suffered reverses in recent years.

I have seen this a lot: businesses are stymied by their locations.  Sometimes it is poor road traffic, sometimes poor marketing assistance by a landlord (e.g. no signage, no co-op advertising), and sometimes it is simply disconnection between the business and former customers who did not adjust to the new location.

This is a challenge that can be overcome, but it is not easy.  What won't work is replacing the business address in web sites, flyers, etc. and going on with the day.  Strategies that offer more promise can include:

(1) Special events.  If the landlord permits, consider "sidewalk sales" or "fun days" in the space within and in front of the business, or in the adjacent car park.  Add allies in adjacent businesses to leverage assets.  Bring in food and entertainers.  And promote the heck out of the event with social media and community calendars.  Radio stations may also tie in and boost marketing if they see sufficient opportunity to help themselves.

(2) Run a frequent reminder of your new digs in your social media properties, blogs, and web site.  You are in a position needing to boost the Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) of your location, so multiple impressions are necessary.  Talk openly about how excited you are with the site and its advantages.  In the example I started with, my contact could discuss all of the other things a visitor can do (e.g. put kids on the carrousel, eat at food court, etc.)

(3) Offer specials, coupons or discounts to visitors for a limited time to "celebrate your new home".  Make every visitor feel the fun of coming in.

(4) Step up advertising and call attention to the new location.  Give landmarks to help the customer.  And be precise.  My contact repeatedly said she was now at "the mall" in a metro market stuffed full of shopping centers.

It can be done, and in doing you'll certainly boost your overall TOMA and marketing position.  Don't let a letdown location let you down!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Millennials: A Variation on a Theme

It seems that every few days I encounter some discussion or conversation about "Millennials" (the cohort of consumers who are now roughly age 14 to 33.  And everyone has an opinion about their attitudes and aptitudes.  As with all these things there is media-driven hype and even some crazy thinking.

For my part, I will acknowledge that Millennials have some differences with their elder cohorts (the Gen Xers and the Baby Boomers).  Enough to make radical changes in marketing?  No.  I think the basics are still there.  People of any age have consumer needs, they want to spend the least possible for the most return, and they want to be persuaded to part with dollars for good reasons.

We are a little blinded by the age equation.  Millennials are young, right now, and there are behaviors among them that are always true of the young.  I think as they age into driving households and second-phase consumer spending they will look uncannily like rising adults of any year.  So far as I can perceive in studies they may be more responsive to "communitarian" ideas  but these will only be accents in evolving marketing messages.

As you appeal to Millennials, focus on how their needs intersect your ability to help and write messages accordingly.  But don't get caught up in a swirl that these consumers require some all-new, never-before-done approaches.  Trust me, they will not be that much of a surprise!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Don't Follow the Herd!

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who follow the herd, and those who don't.  The older I have gotten, the more convinced I am that the latter group are the bigger winners.  I learned long ago in terms of investment that the ones who bought securities in bear markets picked up their investments at the lowest price and, if unloaded in bull markets, yielded the richest returns.  I think a similar situation works in advertising.

In my newspaper days, the big accounts all seemed to follow a pattern as a whole.  They bought radio and unloaded newsprint together.  They added TV and dropped radio together.  And so on.  The odd balls who stayed out of the rat pack had a real chance to get noticed when a media was deserted.

And those who cut ads that looked alike...were lost.  Who could spot the best one in a sea of lookalikes?  The one that was truly different stood out.

Let's apply these lessons to our own advertising and promotion.  Rule 1: Ignore the herd.  Either stick to a consistent media buy pattern or go opposite.  You'll have the best chance of standing out over the long run.  Rule 2: Don't be a Look-Alike.  Position yourself within your own consistent branding strategy.  Ignore fads and trends.  What is "must-do" today may be old news tomorrow.  In the meantime, your consistent look and feel will have the greatest likelihood to be remembered.  And Rule 3: Be yourself.  Your business was established on your good reputation.  Let your advertising reflect that and nothing else.

March proudly to your own drum!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Getting the Prospect's Attention

I heard an interesting aside at a small business summit this week concerning "getting attention".  A gentleman related that he was attracted to use a service advertised in a coupon because the price point was (in his words) "a great deal".  He used the service, turned in the coupon, and mentioned to the service provider that he was inspired by the deal price.  The business owner said "that is our regular price".  The coupon was not necessarily anything special although the customer got a deal relative to market prices---but the coupon idea caught someone's attention.

There is a bit of risk.  If the business owner uses this technique too often, he risks becoming a "JCPenney" with their "everyday sales".  The discount strategy, even if not a discount, can become stale too easily.  Presumably the "coupon" is not pulled out very often.

This opens up a whole realm of thinking.  How can we as business owner catch someone's attention but by doing that which we already do?  I am thinking hard for myself.  What can we call do?