Thursday, July 28, 2016

Stories Go With Everything!

I enjoy watching some of the "food entertainment" shows and am increasingly fascinated with how bacon can be used to supplement or enhance any dish or meal.  At a networking group meeting today, while I enjoyed some bacon, the thought occurred to me that there is a bacon, of sorts, for marketing.  That would be stories.  

Human beings are drawn to stories and use them to amplify or illustrate ideas.  The earliest stories we know helped our ancestors understand weather, astronomical events and physical phenomena.  Stories can improve any message from sermons to political ads to pitches for products and services.  We connect with stories in an intuitive way.

Small businesses can greatly enhance their own marketing presentations with the use of stories.  For example, how a customer was helped with your product or service, or how you developed the inspiration for your business, or how you feel when you help customers.

Bottom Line: How can you tell stories that will touch or inspire customers, and to connect them with you?  Are you missing the chance to enhance your messages with "bacon"?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Whither Radio?

In a long career I have heard my share of advertisements on radio.  This is a marketing channel that's made inroads for several decades and is vastly more cost effective than television, although a good radio schedule can be daunting for the smallest businesses.  Radio reach and demographics can be appealing.  But is a particularly challenging medium.

The key to a good radio spot is the voice over.  A well chosen vocal artist can enhance the content in the spot.  A poor one can be disastrous.  I have heard far too many spots in which the business owner, or a surrogate from their company, does the voice work and the result is often appalling.

Content is also critical.  A poorly chosen word can doom the ad.  It's necessary to steer a careful course between overly stentorian and overly juvenile. Yes, I have heard both extremes.  And please (!) avoid too graphic one's text.

Bottom Line:  Radio can be a good choice, but it needs to be done very carefully to avoid annoying the listener.  If professional assistance can't be obtained in making the best possible spot, I recommend choosing a safer medium.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Got Tough Location?

We all know that there is a tough choice for small businesses choosing a physical location for their store or office:  optimize visibility? or optimize cost?  Like it or not, most owners end up with affordable but often invisible locations. And aggressive advertising promoting the location is usually beyond reach. So what to do?

Sometimes "second level" advertising works.  I know business owners who deploy sidewalk signs visible from roads, or well labeled vehicles in adjacent parking lots.  Much depends on circumstances, but again visibility is limited to observant, nearby persons.   But it's a start.

Handouts, flyers and other physical notices are good.  I have also seen some use "mailbox" notices (usually taped to the side of mailboxes) to great effect.  Consider how easily you can get these in the hands of your target market and what you can afford to print.  Remember that the paper must go to someone who is a target customer!  This might be a great summer job for a diligent teenager.

Social media can be a great helper.  Post news about specials, or special events at your location and politely ask your social media friends and followers to let others know, especially if there are incentives to visit (anything from sales to free food).  Customers who already love you will be happy to let others know about you.

Finally, look at a partnership with an adjacent but compatible business, or two.  By combining advertising resources it is easier to get the word out.  Again, focus on a special event of some kind to incentivize customers to visit both of you.

Bottom Line: a tough location is not an insurmountable obstacle.  There are low-cost tools and techniques that can help you overcome and build a loyal following.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Overcoming the Personal Equation

It's a given: for a small business, the image projected by the entrepreneur is a risk for the business.  Unlike a big enterprise where bad players can be hidden by bureaucracy, gatekeepers or sales people, the small business owner is part and parcel of the image of the business as a whole.  This is a bonus for the congenial, likable entrepreneur.  What if he or she can be unlikable and disagreeable, or potentially even worse, mousy and invisible?

Obviously, one outcome is that the business fails.  Is there an outcome where the business can succeed in spite of the outward flaws of its creator or owner?

Like it or not, this is a job for a strong accountability partner.  The entrepreneur needs to be secure enough to ask someone to weigh in with constructive criticism of his or her "personal" marketing.  Only by recognizing problems can they be truly solved.  Perhaps the A.P. can also serve as a coach, helping boost positives and suppress negatives.

Solutions are many:  personal speech coaching classes, role playing with the accountability partner, designating a partner who can be the P.R. or sales person, and more.

It also helps to watch others and take notes.  Ask yourself how you react to different personalities and strive to adopt good habits shown by others.

Bottom Line: Don't let your own quirks and put-offs affect your business image.  Friends and allies can help to boost your strengths and positives.  Don't hesitate to ask for impressions and constructive advice---they want you to succeed!

Friday, July 1, 2016

One Size Does Not Fit All

I have learned to expect, as if by clockwork, conversations with advertisers in which I am faulted for expressing skeptism that particular channels don't always work.  I am slowly(!) getting better at the necessary caveat " all cases".

Advertisers have an understandable passion for selling as much advertising space as possible but like their clients usually don't think about targeting.  That is, just as a seller does best by optimizing their marketing to a well defined target customer, the advertiser should also define a target client and work from that starting point.  It has to be in their best interests: consider that a seller who is talked into a poor-fit channel will almost certainly have a bad experience and then spread their discontent to their peer networks.  A happy client will likely do the opposite.

Still doubt me?  Should a pizza shop invest in a high end, glossy magazine?  Will a luxury jeweler do well on a hard rock radio station?  Such extreme instances expose the folly of a one-size fits all mindset.  NO, some sellers will not do well with a given advertising channel.

Advertisers ought to study their own demographics and the ROI for their various clients.  Sellers can do well looking at various channels and noticing who advertises where, and then asking the hard questions of advertisers about their reach within certain target segments.  A little homework up front can make an enormous difference.

Bottom Line: Reject the idea that every advertising channel works for your business.  There will be advertisers who are a good fit and deserve your business.  But do the research to find that perfect match!